Walmart AI-Powered Lab Store Emphasizes Real-Time Grocery Inventory Control

  • April 29, 2019 at 5:11 PM EDT
  • By Glenn Taylor
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Nearly six months after Walmart revealed it would open an Intelligent Retail Lab (IRL) within a Levittown, N.Y. Neighborhood Market, the retail giant has offered a peek into the store’s transformation. Powered by a massive data center, the 50,000-square-foot store uses AI to ensure in-stock position and freshness of perishable items like produce and meat.

IRL is set up to gather information about what’s happening inside the store through an array of weight-measuring sensors, 1,500 AI-enabled cameras and 100 data processors. These tools help the team focus on product inventory and availability, particularly by providing associates with real-time information enabling them to restock products, so items are available on shelves when they’re needed. For example, the inventory tracker for Walmart’s meat counter can identify every type of meat sitting on the product shelf.

The overall goal: to remove the need for associates to continually comb the store to replace products running low on the shelves. Out-of-stock notifications automatically trigger internal mobile apps that alert associates when to restock, so that they know what to bring out of the back room before customers show up. 

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The technology also is designed to track a range of in-store operational factors, such as identifying spills or hazards that need attention or keeping count of grocery carts so they can be replenished when taken by a consumer.

The IRL store is equipped with educational kiosks upfront where customers can learn more about the technology, and an interactive wall demonstrating to consumers how AI can track shopper body positioning within an aisle. All the store tech is connected to 150,000 feet of cabling, linking it to local servers that sit behind transparent glass, in the customer’s view. 

Walmart placed IRL within the Levittown location due to the store’s high traffic concentration. While there are no plans to duplicate the lab environment anywhere else, Walmart anticipates sharing the store’s key findings and developments across other locations in the future.

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