Winnie P – Walmart unveils the future of retailing with Intelligent Retail Lab

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US-based retail giant, Walmart, in order to keep up with the fiercely competitive market has ventured into digitizing its outlets for a more efficient, cost-effective and modern-day shopping experience. The Intelligent Retail Lab, Walmart’s 50,000-square-foot grocery store at Levittown, New York, bears testimony to this.

Gone are the days when we had to request the store staff to refill an item that was exhausted on the shelf. The technological innovation that Intelligent Retail Lab is boasts sensor technology on its shelves that keeps track of any restocking needed or shopping carts running low. The store has thousands of cameras from its ceilings that inform the staff to refill products and bring to attention any other problems that need attention.

The store has brought artificial intelligence a lot closer to humans. Here the customers as well as the staff will directly be interacting with AI led machines. The staff, for example, is alerted on their phones if the bananas are too ripe and need to be replaced. The front-end of the store has a welcome center that answers common questions and helps with technical specifications. Two large displays outside the data center helps users understand how technology reacts to body positioning.

CEO Mike Hanrahan said, IRL is located in one of the busiest areas and has over 30,000 items where the technology will be tested out in the real world.

The data sent by the store’s sensors and cameras is said to be as fast as 1.6 TB per second. The store also has 100 serves behind a glass wall visible to the customers, allowing a sneak peek into the behind the scenes of this innovation. The latest technologies will help test the retail trends and manage time and costs effectively in real time. The use of AI helps the company track what is on-going in its stores. The success of this store will ensure the use of more technology related to AI in all of Walmart’s stores. A number of educational displays and kiosks are spread out to interact with the customers letting them know how AI functions. The idea is to save as much time as possible for the buyers, thereby increasing sales and profits for the company.

The smart cams however will not recognize faces, ethnicity or track shoppers’ movements in any way, protecting shoppers’ privacy. No AI cameras are placed in Walmart’s pharmacy, around rest rooms or staff breakout areas for the same reasons.

With tough competition rising with companies such as Amazon entering the retail industry, companies like Walmart, Albertsons and Kroger are pressured into investing in the latest technological innovations in order to reinvent retailing. Walmart generated over $500 billion in global sales at the end of its fiscal year on 31 January 2019.

Walmart Inc. has a chain of grocery stores, hypermarkets and discount departmental stores and was established in 1962 by Sam Walton. Walmart has 11,361 stores and clubs in 27 countries, operating under 55 different names as of January 2019.