Walmart recently unveiled its ‘store of the future’ in Levittown, New York, which is a test ground for new technology such as AI. Called the Intelligent Retail Lab (IRL) the store is open to customers, is one of its business territories, has 50,000 square foot of space, is staffed by more than 100 employees and stocks around 30,000 items which enables it to trial emerging tech in a real world environment.
Unlike Amazon’s Go concept which is using AI to automate the retail customer experience – i.e. no need to checkout as the store automatically calculates your basket cost and charges you via cashless payment system when you leave the store, Walmart is trialling AI cameras to enhance the retail system. For instance monitoring inventory levels to determine if staff need to restock the shelves, or if some fresh items have been sitting too long on the shelf and need to be pulled. The idea is that customers will come to Walmart because they will know that the produce is not only fresh but will always be in stock when they get there.
Unsurprisingly the cameras in the store produce an enormous amount of data – 1.6 TB per second, the equivalent of three years’ worth of music. Therefore there is a data centre on site and Walmart has chosen to put it on display to customers in an attempt to normalise the technology and make it less intimidating. And this is the key. Ultimately AI will become more mainstream and customers will become increasingly used to how data can enhance their customer experience and even potentially demand it! This will mean that the adoption of AI will speed up and increasing numbers of retailers will turn to data as a way to secure competitive advantage. However, those that will succeed will be those that already have a data platform in place enabling them to implement at speed.
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