FutureWire - futurism and emerging technology

Friday, September 10, 2004

We Already Know If You Want Fries With That...

According to a USA Today article, McDonald's is experimenting with predictive technology in its drive-thru lanes. Working with a company called HyperActive Technologies, Mickey D's has launched "HyperActive Bob" on a trial basis in seven restaurants. Burger King and Taco Bell are also evaluating the technology.

HyperActive Bob evaluates incoming drive-thru traffic with rooftop cameras, and attempts to predict what kinds of food customers will be ordering before they place their order. For fast-food restaurants that live and die on split-second timing, this provides crucial advantages as they can accurately judge how much of what kinds of foods to prepare, thereby eliminating waste and improving service. For example, a minivan loaded with passengers is going to place a much larger order than a small car with a driver and no passengers. And if that minivan is loaded with kids, they'll likely be wanting Happy Meals.

Perhaps the most impressive (and spooky) feature of HyperActive Bob is its ability to "memorize" customer preferences and map trends. If customers driving pickup trucks consistently order Big Macs and those driving SUVs like Filets-o-Fish, that's significant. If this kind of predictive technology works as advertised -- and early indications are that fast-food restaurants are very pleased -- it could change the way services of all kinds are delivered.