Walmart’s New AI-Camera Technology Can Prevent Theft at Checkout

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Computer vision technology has been implemented in over 1,000 Walmart stores. This type of technology is called the Missed Scan Detection which helps checkout registers recognize if items have passed by the scanner without being scanned and immediately notifies the attendant. Walmart’s surveillance system is being upgraded by applying this new technology at their kiosk stations and their registers. 

AI is surely becoming a part of our everyday lives as large retailers like Walmart begin to rely on these systems for daily operations. The ultimate goal of computer vision technology is to prevent revenue loss and theft, which, in 2017, turned out to be a big problem for many U.S. retailers who lost up to $47 billion. Since the system was installed, Walmart stated that they have had decreased theft, losses, and errors.

Walmart hasn’t been the only large retailer to use AI. Amazon has been investing in Artificial Intelligence as well, however, the approach is a little different. They have produced a smooth and cashier-less experience for their customers in their own Go stores. 

Aside from it’s anti-theft technology, Walmart also recently opened an AI-powered store to supervise their large inventory. This makes it easier for employees to keep track of when stocks are running low and order items on time before supply runs out.

Walmart Patents Listening Technology That Can Eavesdrop on Consumers

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Last week, Walmart patented a new technology system that would allow for listening and recording of its immediate environment, this potentially acting as a surveillance system upon its stores’ customers and employees.

The purpose of this listening technology–as explained in the patent filing–comes down to “…analyzing sounds in a shopping facility,” yet the technology seems to undertake an Orwellian sentiment, likely to make shoppers uncomfortable when under a watchful eye.  

Such technology works well as an anti-theft solution, as the listening devices could detect and record sounds of shopping bags placed in the cart as well as register beeps. Alongside its anti-theft capabilities, this technology could record interactions between workers and customers “to determine whether…employee[s] stationed at the terminal[s] [are] greeting guests,” all the while keeping track of how consumers interact with products within the store. 

Source: Walmart / USPTO

While Walmart has yet to actually implement this patented technology in its stores, it really opens our eyes to understanding the ways in which retail security technology can potentially sacrifice consumer privacy. There is no word yet on whether Walmart will put the listening system into use.