At WALMART, using AI to watch the store
LEVITTOWN, N.Y. (AP) — Who’s minding the store? In the not-too-distant future it could be cameras and sensors that can tell almost instantly when bruised bananas need to be swapped for fresh ones and more cash registers need to open before lines get too long.
Walmart, which faces fierce competition from Amazon and other online retailers, is experimenting with digitizing its physical stores to manage them more efficiently, keep costs under control and make the shopping experience more pleasant. On Thursday, the retail giant will open its Intelligent Retail Lab inside a 50,000-square-foot Neighborhood Market grocery store on Long Island.
Thousands of cameras suspended from the ceiling, combined with other technology like sensors on shelves, will monitor the store in real time so its workers can quickly replenish products or fix other problems.
The technology, shown first to The Associated Press, will also be able to spot spills, track when shelves need to be restocked and known when shopping carts are running low.
Walmart’s deep dive into artificial intelligence in its physical store comes as Amazon raised the stakes in the grocery business with its purchase of Whole Foods Market nearly two years ago.
That’s put more pressure on Walmart and other traditional retailers like Kroger and Albertsons to pour money into technology in their stores. At the same time, they’re trying to keep food prices down and manage expenses. Amazon has been rolling out cashier-less Amazon Go stores , which have shelf sensors that track the 1,000 products on their shelves.
Walmart’s online U.S. sales are still a fraction of Amazon’s online global merchandise empire, which reached $122.98 billion last year.