Like many people, I make a weekly trip to the grocery store to get ready for the following week. Sometimes, I may even make a second trip to the store to pick up something that I forgot the first time.
I don’t take the time to walk around the entire store when I make the second trip, I just go straight for what I want and go through the check out as quickly as I can. The last thing I want to do is spend a lot of money unnecessarily.
I have to admit, however, products do catch my eye from time to time and I walked out with more than what I came in for.
All of us have been there and we don’t really give it much thought. When you are a big store, like Walmart, it is the small details that make you an even more valuable customer that helps to line their pockets.
Let’s face it, Walmart has the ability to know exactly what you purchase because everything is totaled at the register. It isn’t enough for them to know that small detail, however, they want to follow you while you are shopping. Walmart wants to know what gets your attention, what causes your heart to race in excitement and where you stop while you are walking down the aisle.
This comes in the form of a ‘smart cart’. They aren’t in the store yet but a patent has been applied for. The carts will provide feedback to Walmart about your shopping habits.
Sensors will be on the cart to read your pulse, walking speed, palm temperature and how much force you are using when you push the cart around the store.
According to the patent, the carts will also be able to detect if you are about to pass out. If the cart is getting difficult to push, there is a feature that would make it easier for you to move through the aisles.
Walmart wants to monitor your biometrics so that they can understand your shopping habits in the store. The data will be shared with a server in real time and if they feel that you are ‘not satisfied’, a store employee will be dispatched to help you.
They will also use your stress response in connection with the location to plan product placement for a more profitable experience.
According to the patent documents, the technology is only to offer better service and a better customer experience. Most people realize that it may be true but it is only part of the story.
Another questionable technology is also on the horizon and they have a patent filed.
The retailer may use audio technology to spy on conversations that are taking place between customers and cashiers when they are checking out.
They want to learn more about how the cashiers are greeting customers, how many items have been scanned by listening to the rustling of bags and much more.
“A need exists for ways to capture the sounds resulting from people in the shopping facility and determine performance of employees based on those sounds,” Walmart stated in its patent application, called “Listening to the Frontend.”
Walmart released a statement saying: “always thinking about new concepts and ways that will help us further enhance how we serve customers. This patent is a concept that would help us gather metrics and improve the checkout process by listening to sounds produced by the bags, carts and cash registers and not intended for any other use.”
It is important to understand that Walmart may or may not implement those technologies if they are approved. Some people are still uneasy about the possibility of this privacy infringement.
Some are also concerned that any data could be useful in targeting specific advertisements to each individual shopper.