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Walmart unveils its ‘store of the future’ to test out new tech

Walmart’s “store of the future” will enable it to develop new technologies designed to enhance the customer experience or to collect useful data for big data analytics purposes. Included within the technology set artificial intelligence-enabled cameras and new types of interactive displays. The store is to be called, at least initially, the Intelligent Retail Laboratory and it is located within a Walmart Neighborhood Market situated in Levittown, New York.

The new store is not simply a space for managers to collaborate with technologists to test out potential technologies. It is a real retail store where customers can see first hand how new technologies might be adopted and whether they add any value to the shopping experience. The store contains more than 30,000 items, and it spans 50,000 square feet of retail space and is staffed by more than 100 employees.

According to Walmart: “We believe that technology has a greater purpose: empowering people. By harnessing the power of artificial intelligence, we can create conveniences that benefit everyone. By experimenting with these new capabilities in our Intelligent Retail Lab, we’ll explore how to make shopping better now and into the future.”

The store is designed to collect information about what is occurring inside the store in real time, with data drawn from an array of sensors, cameras and processors. This hardware is connected through cabling and it runs into systems with considerable processing power.

As part of the first wave, the technology and related data analysis will be used to assess product inventory and to review stock availability. The focus here will be with ensuring that the products are on the shelves rapidly as they run down, so that the customer always has what they want when they want it. The artificial intelligence will assist with this predictive analysis.

The data gathering, review and analysis process will be made transparent to customers. The prototype store is equipped with multiple information stations so that customers that visit understand exactly how the artificial intelligence works.

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Dr. Tim Sandle is Digital Journal's Editor-at-Large for science news. Tim specializes in science, technology, environmental, business, and health journalism. He is additionally a practising microbiologist; and an author. He is also interested in history, politics and current affairs.

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