Walmart has unveiled a new “store of the future” that will be fully powered by AI. The store will leverage emerging technologies including AI-enabled cameras and innovative interactive displays. It’s, however, still a concept. It will be referred to as the Intelligent Retail Lab or IRL and it will operate in the Walmart Neighborhood Market located in Levittown, New York. This is one of the busiest Walmart Neighborhood Markets and the fact that the AI-powered store will be located there is a huge gamble by the retailer.
Walmart will have over 30,000 items available at the store. The company believes that this will help it test its new technology in a real-world environment. The Intelligent Retail Lab is meant to work similarly to Amazon Go. Amazon Go is basically a convenience store that also comes with a suite of cameras mounted on the ceilings. Customers can shop and get billed automatically. However, the IRL is different from Amazon Go in one major aspect, it’s actually huge. The store spans over 50,000 square feet of retail space with more than 100 employees.
Amazon Go, on the other hand, is just a small grab and go store that cannot accommodate a lot of customers. In addition to this, the AI-powered cameras on the Walmart store will not be used to track items that customers are buying and later billing them as they leave the store. The IRL will still have the traditional check out sections. The cameras will simply be there to monitor inventory levels and help the staff restock as needed.
Although this looks like a simple task, Walmart feels that there is, in fact, a huge challenge. For instance, the automated system will need to detect products on shelves and recognize exactly what it sees. It will then have to compare the quantity on the shelf against upcoming sales demand before sending an alert to staff if restocking is needed. The cameras will also be working with a network of sensors located in most parts of the store. They will be pumping out over 1.6 TB of data every second. This shows you just how robust the entire system is.
Walmart will also be setting up information centers in the store to help customers learn more about the technology that is being used, how it works, and the kind of benefits they can get from it. The stations will be able to help customers looking for technical specifications or those who just have basic questions about how everything works. The retailer says that the new technology will simply help it understand more about its business on a real-time basis.
Walmart also notes that the data they get from the IRL store will be used to create a better experience for both customers and associates working in the stores. Despite this, the technology is quite far from the concept of cashier-less tech-powered stores of the future. Amazon is already testing such stores in various parts of the country and seems to be leading the way.