Boeing designer Michael Hren creates app for age of COVID-19

Social-distanced shopping: There’s an app for that

August 07, 2020 in Our People allows stores to set up digital waitlists so that customers can queue up to shop from their cars, homes or other errands—cutting the need for lines and making it easier for businesses to adhere to capacity limits in the time of COVID-19 and social distancing.

Michael Hren photo

Anyone tired of standing in line outside a store in the blazing summer heat or driving rain can thank a fellow Boeing employee for finding a way to virtually get on the waitlist for their errands — no outdoor queues necessary.

Michael Hren, a Content Studio designer at Boeing as well as the founder of Heroes for Zeroes social media campaign supporting health care professionals and essential workers during the COVID-19 pandemic, has taken his work to the next level in helping storeowners and shoppers alike get errands done during a pandemic.

“I saw it at Home Depot around 10 in the morning,” Hren said. “All these people were standing outside, not six feet apart, not social distancing, waiting until the store had space for them.” — co-developed by Hren and a former Boeing teammate, Kevin Chambers, using the same Agile approach Boeing relies upon — allows storeowners to set up a digital waitlist so they can honor capacity limits meant to keep shoppers from getting too close to each other inside, while also keeping them from having to group together outside.

A customer can go to with any smartphone web browser, find the store on the map or use the code posted on the store’s door, and get added to the waitlist. Then they can stay in the queue from a car in the parking lot or while doing other errands. They can even get in line at home, saving the need to wait longer than necessary.

Hren said is entirely free to businesses and customers, and that he’s looking for businesses interested in getting their pin on the map. The app is currently soft-launched in Washington, but its use of Google Maps means its capability extends beyond borders — in fact, they’ve plotted a few test pins in China and Canada.

“We’re trying to help essential workers that are providing services for us, but we wanted to be give back in some way that helps us get to zero cases,” Hren said. “Adhering to good social distancing and World Health Organization safety precautions is the best way to do that.

When the store has room for the next shopper, that user will see their phone screen turn green.

Michael Hren photo

By Kate Everson