When it comes to the Internet of Things (IoT), one of the sectors it’s expected to have an impact is retail, with the likes of Amazon already experimenting in that field with its cashier-less Go stores in the States.
Another American retailer looking into IoT is Walmart, with the company recently unveiling their latest flagship store in Levittown, New York.
More specifically this retail space is called the Intelligent Retail Lab (IRL), and serves as a live test case for some of the technological innovations that Walmart is working on.
At Walmart’s IRL unveiling, the store is expected to be one of their busiest in the country, with 30 000 different products being stocked within it. To monitor that inventory, and ensure shelves are regularly stocked, Walmart is utilising AI cameras all over the store to monitor how many items are on a shelf.
Should it be empty or running low, an alert is sent to one of the 100 employees that work inside the store, in order to ensure it gets restocked quickly.
According to Walmart, the AI cameras and other sensors they have in the store generate a massive 1.6TB of data per second, which is why the company also has a mini data centre residing in the store as well.
“We’ve got 50,000 square feet of real retail space. The scope of what we can do operationally is so exciting,” explains CEO of IRL, Mike Hanrahan.
“Technology enables us to understand so much more – in real time – about our business. When you combine all the information we’re gathering in IRL with Walmart’s 50-plus years of expertise in running stores, you can create really powerful experiences that improve the lives of both our customers and associates,” he adds.
Quick restocking and opening up capacity for employees are just two of the ways that Walmart is looking to use AI and IoT, with the company adding that it needs to find more tangible solutions, over things that simply sound futuristic.
“You can’t be overly enamored with the shiny object element of AI,” notes Hanrahan.
“There are a lot of shiny objects out there that are doing things we think are unrealistic to scale and probably, long-term, not beneficial for the consumer,” he concludes.
For now there’s no mention of whether Walmart plans to expand this technology initiative, so we’ll have to wait and see just how serious they are about it, and whether they’re planning to take on Amazon in the smart retail race.