Tired and hungry, you rush into a canteen, only to find queues of people in front of you and all the tables occupied.
Sound familiar? But now thanks to “Dining Indicator”, a program recently launched on Fudan’s online campus services platform “eHall”, you can probably avoid such densely packed canteens at peak times.
Lunch rush at Fudan's Danyuan Canteen
Open “Dining Indicator” at mealtime (6:30-9:30, 10:30-13:30 and 16:30-19:30), and you will see a dynamic bar chart with pairs of light and dark blue bars showing respectively the real-time and the record-high number of customers who have paid their meals by swiping their e-cards at a certain food counter inside the canteens. The longer the light blue bar appears, the more crowded it is in the dining area that the data refers to. Thus, with the help of this service, you can choose the best place to buy and enjoy your meal with ease.
Launched this September, the service has been designed to prevent students from crowding in a certain canteen or food counter at mealtimes, which is a part of Fudan’s efforts in normalized COVID-19 control.
Students informed of customer flows of each canteen can make wiser choices on when and where to eat. As a result, students’ meal experience can be highly elevated and frequenters of the usually packed canteens can be redirected to other canteens as well.
However, the design of this service is not as easy as many would expect.
The designers thought of trying to calculate the number of people who had just bought food. As they explain, it is hard to describe how long the queues are in computer language. “For example, when I tell you that 200 people swiped their card within the past 5 minutes on the second floor of Danyuan Cafeteria (旦苑餐厅), you still can’t estimate how long the queues could be.”
The dashboard shows peak customer flow of the semester (light blue bar) and customer flow of the past five minutes (dark blue bar)
To tackle this problem, the designers decided to add to the bar chart another indicator — the crest data, namely the highest number of payments within 5 minutes at each sector of the canteens in the semester. By so doing, students can compare the data, thereby estimating the customer density of the canteen they would like to go for meals.
The designers reorganized the raw data exported from the POS system and rematched contractors with identifiable food counters.
Finally, on September 11, after bouts of resetting and debugging, this online service was put into use.
Dining Indicator is just one of the 253 applications the Informatization Office of Fudan University has launched on eHall. Over the past five years, Fudan has been pressing ahead with the Smart Campus initiative to make life easier for all Fudan students, faculty and staff. More applications will be implemented for the convenience of Fudaners just like the Dining Indicator.