Walmart filed a host of patents today related to how it keeps track of inventory — and the technologies could change the way its customers shop, as reported by Gizmodo.
One of the patents is clearly for the in-store experience, and proposes a sensing device to make shopping carts smart and communicate with a mobile device (presumably to help you navigate to where items are). There’s also a patent that tracks users through wearables, and several for managing / sensing inventory levels.
Walmart has also filed a patent for drones that would assist customers shopping in-store. The patent outlines a method where a drone can be summoned via a mobile device — either personal or one temporarily provided — and then “provide assistance to the user in the form of price verification or navigation assistance.”
There are also two patents for autonomous tech. One outlines a method for detecting items placed in a container, and the other is a system of sensors, a processor, and a communication interface for automatically gathering information about vehicles (presumably transporting goods), like pre- and post-delivery weight, size, and temperature.
Whether any of this will actually come to fruition is hard to tell. Companies routinely file patents that are never realized, but the idea of a future where drones are at your command as shopping assistants is interesting at the very least.
Walmart has been raising its efforts as of late to compete with Amazon and other large retailers. It boosted prices for items bought online versus in-store late last year, made the jump to start producing and selling its own meal kits, and struck a deal with Japanese e-commerce company Rakuten to be the exclusive mass retailer for Kobo e-readers.
Walmart reported in February its US e-commerce sales grew 23 percent over fiscal year 2017 and its online revenue increased 44 percent, but a former employee claims the company lied about results in order to “win the e-commerce war at all costs.” A Walmart spokesperson told The Verge the allegations were “by a disgruntled former associate, who was let go as part of an overall restructuring.”