InnovationLab smart mat enables social distancing in shops

  • July 7, 2020
  • Steve Rogerson

German printed electronics company InnovationLab has developed a smart mat, a sensor-based distance-control floor mat that helps ensure social distancing in retail outlets.
With research citing a 50% risk reduction of Covid-19 when maintaining two metres distance between people compared with one metre, maintaining distance between shoppers and cashiers in retail settings can be critical. While existing systems monitoring shoppers’ locations and the number of people in a store typically use cameras, such systems can be limited by accuracy and privacy issues.
Leveraging InnovationLab’s capacity to print high-accuracy, high-volume roll-to-roll electronics, the smart mat demonstrator uses a sensor array to control a traffic light-style indicator that detects when a shopper stands on it. In a simple use case, the smart mat displays a red light when a person is standing on the mat and green when no one is there, signalling that the next customer can proceed.
InnovationLab is now demonstrating its smart mat at the Rewe Center retail store in Heidelberg, Germany.
“While the smart mat serves an important function in reducing the risk of contracting Covid-19 in a retail space, our demonstrator just scratches the surface of InnovationLab’s capabilities in printed electronics,” said Florian Ullrich, business developer at InnovationLab.
The intelligent sensor matrix embedded in the smart mat contains more than 8000 individual sensors spaced at 1cm intervals, which enables differentiation between human steps and the wheels of a shopping trolley, for example.
In addition to promoting safe social distancing in a retail environment, the smart mat platform could be further customised to analyse in-store traffic. InnovationLab is already working with SAP, making it easier to integrate the sensor data with existing retail IT systems and gain new insights on customer behaviour.
“By offering a variety of printed sensors, that are flexible, customisable for many uses, and have extremely low power consumption – and are very low cost — we’re opening new classes of applications to sensors for the first time,” said Luat Nguyen, managing director of InnovationLab. “From health and fitness wearables and automotive infotainment systems to industrial internet of things and warehouse management, printed sensors offer manufacturers complete design freedom, an advantage over conventional fabrication methods.”