Blockchain fan Walmart bets big on omnichannel tech

Walmart Chief Technology Officer Jeremy King says that he gets a pitch every day about blockchain

Walmart invested over $11 billion in technology last year, the retailer revealed at NRF 2019, which took place in New York this week. That makes it the third biggest spender in the world after Amazon and Alphabet.

It is also looking to hire 2,000 technology experts this year to support its omnichannel efforts. The world’s biggest retailer is looking for the likes of data scientists, software engineers and designers to work in nine offices from Silicon Valley to Bangalore, Walmart Chief Technology Officer Jeremy King says. The group that King leads currently has about 7,500 employees after hiring 1,700 last year.

King is, somewhat unsurprisingly, inundated with ideas from others. He gets a pitch every day about blockchain. But any initiative, he insists, has to include a conversation about scale. Most don’t build solutions for a Fortune 1 company.

“I’m always talking to people about, ‘That’s a great idea,’” he comments. “‘Now, how do you scale it to 5,000 stores?’”

Supply chains

Blockchain tracking will this year go from nice to have, to need to have, and Walmart will be a key player, according to ConsenSys’ Andrew Keys. “Vigilant shoppers are going to demand transparency in regards to where their food, clothes, and products come from,” he says in a Medium post.

“Today, the supply chain process is opaque and often slow. In 2018, the US Food And Drug Administration recorded dozens of recalls for foods potentially contaminated with Salmonella, Listeria, E. Coli and even glass particulates. Retail manufacturers and luxury fashion brands use forced labour to produce the t-shirts and jeans we all buy, and often engage in environmentally damaging practices.”

Blockchain-tracked attestations of a product’s provenance and distribution ,  like diamond producer DeBeers’ Tracr platform or Lane Crawford’s Luxarity , are going to become industry standard for retail brands, he reckons.  

“Platforms like Viant are at the forefront of this technology, and enable consumers to know exactly what they’re buying. Even retail giants like Walmart have taken major strides towards reinforcing supply chains with blockchain-based tracking and tracing.”

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