Walmart Innovates at the Retail Edge with AI

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In groundbreaking self-service solution from Malong and Dell Technologies, Walmart is showing the power and potential of artificial intelligence at the retail edge.

From its humble beginnings in a small town in Arkansas in 1962, Walmart has grown to become the world’s largest retailer. In an amazing retail success story, Walmart now serves about 220 million customers each week, employs more than 2.3 million associates worldwide and generates, at last count, $559 billion in annual revenues. [1]

Throughout its history, technical innovation has been a cornerstone of the Walmart approach to the retail business — and a key enabler of the company’s dramatic success. This unrelenting focus on innovation continues today as Walmart puts new solutions to work to create seamless shopping experiences, streamline the checkout process, prevent losses and address other pressing challenges in the rapidly evolving world of retail.

Among these innovations is an intelligent product recognition solution that has proven its potential to accelerate the self-service experience for customers who shop in the company’s approximately 10,500 stores and clubs. This revolutionary solution is RetailAI® Fresh from Malong Technologies, running on GPU-accelerated servers from Dell Technologies.

The RetailAI® Fresh solution, delivered initially in select stores in China, uses artificial intelligence to automate the recognition of fresh produce products when customers put them on self-service scales. The technology improves the self-service shopping experience by helping customers save time and making it easier for them to shop for produce, all while lowering Walmart’s operational costs.

With conventional self-service scales, customers often need to click through several screens to identify the correct product among hundreds of possible options. This can be confusing, causing customers to seek the help of store associates to complete the weighing process. RetailAI® Fresh removes this barrier by integrating state-of-the-art AI product recognition capabilities into Walmart’s already-deployed traditional self-service scales, transforming the scales into cutting-edge AI devices while reducing the need to purchase new equipment.

RetailAI® Fresh makes the shopping process easy. The customer simply places a bagged produce item on the scale and RetailAI® Fresh does the rest of the work. The system accurately identifies the product without any change to normal customer or shopping behavior, even when items are in multiple layers of clear plastic bags or other protective materials. Now, with just one click, customers are empowered with a simple and quick experience to print their payment labels and complete the process.

As for the results, RetailAI® Fresh is helping shoppers check out produce faster than ever before and reducing customer queues during peak hours. According to data from 10 Walmart stores running the solution live, average weighing time is down by approximately 40 percent, which further results in high customer satisfaction and increased overall transactions. [2]  

The engine under the hood

To deliver this solution, Malong leveraged industry-leading NVIDIA T4 Tensor Core GPUs for AI inference in combination with the NVIDIA EGX optimized edge software stack running on Dell EMC PowerEdge R7525 servers. The solution also includes Dell EMC PowerSwitch networking switches.

The real workhorse here is the Dell EMC PowerEdge R7525 server. It’s a highly scalable two-socket 2U rack server that’s built to deliver powerful performance in flexible configurations. This server is powered by AMD EPYC™ processors with up to 64 cores per processor and accelerated with up to three double-wide 300W or six single-wide 75W GPUs.

Key takeaways

Through the combination of world-class software from Malong Technologies and a powerful processing platform Dell Technologies and NVIDIA, Walmart is able to deliver groundbreaking AI acceleration at the store edge.

The outcomes of this project provide clear evidence of a significant improvement in overall customer experience and a solid return on investment. Thanks to advanced AI technology, Walmart stores using the RetailAI® Fresh solution can now offer their customers a smoother, faster and friendlier self-service experience at the produce scale.

For a deeper dive into solutions from Malong and Dell Technologies, see the white paper “Retail Analytics with Malong RetailAI® on Dell EMC PowerEdge servers.” This technical white paper shows how the solution stack can deliver high-throughput and low-latency inferencing performance on the NVIDIA AI software platform powered by NVIDIA Tensor Core T4 GPUs.

[1] Walmart, “Our Story,” accessed May 17, 2021.

[2] Malong Technologies, “Walmart Deploys First-Ever AI-Powered Self-Service Scales to Its Stores in China,” May 1, 2020.

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