If you are looking for an answer to the question What is Artificial Intelligence? and you only have a minute, then here's the definition the Association for the Advancement of Artificial Intelligence offers on its home page: "the scientific understanding of the mechanisms underlying thought and intelligent behavior and their embodiment in machines."
However, if you are fortunate enough to have more than a minute, then please get ready to embark upon an exciting journey exploring AI (but beware, it could last a lifetime) …
Digital transformation efforts in retail have gained traction in the past couple years, between adding augmented reality (AR) tech in makeup stores, automated pickup stations, mobile device data to improve customer experience, and more. The majority of executives (72%) believe artificial intelligence (AI) is a "competitive necessity" in retail today, according to a recent Oxford Economics report. Google is adding to the movement with its Cloud for Retail initiative, the tech giant announced at the Google Cloud Next conference on Wednesday. Using data analytics and AI, Google is adding seven new retail solutions to the ecosystem. All solutions are centered around six core pillars, according to a Google blog post.
CVS became one of the first national retailers to experiment with self-checkout as a primary means of handling payment and bagging in stores. But the heavily guided process was error-prone and frustrating. By 2015, the drugstore retreated from the initiative, but it still offers a tweaked version of the stations in many stores. Costco had also removed self-checkout from its stores, although it began experimenting with it again in 2017. Nowadays, retailers ranging from major supermarkets to The Home Depot continue to offer self-checkouts, but there is often a store staffer nearby to assist with the inevitable glitch -- a product that won't scan, a coupon that won't activate, an exhortation to bag an item that has already been bagged.
A new tech trend has emerged at the world's largest retailer, as Walmart brings on board thousands of robots in nearly 5,000 of its 11,348 stores. According to CNN Business, these robots will be scrubbing floors, scanning boxes, unloading trucks and tracking shelf inventory at mostly domestic U.S. locations. Robots will replace lower-level jobs--serving in janitorial functions as well as performing basic inventory work--in order to manage rising costs. A new robot unloader has already been used on the docks in hundreds of stores, pulling boxes from delivery trucks while automatically scanning and sorting merchandise. The unloader will be deployed at over 1,100 retail locations in the near future.
Since the dawn of the self-checkout, automation in retail has sparked anxiety and spread fear over an impending robotic takeover and the fate of human workers. Those fears were stoked again this week when retail giant Walmart announced that it was adding thousands of new robots to its stores nationwide. But a closer look at Walmart's announcement suggests that its robotics push is less of a job killer and more so a response to its own digital operations. As for Walmart's exact robotic plans, the retailer says it will add 1,500 new autonomous floor cleaners, 300 more shelf scanners, 1,200 additional FAST Unloaders, and 900 new Pickup Towers to its US stores. Many of these systems have been in testing throughout select Walmart stores since 2017, meaning that this isn't necessarily a new endeavor for Walmart as it is a broader deployment of an existing program.
Bottom Line: Manufacturers' most valuable data is generated on shop floors daily, bringing with it the challenge of analysing it to find prescriptive insights fast – and an ideal problem for machine learning to solve. Manufacturing is the most data-prolific industry there is, generating on average 1.9 petabytes of data every year according to the McKinsey Global Insititute. Supply chains, sourcing, factory operations, and the phases of compliance and quality management generate the majority of data. The most valuable data of all comes from product inspections that can immediately find exceptionally strong or weak suppliers, quality management and compliance practices in a factory. Manufacturing's massive problem is in getting quality inspection results out fast enough across brands & retailers, other factories, suppliers and vendors to make a difference in future product quality.
High-end fashion chain LK Bennett has been bought out of administration, saving 325 jobs. However, 15 of the retailer's stores are not included in the deal and will close, leading to the loss of 110 jobs. LK Bennett has been bought by Byland UK which was set up by Rebecca Feng, who runs the company's Chinese franchises. The sale includes the company's headquarters, 21 stores and all of its concessions. The amount paid has not been disclosed.
Brick and mortar stores have been hit hard by online retailers like Amazon. Walmart (which has its own online presence) believes it has an answer to dwindling sales. Its solution, robots that take care of mundane jobs (like cleaning up spills) while its staff spends their time helping customers. The retailer announced today that it will deploy 1,500 new "Auto-C" autonomous floor cleaners, 300 "Auto-S" shelf scanners and an additional 1,200 "FAST" unloaders to scan and sort items as they come off delivery trucks. Plus to streamline online orders, it'll have 900 "Pickup Towers" so customers can order something on the company's site and just pick up it up from a vending machine at their nearest Walmart.
That will soon be a reality in more markets thanks to robots. Automation had made large-scale, ultra-fast order fulfillment economically viable (see: Jeff Bezos world domination), but the physical remoteness of typical logistics facilities has prevented retailers from offering true on-demand delivery outside a few metropolitan markets. But by harnessing networks of tiny automated hubs, micro-fulfillment could enable retailers to store their goods in the hearts of cities while still benefiting from the efficiency of automation. CommonSense Robotics, a company that's leveraging logistics automation with nimble deployments of micro-fulfillment centers, is betting big on the micro-fulfillment approach, and the company just passed an important milestone: Its first 1-hour fulfillment delivery. The delivery, which took place in Israel, comes in partnership with Super-Pharm, an Israeli health and beauty retailer.
Walmart customers in need of groceries have had two options in recent years: Go to the store and fill up a shopping cart by hand; or select food items online and have them delivered to their home or picked up in person. Now, the big box retailer has unveiled a third way to order groceries: via voice command. Beginning this month, customers who own a Google assistant can say, "Hey, Google, talk to Walmart" to add items to a virtual grocery cart, Tom Ward, senior vice president, Digital Operations, Walmart U.S., said in a statement Tuesday. The voice commands allow customers to add items to their cart one at a time over a few days -- not necessarily to complete their shopping for the week all at once. As the technology becomes more familiar with customers' shopping habits, Ward said, it will improve over time.
Walmart shoppers can now do some online shopping using just their voice. The retail giant is partnering with Google to launch grocery shopping on any devices equipped with Google Assistant. Walmart Voice Order is rolling out to consumers beginning this month, the company said today. Walmart shoppers can now shop using just their voice. It'll become available for users with Google Home devices, as well as Assistant-equipped smart displays, Android phones and iPhones.