How Tech Is Reducing Hazards in Retail Stores
When was the last time your retail store’s “Days Since Last Incident” tracker reset to zero? Hopefully you have experienced a long stretch of accident–free days. However, this is not the universal experience. Retail stores face many hazards. In grocery stores, employees and customers alike risk slipping and falling on spills. In warehouses with high shelves, employees must know how to safely use ladders. Crowded stores put people at risk of disease transmission. The potential hazards go on and on.
Thankfully, modern solutions make safe operation of a store easier. Here are some of the technologies already available to retail businesses:
Indoor Positioning Systems (IPS) — Collects data on customers’ journeys through a store, with the purpose of improving traffic flow on the floor. High–interest areas of the store, like a milk shelf or bread aisle, might cause bottlenecks and overcrowding. These systems help store managers identify and fix problem areas.
Antimicrobial touchscreens — Modern payment systems allow customers to check out and pay without ever interacting with a store employee. Self–checkout allows a virtually touchless experience, where a customer can scan barcodes and pay using their phone. They also improve productivity by 6–12% due to the reduced labor needs and can include AI and cameras that help reduce shrinkage. Antimicrobial touchscreens keep the checkout line clean with surfaces that kill viruses.
Spill–Detecting Robots — At some grocery stores throughout the country, robots equipped with cameras and lidar sensors roam the aisles searching for potential hazards. When they detect an item or spill on the floor, they stop and send a photo to a control center. A human confirms whether the obstruction is a hazard, and the system announces a cleanup message over the store’s speaker system. The robot then waits next to the spill until a retail worker verifies that they have cleaned it.
Price and Stock-Checking Robots — Labor–intensive activities like price checking and stock validation can be performed by robots. By using available technology, grocery stores can detect and order out–of–stock items promptly.
Internet of Things (IoT) — Stores that install internet–connected refrigerators, freezers, and HVAC units may benefit from the increase in available data. A smart fridge or freezer can alert employees if a door is left open or a component breaks down. High–tech labels and Bluetooth–enabled sensors on products, pallets, and containers can provide immediate temperature readings. Store owners can remotely manage the temperatures of connected equipment to ensure food safety and energy efficiency. Meanwhile, internet–connected smoke alarms can alert business owners if a fire occurs during off–hours.
Radio Frequency Identification (RFID) Technology — RFID technology allows stores to monitor their inventory automatically. An employee would “check in” a product when it comes into the store. When a customer purchases the item, it is “checked out” and removed from the inventory system. RFID systems are capable of collecting expiration dates, alerting store owners of product recalls, identifying temperature-sensitive items, and helping managers make smart stocking decisions.
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