Walmart Goes All in on AI

Wed. October 9th, 2019
- by Chandler James     

BENTONVILLE, AR - Remember when artificial intelligence (AI) was a far-off fiction we only heard about in movies? I never imagined that I would live to see a time when RoboCop actually makes sense, and yet here we are. Walmart is one of the biggest retailers pursuing artificial intelligence and machine learning. According to Business Insider, the company employs 1,500 data scientists and 50,000 software engineers and is still looking for more. Chief Data Officer Bill Groves oversees 100 of the tech workers and is determined to continue making progress.

Bill Groves, Chief Data Officer, Walmart"I do more work in the AI and [machine learning] space than I have ever done in my life," Groves said at the MLOps NYC conference two weeks ago. "We're involved in robotics, we're involved in micro-personalization, we're involved in probably the biggest supply chain in the world.”

One of Walmart’s current projects includes AI-powered cameras that monitor theft, but over 100,000 similar projects are also in the works. To keep up with the company’s rapid technological developments, Walmart is hiring even more experts. The most highly sought after candidates are Data Scientists with a background in voice-activated applications. Although the technology is already implemented in delivery operations, Walmart is still looking for 67 Data Scientists, 43 Software Development Experts, and 90 Data Analysis Experts.

Walmart is one of the biggest retailers pursuing artificial intelligence and machine learning, including AI-powered cameras

With a success rate of only 75 percent, the company is eager to lean into these projects. One of Walmart’s standard evaluation procedures includes a series of three questions that qualify the high-tech initiatives: “Why are you doing it?”, “Can you explain it?”, and “Can you implement it?”

"If the answer is 'no' to any of these three, we'll typically put a stop to the project immediately, so that way we aren't spending money that we shouldn't spend," Groves said.

The questions are intended to avoid projects with no tangible benefits for the company, an inability to integrate into business operations, and costs that outweigh profits. All of these place an emphasis on simplifying processes that are otherwise extremely complex.

The future is here, people! Keep an eye on all the high-tech initiatives in the industry by staying with us at ANUK.