FCC Filing Reveals Tasty Hardware McSecrets

If you’ve visited a McDonald’s recently, you might have noticed something of a tonal shift. Rather than relying on angsty human teenagers to take customer orders, an increasing number of McDonald’s locations are now using self-serve kiosks. You walk up, enter your order on a giant touch screen, and then take an electronic marker with you to an open table. In mere minutes your tray of nutritious delicious cheap food is brought to you by… well that’s still probably going to be an angsty teenager.

Thanks to a recent FCC filing pointed out to us by an anonymous tipster, we now know what kind of tech Ronald has packed into the electronic table markers (referred to as “tents” in McDonald’s parlance). It turns out they are Bluetooth Low Energy beacons powered by the Nordic nRF52832 chipset, and include some unexpected features such as an accelerometer to detect falls.

The Nordic nRF52832 features a 32-bit ARM Cortex M4F processor at 64 MHz with 512 KB flash and 64 KB SRAM. Quite a bit of punch for a table marker. Incidentally, this is the same chip used in the Adafruit Feather nRF52 Pro, so there’s already an easily obtainable development toolchain.

A image of the backside of the PCB shows a wealth of labeled test points, and we imagine figuring out how to get one of these table markers doing your own bidding wouldn’t be too difficult. Not that we condone you swiping one of these things along with your Quarter Pounder with Cheese. Though we are curious to know just why they need so much hardware to indicate which table to take a particular order to; it seems the number printed on the body of the device would be enough to do that.

This isn’t the first time we’ve taken a peek behind the Golden Arches. From reverse engineering their famous fries to hacking the toys they give out with Happy Meals, there’s more to do at the local McDonald’s than get thrown out of the ball pit again.

112 thoughts on “FCC Filing Reveals Tasty Hardware McSecrets

  1. Hmm, havent seen devicex these in Australia. There are menu driven kiosks but, only saw an order number on paper – I guess most of the stores are small do staff not far to walk to deliver.

    So this device intended for larger stores and with locator ? Otherwise the staff would just need to look for the tent number to match the order ID. What augmentation is there which suggests the device has retail value re location or reducing time to deliver order ie. That makes it worth the development/capital cost Or a first level retail experiment ?

    I like the idea of instore GPS like location but, surely only for sizable and busy outlets…

    1. We had them in WA for a while, but they were removed. There was, and still is in some stores, a passive node stuck under each table which the tent would detect and beam back to the kitchen. I got the distinct impression they didn’t work very well.

      1. They just got done remodeling and installing this tech in the McD’s in the small town I live in. Look up RadBeacon. That’s the company that makes these ‘tents’.

      2. Ah ha, g’day mate, your name link actually works and we do get around :-)
        There must be heaps of other ways to handle the intended utility than what appears to be large silicon overkill but, then maybe the widespread use in other markets has significantly lowered entry costs with keen competition so this type common. Overkill h/w probably then attracts similar s/w overkill such as bloat by collecting stuff adding debug overhead (lazy programmers) – which fits your observation on functionality. If the Bluetooth operation were not a stumbling block the entry path with well proven cheaper micros with less complexity would be a more appropriate, well unless the device here is a stripped down hack from a larger project that got canned leaving the co with this path. Just goes to show perhaps in this case the pragmatic implementation far from any sort of efficient optimum – the asymptotic low price of sand seems the direction integrated circuits are approaching and sooner than I expected…

        1. ‘Overkill’ hardware can seriously reduce the development cost.
          nrf52832 isn’t really overkill, it does exactly what’s needed in a single package, again reducing development cost. It’s not just a processor, it has integrated bluetooth, and has good low power modes for use on battery. Depending on how the bluetooth is setup the NFC could even be used to make the pairing simple.
          Suggesting that debugging code which allows some awareness of what’s going on in a complicated system is unnecessary or even lazy is just short sighted.

          1. Shannon, lets not be so oddly naive and simplistic re re ‘short sighted’ – it can also increase development cost by adding layers of unnecessary complexity and especially so if there are IP issues re imported modules as cost hurdle re license or re-write. Its all simple project based at this level depending on intent and that’s still a bit unclear whether experimental or engineering to a specification re functionality. In any case the h/w is small and usually nowadays seems very cheap indeed, the issue is what development team you can manage and what resources they have at the ready and their collective experience, their labour costs are not comparatively trivial to hardware. Its all too common that gung-ho developers grew up (relatively recently) from uni with little debug experience in such systems environment due to uni attachment to higher level h/w than needed and perhaps hubris assuming their modules work together with no effort – so very often not the case :/

            I’m sorry your idea “Suggesting that debugging code which allows some awareness of what’s going on in a complicated system is unnecessary or even lazy is just short sighted” is completely disingenuous and mischievous as a jibe if indeed it is a critique of my observation – NB I didn’t say that as you exclaim !
            It seems you twisted my words to create a strawman like absurd paradigm ie False. Inappropriate to try to twist my words – please read again my comment you replied to !
            ie It arose from my observation “Overkill h/w probably then attracts similar s/w overkill such as bloat by collecting stuff adding debug overhead (lazy programmers) – which fits your observation on functionality.”

            Note the word “probably” and “similar” and “bloat” – these are all qualitative experiences over some 40 years not quantitative, it might not be relevant to your specific project management experience – do you have any contemporary in similar fields btw as the way you write comes across as low end hobby or non-commercial academic ie No time pressure to perform in profit expectation – the result of ambit claims from gung-ho programmers is so very infrequently the case.

            I have no objection to the h/w mix, as it seems that is the status quo as sand is cheaper than ever, this could be a “good thing” but, does attract some types of inefficiency and risk beyond the facile idea it is easier as there is ‘awareness’ – what you meant to say is so called “situational awareness” and for these types of projects only really works with good experience, IP issues settled, debug issues addressed early in modules and some legal entity group at the source taking responsibility to supply the firmware mix as a base with confidence for the likes of major players like the McDonalds of the world…

            Cheers

          2. @Mike Massen
            In response to your entire first paragraph: I more or less agree with what you’ve said here, that’s why I said that what you’re calling ‘overkill’ can reduce costs. Not that it does reduce costs mind you, merely that it can.

            In response to your paragraphs two, three, four and part of five: replying to your naming of the collection of debugging information as your example of ‘bloat’ (which is as you say a qualitative word) is not twisting your words. That debug information is necessary, if it weren’t there it would be much much more difficult for the source of these tent modules to respond to bug reports, feature requests or claims of defectiveness. I also don’t believe I exclaimed anything.

            In response to your question: yes, I have contemporary experience in similar fields. I am currently a software developer in a real time automation company. The way I write in comments on a blog for general readership is not the same as I’d write in an academic or professional paper. I like to tailor the way I communicate to my audience.

      3. That’s pretty clever to put a node at each table like that.

        As far as usefulness, even if you’re just saving a few seconds per “hamburger” the effect does repeat itself over and over and over. Plus customers would theoretically be a little happier.

    1. Which FLOOR? Of a McDonalds?

      Ah. So now I am starting to understand the purpose of this tech.
      I think every McDonalds I have ever been inside, standing in the center of the room one can pretty much see every table just by turning one’s head!

      1. Of yeah, in big cities these sorts of restaurants often have multiple floors. I can think of several McDonalds with multiple levels, as well as KFCs and Pizza Huts. Quite common, at least in the UK.

          1. You have to keep in mind that in big cities, fitting a new a restaurant (or any kind of store) into an existing space often involves being very creative with how things are laid out. It’s not like there’s a big patch of bare ground on which to build it. Often, there is very little area to work with at street level, but there may be additional stories (floors) available.

            Many retail establishments in Manhattan have small entrance lobbies at street level, wherein you immediately take an escalator or elevator to one or more larger below-ground floor levels.

            Also impressive in their own way are the little shops that occupy tiny spaces, sometimes barely bigger than a closet.

          2. I’ve used it in a smallish McD, but one which sorely needed it. The buildings in this European city are 19th-century, and used to be heavily subdivided into tiny four-storey shops. As they changed hands walls were demolished and rebuilt as shops expanded. eventually a McDonald’s was built with the kitchen in the middle of a former shop floor (with seating to the front, side and back), as well as separate dining areas in the former upstairs storeroom, the storeroom of the shop behind, and the storeroom of the shop to the side. Table service wasn’t an option until these things came in.

  2. I’ve seen it in Paris too.
    The BLE might be usefull depending on how the fast food is made, the one i saw was quite crowded and will small rooms on multiple level.
    With a scanner on both side of each level they could locate qui well where the customer is seated and therefore get your food faster and loose less time than going over every table when it’s rush time

  3. wouldnt the accelerometer be enough to get a rough but good enough estimate of which table the token get taken to? within a known environment, it sounds feasible. And then the BLE would just be to forward that info back to the person who’s carrying food.

    1. Nah, you’d have to be doing a lot of analytics on the accelerometer data and polling extremely frequently, and you wouldn’t know when to stop because the user could pause for a while on their way to their table. It’d suck up the battery a lot. On the other hand, a lot of accelerometers are built now with some processing on board so that they can generate an interrupt when they detect motion or a fall or a shake, so that the main microcontroller can be in deep sleep and the accelerometer can be in a low power state for almost all of the device’s lifetime.

  4. Here’s how they work at a typical McDonalds.

    At the register or kiosk, you select the “Locator Number” by typing in the number indicated on the marker on the POS system or the Kiosk screen before you pay. Someone will then look around the small dining room and bring a tray to you with your order. There is no back-end tracking, no apps to locate a table, no nothing on the store end other than a number on your reciept and up on the order screen.

    Useless tech as it is being used, but a great opportunity when these table flags get dumped en-masse in a few years.

    1. Can confirm that this has been my experience thus far as well. (Oregon, United States)

      Seems like they were sold with the typical promises of tech, but when it came time to implement them in stores, the analog methods we’re much simpler.

      1. Most McD’s lobbies are small. I’ve cloned a few of these table flags, and the system responds to my phone like it’s a flag. Pretty nifty, I’m going to have to see how they’re identified store to store. Really easy tech to explore and you don’t even have to steal one.

    2. It might seem useless now, but when that food gets delivered by a small serving bot that rolls out to the signal from the BLE device, it won’t seem so useless anymore.

          1. “Robots will be cheaper to employ then people.” and if everyone owns and manages a significant number of the productive robots, either corporately or individually, we’ll do all-right. :-)

  5. Rather then remove them from the store it might be funner to make them broadcast something other then the number on occasion, “wheres my shake?” or “no I do not want fries with that”. Ill have to see if the local has them yet.

  6. BTW, the nRF52832 is supported by MySensors.
    MySensors is a firmware that allows you to build a mash network of sensor and actor nodes, using cheap hardware (originally Arduinos and nrf24LC01).
    Integrates with all major home automation controllers.
    As it seems to have a motion controller, you could use this MC Donalds tent to make a window tilt sensor for your home, or such.

    1. In Belgium, they have such a system at McDo. Every table is lined bottom-side with hundreds of credit-card sized RFID tags. You can program extra information on them as in a movie-style spy dead-drop:-)

    1. I mean, clearly this article is a heads-up that you can take these and reprogram them, and that sentence is a legal ass-covering to avoid liability.

      This commenter’s lawyer would like to note that this comment does not reflect the opinions of his client, his company, or anyone in particular and should be considered for entertainment value only. Also, if you find any Lime or Bird scooters in the ditch with their GPS systems conveniently disabled, please send their brushless motors and battery packs directly to me.

  7. How does the location part work: ?
    Is it
    TDOA(Time Difference of Arrival) between various stationary synchronised RF sensors around the fast food restaurant. using Multilateration.

    RSSI(Received Signal Strength Indicator) measurements, the closer the Angsty human teenager’s tracking device gets the stronger the signal becomes by the inverse square law.

    Or DME(Distance measuring equipment) Angsty human teenager pushes button on their tracker which interrogates the “tents” transponder with a series of pulse-pairs (interrogations) and after a precise time delay (say 50 microseconds), the “tents” station replies with an identical sequence of pulse-pairs. Then you take the total time, subtract 50 microseconds, divide by two and multiply by the speed of light in air for the distance to target.

    Or are they using the accelerometers to approximate the path that was moved along by the customer and the device updates a central server.

    Or some combination of all of the above or something else ?

    A quick search on the filing company “Radius Networks, Inc.” mentions a “Proximity Cloud”, so it does sounds like they may have the ability to track customers devices in near real time and store that data for a very long time, which is not creepy at all.

    1. Ok so after more reading it is using Eddystone (Google) to broadcast powerlevel, sensor data. It is actually a lot less invasive than I was thinking, but it can be upgraded later for additional tracking options..

    2. Unless you take the tent to the bathroom with you or down the street to meet your dealer, I don’t see how a system contained within a restaurant would be able to invasively track you. If they wanted your general whereabouts and data, they could simply ask verizon or sprint or at&t and those companies would provide it no questions asked. That has been proven.

      Also it’s extremely doubtful you could get even a slightly accurate location from that chintzy accelerometer over any appreciable time span. The inaccuracies would pile up and make it useless very rapidly.

      1. I’m just picturing where they cross-reference the security footage with the “tent” and track catalogue people by orders and seating locations. Collecting a thousand trivial items of metadata is mass surveillance.

        McDonald’s already characterizes its customers:
        70% of customers are called “heavy users” who frequent the chain about once a week
        25% of customers are “super heavy users” who frequent the chain three to five times per week

        Having a seating location, and possibly a face, by collecting additional metadata , will eventually help to sell more by increasing their user base.

  8. I don’t think that the accelerometer is to detect drops; it’s to detect when the tent has been picked up, moved, and set down, so that the beacon isn’t transmitting the whole time it’s sitting there on the rack on the kiosk.

    1. That makes more sense. The FCC filing does specifically say it’s for detecting when dropped, but maybe that’s just some generic information they put in when an accelerometer is involved.

  9. What I’m not getting is how the location is determined. Do the angsty teens carry homing devices? Is there a GPS or other locator that then reports what table it’s on? Just BTLE isn’t enough to explain this.

    I can understand why somebody thought this was a good idea, though: I’ve been to Carl’s Jr. (where they use normal passive tents) enough times to see angsty teens wandering around the restaurant for MINUTES searching for where to deliver their trays.

    1. From reading some of the filing it is a broadcast only protocol, so it will give the angsty teen a rough location by a distance measurement using BLE Eddystone (Google). So they will have a device with a distance measurement reading to customer, if they walk away it will increase and if they walk towards it will decrease. And then they will still need to look for the large numbers written on the front of the “tent” to confirm locating the right customer. (But one firmware update could redesign how the whole system works).

      1. No, it’s a series of receivers up above the ceiling, each with several long antennas for triangulation. The tents simply broadcast their IDs and I think battery levels via BTLE, and the receivers in the ceiling pick up the transmissions, triangulate the position, and display that on a map display in the kitchen. I installed one of these systems about a year ago, and I spent a lot of time up on a ladder mounting the boxes and stringing antennas and Cat5e plenum. And then I spent a lot of time calibrating all the locations.

  10. Panera uses a customer locator system like this at some of their locations. The active device is the vibrating coaster they give you when you order, and there are NFC tags with a unique serial stuck under each table. For a while we couldn’t figure out why we kept hearing beeping every time we went to Panera. Turns out my wife’s phone was reading the NFC tags when she set it on the table.

      1. Hmm barry99705,
        I don’t know whats more disturbing; eating at that place or disclosing you eat at that place ? strongly recommend salads and strong spice sauces at the very least. There are all sorts of mineral/vitamin complex issues still to be explored whilst you expose yourself to USA derived fructose with GMO snippets from left overs of corn processing because:-
        1. Fructose depletes the brain of minerals – reducing average intelligence
        – Correlation of higher fructose consumption with IQ reduction last 3 decades rather troubling
        2. Fructose tickles the same receptor depending on dose as the one cocaine does as addictive
        – Genetic factors can accelerate this and at more subtle levels too re behaviour antagonised by low Vit C
        which affects behaviours making people (in general) more emotionally pliable as fall back position

        Both 1 and 2 notionally affirmed by proclivity in USA to not bother voting and where they do vote on emotional basis not analysis – Who’s this trump (!) guy and why couldn’t GOP find anyone better as well as DNC not find anyone better than HRC either – sad reflection of base education as foundational for failures of political dialectic and understanding of means to critique causal logic over more than a normal presidents term vs marketing hypnotic factors via social media…

          1. Hmm, if you were referring to Olivia Wilde then you’d get far more attention, enough for now though ;-)
            Nah, I’m just a sporadic armchair critic casual electronic & biochem, dietary supplement experimenter dreaming of time travel that walks a lot when not writing (or talking) and at my age and weird collections of experiences I remember too well (with backup notes) what the heck do I really need to do (Rhetorical Question)….
            Nice name link by the way, comparatively better organised and focused than I in this carnation, well done. Provokes me, thanks Time I lifted my game (again ffs) rather more with; admin, documentation, lines of exploration beyond the mundane, provoking nutrition status quo, challenging diabetes and MS variant treatments which fail too easily etc…
            Changed my name link this time for isolated stuff I did in 1998 in jungles of Sabah, I do concede needs heck more organisation, detail and some path of further expression, well at 47 what the f..k do you expect before the net had critical mass…
            http://members.iinet.net.au/~erazmus/Power/

        1. I think you should keep at things you are good at – writing off topic complex verbiage on the Internet – instead of spouting ridiculously wrong “information” probably swiped from some conspiracy forum.
          Facts aren’t hard to find if one want to – and the dangers of eating sugars (note: not just fructose) are well documented. Those doesn’t include reduced IQ nor dopamine depletion.

          1. Hmm, it doesnt matter if off topic its evident and why not, your choice to ignore it or follow up if you want, not my concern any more. I add that having graduated in food science and distinction in food chemistry at Curtin uni (my third degree, student number 7602128 in 2010 feel free to check curtin.edu.au ) and having reviewed many peer reviewed journals (>1000 since 2010) I have substantive foundation for my opinions along with my mid 2010 paper for the school of public health at Curtin. You can check my quora/facebook profile link on my name, I am also on a key USA Alzheimers forum too in respect of related factors and a few other paywall forums beyond terms of reference here.

            Information unfortunately widely scattered across many authoritative sources in nutrition, biochemistry, microbiology, molecular genetics etc. There is an established correlation between increasingly higher fructose consumption and lower IQ of certain demographics over some 30 years in USA, I do concede there are many other factors thus cannot yet be deemed to be 100% causative within highest confidence levels however, the underlying biochemistry confirms the basis is sound. There are relevant facts re operation of neural receptors re cocaine and mineral studies in CSF in terms of changes from differing fructose sources and Eg Copper re NMDA receptor. GMO DNA snippets have been found in fructose from corn insecticide sequences also correlated with increasing gut problems in general human population. You would need a fair to good understanding of biochemistry and neural prion arenas in fields relevant and I accept its not openly reported as the media are not particularly well equipped with intellectual equipment and their audience not appropriate at that level either.

            Actually I’m quite pleased it hasn’t yet reached the populist conspiracy fox news type groups at any sort of critical mass. Next time when you think on credulity, then think to ask politely the origins/experience of those offering useful health information to alert that not all is well in the bowels of contemporary food consumption despite many people’s naive assumptions our lords and masters have the interests of our health far ahead of their profits, many in food production ignorant of the effects sugars in conjunction with low minerals has long term as contributor to; Alzheimers, diabetes and even MS too in terms of bacterial toxin bindings to various minerals and immune system signalling etc…

            Cheers

          1. No TGT, see my comment in reply to Megol above.
            Traditional uni educated nutritionists tend to follow old stat tables not well updated especially in respect of combinatorial bioavailability issues, now and again they come to food scientists and food chemists to verify reaction issues for things like safety, texture, bolus, biodome interactions etc. When I did my post grad I went beyond course guidelines into biochem in terms of key mineral deficiencies and effects of metalloid enzyme competitiveness. Under appropriate guidelines high mineral intakes moderately above homeostatic level offer interesting cognitive enhancements and much richer dream experiences leaning more to lucid dreams too… The unfortunate fact however, is most are highly mineral deficient and few people in that discipline understand factors in respect of conjunctions. See WHO reports of correlations hi fructose sugar low IQ and mostly in USA worse than Europe but, recently amounts wealthy demographic in India. Far more trials need to be explored. It is a complex field with many permutations to consider. The McDonalds of the world take the easiest route by far putting profit way ahead of health. Their ‘buns’ in Australia can be classified as cake not bread. The high fructose without normal fruit pulp (some mineral) moderators make it act much more like an addictive and very subtle long term poison, it upsets the Zinc Hexamer insulin store mechanism as it triggers body to release copper, greater chance of diabetes :/

      2. DEVICE INFO
        Device Name:
        Device address: 0C:F3:EE:18:04:D3
        Device Class: Unknown, Unknown (class=7936)
        Major Class: Uncategorized
        Services: No known services
        Bonding State: Unbonded
        RSSI INFO
        First Timestamp: 2018-08-22T16:32:39.722 UTC
        First RSSI: -86db
        Last Timestamp: 2018-08-22T16:32:40.706 UTC
        Last RSSI: -89db
        Running Average RSSI: -87.0db
        SCAN RECORD
        [02, 01, 06, 1B, FF, 18, 01, BE, AC, 52, 41, 44, 4E, 54, 41, 42, 4C, 45, 53, 45, 52, 56, 49, 43, 45, 12, C0, 00, 01, C1, 60, 00, 00, 00, 00, 00, 00, 00, 00, 00, 00, 00, 00, 00, 00, 00, 00, 00, 00, 00, 00, 00, 00, 00, 00, 00, 00, 00, 00, 00, 00, 00]
        RAW AD RECORDS
        #1 Flags
        As String: ”
        As Array: ‘[06]’
        #255 Manufacturer Specific Data
        As String: ‘��RADNTABLESERVICE��`’
        As Array: ‘[18, 01, BE, AC, 52, 41, 44, 4E, 54, 41, 42, 4C, 45, 53, 45, 52, 56, 49, 43, 45, 12, C0, 00, 01, C1, 60]

  11. At a local McDonalds location here in France they recently installed that system. On the top of the stairs leading to the second floor is a small screen which lists the numbers present on that floor. I assume a similar screen is placed behind the counter. The system doesn’t seem to track the location on a more granular level.
    Interestingly on other location they use those round beeping devices.

  12. I just wish they would change the giant touch screens to avoid unnecessary movement of the info on the screen. I encountered one of these once and started to get motion sickness when I saw the screen, so I went to a register and ordered.

  13. The tech overkill of these tents is laid-down groundwork for robotic delivery to the table. You make an order, you take your tent and sit down. Later a robot with the food you ordered shows up at your table and you put the tent in the right spot on the robot and it opens up and you take your food. The robot then leaves and goes back to the food-prep zone. This kind of tech could reduce the needed workforce significantly but imagine how trashed-out the eating zone will get without frequent visits by restaurant staff.

    1. Hmm, perhaps in an ideal world where we imagine tech ingress into somewhat chaotic fast food environs works ‘really well’…

      So McDonalds intent is to reduce number of low tech (cheap) grunts or reduce the impost on existing low tech (cheap) grunt staff to interrupt their time behind the counter or in between flipping burgers to deliver food to tables vs unclear increase in high tech (costly) staff to manage the change to robotics with all the added infrastructure and consequent ripple on effect which likely then will need more low grunt (cheap) stuff to placate any number of reactionary customer issues.
      Sure sounds like an open-ended time-motion study to me – missing more than a few oddball psychological elements where customers interface (read interfere) with the ‘ideal world’ (kids included) as proposed by McDonalds is designed to work ‘really well’…

      1. Yup, makes me want to eat at McDonalds just to watch the saga develop. :-) Like what they are learning over at Tesla Motors – More tech isn’t always better. (a hard thing to hammer into the heads of silicon valley types) :-)

        1. Too true, we live in amazing times at all sorts of levels.
          I concede I visit Hungry Jacks over here in Western Australia now and then (equivalent to USA Burger King), when there I ask for all the free heavies. ie Heavy Beetroot, Heavy Pickles etc etc then I say something odd to the nice cute server just to see if she’s awake “Hey, haven’t I seen you before, I’m sure you’ve lost weight, you look great – but now I can’t order any more heavy without thinking about seeing you now” – yeah I know lame, I just made it up, wrong environment – I do better on the day – closet stand up comic find his feet or his shoes – whatever… Cheers

      2. Well, with the remodel, they did install some visual barriers where before pretty much the entire lobby was visible from the counter. So I assume the major purpose of these tags at small McDonalds is to tell where the customer is. The person carrying the tray can use that info to get quickly to the right area then can use organic terminal guidance (Mark 1 Eyeball) to locate the tag number. Seconds saved per order adds up.

        This same location didn’t have an icemaker atop the lobby self serve soda machine. I suggested to the boss/owner persons a few times that it’d be nice if they had an ice maker. Replies were always along the lines of it’d cost too much. What finally got through was when I mentioned not only did having to lug buckets of ice from the back was taking employee time away from other tasks, how much would it cost if one of the shorter employees fell off the chair they used while filling the ice tank?

        About a week later an ice maker was installed. Amazing how so many people in the restaurant industry can be so damn clueless about ways that spending some money properly can help their bottom line, and/or eliminate risk potential. If something is worn, broken, or needs cleaning – especially when visible on the customer facing side – TAKE CARE OF IT NOW. This same McD, when it opened in the late 90’s, had an ice cream and milkshake machine that was built in 1979. It’s been overhauled and upgraded at least twice since, but still often breaks down. Sometimes it’s down for a week or more when some hard to find 1970’s vintage part needs replacing. Last August, the machine was down for a whole week around the time of the solar eclipse. The store probably could have sold enough shakes, sundaes, and cones that week to have paid for a new machine, but they sold none because whatever part broke had to be scrounged up from who knows where. Why didn’t the store owner RENT a working machine for that week?

  14. Maybe it’s currently a way to check the Angsty-Teenager drops off the food at the correct table? AT picks up order 26, flag 26 reports being picked up and dropped on the rack, order delivered OK. If instead flag 28 gets picked up and dropped off an alarm goes off in the headset of AT.

    1. Ah ha, that makes sense – there is a nexus of ack/nak in fast food – as once an order is complete means all sorts of good production flow feedback and subsequent orders then processed with less hassle. ie. Chance of return queries on incomplete or late orders far less likely – I think the idea behind this likely originated from the practice of applying insurance actuarials to mostly mechanical production flow dynamics. Sadly this means the various human grunts in the system lose their individuality (unless they regale against it) and become lesser cogs in the wheel :/

  15. All this rf based tech in the restaurant makes it vulnerable to interference from jammers. I’m not sure what the minimal investment would be to effectively jam communication at a MechDonalds, but I bet it wouldn’t be much. It would be extremely difficult to get caught doing it too unless one is totally stupid. It’s not like they don’t have competition from other restaurants who would like to see them fail.

    1. Humm true and hmm, then if you could weave some humour in there as well just for the heck of it (audio dubbing on comms), I’d be impressed and be tempted to use it next time too when I go out – which isn’t very often, gawd I love being alone when it suits me and gawd I love going out when it suits me challenging the banal mech patterns of just about any organisation. Suggest read the book by Ricardo Semler on his approach to Semco. Read it many years ago – a type of shared chaos for a shared collaborative commercial advance, an ideal I know and as we all know all directed intent beyond the ordinary results in a ‘work in progress’ with ripples as long as we can mange the prejudice, negativity etc all sorts of tantalising prospects can bear fruit ;-)
      Tesla most interesting, yeah a little too much too soon, attention to Noether’s at earliest would have paid dividends re production and meant more substance, current politicing over share price and buyout a huge distraction…

    2. Shouldn’t take much to jam. These operate on 39 channels between 2.402 and 2.48 GHz (2 MHz spacing). They only put out 5 mW, so not a big challenge. Not clear whether individual beacons are on fixed frequencies, or all do frequency hopping.

  16. Sounds like they want to replace the ansty teen that delivers the food with a robot that knows where you are sitting. Just give the tent back to the robot and it will open up the compartment with your food.

  17. I installed one of these systems about a year ago at a McD’s in SW Virginia. Above the ceiling are a series of BLE receivers with multiple antennas each. They connect to a system in the back office that processes the ToF data from the tents and displays the location on a table map behind the counter, thus directing the Angsty Teenager to the proper location.

    I can tell you that the process of fingerprinting the tents and mapping the specific table locations was a just a touch finicky.

    1. I installed one at a MCD in Syracuse NY, Thank God the guy installing the tables wasn’t done yet and I got released before the fingerprinting nightmare. Never again. The whole place was under construction at the time with guys installing POS, DMB, etc, etc. All with the restaurant operating only the drive thru.
      I was talked into doing like 6 DMB locations and would only agree if it was hourly with travel. (BONUS: get to watch poor slob installing table tracker) I don’t think there is anyone who has installed 2 of these.

  18. I used one of these to order at a McDonald’s in Prineville, Oregon, the tents were just normal number tents and once you completed your order you grabbed the top tent out of the stack and entered its number into the kiosk, which it printed on your receipt. But it was also a very small restaurant so I imagine maybe they didn’t need the Bluetooth system, or at least hadn’t installed it yet. I liked the way they had it though, you could order from the register, or you could order from the kiosk, and the kiosk gave you the option of paying there, or paying at the register. Didn’t replace anyone’s job, and I could order everything exactly as I wanted it, was not at the mercy of the “angsty teenager” forgetting to hit the no onion button :-P But I imagine before too long we will see a McDonald’s with only a person and a dog – the person to feed the dog, and the dog to keep the person away from the robots.

  19. A little bit of end-user information; in the UK there’s two versions that are identical on the exterior – one with Bluetooth and one thats just the number, no smarts. The plan is to “upgrafe” all of the Experience Of The Future stores with them, with high-income ones getting the smart ones and all others getting the dumb one. I saw a figure quoted of GBP70ea for the dumb ones, and GBP160ea for the smart ones, inclusive of installation and service. Behind the counter is a small map which has the number overlaid where the locator is, with the number shown on the Order Assembly Screen as a reminder, and when the food is deliveres the last 1m or so is done “by-eye” looking for the number.

  20. Saw the new kiosk the other day, started the task of ordering. The interface was so slow and awkward I hit the, “F this” barrier and went straight to the register. Kid who rather be dead than working vs machine. Kid won.

    1. I successfully ordered a couple of sundaes on the kiosk the other day. One minorly confusing bit is when you go to customize on a sundae, it automatically deletes nuts. They’re assuming that *everyone* who wants something different with a sundae does not want nuts. What if they just want to add whipped cream? With the no-nuts assumption the customer not only has to poke whipped cream they also have to hit the button to add nuts.

      A customization menu should always begin with the default product state so the customer will (should) know what they’re starting with. If the customer just wants to add whipped cream, one poke. If the customer also does not want nuts, the customer will expect to have to poke a button to *remove* the condiment.

      Instead it starts with none but it’s not too clear that is what it is. Only upon poking the nuts button does the customer see it cycle to light and regular.

      What it needs is a set of radio buttons clearly labeled None Light Regular, perhaps an Extra too.

      1. The user interface on the kiosks is a disaster. I won’t use it again until it can take my order as quickly as a reasonably competent angsty teen. Everything is done on multiple pages, and every page takes several seconds to load. Inexcusable. They clearly did very little usability testing. But that fits right in with their animated menu screens above the main counter: instead of having a static board that displays all products and prices, you get several LCD screens that cycle through various categories, so if you want to see what’s on special, you have to wait for a screen to get around to telling you. McDonalds needs a Steve Jobs – someone who can tell at a glance when the user experience sucks.

        1. Amen!!! You tell ’em BrightBlueJim!!! (Those rotating menus drive me crazy too, even more than combo pricing. What ever happened to the idea of simply displaying a list of everything you sell and their prices on an unchanging great big sign and let the customer do their own grouping? It’s not like there is any bundling savings in a combo. Besides angsty teens like re-arranging letters on a grooved sign. :-) )

  21. Machines keep advancing and there is a frightening trend. The stuff going on at MechDonalds is one more step in a long trek from eye to eye interpersonal activities to everyone living in the Oasis. People used to get milk from the milk-man, eggs from a nearby farm, bread and pastries from the local bakeries and people would come to fix appliances and when people came to get gas in their car someone else would come up and pump it in, clean the windshield and usually have a pleasant interaction with the driver. For a long time we’ve been pumping our own gas (not even that for EVs), We just throw appliances away when they fail, Walmart wants us to check out our own purchases, and now MechDonalds wants to automate the heck out of their process and won’t be happy until we essentially end up with a burger/fries/etc… fully functional vending machine. At that point why even have a store front? Just let couriers bring everything to the customers and work towards fully automating that with drones. Then we will all be stuck at home in our VR suites trying to eek out some kind of revenue providing services remotely for others who need them. Just like in Ready Player One, we will have Pizza Hut deliver right to our address via drones hot and fresh and we can enjoy that until we, right away, put our VR headgear back on after a brief visit in reality which is “the only place you can get a really good meal”

    My description isn’t entirely bleak, however, EVERYONE could live out in the country or suburbs controlling robots in the inner cities doing their work there and then unplugging when the work day is done, and enjoying the company of nearby people and family. Minimal physical commuting except maybe down the block on foot to a local micro-office-building where the remote controlling happens. I see a vast financial transaction sea with supercheap unrestricted transactions (crypto-currencies??) Same goes with parcel delivery and information (the internet). With and internet of money, parcels, and information, we can have a vast thriving economic ecosystem to live in. It may not be bad, but will be wierd at first, sort of Mayberry meets Tron. :-)

      1. You made me google “Mr Lee’s Greater Hong Kong” and I’m still not sure I fully understand. Sometimes you have to get more pieces of the puzzle to recognize the picture. Still, it seems to be based on the false premise that territories and borders would melt away and that is far from the truth. People are extremely territorial and the only people who say we aren’t or shouldn’t be are the ones trying to take land away or make personal gain stealing from A and getting a kickback as B gets it. I’m hoping we can find a way that every soul on the planet can end up owning their own small, or perhaps not so small piece of real-estate, enough that the energy from the sun/wind/etc that can be gathered at that location is enough that they can live well. Some might have more than others, do to good fortune, hard work, and wise decisions. Regardless a minimum support should always be in place. Beans and rice for everyone, but if you work hard and smart you have a chance of trading them for steak/pizza/whatever-you-enjoy. Speaking figuratively, some might have whole orchards but one should never have their last fig tree taken from them and that is best implemented with home and property ownership, property lines, borders, and at least enough government to function as a resistrar and protector of who owns what. Everyone can be a king (or queen) of their own domain with robot servents to manage and enjoy labors from. That’s my utopian dream to work towards. (yes, it is a bit libertarian, a bit socialistic, and very capitalistic, but the right proportion of all these can make just the right soup that tastes sooooo good.) almost forgot that right parenthasis. I wouldn’t want to set someone into stack-over-flow. :-)

        1. “Mr Lee’s Greater Hong Kong” is a housing enclave in the cyberpunk novel “snowcrash” the rat things are cyborg dogs that provide security at the perimeter of the enclaves owned by Mr Lee.
          Dividing the land up per person really doesn’t work as if you only count usable land then you get about 2 acres each which does not provide enough area for living, food growing and energy harvesting. We ( the Earth) would need a massive depopulation event before you could think about having everybody be self sufficient. Sorry we are stuck in the industrial age till someone invents a Santa Claus machine.

          1. “Santa Claus Machine” cute phrase. Made me giggle. :-) You also caused me to look up some numbers and do some math. The 2 acre stat is accurate enough for discussion. It’s also true that the US is at 1/3rd that density and here is where the territorial-ism comes in. People are both personally and corporately territorial. Individually we fend off invaders from our personal property. (Don’t go wandering about in the fields of America uninvited unless you want to be looked at through the scope of a rifle with the same owner as the land.) The same goes for nations with border security. With numbers like we are talking about it is no wonder that such issues are heated ones presently. Still, do you have any idea how much energy 2 acres (6 in the US) can produce? To be self sufficient almost all of us would have to end up as caretakers of the gardens we grow, solar panels, windmills, cisterns, food storage facilities, houses, and of course security. Actually, for me, that doesn’t sound like such a bad life. I do agree that the global population is too high. We need to get most of the world addicted to video games where they win up high scores and forget to breed, or some other more productive (but not reproductive) activity. Still, large numbers of people will try to game the system and demand that its the others that shouldn’t be parents of the future while raising their own families, both personally and corporately. Politically for the US it means building the wall and defending it while the rest of world takes its own course. If we push back against invasion and show the world how to defend ourselves and control our numbers, others may follow. Other options are much more draconian and non-humanitarian. It’s a tough issue and has nothing to do with RF devices at MechDonalds. Down the road nuclear fusion could be the “Santa Claus Machine” we need but I’m not holding my breath :-) …interesting times… (isn’t that a Chinese curse?)

  22. To TRY and get back to the tech side: 64MHz 32 bit processor with 512K flash & 64K RAM? Crikey, sand is cheap! (as someone has already said).
    Is this just a case of sand being cheap, or is it a case of extreme bloat that demands that level of processor power?
    Has anybody actually ripped out the firmware and looked at it? Is is 1K of well written code, or 510K of un-necessary bloat?

    1. Exactly my observation re tech mix surprising thanks Fred,
      Maybe there’s a major use for that mix of tech in that silicon form factor that the McDonalds offshoot exploits that. From prior experience I wonder if it’s more likely a major IC buyer/broker has several outlets to primary users with one of those modifying to address this usage. Does seem its worth a look for other products if the price point is good – then interface to appropriate digital still camera could make it commercially a good earner in security industry if the base IC has no fabrication bugs – which the engineers designing for McDonalds might have had to get around, seen similar happen few times over 40 yrs. That can be a thorny issue clouded by semiconductor ‘brokers’ missing details, ignoring alerts and ignoring audit trail. Even a simple SGS cmos dip ic which should work from 5v to 12v had these issues 15 years back. Bought 2200 for a casino job then found in first trials it sometimes wouldn’t trigger reliably just below 9v from a spec’d clean supply… Wholesaler couldn’t understand claiming “these things just don’t happen” and with immense prejudice too spreading facile rumours bordering on slander. National appointed agent for SGS in Australia advised, profuse apologies but, did replace batch no extra charge plus tube of spares, the wholesaler however back peddalled never apologised, took his loss of face badly for many months..

  23. I love how non-americans criticize big franchises for junk food meanwhile even in rural Baltic parishes going to McDonalds is some form of status symbol(like wearing thick frame glasses and hanging out at starbucks in the US)

    They wouldn’t be there if you didn’t have consumer habbits just like the average US citizen..

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