To provide a more enjoyable shopping experience and control costs, Walmart is testing ways to digitize its brick-and-mortar stores. The retailer is officially opening its Intelligent Retail Lab at a Long Island Neighborhood Market grocery store location, the Associated Press reported.
Through the digital efforts, ceiling cameras and shelf sensors will enable workers to fix problems and restock items efficiently. The technology will detect when shopping carts run low, when spills occur and when shelves have to be restocked. In one specific example, the cameras can even determine the ripeness of bananas. Workers can be notified by a phone alert when items need replaced.
Walmart’s Intelligent Retail Lab CEO and Jet.com Co-founder Mike Hanrahan said, according to the report, “We really like to think of this store as an artificial intelligence factory, a place where we are building these products, experiences, where we are testing and learning.” He also noted that the cameras are set to mostly home in on shelves and products. (Cameras do not, say, track customer movements or recognize faces.) And sensors within shelves have information about what is in the back of shelves, which can provide more data to stores.
In November, it was reported that Walmart planned to bring an Intelligent Retail Lab to a Levittown, New York store to test associate and shopper experiences. The aim was to apply artificial intelligence (AI) technology to a grocery store instead of the setting of a warehouse club, which could be used for inventory. The retailer had reportedly been at work installing software, hardware and equipment for the pilot. At the same time, it was said the lab team was inside the retailer’s Store No. 8 startup incubator.
In addition, it was reported in October that Sam’s Club opened a Texas location that would serve as a testbed for cutting-edge retail technology.