Walmart is about to open a technology research center in Plano’s Granite Park
Walmart is opening an emerging technologies office in Plano to work on new systems designed to improve store operations.
The world’s largest retailer already employs 2,000 technologists in Silicon Valley, but it believes there’s plenty of talent to tap in Texas. The new office officially opens April 5 in a Common Desk shared space at 5830 Granite Park in Plano.
Carlos Riojas, a Walmart director of digital engineering and development who is leading the Plano office, said he has hired 17 people so far. Riojas has also leased space in the UTDesign Studio, a facility the University of Texas at Dallas created for engineering students and companies to work together. Walmart has hired four students this semester to work with its software engineers in Plano.
Walmart spokeswoman Anne Hatfield said the Plano office is similar to one that opened in February in Austin. Each one will employ 50 to 60 people by the end of this year.
Both Texas offices are working on back office functions and ways to support stores with new technology. Walmart’s Silicon Valley and New York technology offices are responsible for the retailer’s e-commerce business.
The Plano office will use data science, machine learning, computer vision and other technology to solve problems in stores, Riojas said. Issues with carts in parking lots or spills in store aisles for example could be detected faster with new systems, he said.
Some of this work has been done in Bentonville. But Riojas said those stores are so close to the home office that most customers are Walmart employees.
“It’s better to be in another market to see what needs to be improved,” he said.
Plano was also picked for its proximity to Bentonville, for the airports and being in the same time zone for “work balance” purposes, he said. He also cited the cost of living in Dallas, which is only about 7 to 9 percent higher than in Bentonville.
“Also, we’ve had great success recruiting from UTD and we know that so many other companies — Toyota, Boeing, State Farm and others — are here and their buildings are full of talent,” he said.
Pete Poorman, director of corporate relations for the School of the Engineering and Computer Science at UT Dallas, said he’s thrilled students will have another way to “learn the skills they need to succeed in the business world.”
“The reality is Walmart has some of the most sophisticated IT operations there are,” he said. “This is an opportunity that students won’t get in many other places.”
Source | The Dallas Morning News, “Walmart is About to Open a Technology Research Center in Plano’s Granite Park,” was written by Maria Halkias and Melissa Repko.
Walmart Plans to Open a Computer Vision and Machine Learning Office in Dallas on April 5
Via Venture Beat | Anna Hensel – Retail giant Walmart now thinks of itself as a tech company — but it’s not putting all its eggs in Silicon Valley.
The company announced today that it is opening an emerging technologies office in Dallas, Texas. Thirteen employees have already been hired at the office, and the company expects to hire roughly 32 more by year’s end. Walmart’s vice president of tech modernization Chris Enslin made the announcement onstage at VentureBeat’s Blueprint conference in Reno, Nevada.
Employees at the Dallas office will be conducting research in machine learning, computer vision, and IoT.
“We have a vast amount of data that we haven’t truly democratized or captured the value out of it to create new products,” Enslin said, discussing the opportunity Walmart sees in investing in these emerging technologies.
In a phone interview last week week discussing the new office, Walmart director of engineering and Dallas office lead Carlos Riojas told VentureBeat that the company chose Dallas due to its proximity to a number of universities, including the University of Texas at Dallas and Baylor University, its attractiveness to young professionals, and Walmart’s preexisting presence in the city. The company has more retail stores in Dallas-Fort Worth than any other U.S. market.
“Dallas is a big area to recruit from for even some of the schools that may be on the coasts, or other places in the Midwest. It’s a desirable city for a lot of those college graduates,” Riojas said.
Enslin said that one way Walmart is looking to tap into this university talent is by leasing space on the UT at Dallas campus. Walmart is employing some PhD students — 2 or 3 of whom have already been hired to work in the Dallas office.
“We want this to become a feeder into [the Dallas office] as we develop it,” Enslin said at Blueprint.
Riojas said that one project the emerging technologies office in Dallas is currently working on is determining how to use computer vision to detect spills in store aisles more quickly. Riojas said that the office started its proof-of-concept testing this week at 40 stores, collecting videos and images to begin training their computer vision models.
“We rely on rely on physical inspections to do this today, and have a huge opportunity to automate it,” Riojas said.
The office will also explore how to user machine learning to aid with internal company matters, such as determining where the optimal location for a new Walmart store is based on traffic patterns and weather data, Riojas said.
While Walmart does have a large presence in Silicon Valley — the company said it has roughly 2,000 “technologists” between offices in Sunnyvale and San Bruno — Enslin said that he thinks the affordability of Dallas will make it easier for the office to retain talent.
Walmart also opened a second emerging technologies office this year in nearby Austin, which expects to have around 50 employees by year’s end.
The official opening of the Dallas office is April 5.
SOURCE | VENTURE BEAT
Header Photo Courtesy of Dallas Morning News.
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