May 17, 2020

Walmart partners with Google to fight against Amazon Alexa

Callum Rivett
2 min
American retail giant Walmart has partnered with Google in a bid to help oust Amazon in the voice shopping e-commerce market.

Amazon has been pushing d...

American retail giant Walmart has partnered with Google in a bid to help oust Amazon in the voice shopping e-commerce market.

Amazon has been pushing discounts and exclusive offers to customers who shopped using their Alexa service, with artificial intelligence helping to mould the shopping carts of the future.

Now, Walmart and Google have taken steps to ensure that they will not be left out of the voice revolution - shoppers who sign up for the service will have personalised carts prepared for them based on previous shopping habits, courtesy of Google Assistant.

The service is launching in September, but Walmart has already seen impressive e-commerce growth of 60% during the first quarter of 2017.


Dr Zhewei Zhang, of Warwick Business School, is Assistant Professor of Information System and commented: "I am not surprised at Walmart teaming up with Google for voice shopping as other major brick-and-mortar retailers like Target and Costco have already done so with Google.

"The bigger question that must be posed is if this move will actually help Walmart compete with Amazon."

"I don’t see Walmart as a rival to Amazon because Amazon is also a platform provider, whilst Alexa represents a much bigger ambition than just another way of doing online shopping."

Dr Zhang says that while voice shopping currently "does not look very useful" it does have the potential to unlock a whole new way to shop.

"Current voice shopping methods are not error-proof and purchase experience through Alexa is mixed," explained Dr Zhang.

"However, with most online shopping being done through a computer-centred experience, voice shopping has the ability to transform that into a human-centred experience."

"Voice control may not be the best way to shop but it does offer a more natural way to get things done."

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Jun 16, 2021

SAS: Improving the British Army’s decision making with data

British Army
3 min
Roderick Crawford, VP and Country GM, explains the important role that SAS is playing in the British Army’s digital transformation

SAS’ long-standing relationship with the British Army is built on mutual respect and grounded by a reciprocal understanding of each others’ capabilities, strengths, and weaknesses. Roderick Crawford, VP and Country GM for SAS UKI, states that the company’s thorough grasp of the defence sector makes it an ideal partner for the Army as it undergoes its own digital transformation. 

“Major General Jon Cole told us that he wanted to enable better, faster decision-making in order to improve operational efficiency,” he explains. Therefore, SAS’ task was to help the British Army realise the “significant potential” of data through the use of artificial intelligence (AI) to automate tasks and conduct complex analysis.

In 2020, the Army invested in the SAS ‘Viya platform’ as an overture to embarking on its new digital roadmap. The goal was to deliver a new way of working that enabled agility, flexibility, faster deployment, and reduced risk and cost: “SAS put a commercial framework in place to free the Army of limits in terms of their access to our tech capabilities.”

Doing so was important not just in terms of facilitating faster innovation but also, in Crawford’s words, to “connect the unconnected.” This means structuring data in a simultaneously secure and accessible manner for all skill levels, from analysts to data engineers and military commanders. The result is that analytics and decision-making that drives innovation and increases collaboration.

Crawford also highlights the importance of the SAS platform’s open nature, “General Cole was very clear that the Army wanted a way to work with other data and analytics tools such as Python. We allow them to do that, but with improved governance and faster delivery capabilities.”

SAS realises that collaboration is at the heart of a strong partnership and has been closely developing a long-term roadmap with the Army. “Although we're separate organisations, we come together to work effectively as one,” says Crawford. “Companies usually find it very easy to partner with SAS because we're a very open, honest, and people-based business by nature.”

With digital technology itself changing with great regularity, it’s safe to imagine that SAS’ own relationship with the Army will become even closer and more diverse. As SAS assists it in enhancing its operational readiness and providing its commanders with a secure view of key data points, Crawford is certain that the company will have a continually valuable role to play.

“As warfare moves into what we might call ‘the grey-zone’, the need to understand, decide, and act on complex information streams and diverse sources has never been more important. AI, computer vision and natural language processing are technologies that we hope to exploit over the next three to five years in conjunction with the Army.”

Fundamentally, data analytics is a tool for gaining valuable insights and expediting the delivery of outcomes. The goal of the two parties’ partnership, concludes Crawford, will be to reach the point where both access to data and decision-making can be performed qualitatively and in real-time.

“SAS is absolutely delighted to have this relationship with the British Army, and across the MOD. It’s a great privilege to be part of the armed forces covenant.”


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