Walmart’s early use of AI at its stores isn’t just for the sake of convenience. The retailer has confirmed to Business Insider that it’s using camera-based computer vision tech to deter theft and losses at its checkouts (including self-checkouts) in over 1,000 stores. The simply titled Missed Scan Detection program notifies attendants if an item moves past a scanner without an actual scan, giving staff a chance to step in. Most of the incidents are unintentional, such as forgetful shoppers or fatigued cashiers, but Walmart is clearly hoping this will deter thieves hoping to make off with unscanned items.
The store chain is using tech from several companies, including Everseen. The technology has been in use for the past two years.
If you ask the company, it appears to be working. Spokeswoman LeMia Jenkins told BI that shrinkage rates (that is, the loss of goods to theft and accidents) have dropped at stores where the computer vision is in use. The question is whether or not the system addresses privacy concerns. While many stores have security cameras, few are using AI to study activity on this level. How long does Walmart preserve the data, and is there anything identifying? We’ve asked Walmart for comment, but it’s safe to say that many customers aren’t aware that AI is at work.