Using AI to Deter Theft at Walmart Checkouts

Artificial intelligence is consistently being proven useful as a result of its nearly infinite range of possibilities which such technology can offer. Consequently, it is not surprising that various companies have invested millions into research for usage of AI to assist, if not, replace employees to improve efficiency and increase profits.

Walmart, for example, has stepped up to opportunity by using technology in places that you wouldn’t have even thought about. Not only can it be used to help employees by tracking inventory for restocking, but recently it was revealed that they have implemented AI-powered cameras to monitor checkouts to prevent theft.

The system, merely called “Missed Scan Detection”, uses computer vision at self-checkout registers in addition to cashier registers. Cameras can detect items that haven’t been scanned by cashiers or customers but have been passed through unknowingly, or worse, intentionally. By alerting a checkout attendant, any errors while scanning would be avoided entirely.

But is it worth introducing advanced technology for simple problems? The main goal is to diminish a phenomenon called shrinkage – a term used by retailers to refer to loss due to unscanned products, theft, fraud and other causes, although most shrinkage is due to mistakes. Shrinkage is a problem. A big one. Believe it or not, 1.33% of revenues of US retailers were lost due to it alone. Furthermore, if Walmart follows this trend, last year alone the company would’ve lost a gargantuan amount of about $4 billion.

Investing millions into a technology that can, potentially, save a company billions is undoubtedly a smart move.

Investing millions into a technology that can, potentially, save a company billions is undoubtedly a smart move.

Several companies are involved in the background of Walmart’s use of AI. One such company is Everseen, who, interestingly, work with some of the biggest retailers globally, excluding Walmart. Although the CEO of Everseen, Alan O'Herlihy, has declined to state which companies in particular or even how they are involved with them, it wouldn’t be surprising to find out in the near future that similar technology has been implemented elsewhere other than in Walmart alone.

People make mistakes. In terms of shrinkage, or loss, that’s the main source … People find it hard to scan milk. Sometimes they get frustrated and they just don’t scan it.
— O'Herlihy

The system was discharged two years ago and has spread into over one thousand stores. It has proven itself to be useful thanks to its positive results and successfully combating shrinkage according to Walmart spokeswoman LeMia Jenkins.

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.
— Jenkins
EnterprisePavan Ayyar