Has Walmart patented the blue they use

Eavesdropping in the supermarketWalmart patented Audio surveillance

The American supermarket chain Walmart has patented an audio monitoring system. This allows employees and customers to be monitored. The aim of the technology according to the patent: more efficient employees and happier customers.

The chat with the person in front in the queue, the scanner noises, the greeting of the cashier, the rustling of bags when packing the purchases - all these noises can give an indication of how well things are going at a supermarket checkout. And that's why the US supermarket chain Walmart apparently plans to listen to these noises and analyze them.

Walmart: Audio monitoring should make employees more efficient

Walmart has just filed a corresponding patent with the US Patent Office. Microphones are to be installed near the cash register, which can then listen to interactions between customers and cashiers or movement noises, for example. These are analyzed in order to create performance profiles for individual employees. According to the patent, this should reduce costs and increase customer satisfaction.

"The efficiency and performance of the employee can reduce the costs for the location and increase the satisfaction of the customer."
Excerpt from US patent 10,020,004 B2

Increased efficiency through monitoring is questionable

However, there are doubts that eavesdropping on employees can increase their efficiency. The Futurezone blog writes: "According to experts, employee monitoring could have the opposite effect." Studies have shown that employees resist surveillance and often perform poorly when they feel watched.

The system should therefore also be used for other purposes: The audio sensors should also record the volume of customer voices and sound an alarm if the queues are too long and another checkout has to be occupied.

Whether and when the system will come is still open, reports Deutschlandfunk-Nova network reporter Martina Schulte. The group's 2.3 million employees will hardly be able to defend themselves against this, because most of them are not represented by a union. Therefore, writes Futurezone, they do not have to be informed about such a surveillance measure.

Amazon also files a surveillance patent

Walmart is apparently not the only company that is pursuing such ideas: Amazon, Martina explains, has received a patent for a bracelet that is equipped with sensors that detect the position of an employee's hand using ultrasound or radio waves and thus perfectly monitor it - or as it says in Amazon's patent application: "support at work". The bracelet is also said to improve worker efficiency.

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