Tag Archives: Walmart
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(Reuters) – Retail giant Walmart Inc said on Tuesday it entered into a strategic partnership with Microsoft Corp for wider use of cloud and artificial intelligence technology, in a sign of major rivals of Amazon.com Inc coming together.
The five-year agreement will leverage the full range of Microsoft’s cloud solutions, including Microsoft Azure and Microsoft 365, to make shopping faster and easier for customers, the Bentonville Arkansas-based company said.
As part of the partnership, Walmart and Microsoft engineers will collaborate to migrate a significant portion of walmart.com and samsclub.com to Azure, Walmart added.
While Walmart is doubling down on its e-commerce presence to better compete with Amazon, Microsoft has been working on a technology that would eliminate cashiers and checkout lines from stores, Reuters reported last month.
Microsoft’s technology aims to help retailers keep pace with Amazon Go, the ecommerce giant’s highly automated store format.
The Windows software maker has also shown the sample technology to retailers from around the world and has had talks with Walmart about a potential collaboration, Reuters reported.
Through the partnership, Walmart plans to defend itself from Amazon’s retail ambitions and expertise in data, and boost its online presence.
Reporting by Rishika Chatterjee in Bengaluru; Editing by Gopakumar Warrier
With Amazon’s patent count rising again last year, it’s clear the company’s “build it” strategy is largely meant to out-invent, rather than outbid, the next big idea. Amazon received 1,963 patents in 2017 according to the latest data released by the IFI Claims office, and holds more patents than any other retailer in the industry (7,096). In fact, at $ 22.6 billion, Amazon spent more in R&D than any other U.S. company last year (up 41 percent from 2016), topping Microsoft, Intel, Facebook and even Apple according to a recent story in Recode.
Amazon has a deep history of effectively chasing patents, which stems from lessons learned in the dot-com era. For example, Amazon’s patent for one-click shopping was issued in 1999 and set the norm for the entire retail industry.
Fast forward nearly twenty years. Today we have Amazon Prime and Amazon Marketplace, and the company is still three steps ahead, inventing what is possible by both shaping and anticipating the needs of consumers. According to a recent CNBC article, Amazon was issued patents last year for augmented reality mirrors that would enable users to try on clothes virtually by projecting different outfits onto the user. They’ve also patented a “smart” sensor-studded package delivery air vehicle, an option that would mute the Amazon Echo’s video mode for user privacy and even one that would detect hacked self-driving cars.
According to a TechCrunch story late last year, the company considers acquisition core to its innovation model, particularly in the technology, retail and digital native brands categories. Marc Lore, CEO of Walmart eCommerce U.S, who founded Jet.com (bought by Walmart in 2016), noted in recent comments that in Walmart’s view, “specialist positioning is better than mass,” and that the acquisition spree will continue. Recent acquisitions include ShoeBuy, Moosejaw, Bonobos, Parcel, Hayneedle and ModCloth.
Walmart has also started its own incubator, Store No. 8, which aims to “nurture startup businesses,” allowing them to run just like other startups but be “ring-fenced by the rest of the organization and backed by the largest retailer in the world,” according to Lore.
BEIJING/NEW YORK (Reuters) – Walmart Inc has opened its first small high-tech supermarket in China, where smartphones can be used to pay for items that are mostly available on the U.S. retailer’s store on Chinese online marketplace JD.com, it said on Monday.
The world’s largest retailer, known for its hypermarkets, is expanding in China as shopping with mobile devices gains popularity in the country, and as retailers and technology companies such as Alibaba Group Holding Ltd and Tencent Holdings Ltd cut deals to integrate online and offline shopping.
Walmart is also targeting more online shoppers, who spend twice as much in the United States when buying on its website.
Walmart had run smaller Walmart Express stores in the United States, with 12,000 to 15,000 square feet, compared with about 105,000 square feet for its typical supermarket. But the concept did not take off and the retailer was forced to shut them down in 2016.
Walmart did not specify the size of the China store, in the southern city of Shenzhen. The company did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
The outlet will stock more than 8,000 items ranging from stir-fried clams to fresh fruit, 90 percent of which will be available online, it said in a statement. Items can be delivered within a 2 kilometer (1.2 mile) radius as quickly as 29 minutes, said Walmart, which owns a stake in JD.com.
Customers can opt to pay with their smartphone using a program on Tencent Holding Ltd’s WeChat messaging.
In March, Walmart said it would expand its grocery home deliveries in key markets to reach more than 40 percent of U.S. households, or 100 metro areas from six currently.
Reporting by Pei Li and Brenda Goh in Beijing and Nandita Bose in New York; Editing by Muralikumar Anantharaman and Richard Chang
NEW YORK/CHICAGO (Reuters) – Walmart Inc’s patent filings hint that it may see a future where farmers use its drones to not only spot crop problems but selectively apply chemicals or even disperse pollen to bring shoppers the freshest and cheapest food possible.
The world’s largest retailer applied for six patents last year on drones that aim to prevent damage to crops, control pest attacks on farms and cross-pollinate plants, according to U.S. Patents and Trademark Office documents that were made public last week and seen by Reuters.
Groceries make up 56 percent of the company’s total revenue and Walmart may see drone technology as one way to get food from farms to store shelves faster and more cheaply to compete with Amazon.com Inc, following its purchase of Whole Foods Market last year and the expansion of discount chains like Aldi and Lidl.
In one application, Walmart seeks to patent a system that would use drones to identify crop-damaging pests and then dispense insecticides on the critters. Another suggests the use of drones carrying pollen dispensers to successfully pollinate crops.
Using technology to precisely apply pesticides rather than spraying entire fields can benefit the environment and save money for farmers. As part of a sustainability push in recent years, Walmart has also worked with suppliers to reduce the amount of fertilizer used to grow crops because it can pollute the environment.
Walmart spokeswoman Molly Blakeman said the company always looks for new ways to serve shoppers better but had no comment on the filings. The retailer applies for dozens of patents a year and many do not result in commercial products.
Walmart previously applied for a patent involving drones that could monitor crops’ growing conditions and send data to stores about when and from where produce might arrive, said Zoe Leavitt, a senior analyst from data intelligence firm CB Insights, which analyzes corporate patent filings. The series of six applications indicates Walmart is looking into farming more seriously, she said.
Walmart has so far applied for 46 patents for using drone technology, mostly to facilitate its delivery and logistics operations, or for use within warehouses to do things such as track inventory, according to data from CB Insights.
In U.S. agriculture, drones are most often used to survey farms that can span hundreds of acres. The devices fly above fields and take photos that help growers estimate the size of upcoming harvests or identify problems, such as weed infestations and nutrient deficiencies.
Other industries have also turned to drones, with AT&T Inc using the devices to look at cellphone towers in Texas last year after Hurricane Harvey. Insurers such as Allstate Corp use them to assess property damage. “The technology is very powerful and using that to control the supply chain as far out as possible will offer Walmart a distinct advantage over rivals,” said Bill Bishop, co-founder of retail consultancy Brick Meets Click.
The market for agricultural drones will top $ 1 billion by 2024, up from about $ 338 million in 2016, according to research firm Global Market Insights. However, Walmart’s patent applications stand out because they indicate the company sees greater potential to address problems on farms, rather than simply spot them, said David Dvorak, chief executive officer for Field of View, a U.S. company that sells drone camera systems. “It sounds like Walmart is trying to develop a complete system that can actually do something about it,” Dvorak said.
The patent push involving agricultural technology harks back to McDonald Corp’s efforts in the 1960s to patent the processing of potatoes into French fries so it could reliably deliver consistent quality fries at the lowest cost in massive volumes.
“Companies like Walmart for a long time have created sustainability initiatives and this is really where the rubber is meeting the road,” said Jayson Lusk, head of agricultural economics at Purdue University.
Such environmental-focused initiatives can be attractive to consumers, Lusk said. Eventually Walmart, which is courting more urban, higher income and health conscious shoppers for their online grocery business, could require suppliers to buy food from farmers who use agricultural technology to reduce chemicals to produce crops, he said.
“A way how this might come down is the imposition of standards on their suppliers,” Lusk said.
Reporting by Nandita Bose in New York and Tom Polansek in Chicago; Editing by Lisa Shumaker