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Walmart keeps store operations cool with IoT

Walmart manages temperature, operating functions and energy use in stores using a network of connected Internet of Things (IoT) devices.

The discount giant currently has more than 7 million unique IoT data points across its more than 4,600 U.S. stores. Every day, this network of connected devices sends almost 1.5 billion messages regarding a variety of store conditions. To help manage this massive volume, Walmart has built proprietary software designed to use advanced algorithms to detect anomalous events in real-time and take action to fix issues quickly.

For example, Walmart’s real estate team helps ensure proper food quality by monitoring refrigeration units with IoT systems. The retailer’s IoT application monitors the temperature of an individual unit to ensure proper food safety standards, and also monitors how equipment is performing and takes proactive steps towards maintenance repairs to reduce the cost and downtime caused by equipment failure.

If the signal received requires additional information, it is sent to the maintenance team through a cloud application, where the team will triage the issue and determine the best course of action. Response can include leveraging a store associate to take additional steps, repairing an IT connection issue, submitting a work order and getting a technician on-site to look at the unit, or making changes remotely to the equipment.

Walmart also uses IoT sensors on stores’ HVAC and energy systems to remotely monitor and respond to community energy consumption needs quickly and with minimal impact to customers’ shopping experience. Through the use of a solution called Demand Response, Walmart can reduce energy consumption to any of its U.S. stores for a set amount of time and then have systems in place to automatically return equipment back to the normal operating standards. 

As a result, Walmart can lower energy use anywhere in the U.S. by region or an individual store, reducing energy consumption and lowering utility costs without impacting the customer experience. And in partnership with local communities, Walmart can reduce its use of the energy grid in response to high demand needs like blackouts and brownouts.

During the early stages of the COVID-19 pandemic, store hours were adjusted to allow associates time to restock and sanitize. Manually adjusting the “set-back” times for HVAC and refrigeration cases on-site would have required Walmart to spend hundreds of hours to manually change the equipment scheduling in each individual store. 

Instead, Walmart leveraged Demand Response to make changes across multiple stores and geographic locations simultaneously, saving time and reducing expenses. As restrictions lift and store hours adjust by location, the company continues to leverage its internal systems to modify equipment scheduling accordingly.

“What’s most exciting about our IoT work is that we are just getting started. We have a roadmap for the future of IoT that will include other types of equipment, other types of algorithms and data processing and additional locations,” said Sanjay Radhakrishnan, VP, global tech, Walmart. “As we continue to connect more assets we will apply our experience to further reduce our energy consumption while increasing the value to our customers. We will continue to focus on what our customers need most, like high food quality and a positive shopping experience.”

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