Home Depot using secret AI technology at self-checkouts to catch shoplifters


Home Depot is using a futuristic-sounding new weapon to stop shoplifting at its self-checkouts – using AI to constantly watch customers.  

Big name retailers like Walmart and Dollar General are removing self-checkout lanes amid rising thefts and customer complaints.

But Home Depot has a different solution  – so-called ‘computer vision’. In a nutshell, it is an array of cameras monitored by artificial intelligence-powered computers.

Staff are then alerted by the computer if there is a risk of theft.

The technology is very different to simply having security staff monitor standard CCTV cameras trained on the area.

Ann-Marie Campbell, a vice-president at the chain, quietely revealed the move while speaking to analysts during its recent earnings update, where Home Depot reported a fall in sales for far this year.

Home Depot has not publicly announced the move, or even put up signs in stores to warn customers.

The ‘computer vision’ technology was intially developed by Home Depot to help staff keep track of stock.

Campbell said it had been such a success for that they were now finding other uses for it

‘What’s really exciting is how we are also now leveraging computer vision for other applications across the store,’ she sad on the call on May 14.

One was for the system to warn staff if shelves were untidy, or stock looked damaged. The other ws targeting theft, which retailers term as ‘shrinkage’.

‘We have also deployed this technology in our self checkout corral to help us mitigate shrink.

‘Computer vision can identify complex carts or high value carts and signal a cashier to help the customer with their basket to ensure all products are scanned and accounted for.’

Home Depot’s new move echoes a similar one by Taraget using very similar-sounding technology.

Target’s  new system, called TruScan, also uses cameras and sensors to detect items that shoppers fail to scan and will notify them with audio and visual cues.

Target started rolling out the cameras several months ago and will equip all stores in the US with them by the end of the year.

Like Home Depot, Target only provided limited details of the move to customers – instead also preferring to update investors.

Major US retailers are re-thinking or even axing self checkouts.

DailyMail.com reported at the endof April how Walmart was removing them entirely from two more stores.

Some of the largest retailers have taken steps this year to reverse the failed self-checkout experiment. The machines were designed to cut labor costs but caused increased theft

The move is linked to increasing thefts at the kiosks, rather than a move to boost customer service.

In March, Dollar General announced it was pulling self-checkout stands entirely from 300 of its stores with the highest level of shoplifting and improperly scanned items.

In 9,000 other locations it said it is converting some of its self-checkout registers to regular cashier checkouts, and limiting self-checkout purchases to five items or less in a further 4,500 stores.

Kroger also added traditional checkout lanes at a store in Texas where it had previously been offering only self-checkout machines, The Dallas Morning News reported.

Meanwhile, Costco started placing additional staff in self-checkout areas to supervise shoppers and ensure all items wee being scanned correctly, as well as to ensure membership cards were not being shared.

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