During a recent visit to Walgreens, I saw a rather interesting tech upgrade to the plain old shopping cart.
Inside the shopping basket was a notice on a bright yellow background. “Attention shoppers! Our shopping carts will lock if taken beyond the parking lot perimeter. While distinctive yellow lines mark normal exits, the entire lot perimeter is protected.”
So being a total tech neeeerrrrd, I started taking looking at the shopping cart to figure out how it worked.
The wheels looked OK from inside the basket…
…but at the ground level, it was obvious that one wheel was completely different.
The front left wheel (the same as the warning illustrated) was encased, and not completely solid like the other three wheels. It also felt heavier to spin by hand, but I didn’t notice any difference in moving down the isles when I was pushing the cart.
Did I put enough eeeeerrrrd’s in the neeeeerrrrd description above?
Anyhow, the “Trojan wheel” had 10 phillips screws all along the perimeter and didn’t make any noise or give any resistance when I changed directions suddenly while driving the cart.
I’m guessing that this wheel is always listening to a signal that tells it it is “inside” the store grounds, and once that signal fades, a locking mechanism clamps down on the front left axle to bring the basket to a grinding halt. But I wonder if that means the wheels need occasional recharging or if the motion of the basket recharges the unit like our kinetic motion can charge modern watches?
Another option would be if there is a actual line-of-sight signal fence along the store perimeter, where if the basket crosses the signal line (which would have to be from ground level to about a foot high), the wheel gets the OK to seize up.
It’s an interesting piece of tech that I see being useful to stop some thieves from getting away with $75-$400 pieces of store inventory, but I wonder if these stores thought of how easy this security would be to bypass. If I was a bad guy, all I would do is pop the nut and bolt off the “trojan wheel” and put on a “normal wheel” from another basket! Done!