The corona crisis: how technology can support our lockdown exit strategies

by Charles Devroye - Communications Officer | minutes read

Technology or, to be more specific, information and communication technology (ICT) has helped us cope with the lockdown phase of the ongoing coronavirus pandemic. Without all that modern technology, we probably wouldn’t have been able to work so effectively from home for such an extended period of time. Nor would we have been able to stay in touch with our family and friends, while maintaining a safe social distance. But can that same technology now also help us move on to the next phase of the corona crisis? In other words: can it support our government’s lockdown exit strategy? 

In my previous blog post, I’ve already presented a solution that can help businesses restart by allowing their staff to return to their workplaces in the most secure way: S@feOffice. But that solution, of course, is only one part of the story. If you’re in the retail business, for instance, dealing with your customers in a safe and friendly efficient manner is at least as important. 

CoD@Casa: avoid queueing

If there is one thing that most customers would not regard as friendly efficient, it is probably queueing. Nor would they consider it particularly safe in these times of social distancing. Nevertheless, queues are becoming the norm in front of many shops that have remained open, such as food stores, or that have been able to reopen as part of a government’s lockdown exit strategy - especially in cities. Ironically enough, these queues are caused by government corona regulations intended to enhance safety and avoid health risks. In Belgium, for instance, shops must comply with the instructions of the federal government and respect capacity limits for a maximum of one customer per 10 m². 

Are we doomed then to wait outside of stores from now on, even in the event of a thunderstorm? Not if technology can help it! And to prove that it actually can, my colleagues in Italy have already developed a solution that helps shops reduce these queues and protect their customers. It does so basically by enabling them to choose a time slot for their shopping via a very simple reservation service. Click here to find out more about this promising new solution, baptised ‘CoD@Casa’. Or let my colleagues explain it to you in their own words in this short video presentation (1:57). Or better yet: click here to watch a quick demo (1:36).

Coop@Casa: book a slot for shopping

Just as our S@feOffice solution was developed during a hackathon in Luxembourg, CoD@Casa was also presented and further developed at such an event. Last month, in fact, we joined in two hackathons initiated by the European Commission to help the fight against Covid-19: EUvsVirus in Europe and AfricavsVirus in Africa. CoD@Casa was presented as part of the pan-European EUvsVirus initiative, along with other innovative solutions by Sopra Steria that can help to address the challenges of Covid-19. You can check them all out here.

Contrary to S@feOffice, however, CoD@Casa is already in use today – not surprisingly in the north of Italy (Lombardy). There the supermarket chain Coop, one of the biggest retailers on the market, uses our application, rebaptised ‘Coop@Casa’, to allow its customers to go shopping without having to queue. The application connects its users to a platform where they can register to be among the priority customers to enter a specific Coop store on a set date and time. Provided with a QR code, the registered customer goes through a separate queue at the store entrance, where that QR code is then scanned by a store operator in charge of check-in. At the end of shopping, the customer goes through a check-out and another customer can enter the supermarket. A telephone number is also available to allow customers who do not have access to the latest technology to register for this service as well.

To be continued?

During the lockdown, our Italian branch has offered this brand new solution for free. And they intend to keep it free of charge until the end of June. Meanwhile, more than 60,000 customers are already using it today in more than 400 stores in Italy, making more than 130,000 reservations per day.

Apart from enhancing its functionalities and extending its use to different industries, one of our main objectives for participating in the pan-European EUvsVirus hackathon was to prepare CoD@Casa for extension to other EU countries, turning it into a multilingual solution. And as I am writing this, we are effectively in discussions to set up this application in countries such as France or Luxembourg. Which gives me good reason to hope that this story will indeed be continued! 

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