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October 11, 2018

This high-tech shopping cart from Walmart could save your life

by John_A

Today’s businesses want to find out as much as they can about the people who use their services so they can improve their offering with a view to building an even more lucrative operation.

Store cards and apps already help retail businesses collect customer data, but Walmart would like to know feeling when you’re inside its store, and has come up with an idea for a way to find out.

The retail giant recently submitted a patent application detailing a design for a sensor-laden shopping cart that can track a customer’s heart rate, temperature, how tightly they’re gripping the cart’s handle, and other data like the speed at which the cart is being pushed.

According to the filing, the high-tech shopping cart would transmit the information to a server for speedy analysis and, if necessary, initiate a response.

Walmart told the BBC it would not collect any personally identifiable data, using it merely to learn about how shoppers respond to certain store conditions, while also allowing staff to offer speedy assistance if it detected that someone was experiencing a sudden health issue.

Life-saving potential

So if the sensors on the handle of the cart detected that a shopper’s heart rate and temperature were both increasing rapidly, the system could automatically alert a worker on the store floor to check that the customer is OK. While it’s rare to see shoppers keeling over at Walmart, or inside any store for that matter, if it did happen then Walmart’s smart shopping cart could turn out to be a life saver.

The patent also explains how the real-time data could be used to improve the overall shopping experience, explaining: “The server may identify that the heart rate of most customers increases when they enter certain aisles … or when certain music is playing across the intercom.”

So, for example, if a store’s ’80s mixtape started playing Joe Dolce’s Shaddap You Face, Walmart would likely detect a store-wide spike in shoppers’ stress levels and know never again to subject its customers to such an upsetting track.

Data from the carts could also help to quickly pinpoint potentially dangerous customer behavior. If, say, the system suddenly detects a cart hurtling along aisle 7, a store worker could be despatched to determine the cause of the behavior and stop it from continuing.

For now, Walmart’s proposal for a data-gathering shopping cart is just a patent application, so it may never come to fruition. Other notable Walmart patents from the last couple of years have included self-driving shopping carts and product-carrying drones for inside its stores. No, we haven’t seen either of those yet, either.

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