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Scientists from SDU, together with Vemco Group, are now creating a visual data overview to help customers in Danish supermarkets keep their distance in the queue. The goal is to limit infection with COVID-19
"We know from the authorities that the queues in supermarkets are a critical place with regard to contagion. As a researcher, I am used to working with data from buildings and people’s movements. It suddenly struck me that if we can give people a visual real-time view of how close they are to each other in the queues, we might encourage them to increase the distance to one another."
This is the message from the public authorities. Professor Mikkel Baun Kjærgaard from the Software Engineering department at the University of Southern Denmark is now creating a solution that will help break that chain.
"We know from the authorities that the queues in supermarkets are a critical place with regard to contagion. As a researcher, I am used to working with data from buildings and people’s movements," Mikkel Baun Kjærgaard says and continues:
"It suddenly struck me that if we can give people a visual real-time view of how close they are to each other in the queues, we might encourage them to increase the distance to one another."
He, therefore, grabbed the phone Monday morning and called Anel Turkanocic, CEO of Vemco Group, who delivers sensor technology and customer counter devices to supermarkets.
SENSORS IN CEILINGS
Few may know, but there are already sensors in supermarket ceilings of supermarkets from Vemco Group. They register how customers move around in the store.
"The supermarkets use this type of data to improve the customer shopping experience. For example, by attempting to predict when there is a need for opening another check-out," explains Anel Turkanovic.
The technology also registers how customers are positioned in relation to each other. While talking, Mikkel Baun Kjærgaard and Anel Turkanovic quickly discovered a solution to the problem.
Sensor technology can be used to measure the distance between customers, and these data can then be analyzed and presented in real-time on a screen at the cash register. For example, through green and red smileys that immediately alert you, if you stand too close to a fellow citizen.
ALREADY TESTED IN DENMARK
The system has already been tested in a leading Danish supermarket chain this week. It is now to be fine-tuned by the programmers, before installment in stores by early April.
"Our data shows that the most critical time in relation to social distancing is the moment when customers pick up groceries from the basket and put them onto the conveyer belt. Hopefully, our solution can remind people to keep a distance, so that we can break the chain of infection in time," says Mikkel Baun Kjærgaard.
"Test data also shows that the new guidelines introduced in stores this week have increased the distance between customers. Thus, the data can also be used to measure the effect of new signage and rules," he stated.
A VALUABLE COLLABORATION
At Vemco Group, Anel Turkanovic appreciates the opportunities that the collaboration with SDU and the Maersk McKinney Moller Institute provided:
"It is rewarding for us to collaborate so closely with a university. It gives us a unique opportunity to test new technologies. In connection to Covid-19, it is simply fantastic to be able to contribute with new initiatives that support the authorities’ recommendations."
"Hopefully, we can all soon return to our normal everyday lives," concludes Anel Turkanovic.
"Over the years, we’ve tested a handful of different people counting solutions, which unfortunately have disappointed us at every turn. Finally, with help from Vemco Group, we’ve found the right solution. A valid and good quality solution ensuring that we can optimize our business and measure the performance of our stores (…)."
Henrik Wieben - Country Manager, HiFi Klubben Denmark
"We wanted a central solution that could cover all of our department stores in Denmark. We wanted the same system and a hosted solution but managed from one place. It was also a requirement from the beginning that the solution was able to count very accurately. And Vemcount has worked perfectly."
Lasse L. Mohrsen - Loss Prevention Manager, Magasin Du Nord
"We use Vemcount to measure the traffic at our entrances, so we get an idea of where the customers come from and when the number of visitors peaks during a day, week, month or year. This gives us, among other things, a tool for planning our marketing and activity calendar and subsequently evaluating on these activities."
Janni Baslund Dam - Mall Manager, BROEN Shopping