More and more people experience shopping as stressful. Apparently, so did the shoppers at Walmart. The company has recently applied for a patent that would allow it to equip the handles of their trolleys with biometric sensors that would measure their customers’ temperatures, heart rates and stress levels and inform store personnel if any customers needed assistance.
According to the patent application, the trolley would wake up from a low-powered sleep state when a customer moves it.
When a customer touches the trolley’s handle and moves it, the biometric sensors would read their heart rate, temperature and the degree of force that the customer uses to grip the handle and also the speed of the trolley. This data would create a baseline of the customer’s physical state. The sensors would continuously monitor these factors during the customer’s presence in the store and measure them against the baseline.
Walmart said that it would use the information gathered to help identify shoppers who might be experiencing a problem. For example, if their temperature increased or decreased by a predetermined parameter, such as movement by a full degree, the sensor would send an alert to a customer service representative, who could then find the customer and see if any medical help is required.
In addition to monitoring the trolley’s speed and the customer’s temperature and heart rate, the system could use the data from the sensors to estimate a customer’s level of stress. The system would use this data in conjunction with situational information to determine if an alert is required. For example, if the customer was in an overly crowded part of the store, the system would use that information when evaluating the increase in a shopper’s stress level, as it would consider that some increase in stress level is due to the crowded conditions.
However, if clusters of alerts indicated that several customers needed help at the same time, this information could be indicative of an adverse situation, such as an argument, that requires investigation by store personnel.
Walmart emphasised that customers should not be concerned about the company collecting and using their sensitive personal information, as the sensors would not have the capability of saving any data. The system would simply start to monitor biometric data when a customer begins to use a trolley, but it would revert to a low-powered sleep state when the sensors indicate that it is no longer in use.