Technology

Sam’s Club will test the new Scan & Go system that uses computer vision instead of barcodes.

In October, Wal-Mart’s Sam’s Club opened a test store in Dallas where it planned to test new technology, including a swap body, an Amazon Go-like camera system, an in-store navigation system, electronic tablet labels and more. This morning, the retailer announced that it will now begin testing a redesigned Scan & Go service, which uses computer vision and machine learning to facilitate and accelerate mobile scanning.

The current Scan & Go system, launched two years ago, requires Sam’s Club customers to locate the barcode on the item they are buying and scan it using the Sam’s Club mobile application. The application allows buyers to track the items they buy as they place them in their shopping cart, then pay into the application instead of queuing at the checkout.

As convenient as it is, the system itself can sometimes be frustrating because you will need to find the barcode on the item – often by flipping it from side to side to find the sticker or label. This process can be difficult for heavier items and frustrating when the label or barcode label has fallen off.

It can also take several seconds to complete – which adds up when you fill a shopping cart on a long replenishment trip.

Instead, the new scanning technology will use computer vision and ML (machine learning) technology to recognize products without scanning the barcode, which will reduce the time required for the application to identify the product in question, explains the retailer.

In a demonstration video, Sam’s Club showed that it takes an average of 9.3 seconds for a customer to analyze a water package with the old system, compared to 3.4 seconds with the latest technology.

Of course, lead times vary depending on the buyer’s competence, the scanned item and the performance of the technology, among other factors. A large water package is a more extreme example, but it clearly shows the potential of the system… if it works.

The idea of the new Dallas test store is to quickly put new technologies into practice in a real environment, to see what works and what doesn’t, while gathering feedback from customers. Dallas was chosen as the location for the store because of the technical talent and recruitment potential in the region, and because it is a short trip from Walmart’s headquarters in Bentonville, Arkansas, the company said earlier.

Sam’s Club says it has filed a patent for the new scanning technology and will start testing it this spring at Sam’s Club Now in the Dallas area. Thereafter, the technology will be extended to the tools used by employees.

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