Walmart Creating Shopping Carts to Spy on You

At some point developers need to realize that not every object needs a camera, microphone, and sensors attached. It’s one thing to put those on devices that you’re enjoying, but Walmart’s newest submission for a patent really takes the cake.

Walmart has applied for a patent for a smart shopping cart. It will be designed to give the store feedback on not just your spending habits, but also your heart rate and when you slow down to take a longer look at something, even if you don’t go on to buy it. It would then go on to use that data to get you to buy more.

Sometimes you go into a store for a specific reason. You go in, grab it, and you’re out. But sometimes you aren’t quite sure, and it’s nice to just look around and see what’s on sale, what’s new, what looks good, etc.

And that’s what Walmart wants to know. While stores already know what we buy from our receipts, Walmart also wants to know what items we slow down to look at, even if we don’t buy them. They want to know what we see that excites us so much our heart rate speeds up.

news-walmart-shopping-cart-exterior

Back in August Walmart applied for a patent on a “biometric feedback cart handle” for a shopping cart. This would allow the handle to measure your heart rate, temperature, speed, and the amount of force you use with the handle while pushing the cart around the store.

The patent shows that the cart would first measure “baseline” biometric data and would then compare the data at different points throughout the shopping trip.

A central server would then collect the data, and if it shows the shopper was “not satisfied,” an alert would be sent to a shopping assistant to go help the needy customer who didn’t even know they were needy.

The superstore chain is also investing in blockchain to track food suppliers and already has the patented technology to listen in on people in stores. Just remember that next time you’re in Walmart. They’re listening to your conversation.

news-walmart-shopping-cart-baby

We already have targeted ads on our computers and mobile devices, thanks to browsers and social media sharing out data. It’s disturbing to be looking for a pair of shoes, only to have that same pair of shoes show up in an ad for you on a different site a half hour later. It’s creepy.

And now we’ll have that same thing happening from our visits to brick-and-mortar stores, but they’ll also know our vitals.

It just seems like it’s crossing a line. And people who are regular readers of this site and my articles know I’m usually easygoing about these types of things. But even I think this is going way too far.

Do you agree that Walmart’s smart shopping carts are going too far? Or would it not bother you to be tracked that way when you’re ‘inside a store? Add your thoughts and concerns to the comment section below.

Image Credit: Jared C. Benedict via Wikimedia Commons for Walmart photo; all others are public domain

19 comments

  1. On GP I am totally against this,

    Some random thoughts in no particular order:
    Being only a dumb, helpless, powerless consumer, I can see this implemented soon. Of course, since in business it is “monkey see, monkey do” this concept will spread to all other retail venues.

    On a positive note, once this technology becomes ubiquitous, it can help track the homeless, unless they decide to no longer borrow store carts.

    The way cart people and some customers treat shopping carts, for walMart’s sake, I hope the technology is implemented in a very robust package.

    How will this technology identify customers by name, rank and serial number? What kind of feedback will WalMart get if I take couples of laps around the store, stopping here and there, then leave without purchasing anything or pay with cash?

    “At some point developers need to realize that not every object needs a camera, microphone, and sensors attached.”
    And that is when they, and all others interested in tracking us, will demand that the Congress pass a law mandating that each and every inhabitant be implanted with a programmable chip that will contain any pertinent information. Just think of the possibilities!

    ” They’re listening to your conversation.”
    Again, I am absolutely against it. However, since when I go to Wally World by myself, I don’t talk to myself or make phone calls to discuss my purchases, they are welcome to listen in on the sounds of my silence. Of course, now that I know that the store might be listening, I will definitely talk up the better service, prices, quality offered by WalMart’s competitors. :-)

    “But even I think this is going way too far.”
    Time and technology inexorably march on whether we like it or not. :-)

  2. Well, just keep in mind that Walmart was an early adaptor if not the originator of the Barcode that once scanned would not only speed up your checkout, but auto restock or reorder. In Walmart, neither has happened. Just witness the lines, the early closures of Self checkout and ALL the empty selves.

  3. I am not sure why they want to spend money on this as they now allow at home shopping, How will Walmart find out their heart rate and where they slow down. So shop from home on your computer and miss the bio-metric carts. Walmart has already insured more thrift with the implementation of Self Check out stations, and with at home shopping they are loosing “impulse” purchases, so why fool around with bio-metric carts that don’t even have wheels that run true and have flat spots. I hope the power cells are short life so they quit quick.

  4. You couldn’t show us the cart itself? Phooey.

    On another matter –
    Someone on your end who set up the Reply template thinks that ‘Yeah’ is prounounced ‘yay’. Wrong.
    “Yeah” is pronounced ‘YEH’, not ‘YAY’.
    IF you want “yay’, you spell it either ‘Yea’ or ‘yay’.
    Of course ‘yea’ has a different meaning than ‘yay’.

    Stop hiring high school drop outs for jobs requiring good communication skills. Sheesh!

    • Firstly, since this is just at the patent stage, there are no pictures to provide.

      Secondly, there is no need to be rude. This is not a case of having high school dropouts (yes, that’s one word, not two, as you indicated). We are a global organization and employ people around the globe. This isn’t a lack of communication skills or a matter of hiring uneducated people. This is a matter of the form being prepared by someone for whom English is not their first language. Besides, technically it could also be “yeah,” meaning “yes.” It doesn’t have to be a “Yay” response. So technically, it’s not wrong.

      Laura (MTE writer and copy editor)

      • Hmmm… prig /priɡ/ noun noun: prig; plural noun: prigs a self-righteously moralistic person who behaves as if superior to others. synonyms: prude, puritan, killjoy.

        You got me on that one. Had to look it up. Thought I knew what it meant, and was close. Very archaic though, don’t think it is used much anymore.

        • “Very archaic though, don’t think it is used much anymore.”
          Not archaic, just not used much any more. Thanks to the Internet, our vocabulary is shrinking from day to day.

  5. Totally against it. We, as a species, in general, are too immature to be garnering all this personal data without protective options in place. We are already the proverbially “monkey with a machine gun” stupid. Not all of us, yet a huge, significant percentile.
    These largely unregulated corporations/entities already have way too much power and leeway to be trusted.
    They all need to be reigned-in and made to fully serve the people with no power to get away with anything.
    And, they should NOT have any say or power in government, including lobbying.

  6. I, for my part, understand “Yeah” to be supportive, like “Yeah! You did it!” I might be incorrect in that interpretation, but I suspect that they are supportive when people someone leaves a comment. If not, they would not have comments.

    • That’s how I took it as well.

      I always say I write to make people feel, think, and maybe even laugh. So if they’re commenting, I feel I’ve done my job. I made them feel or think in some way, even if it’s to disagree with me, which is fine. I rest assured that I affected someone in some way. So now that this post has many responses, it makes me quite happy, as I know I made all these people feel or think when reading this.

  7. What fun you can have sending all the wrong information back. Heart rate up? Grab some shrimps! Listening to me? I can’t wait to visit the USA again to go to Walmarts and fart my way around the store.

  8. Sad. This state of affairs regarding the average consumer and the corporations who feel the need to collect data on us in the guise of trying to understand our shopping needs. (My heart rate NEVER goes up while shopping, for there is NEVER anything I’m “dying” to have!…so this is pointless regarding someone like myself.) I will now have to regulate my shopping to the local grocery store, and buy all my other needs / requirements online. Not going to willingly become a test subject for these business chains. And the more they insist on this….the more I will retaliate and repel them. There is no reason for this kind of thing. They can easily find out spending habits from bank records (you think they DON’T have access to that info?…Hahahaah!) so there’s no need to “track” me throughout their stores, but its ok. The way to defeat this?…stop going in them. I can easily buy everything I need from B.J.’s..CostCo’s…….Amazon….and ShopRite…..and WalMart?…can sit there and wonder why they have no data for me. Once again?
    Sad and a little pathetic.

  9. I always prepare a list before going to Walmart. Only buy what’s on the list so no shopping around. Usually use a hand basket. Are they going to put new handles on them too? Make a point of using a cashier not self-check out since all that does is save Walmart money – not me.

Leave a Comment

Yeah! You've decided to leave a comment. That's fantastic! Check out our comment policy here. Let's have a personal and meaningful conversation.

Sponsored Stories