Using Biometrics and IoT to Improve the Guest Experience

Do long checkout lines cause you to have heart palpitations? Or would you suggest a layout change based on your heart rhythm? Walmart’s shopping carts might one day sense your heart rate and tension levels.

Walmart filed a patent in August for a shopping cart that monitors various biometric signals, like a customer’s body temperature, heart rate and tightness of grip on the handle. According to the patent titled System And Method For Biometric Feedback Cart Handle, the data would be transmitted to a server and used to alert staff when shoppers might need help or medical assistance. Or when Black Friday stampedes give way to a holiday fracas.

Specifically, the “Biometric Feedback Cart Handle” would send any signals of distress to a server, which processes that data along with the customer’s location. The process is illustrated in various patent illustrations:


Walmart Smart Cart Patent Drawing


The cart’s handle would use sensors to track various criteria, including a “baseline” temperature and pulse of the shopper, the movement of the shopping cart, and the “force applied to the shopping cart handle and shopping cart speed,” the patent states. The baseline would be used to see if any abrupt spikes or dips in the biometric data merit a response from Walmart’s staff. The sensors can also read the weight of groceries in a cart, in addition to the temperature of the store and its noise level.

Obviously, the idea is novel from the standpoint of protecting elderly customers, but it comes with inevitable drawbacks. Given the recent data breaches affecting Google and Facebook, you’d be remiss to think that the same couldn’t happen via the shopping carts at the preeminent discount grocer in the US.

The question, then, is how far does the data go? And will users’ be concerned about the user privacy of the data and its uses? Are there any regulatory or privacy law implications? While the future of the shopping cart is not yet confirmed, the filing of the patent is representative of the trends in utilizing data and technology to improve the consumer experience.