The retail industry continues to be a hotbed of innovation, with activity driven by supply chain optimisation, technology, and risk mitigation, and the growing importance of technologies such as robotic inventory management and smart checkout. In the last three years alone, there have been over 133,000 patents filed and granted in the retail industry, according to GlobalData’s report on Artificial Intelligence: AI-assisted surveillance. 

However, not all innovations are equal and nor do they follow a constant upward trend. Instead, their evolution takes the form of an S-shaped curve that reflects their typical lifecycle from early emergence to accelerating adoption, before finally stabilising and reaching maturity. 

Identifying where a particular innovation is on this journey, especially those that are in the emerging and accelerating stages, is essential for understanding their current level of adoption and the likely future trajectory and impact they will have. 

70+ innovations will shape the retail industry 

According to GlobalData’s Technology Foresights, which plots the S-curve for the retail industry using innovation intensity models built on over 128,000 patents, there are 70+ innovation areas that will shape the future of the industry. 

Within the emerging innovation stage, autonomous vending, skin care recommender systems, and AI-assisted surveillance are disruptive technologies that are in the early stages of application and should be tracked closely. Autonomous delivery vehicle navigation system, autonomous delivery management, and planogram modelling are some of the accelerating innovation areas, where adoption has been steadily increasing. Among maturing innovation areas are virtual contact centre automation and checkout object identification, which are now well-established in the industry. 

Innovation S-curve for artificial intelligence in the retail industry 

AI-assisted surveillance is a key innovation area in artificial intelligence 

Artificial intelligence for video surveillance uses specific firmware or software installed on devices. This software/firmware analyses images and audio from cameras for video surveillance to recognise vehicles, objects, people, and events. Large retail companies such as Walmart and Fujitsu have established independent research labs to use artificial intelligence in behavioural analytics in stores. 

GlobalData’s analysis also uncovers the companies at the forefront of each innovation area and assesses the potential reach and impact of their patenting activity across different applications and geographies. According to GlobalData, there are 10+ companies, spanning technology vendors, established retail companies, and up-and-coming start-ups engaged in the development and application of AI-assisted surveillance. 

Key players in AI-assisted surveillance – a disruptive innovation in the retail industry  

‘Application diversity’ measures the number of different applications identified for each relevant patent and broadly splits companies into either ‘niche’ or ‘diversified’ innovators. 

‘Geographic reach’ refers to the number of different countries each relevant patent is registered in and reflects the breadth of geographic application intended, ranging from ‘global’ to ‘local’. 

Patent volumes related to AI-assisted surveillance

Company Total patents (2010 - 2021) Premium intelligence on the world's largest companies
Walmart 100 Unlock company profile
Alphabet 59 Unlock company profile
Trax Technology Solutions 55 Unlock company profile
Seven & i Holdings 33 Unlock company profile
NEC 27 Unlock company profile
JPMorgan Chase 24 Unlock company profile
Amazon.com 24 Unlock company profile
SoftBank Group 12 Unlock company profile
Everseen 9 Unlock company profile
Panasonic 9 Unlock company profile
NCR 7 Unlock company profile
Toshiba 7 Unlock company profile
Gatekeeper Systems 5 Unlock company profile
Tencent Holdings 5 Unlock company profile

Source: GlobalData Patent Analytics

The leading players in the AI-assisted surveillance space in terms of patents filed are Walmart, Alphabet, Trax Technology Solutions, and Seven & i. In 2019, Walmart revealed that it started tracking checkout thefts using AI-enabled cameras in 1,000 of its stores. The surveillance was called Missed Scan Detection. 

Walmart, Alphabet, Amazon.com, and Gatekeeper Systems are the top companies in this space in terms of application diversity. 

The leading companies in terms of geographic reach are Alphabet, Everseen, SoftBank Group, and Tencent. 

AI-assisted surveillance has been rapidly proliferating in recent years. Compared to traditional surveillance systems, AI-assisted surveillance systems are more efficient as they expend much less effort and can assess millions of images effortlessly. 

To further understand the key themes and technologies disrupting the retail industry, access GlobalData’s latest thematic research report on Artificial Intelligence in Retail

GlobalData, the leading provider of industry intelligence, provided the underlying data, research, and analysis used to produce this article.

GlobalData’s Patent Analytics tracks patent filings and grants from official offices around the world. Textual analysis and official patent classifications are used to group patents into key thematic areas and link them to specific companies across the world’s largest industries.