Australia’s First COVID-Safe Control Room
Chadstone shopping centre provides Melbourne shoppers with a safe and frictionless shopping experience.
COVID-19 has had a major impact on the way we manage public spaces. For the retail industry, particularly hard hit by the lockdowns, welcoming back shoppers demanded innovative solutions to create a safe shopping environment. Finding the balance between public safety and providing a smooth shopping experience has been especially challenging from a security perspective.
One of Australia’s largest shopping centres, Chadstone in Melbourne, met this challenge head on with the implementation of Australia’s first COVID Safe Control Room. Having been the site of a COVID-19 cluster back in September, one of Chadstone’s co-owners Vicinity Centres turned to technology to keep teams and shoppers safe.
Enhanced by a number of other safety measures implemented on the ground, the control room allows a single operator to monitor and manage customer density live and in real-time.
“Our teams needed to be able to identify density and social distancing challenges across 175,000 sqm of retail space,” explains Daniel Boyle, Head of Operations at Chadstone.
The centre’s existing Milestone CCTV system was enlisted to provide real-time monitoring of the centre’s density, identifying pressures points such as food areas and narrow malls. This was bolstered by a suite of resources and tools from Vicinity Centre’s data, science and insights team:
A parking guidance system dashboard projects customers numbers; a live in-centre occupancy dashboard provides the number of people in centre at any one time; potential congestion hotspots are identified via heat-maps powered through the wi-fi network; and a robust future forecast tool predicts centre occupancy by the hour.
“Each of these data inputs are monitored by the COVID-19 Control Room operator, who dispatches either a security guard or COVID-10 Safe Crew social distancing officer to assess the situation on the floor. An escalation process to the most appropriate management lead is in place for any further challenges.”
These measures are supported by COVID Safety Officers, stationed at entrances to remind visitors to use hand sanitiser and wear a mask, as well as directing traffic flow and encouraging social distancing. These safety officers also have a ‘local area’ occupancy counting tool at their disposal called TallyFi.
“The TallyFi system allows high-pressure zones to be gated temporarily and controlled with team members using handheld counters at the entry and exit points. It is expected this will only be deployed on days where forecast occupancy may exceed manageable numbers.”
Finally, Social Q virtual queuing technology has been introduced to proactively prevent bottlenecks at the busiest time. The technology also allows customers to pre-book a store visit time at participating retailers, as well as alerting customers if their desired store has capacity for entry.
Overall, the COVID-Safe control room has been a great success. Mr Boyle believes this is due largely to integrating the shopping centre’s COVID safety measures into existing security operations and using data to inform decision making.
“Using data and insights available on expected daily conditions and maintaining good communication between the operator and management with regular debriefs, enabled us to understand and solve any potential issues.”
It is through centrally-managing its COVID-safe solution in this way that Chadstone shopping centre has been able to harness the power of technology and data, creating a safe and convenient shopping environment.
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