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Jun 1, 2019,  by Allianz Partners Business Insights

Walmart: The “Future of Retail” is here thanks to artificial intelligence

Walmart have transformed their supermarkets in the state of New York into “stores of the future”. The supermarkets have been fitted with artificial intelligence-enabled cameras, sensors, screens and new technologies. For the retail giant, the aim is not to offer superficial functions but to optimise their employees’ work and improve the customer experience. 

Photo credits: Walmart

The Walmart supermarket in Levittown, in the state of New York (United States), is a store like no other. First, because it is one of the brand’s most frequented stores. And also because it is where the group has decided to roll out new technologies that have been made possible thanks to artificial intelligence (AI). These innovations give “a glimpse into the future of retail,” claimed the company in a press release published on 25th April. 

Using AI to manage the store’s stock and checkouts 

The American retail giant has called this store the “Intelligent Retail Lab”, IRL for short, which is also the acronym of “in real life”. This Walmart store covers 4,650m2 and stocks no fewer than 30,000 items on its shelves. But the multitude of cameras and interactive screens with which it is equipped make it a store like no other. 

The images filmed are analysed by an algorithm and allow the hundred or so employees to ensure that the shelves are always well-stocked, and all without having to traipse up and down this huge supermarket’s aisles. Thanks to the system developed by Walmart, customers can be confident that the items they want are always in stock. They also get help at the checkout. The algorithm is designed to prevent long queues by opening extra checkouts according to the number of customers detected in store.

“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,” explained Mike Hanrahan, CEO of IRL. The accumulated length of the cables that link up all the cameras, sensors and processors is equivalent to five times the height of Everest. In total, 1.6 To of data are processed by AI and the power of the processors used could download 27,000 hours of music every second.

New technologies for concrete results

Walmart chose to adopt these new technologies in order to achieve concrete results, insists Mike Hanrahan. “You can’t be overly enamoured with the shiny object element of AI. 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,” the CEO warns.

Allianz Partners

Cover photo credits: Walmart

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