A new technology based on infrared sensors can assess how long it would take for a person to wait in a queue, allowing people to choose the fastest queue in a store, or figure out where would be best to get a coffee faster.
Developed by technology firm Cambridge Consultants, the system, dubbed ZipLine, assesses the length of a queue by measuring body heat of the people standing in it. The data is transmitted over an innovative long-range, low-power radio network and automatically analysed to provide information via a smartphone app.
As it relies on measuring body heat and not recognising individual people, the technology doesn’t pose privacy risks, Cambridge Consultants said. The nature of the radio network would allow city-wide ZipLine systems to be installed, providing information to citizens about every single store or cafe in town.
“We’re all familiar with the supermarket checkout dilemma of trying to pick not just the shortest, but the fastest queue – and the frustration when you get it wrong,” said Tim Ensor, head of connected devices at Cambridge Consultants. “But how can you choose the fastest option when you can’t see the other cash desks or changing rooms?”
ZipLine calculates how fast a queue is moving and can even reliably assess irregular queues. In a shopping centre, it would direct the user to the shortest, fastest moving check-out queue, even if it was on a different floor.
“In the increasingly competitive retail sector, technology can be a crucial differentiator,” said Ensor. “Our ZipLine concept aims to show how taking a service design approach to a problem can give a retailer vital competitive edge by transforming the customer experience. In this example, we’re analysing some complex sensor data – and turning it into intelligent information that can be shared with customers in a simple but meaningful way. Yet it has the potential to remove a major source of frustration for shoppers.”