Walmart’s Intelligent Retail Lab spans 50,000 square feet of retail space and is staffed by more than 100 employees.
Walmart has unveiled a new ‘store of the future’, a working concept called the Intelligent Retail Lab (IRL), including AI-enabled cameras and interactive displays that operate out of a Walmart Neighborhood Market in Levittown, N.Y. The store is open to customers and is one of Walmart’s busiest Neighbourhood Market stores containing more than 30,000 items, which according to the retailer will allow it to test out technology in a real-world environment.
Similar to Amazon Go’s convenience stores, the store has a suite of cameras mounted in the ceiling. But unlike Amazon Go, which is a grab-and-go store with smaller square footage, Walmart’s IRL spans 50,000 square feet of retail space and is staffed by more than 100 employees. Also, the AI-powered cameras are not being used to determine which items customers are buying in order to automatically charge them. The Walmart IRLs have traditional checkout stations. The idea is that the AI will help the store associates know more precisely where and when to restock products. And this, in turn, means customers will know the produce and meat is always fresh and in stock when they arrive.
Using the technology is supposed to increase the work efficiency to a great extent. The system allows the store assistants to stop constantly walking through the store to replace inventory — instead, they’ll know what to bring out from the back room before the doors even open to customers that day. However, setting up a store that is functional around the clock with automated system has a lot of challenges also. The store will need to be able to detect products
on the shelf, recognise the exact product it sees and then compare the quantities on the shelf to upcoming sales demand.
There are also informational stations in the store, where customers can learn more about the technology in use.
A Welcome Centre in the store is available too, for customers who want to learn more about the technical specifications and get answers to common questions. The cameras and other sensors in the store pump out 1.6 TB of data per second, which in turn brings up a requirement for a big data centre on site. At the IRL store, the data centre is glass-encased, bathed in blue light and on display to the public.
IRL is a concept designed by Walmart’s tech incubator Store No. 8, which runs several ventures to test new ideas in retail.