How Audio Can Aid Brick-and-Mortar Retailers in a Post COVID-19 World


Across the United States and much of the world, lawmakers are implementing public health and safety measures to keep economies open while simultaneously preventing the spread of COVID-19. As businesses tentatively return to “business-as-usual”, what has been considered “usual” will undoubtedly continue evolving. Perhaps the most apparent changes will be how consumers interact with retail environments, like supermarkets, hardware stores, or local small businesses. 

For retailers, this means social distancing measures, mask mandates, meticulous sanitation practices, and safety precautions must be taken to protect employees and shoppers. To meet these new challenges, brick-and-mortar retailers can utilize video surveillance, access control, Artificial Intelligence (AI), and audio monitoring devices. 

How it Works  

In physical retail locations, business owners can harness the power of traditional security technologies to enhance the safety of employees and patrons alike.  As many stores already employ video surveillance systems and access control, the inclusion of two-way audio devices like Louroe Electronics VeriFact-540, VeriFact-550, or the all-new IP Network DigiFact 825, and DigiFact 830, and AI software are a simple way to upgrade an existing solution to meet a new challenge. 

Setting parameters for AI-enabled video analytics allows store owners to monitor both social distancing efforts and mask-wearing within their establishment. Facial recognition software can identify those not wearing masks, and when paired with access control systems can bar offenders from entering a facility. Two-way audio devices can then be used to play a pre-recorded message to remind customers of the store’s mask policy. 

Similarly, setting a minimum distance threshold within the video analytic software streamlines social distancing for retailers. If someone becomes too close to another shopper or employee, a pre-recorded audio message can be played to remind customers to maintain a safe distance while shopping. 

A Walkthrough 

To better understand how these solutions work for retailers take a virtual walkthrough: 

Entrance 

Mask-wearing and physical distancing are a cornerstone of control for airborne viruses. Video surveillance cameras equipped with edge AI and two-way audio devices can be placed at all major entrances to scan customers for masks and count those who enter. Utilizing people counting analytics, the surveillance system is programmed to limit entrance to the store once it reaches its designated capacity. After setting an in-store customer threshold, if the number of shoppers meets the threshold, two-way audio devices voice-direct those at the store’s entrance to wait momentarily until they can safely enter the store. Additionally, facial recognition analytics scans all customers, flagging any who may not be wearing masks and broadcasting an announcement to reaffirm the rules before allowing entrance.  

Aisles 

Once inside the store, it is important for customers and employees to avoid close physical contact to reduce cross-contamination. AI-enabled analytics can be pre-configured to measure the physical distance between people, such that when the distance is less than the pre-set value an alert is triggered. Two-way audio devices can then disseminate a pre-recorded message, warning shoppers to shop at a safe distance. Some retailers now have set “paths”, guiding customers through each aisle to minimize traffic buildups. While customers move throughout the store, cameras monitor the number of shoppers in each aisle. If traffic becomes too heavy in any single area, another pre-recorded message is played to tell customers to wait before moving on to the next section. 

Point of Sale Terminals 

As customers move towards checkout lanes, the same AI-enabled cameras and two-way audio systems observe the checkout lines to measure the distance between customers and confirm that they are at a safe distance. Similarly, if shoppers get too close to cashiers or baggers, two-way audio devices broadcast messaging to remind customers of social distancing best practices.