Ever get the feeling you’re being watched? Usually it’s a person, keeping an eye out, to make sure goods aren’t being shoplifted. Walmart has gotten ahead of the curve though and is already employing artificial intelligence to take care of this problem for them. Over 1,000 Walmart stores have AI using their cameras to ensure that every item in a person’s bag or buggy is paid for before they step out the door.
Internally, this system is referred to as Missed Scan Detection, using computer vision to keep an eye on both manned and automated checkout stations in the store. This system can determine when an item is not scanned or when it is mis-scanned by mistake, before reporting the issue to an attendant who can fix whatever the problem is. Walmart spokeswoman LeMia Jenkins had this to say about the company’s investment in such technology:
“Walmart is making a true investment to ensure the safety of our customers and associates … Over the last three years, the company has invested over half a billion dollars in an effort to prevent, reduce and deter crime in our stores and parking lots. We are continuously investing in people, programs and technology to keep our stores and communities safe.”
Naturally, retailers such as Walmart are always looking to prevent the loss of inventory without financial compensation. Whenever that happens, it’s known as ‘shrink.’ It can occur through theft or accidents, but the end result is the same; companies don’t want to lose money. If Walmart were to suffer from the average US shrink rates in the country, they’d lose $4 billion a year. That being the case, it’s understandable why they would be willing to invest in artificial intelligence to take care of such issues.
While we can’t really blame Walmart for investing in AI for such a purpose, it does raise some questions as to how retailers might use it in the future. Surely it wouldn’t be anything too questionable, considering that one of the most practical uses for Ai is clearly already in effect. That said, it’s also unlikely that artificial intelligence is coming to steal anyone’s job anytime soon, at least as far as Walmart is concerned.
Ultimately, it’s more of an indicator of how artificial intelligence is going to ingratiate itself in our everyday society, to a level where it will be as ordinary as television or cars. We’ll probably have AI in every store and every home. Maybe even every device, one day far in the future. They’ll undoubtedly benefit society in many great ways, but if decades of fiction have taught us anything, it’s that artificial intelligence is a dangerous beast to dance with even with the best of intentions.