Woolworths is applying booking technology originally built for smart parking to sense the length of queues forming outside supermarkets due to COVID-19 restrictions.
The retailer is trialling the technology known as Q Tracker, which both provides an approximate wait time outside stores and lets customers book a 15-minute slot to arrive in to do their shopping.
The technology behind Q Tracker is by Divvy, the maker of a booking app through which drivers can pay to use secure parking spaces.
Divvy said in a statement that it had partnered with Woolworths on Q Tracker, which is being trialled at four stores in Victoria - Taylors Lakes, Hampton Park, South Melbourne and St Helena.
Q Tracker shows customers whether stores "have had to implement a queue at entry to support social distancing and any wait time associated with it," Divvy said.
Woolworths has also opened a pre-booking service, “allowing customers to book in a 15-minute block in which they plan to arrive at the store.”
“They then receive an email with a booking confirmation to present to Woolworths staff who can ensure social distancing guidelines are met,” Divvy said.
Divvy said it integrated the booking service into Q Tracker in the space of a week, “understanding the need to respond quickly to the developing COVID-19 situation in Victoria.”
“We are pleased to work in partnership with Woolworths’ for the development of the Q-Tracker tool,” Divvy’s chief information officer Anton Mills said, adding that the underpinning technology “has been built to be agnostic to the industry and can be rapidly integrated with organisations to assist them to adapt to queuing and distancing measures throughout COVID-19.”
Woolworths director of stores Robert Moffat said Q Tracker would help keep customers and teams safe.
“Q-Tracker is a new customer tool across all Woolworths Supermarkets,” Moffat said.
“By helping customers plan when and where they shop before they leave home, Q-Tracker makes it easier to avoid busy periods, save time and shop with health and safety in mind.
“Even though most of our stores do not need to implement queuing at the moment, this tool has been developed as another measure to support the safety of our team and customers.”
Update 6.32pm: An earlier version of this story quoted material supplied by Divvy that Q Tracker used “real-time sensor data that Divvy read from Woolworths stores to show customers which stores had implemented queues at entry to support social distancing and the wait times associated with it.”
After questions were raised by iTnews on the nature of the sensors, Woolworths said the wait time data used by Q Tracker is manually entered into the system by a store team member observing the queue, not collected by sensors.
Divvy also retracted its statements about the involvement of sensors.