Walmart’s Weird In-store Tracking Patent

July 25, 2018

Walmart is aiming to use granular data to track you as you make your way through its stores. A patent was issued earlier this month titled “Methods and Systems for Monitoring a Facility.” The patent says the company plans to coat its floors with various invisible substances (“oil-based, wax-based, and flecks- or flakes-based, among others”) designed to rub off onto shopping cart wheels. As customers wind their way through the aisles, their carts will accumulate layer after layer of these markers.

As customers check out, an “image capturing device” and an “illuminating light device” work in tandem to photograph the substances on the cart wheels.

Walmart then gains valuable free insight into the shopping pattern of the customer.

The data captured can help Walmart find out all kinds of details about you and your shopping habits. Where you pick up candy bars? The grocery aisle, or impulsively a the checkout? It could also use the aggregated data to gain further insights: if you’re traveling through the electronics section but not buying anything, they may decide to increase promotions in that area.

The patent also helps Walmart tweak the performance of their store layouts, and place high margins goods right in your path.

It’s not like Walmart doesn’t already have data on shoppers – It reportedly analyzes about 200 billion rows of transactional information every couple of weeks, cross-referencing them with other sources of information like weather reports, Nielsen data, social media trends, gas prices, and even local events.

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