In one of Walmart's busiest neighborhood markets in Levitton, New York, cameras, sensors, and processors are as much a part of the retail environment as racks and shelves.
Mike Hanharan, CEO of Intelligent Retail Lab (IRL), said in a corporate video that the cameras and sensors “compiles 4.6 TB of data, which is equivalent to three years worth of music.”
But the store isn't just a shiny new object, equipped with tech for the sake of tech, according to a company blog post written by Martin Smith.
"It’s a unique real-world shopping environment designed to explore the possibilities that artificial intelligence can contribute to the store experience," he said.
Hanharan affirmed that the cameras pointing at the shelves allow Walmart to see “if they need to bring meat out from the backroom refrigerator” or “if meat has been sitting too long in that shelf.”
“The point of having AI in the retail environment is to really understand what we can do for our customers and associates — better inventory, having the best products on the shelves, having cleaner and safer stores,” said the IRL chief.
The company blog post reveals that the store in Levitton has 50,000 square feet of retail space and contains 30,000 items, connected by hardware and software that focuses on product inventory and availability.
“Technology enables us to understand so much more – in real time – about our business,” Hanharan confirmed.
Juniper Research estimates that annual retail spend on technology, particularly enterprise resource planning (ERP) solutions will reach over $13 billion by 2023. It also anticipates that the push for efficiency will drive the total number of IoT platform-connected assets to almost 25 billion units by 2023.
In its 2019 Annual Report, Walmart disclosed that it increased total revenue by 3 percent to $514.4 billion in the last fiscal year.
For a global retail chain that serves nearly 275 million customers in more 11,300 stores and numerous e-commerce websites under 58 banners in 27 countries, it is impossible to separate technology from the operations.
“We’re putting technology to work with an autonomous scanner that checks our side counters to help us improve in-stock levels, and an autonomous floor cleaner that carries a camera to gather data on our product features to share with a FAST Unloader system in the back room that prioritizes items for restocking,” wrote Walmart CEO Doug McMillon in his letter to shareholders.