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Walmart Working On New Shopping Carts That Could Spy On You

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I go to the grocery store every weekend to pick up supplies for the upcoming week, but sometimes, I have to make a second trip a few days later for an item or two I forgot to buy.

Since I know exactly what I want, I don't bother walking around the store looking for anything else. I just grab the item and check out as fast as possible so I don't end up spending extra money.

However, there have been days where a product catches my eye and I stop for a few seconds to look at it.

We've all been in these types of situations, and don't think that there's much to our actions. But for stores like Walmart, these minor details about your shopping habits are very valuable to them.

Although the retail giant can figure out exactly what you have purchased from your receipt, they want to know more about how you shop, including what gets your attention and makes your heart race in excitement while you're in their stores.

Smart carts

Walmart has reportedly applied for a patent for smart shopping carts that will be able to give the store feedback about your shopping habits.

The carts will be equipped with sensors that will be able to read your pulse, palm temperature, walking speed and the force you use while pushing the cart around.

The patent also revealed that the smart carts would include a pulse oximeter, to detect if a customer is about to pass out, as well as a weight-triggered push feature that will make the cart easier to move when it gets too heavy.

By monitoring your biometrics, Walmart will be able to understand how you feel while you're in the store. The data will be sent to a server which would alert a store employee to come to your assistance if they suspect you're "not satisfied."

The varying stress responses by location will also become useful when it comes to store planning, including product placement.

While the documents state that the technology is merely to offer better service and experience to customers, many are skeptical that those are the only reasons behind Walmart's decision.

The superstore chain has already filed a patent for another questionable technology.

Collecting audio data

According to BuzzFeed, the retailer might use audio technology to listen in on conversations between customers and cashiers at the checkout.

They're looking to collect audio data such as cashiers greeting customers, rustling of bags to figure out how many items have been scanned, and more.

“A need exists for ways to capture the sounds resulting from people in the shopping facility and determine performance of employees based on those sounds,” Walmart stated in its patent application, called “Listening to the Frontend.”

In a statement, Walmart said that they are "always thinking about new concepts and ways that will help us further enhance how we serve customers. This patent is a concept that would help us gather metrics and improve the checkout process by listening to sounds produced by the bags, carts and cash registers and not intended for any other use.”

While these patent applications don't necessarily mean the giant retailer will be implementing these technologies if approved, it still leaves many people feeling uneasy about the possible loss of their privacy.

Some are also worried that the data obtained from them would be used to target specific advertisements to them.

Do you think Walmart's smart shopping carts are crossing the line? Let us know what you think in the comments!

Awa has been writing for Shared for 3 years. She is a serial snacker who unapologetically loves celebrity gossip. Drop her a line at awa@shared.com.