AI monitors Walmart store in real time

Joanna Estrada
April 29, 2019

Walmart said with its new IRL technology, customers can trust that the products they need will be available during the times they shop.

Walmart has unveiled a new "store of the future", a working concept called the Intelligent Retail Lab (IRL), including AI-enabled cameras and interactive displays that operate out of a Walmart Neighborhood Market in Levittown, N.Y. The store is open to customers and is one of Walmart's busiest Neighbourhood Market stores containing more than 30,000 items, which according to the retailer will allow it to test out technology in a real-world environment.

Walmart plans to use real-time information to increase efficiencies for store associates to know when to restock products on shelves. Workers will get an alert telling them if they need to be restocked.

The deep dive into intelligence from its own shop of walmart comes as Amazon raised the stakes at the supermarket industry with its buy of Whole Foods Market almost a couple of years back.

That's put more pressure on Walmart and other traditional retailers like Kroger and Albertsons to pour money into technology in their stores. At exactly precisely the identical time, manage expenses and they're attempting to keep down food costs.

Walmart's online USA earnings continue to be a portion of Amazon's online global merchandise empire, which reached $122.98 billion final year. But Walmart says more than 140 million USA shoppers visit a store in person or online per week, creating a treasure trove of data. As the shopping experience improves, the retailer expects to see higher sales.

"We love to think about the store within an artificial intelligence mill, a place where we're building these goods, experiences, where we're analyzing and studying", explained Mike Hanrahan, CEO of Walmart's Intelligent Retail Lab and co-founder of Jet.com, bought by Walmart three decades back. "The scope of what we can do operationally is so exciting", he said.

IRL is set up to gather information about what's happening inside the store through an array of sensors, cameras and processors. They find out that the ethnicity of a person picking up the item now do not recognize faces or track the movement of shopper, " he says.

The thousands of cameras are a key feature of the lab, which officially opened inside this 50,000-square-foot store on Thursday. The AI-enhanced Walmart facility, the Intelligent Retail Lab (IRL - very punny) there functions as a regular retail, albeit with several noticeable differences.

There are signs throughout the store alerting and educating shoppers about how the store is being used as a lab. Still, the cameras could raise privacy concerns. But he says companies run into trouble when they begin to match behavior.

Hanrahan says Walmart has made sure to protect shoppers' privacy and emphasized that it does not have cameras in the pharmacy, in the front of the rest rooms or its workers' breakrooms. Much like Amazon's cashierless stores, IRL has a suite of cameras mounted in the ceiling.

Other reports by Click Lancashire

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