Combating Theft: Major Retailers Harness Advanced AI Technology

Combating Theft: Major Retailers Harness Advanced AI Technology
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Walmart, Target, Lowe’s, Kroger, Macy’s, CVS and other major retailers are determined to tackle theft by joining forces with technology companies to develop and deploy advanced surveillance systems powered by artificial intelligence (AI). These include video, facial-recognition cameras, license-plate and vehicle readers, autonomous security robots, radio-frequency identification (RFID) tags, smart case locks and predictive analytic software.

This is according to a new report by CNBC published Saturday.

“We’re seeing a lot of tech vendors layering AI onto existing technologies,” told the news outlet Christian Beckner, vice president of retail technology and cybersecurity for the National Federation of Retailers, a Washington, D.C.-based trade association.

Proceed with caution

However, since AI is being used, retailers need to proceed with caution taking into account the controversial issues that have been raised over the past year.

“Retailers need to use AI in a way that has appropriate guardrails, given the uncertainties of predictive outcomes of some AI tools,” he said. “If you’re using them to support loss-prevention activities, do it in a way that keeps humans in the loop before making any decisions that might have consequences for customers or employees.”

The retailers note that their main goal is not so much catching theft but deterring it from taking place.

The first thing we look at is, can we detect these people and identify them before there are victims?” told CNBC Dr. Read Hayes, director of the Loss Prevention Research Council, a think tank comprising researchers, retailers, technology companies, manufacturers and law enforcement professionals. “We’re trying to get the offender or crew to say, ‘Not here, not now, this doesn’t feel right.’”

“Thieves want the easiest job possible,” said Dan Berthiaume, who handles technology for Chain Store Age. “If your store has some basic security protocols, they move on to a store that hasn’t been hardened.”

Finding a balance

Now, the retailers just need to find a balance between pleasing customers and ensuring their merchandise’s security.

“Through partnering with the asset protection team and other groups within Lowe’s, we’re constantly innovating and leveraging technology to try to stay one step ahead, as best as we can, of bad actors, while still providing that great customer shopping experience,” said Cheryl Friedman, vice president of Lowe’s Innovation Labs.

Friedman explained that it’s crucial that shoppers are not overly burdened by the increasing levels of security as some of the technology can be invasive such as facial recognition. One thing however that should not be toyed with is the availability of the merchandise.

For the retailer and the consumer, it is more important to have that merchandise available. It’s a delicate balance, something the retailer doesn’t want, but the customers have to understand why it’s necessary,” told CNBC David Johnston, vice president of asset protection and retail operations for the NRF.

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