Apple Store’s Doors’ Ignores

Twitter Updates


San Francisco PechaKucha Night
San Francisco IxDA


Be warned, he who designs glass houses.Billy_Joel_-_Glass_Houses

I happened to be in San Francisco the day Apple opened its new Union Square store, and braved the crowds to see what all the fuss was about.

I had also stopped by the day before, to watch the last bits of construction, and the last full-scale test of opening the doors. Once the doors were open most of the way, the wind picked up and guy supervising the process looked down at the ground, shaking his head (a bunch of leaves had just blown into the pristine lobby).

The rear 24-foot doors facing the infamous fountain were never opened, so as to avoid creating a wind tunnel…

Opening day came, the building was full, the line wrapped around a full 50% of the block, and then the telltale truck-backup-beep signaled the only true way to open that building—and stopped 6 inches later, where they remained stuck until the building geeks debugged the problem.

Here’s what happened

Apple was not content with just having friggin’ 42-foot tall glass doors; that wouldn’t be unique enough. These had to be high-tech. Yours truly might have suggested infrared laser beams with holographic or scanning fixtures as the safety measure, with a safe, well-tested hard-wired open/stop/close control panel.

Apple didn’t do that. They made the whole thing wireless, and embedded Wi-Fi antennas in the door panels. They tested the doors repeatedly before opening, and found no problems. The fail-safe program embedded in the doors controllers was armed, lying low so long as it confirmed the Wi-Fi connection every 500 milliseconds.

But opening day weather was gorgeous, and Union Square was full, even without the added crush around the block. Every single one of them with a smart phone (or two) looking for a signal, sprinkling packet upon packet on every one of the unlicensed, unregulated channels.

The doors never had a chance with that noise floor.

But out came the industrial wireless controller, and the doors started moving again.

But they should have been showing The Wizard of Oz on the big screen up on the second floor, because just down the hall was one of the door techs behind the curtain, with one thumb on the hard-wired maintenance control panel, and the other on his cell phone.

Author: Peter Sheerin

Peter Sheerin is best known for the decade he spent as the Technical Editor of CADENCE magazine, where he was the acknowledged expert in Computer-Aided Design hardware and software. He has a long-standing passion for improving usability of software, hardware, and everyday objects that is always interwoven in his articles. Peter is available for freelance technical writing and product reviews, and is exploring career opportunities in interaction design. His pet personal project is exploring the best ways to harmonize visual, tactile, and audible symbols for improving the effectiveness of alerting systems.

Leave a Reply