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Walmart unveils AI-powered concept store in New York

By Retail4Growth Team | May 02, 2019

The new 50,000 sqft store is designed to explore the possibilities AI can contribute to the store experience.

WalmartRetail giant Walmart has recently unveiled a ‘store of the future’ at the Neighborhood Market in Levittown, New York. Called Intelligent Retail Lab (IRL), the 50,000 sqft store uses artificial intelligence to insure in-stock position and freshness of perishable items like meat and produce.

According to Walmart, IRL is a unique real-world shopping environment designed to Walmartexplore the possibilities AI can contribute to the store experience.

“We’ve got 50,000 square feet of real retail space. The scope of what we can do operationally is so exciting,” Mike Hanrahan, CEO of IRL said in a statement. “Technology enables us to understand so much more – in real time – about our business. When you combine all the information we’re gathering in IRL with Walmart’s 50-plus years of expertise in running stores, you can create really powerful experiences that improve the lives of both our customers and associates.”

What is inside IRL and how it works?

Walmart’s tech incubator Store No 8 has positioned the store within one of the company’s busiest locations. Walmart has set up IRL to gather information about what is happening inside the store through an array of sensors, cameras and processors. The company claims in a statement that All this hardware is connected by enough cabling to scale Mt. Everest five times and enough processing power to download three years’ worth of music (27,000 hours) each second.

According to Hanrahan, the first thing this equipment will help the team focus on is product inventory and availability. In short, the team will use real-time information to explore efficiencies that will allow associates to know more precisely when to restock products, so items are available on shelves when they’re needed.

“Customers can be confident about products being there, about the freshness of produce and meat. Those are the types of things that AI can really help with,” Hanrahan said.

In a statement, Walmart shared one example to show how the team is working on for the near future of retail: When a customer goes for a shopping, she/he wants the products she/he wants to buy to be in stock when she/he goes to the store. In IRL, a combination of cameras and real-time analytics will automatically trigger out-of-stock notifications to internal apps that alert associates when to re-stock. This sounds simple, but it means the store has to automatically – Detect the product on the shelf, recognise the specific product (meaning decipher the difference between 1 pound of ground meat and 2 pounds of meat), compare the quantities on the shelf to the upcoming sales demand.

Walmart said the result is that the store associates won’t have to continually comb the store to replace products running low on the shelves. They’ll know what to bring out of the back room before customers show up.

“IRL will be in data-gathering mode in its early days. The focus will be on learning from the technology and not implementing changes to operations in haste,” the company said.

The concept store has also installed a number of educational displays through the store. A Welcome Center at the front end allows customer to dive deeper into the technical specifications and common questions.

Walmart has also installed two large plexiglass window displays to encourage participants to move around and learn how technology reacts to body positioning.

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