It’s very interesting to witness how surveillance capitalism rolls-out. Facial recognition and CCTV are popping up here and there. When the biggest companies roll it out for efficiency, we don’t actually bat an eyelash.
Walmart is also ushering in shelf-scanning and floor scrubbing robots in other stores.
Meanwhile, those pesky AIs are getting into everything. So smile, you’re on candid camera. Walmart is using AI-powered cameras to prevent theft (and shrinkage) at checkout lanes.
Computer Vision Comes to Big Retail
Now in June, 2019, Walmart is using computer vision technology to monitor checkouts and deter potential theft and other causes of shrink in more than 1,000 stores. More surveillance, but for the common good no doubt.
Walmart won’t ask for your permission. Walmart has been surveilling its checkout registers using a computer vision technology called Missed Scan Detection to identify when items move past the scanner without having been scanned.
It might help cut losses, but it raises privacy questions. But what’s privacy in an era of information capitalism, really? What’s freedom on an internet where you have to submit your social media accounts to U.S. immigration?
When you think of Walmart you don’t usually jump to advanced technology, but that’s what’s being used to deter theft and other things at the checkout. Walmart has to become like a technology company to compete with the likes of Amazon. Walmart certainly has been showing its chops with AI and robots of late.
Competition Creates New Implementations of AI
The goal with the cameras is to detect when items aren’t scanned at checkout. If the cameras see an item hasn’t been scanned, it sends a checkout attendant to provide assistance. This is what we call the human-AI hybrid workplace.
The company said that it had made an “investment to ensure the safety of our customers and associates”. No mention to shoppers that it has gone live though, of course.
Mission Scan Detection for Anti-Theft
Missed Scan Detection was designed to help reduce theft and other losses, a problem that cost U.S. retailers up to $47 billion in 2017.
It sounds a bit like what Microsoft should be selling to SMBs and brick-and-mortar retailers. Microsoft engineers of course are cloning AmazonGo like bundles of tech they can eventually sell to retailers.
Missed Scan Detection uses cameras to help identify checkout scanning errors and failures. It shows how aspects of AI are being rolled out pretty much automatically. Capitalism will merge in the next thirty years with AI in ways we cannot even anticipate yet in 2019.
Walmart is the biggest retailer in the world. In the two years since the system was deployed, Walmart says it has reduced rates of theft, inventory loss, fraud and scanning errors. Of course it has, implementing AI makes for a more efficient world.
The Surveillance Approach in Consumerism
Walmart isn’t the only company using AI to watch over checkouts. The tech Walmart is using in over 1,000 of its stores comes from companies like Ireland-based Everseen. Surveillance, Big Data and predictive analytics are the new weapons against consumers in an advertising centric world.
If consumerism fosters the implementation of a surveillance state, the jump from loyalty rewards points to social credit systems isn’t as fantastical as you think.
The Evolution of Data Capitalism
Though both Walmart and Amazon have been investing in AI and computer vision technology in their stores, the approaches are very different. While Amazon uses AI to create a cashier-less, seamless shopping experience, Walmart has been implementing technology as a way to boost productivity for its employees.
It’s the classic empowerment of people vs. automation of costs scenario. Who do you suppose wins that battle in the long-term?
The cameras track items rather than people. If an item is spotted being put in a shopping bag before it has been scanned at the checkout, the system can call an employee to “help”. Who‘s to say it’s not matching items with our faces? I’m sure in time it will.
That’s how innovation is trending — for data capture. While the computer vision cameras are helpful for catching thieves who think they can get away with not paying for an item, they’re mostly being used to reduce shrinkage. At the end of the day, however, book keeping is about your end consumer and not just your stock of items.
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