As Cincinnati eases back into normalcy following COVID-19–related shutdowns, restaurants have made some of the most drastic operational changes to practice social distancing. While many establishments have reduced seating capacity, limited menus, or kept dining rooms closed, Washington Platform has taken a more technological approach to safety.
Owner Jon Diebold teamed up with George Brunemann, CTO of Known Quantity Sensors, to implement an artificial intelligence system that monitors the distances between Washington Platform customers in real time. Cameras and sensors placed throughout the restaurant broadcast patrons’ locations to a TV screen, where visitors can see themselves displayed with a green, yellow, or red dot on their chests. This color-coded system illustrates whether people are far enough apart (green), too close together (yellow), or too close for too long (red).
“The idea was that people could self-police so you don’t have to have somebody hired at the restaurant to keep track of it,” says Brunemann, who adapted the technology from its original use as a conference room monitoring system. “At the time, they were talking about inspectors coming in to make sure you’re abiding be the social distance rules. [Instead, with this system] it’s up to [diners] to maintain the distance, and it takes the owner out of the equation.”
So far, Brunemann says that he and Diebold have received mostly positive customer feedback. “On Facebook, we had some people saying, I don’t want to go anywhere where my face is on camera, but security cameras are already in place anywhere you go. Other than that, the reactions have been great, partially because it’s such a novel idea.”
Outside of Washington Platform, Brunemann sees this social distancing technology as something that can extend far beyond the restaurant and business worlds. “We’re [looking into applications] where instead of just the red, yellow, green, we could do other things with the AI,” Brunemann says. “For example, if we did something for the Cincinnati Reds, we could have a Reds jersey pop up when you’re far enough away from each other, and then have an umpire jersey on you if you’re too close. We can adapt this into a fun thing instead of something that might seem like Big Brother is watching over you.”
Washington Platform, 1000 Elm St., downtown, (513) 421-0110