Walmart’s Retail Lab leverages artificial intelligence !
In just a few months, Walmart store in Levittown, New York, has grown into a gigantic Datacenter Lab for real-time analysis of data recorded by cameras equipped with image recognition technology.
Walmart also intends to publicize its work downstream on the use of AI for the benefit of the end consumer. In fact, Walmart wants to position itself as a laboratory opened to its consumers. Its code name: Intelligent Retail Lab or “IRL”. The inventory in real time, is the promise of insuring that each product will always be available. After the “every day low price” mantra, this is now the “every day product available”.
A laboratory of innovative ideas in a real store !
There are many applications of Artificial Intelligence in e-commerce to better understand customers’ buying habits. However the potential of this technology has not yet been the exploited when it comes to physical stores. IRL was designed for this.
The IRL store therefore aims to test new innovative ideas in a real point of sale with more than 30,000 items in 4700sqm of physical space where thousand of customers come each day.
IRL is designed to collect information about what’s happening inside the store with an impressive range of sensors, cameras and processors.
All this equipment is connected thanks to more than 40km of cable and has a huge capacity for downloading and processing the information collected (1 terabyte of data per second).
The first mission of Artificial Intelligence will be to help the team focus on inventory and product availability. Store employees will use the information collected in real time to gain efficiency and more accurately know when to replenish products. The goal is to make sure the items are available on the shelves at the right time.
In the IRL, a combination of cameras and real-time analytics will automatically trigger out-of-stock notifications in internal applications that will alert sales associates of the need to bring out more stock on the shelves. This implies that the store must automatically know which product is missing, be able to differentiate between products, brands and quantities and know if these products are in high demand depending on the time of day.
Why visit Walmart IRL?
Know the mission of the store
One of the main missions of the IRL is to ensure that the replenishment of the shelves is optimal. But above all, the store must educate, inform and reassure customers on the interest of AI in store. It must explain the presence of these many sensors that are clearly visible in the point of sale.
Walmart has therefore deployed numerous digital touch screens to answer all the questions of customer and to inform about the store’s missions.
Count the number of cameras
The first thing you see when you enter the store is the countless cameras on the ceiling. More numerous per square meter than in an Amazon Go shop. If these cameras are also used for the security of the store, they are mainly here to detect the products that need to be replenished.
Do a checkup
Next to the “Pharmacy” area of the store you will find health kiosks developed by Pursuant Health.
Pursuant Health works for 3 of the top 5 health plans in the US and helps members conduct health assessments. By having these kiosks in supermarkets where people are coming regularly, this is a great help to assess the health status of the population and push for healthier behaviors. They have nearly 3,000 health kiosks in-store, including at Walmart, with an average of 2 to 3 million health assessments per month.
Pursuant Health utilizes text messaging, email, geolocation, bots, direct mail and proprietary health channel networks in-store to connect and engage with plan members. In-store, users can test their blood pressure, body mass, sight and see ads on kiosks screens or receive coupons to thank them for testing their health.
Discover the data center
One of the most spectacular parts of the store: the data center. This one is visible from the aisles of the store. It shows very well the objective of Walmart: to be transparent on the use of the technologies. We can see the servers in action and it gives an even more futuristic tone to this shop / laboratory. It’s also another simple way for Walmart to avoid demonizing the technology used in the store and to make it understandable: we hide nothing, we show almost everything.
Return to see what Walmart and IRL are preparing for us!
It has been said that the Walmart IRL first seeks to improve the replenishment of its aisles using many sensors and cameras. But other projects will be developed in this department store and again, Walmart does not hide much.
Technology is not everything.
Although this store is full of cameras and sensors, Walmart still can not handle the problem of wild shopping carts left alone in the nature.