When I talk to retailers about artificial intelligence, their eyes glaze over, like I’m speaking a foreign language and very few people want to talk about it. But it’s coming, it’s unavoidable. AI is going to pervade almost every aspect of retail, big and small.
Here’s a case in point: The EPA estimates that a supermarket of 50,000 square feet, that’s a large store but not excessively so, uses about $200,000 worth of electricity and natural gas in the course of a year. According to the EPA, about half of that cost is in refrigeration and lighting. Most such large stores have freezers that consumers go into to pick out their frozen food. But they also have a freezer in the back of the store that consumers don’t see, where they keep their inventory.
Now imagine this: the store hires a very smart young college graduate just to watch that freezer in the back. That employee’s job is only to stand and watch the freezer door to minimize the number of times it gets opened and manage the thermostat accordingly to reduce the electrical cost. Over time, the employee learns how to make adjustments so that the door openings lead to the least amount of additional energy used to keep products cold.