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AUGUST 2, 2012

Snoqualmie supermarket is launching pad for phone app By Sebastian Moraga To math wizards, 3.14 equals pi. To computer wiz Aaron Roberts, pie equals inspiration. Standing in a checkout line at Costco the day before Thanksgiving 2010, Roberts looked at the serpentine queue in front of him, looked at the two huge pumpkin pies in his cart and thought there had to be a better, quicker way to get the pies to his wife. Enter QThru, a phone application coupled with an in-store kiosk that allows shoppers to scan products as they shop. “It’s a downloadable application for smartphones,” Roberts said of his invention. “If you download it, you enter your credit card information by scanning the credit card. Then you enter the CVV number, once that’s entered they can begin to shop.” The CVV number is a card security code located in the back of credit and debit cards. After entering the CVV, customers may scan products as they shop. If they decide they don’t want to buy the item after all, they swipe again and delete it. They may also drop an item quantity down to a zero. For alcohol purchases, the application suspends approving the purchase until an attendant verifies age. Once he or she does, the attendant enters a separate barcode, which approves the transaction. For products that don’t have a scanable code

By Sebastian Moraga

QThru, a downloadable application that scans products as you shop, is being tested at the IGA supermarket on Snoqualmie Ridge. Computer expert Aaron Roberts developed the idea to help customers avoid long lines at check stands. on them, like produce, shoppers may print a separate barcode at another kiosk, Roberts said. When they finish, Roberts said, they check out at a kiosk by entering a personal identification number that secures the credit card information. After scanning a quick-response code (also known as a QR code), their

card gets charged. An attendant then compares their receipt with what they carry, the way they do at Costco exits, and then the customer goes home. He added that the product is still in its pilot stages. “We will remain in a beta period for the next few months and will open it up to general

availability,” he wrote in a subsequent email. The application is available to some smart phones like iOS for Apple, but not for Android yet. The application is free, but the stores are still testing the feedback they get from consumers. “We have had lots of customers asking about it, since the kiosk

is right up front,” said Jessica Brookman, manager of the IGA supermarket in the Snoqualmie Ridge neighborhood. “Everyone is wondering what’s going on.” QThru, Brookman said, has selected people in the area who have shown interest in the application. It’s not available for customers yet. “We’re making sure all the kinks are worked out,” she said. Brookman said she did not think the QThru application meant a threat to the livelihood of checkstand cashiers. “There’s always going to be people who want to go through the line,” she said. “There’s always the comfort of dealing with a live person. There’s also people who want to get in and out, and that’s who this application is for.” Roberts praised Snoqualmie’s IGA store owner Tyler Myers for his willingness to try out QThru. “The toughest part is getting people to believe in the idea, to embrace the idea,” Roberts said. “We were lucky to find the owner of the IGA supermarket on Snoqualmie Ridge. Lots of grocery owners are risk-averse.” The store’s size, its proximity to many users of mobile technology and the owner’s willingness to try the application made Snoqualmie a prime location, Roberts said. The goal is to make QThru a pivotal part of a more complete shopping experience, he added, teaching shoppers about nutriSee APP, Page 7

Valley group fights to help feed and shelter homeless people By Sebastian Moraga All it takes is two words and Patricia’s heart cringes. The words are as harmless as they come, but they remind her, a grown woman not using her real name, of her situation. She’s homeless. So when people she meets during the colder months tell her to stay warm, “it hits me right in the heart,” she said. “I don’t know what they should say instead, what I do know is I see my brothers and sisters out there in the cold,” she said. Homeless for months. Janie has struggled to make ends meet. Starting in 2011 she lived in downtown Seattle homeless shelters for a year after she lost her job. Her homes have included the YWCA, the Union Gospel Mission, Share Wheel and the Snoqualmie Valley’s River Outreach. She has found help through the River Outreach, which fights

homelessness in the Valley. To the outreach’s Brian Busby, the question of what Jesus would do does not belong on a wristband. In fact, it’s not a question at all for him. “For us, it’s about Christ, No. 1,” he said. “Jesus told us we should love God and love others, and this is the way we do it.” Busby has spearheaded the outreach’s search for toiletries, clothes and food for homeless people for months. “It’s been amazing to see God’s work,” he said. The work continues from noon to 4 p.m. Aug. 4 with a free barbecue for customers of the Mount Si Helping Hand Food Bank. It will give those in need a chance for a free meal, Busby said. He added that he knows that eradicating homelessness in the world is a nearly impossible task. He said that’s not his goal. Changing one person’s life would be gratifying enough, he

added. Sometimes, homeless people appear in his neighborhood near the South Fork of the Snoqualmie River. Their presence made his commitment more urgent, he said. “I can’t really sit in my home, when it’s right underneath my nose,” he said. The homeless population fluctuates in the Valley, given its nomadic nature, so it’s hard to know if the work is making an impact. “They may be passing through, they may be resident homeless people, they may have just lost their jobs,” he said. “We don’t get specifics. If there’s a need and it looks justified, that’s what we do.” Owen Rooney helps the outreach discern whose needs are real, Busby said. “Some of these guys are rough customers, some of them are legit, some of them just take the stuff and sell it,” Rooney said. “That’s where it’s been a

bit of a challenge to be not judgmental.” As time goes by and faces become more familiar, the outreach tries to establish trust with its visitors. That trust needs to expand into the community, Busby added. “People might be a little bit uptight about helping someone who is on drugs or someone who might not need it,” he said. “My thought is, ‘If they are cold and they need a coat, let’s give them a coat. If they are drunk, let’s come back later and talk to them, and maybe steer them in the right direction.’” Patricia agreed. “We are human,” she said. “We do judge.” More so in the Valley than in Seattle, she added. Sometimes that steering in the right direction never happens. Most homeless keep moving, if they are not from the area, so there’s no time to establish a relationship.

Furthermore, there’s only so much a church, a police beat, a community or an outreach like his can do on its own, Busby said. Change happens when everyone does a little bit. “Homelessness is solved when people stop looking the other way,” he said, or stop at offering comments like stay warm. “You know you need more than that,” Busby told Patricia, and she agreed. “Is that selfish? Absolutely,” she said, her voice breaking. “But I’m scared to go out into beautiful North Bend and sleep on the bench across the street, ‘cause it’s cold and dangerous out here nowadays.” On the other hand, people’s generosity makes it easy to remain hopeful. “It’s been a blessing for me to see God provide these items,” Busby said. “I barely have to ask and these things just come in. This tells me we are doing good and it’s the right thing to do.”

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