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As a new strain of coronavirus (COVID-19) swept through the world in 2020, preparedness plans, masking policies and more public policy changed just as quickly. WVXU has covered the pandemic's impact on the Tri-State from the very beginning, when on March 3, 2020, Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine barred spectators from attending the Arnold Sports Festival in Columbus over concerns about the virus, even though Ohio had yet to confirm a single case of COVID-19.

There's A Method To That Line Outside Kroger

Al Behrman

Unlike the old fashioned head count some stores are using to keep customers socially distanced, Kroger is using camera sensors and predictive analytics, freeing up more employees to work inside the store.

In a news release,the Cincinnati-based company lists QueVision as one way it's protecting the health and safety of its customers and associates. It was originally rolled out as a way to speed up check-out timesand the grocery chain reports it has done that, taking it down from four minutes to less than 30 seconds for an average order.

"Under this new setup, the technology will let an employee know when a store has reached 50% capacity," Grocery Dive's Senior Editor Jeff Wells reports. "Workers will then direct shoppers to form a line outside and maintain the recommended six-foot distancing while they wait. When shoppers exit, waiting customers will be let in."

This, combined with one-way aisles, is working to reduce store traffic.

"By leveraging QueVision, our technology system that uses infrared sensors and predictive analytics, we will be able to more efficiently support our new capacity limits, creating a safer environment for our customers and associates," said Yael Cosset, Kroger's chief technology and digital officer.

QueVision was developed by Kroger and Wells says it's one of many technologies that the company has rolled out.

"They actually have a business that develops (the technology); it's called Sunrise Technology." Wells says among ideas tested: one that monitors product temperatures, digital ads on a shelf edge and cameras that track the movement of customers in the store.

Kroger sells this technology to other retailers providing another revenue stream.

Grocers are also interested in Amazon Go's check-out model. Forbes explains the concept here. With computer vision, sensors and deep learning, it detects what you have in a virtual cart and charges it to your Amazon account. No checkout necessary.  

Wells says mobile check-out is also popular. "One of these programs where you go through stores using your smartphone and then you checkout on the smartphone," Wells says. "Actually during this COVID-19 outbreak that has been a really popular method for shoppers."

In fact, Wells says one-third of the sales at a New York grocery store came through that way at the height of panic buying.

Ann Thompson has decades of journalism experience in the Greater Cincinnati market and brings a wealth of knowledge and expertise to her reporting.