Walmart and Failed Anti-Shoplifting Artificial Intelligence

Walmart and Failed Anti-Shoplifting Artificial Intelligence

A journalist received a peculiar email in January. The message was from a handful of corporate Walmart employees calling themselves the Concerned Home Office Associates. In fact, this is because the Home Office is the name of the headquarters of Walmart in Arkansas, Bentonville. Receiving such an anonymous tip is not at all unusual for most journalists. Nevertheless, they do not usually come with their own slickly produced videos.

The employees contacting him were saying that they were past their breaking point with Everseen. Everseen is a small artificial intelligence firm based in Ireland, Cork. Walmart started to use Everseen’s technology as of 2017. The company uses technology in thousands of stores. They do this to prevent shoplifting at self-checkout kiosks and registers. Nevertheless, these employees claimed that artificial intelligence has misidentified innocuous behaviour as theft. Moreover, it failed to stop some actual instances of stealing.

They told WIRED that they were dismayed due to the fact that they believed the artificial intelligence was flawed. One worker even said that some sometimes referred to the technology as “NeverSeen”. This was because of its frequent mistakes. WIRED granted the employees anonymity because they don’t have the right to speak to the press.

The workers were saying that they had been upset about Walmart’s use of Everseen for years. Unfortunately, their employer was the largest retailer in the world. Moreover, they claimed colleagues had raised concerns about the technology, which managers rebuked. Following this, they wanted to speak to the press. A June 2019 article in Business Insider reported the partnership of Walmart with Everseen publicly for the first time.

The Walmart and Failed Innovation

The story described how Everseen used artificial intelligence for analyzing footage from surveillance cameras. Those cameras were located in the ceilings. From this position, they could detect issues in real-time. For example, if a customer places an item in their bag without scanning it. It then automatically alerts store associates when the system spots such an activity.

artificial intelligence

A promotional video, referenced in the story, explained that Everseen is overcoming human limitations. It claims that their digital eye has perfect vision. They further add that it never needs a day off.

The Concerned Home Office Associates created a video to refute the claims made in the Business Insider piece. It has evidence showing that Everseen’s technology fails to note items not being scanned in three of Walmart’s stores. The video begins with a person using self-checkout to purchase two jumbo packages of Reese’s White Peanut Butter Cups. These two containers are placed on top of each other. Due to this, only one of them is scanned. Nevertheless, in the bagging area, they put it successfully without issue.

Then, the same person grabs two gallons of milk by their handles. They then move the cartons them across the scanner with one hand. Both are in the bagging area, but only one rings. They then put their cell phone on top of the machine. Following this, an alert sounds out, saying they need to wait for assistance. They then judge it is as a false positive. So, the Everseen does make an alert but does so mistakenly. The film-maker carried out the same experiment at two more stores, with the same results.

 

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