Futuristic  Retail Trends – Powered by Internet of Things


Internet of Things (IOT)One day, our coffee machines are going to be smart enough to recognize us and suggest us with the flavor of coffee we like (say 50% coffee +40% milk+10% chocolate+1 sugar cubicle) combined with an offer ,this entire process of identifying the person to running thru the algorithms and pushing the offer happens within a span of 1 0r 2 seconds before we press the button on the coffee vending machine ..  That day is going to be soon and will be bought to you by Internet of Things

Gartner, Inc. forecasts that 4.9 billion connected things will be in use in 2015, up 30 percent from 2014, and will reach 50 billion by 2020. These devices would go beyond PCs, Smartphones, tablets and range from alarm clocks to air coolers to washing machines to cars, basically, almost every machine and  In short, IoT is about creating a virtual planet of machines- both human and non-human that “breathe” data.

The past decade saw machine-to-people connections via internet and people-to-people connections via social networks capturing the world, catapulting it into an era of accessibility and connectivity. Today, the concept has been cranked up into the Internet of ‘Everything’ that leverages this accessibility and connectivity to efficient and productive use like the smart cities, smart governments and policing, smart grids, smart Transportation and so on. So, the availability of hyper-connectivity sets the stage for building utility and enterprise services around it, which otherwise stay unharnessed. These people-to-machine, people-to-people, machine-to-people and machine-to-machine connections that engage people, processes, data, and machines in a bidirectional flow of information results in enormous amount of data which needs to be stored, processed and accessed. Such IoT use cases require convergence of machine-to-machine connectivity, event stream processing, Big Data, analytics, Cloud, and mobile technologies

IOT itself is the trend which is applicable to almost every industry be It manufacturing, retail, healthcare,aerospace..so on .lets see how today’s innovations  powered by Internet of Things are trying to redefine Retail sector

To set the context of the discussion, in the world of Retail,better Consumer engagement is going to be key for sales and brand equity however they can retain consumer only if supply chain is agile and smart to keep retailers up and running always and finally, supply chain  execution can be intact and flawless  if predictive maintenance and “self” healing minimizes the downtime of the machinery, equipment involved

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Consumer Engagement – Understanding the digital body language of  consumer is going to take the center stage of consumer engagement and applying fusion algorithms, predictive intelligence on top of this will help retailers to come up with  context based personalized recommendations and offers  and with innovations in short range wireless communication technologies like beacons,NFC and other proximity sensors,retailers can push these hyper-relevant offers to targeted end consumers .For instance, say you’re walking in a big retailer like Walmart,when you enter the beacon’s zone of a specific brand , the beacon will transmit special promotions,coupons,tailored combo offers . RFID gates at exit can scan whole shopping cart in seconds so end consumer need not stand at cash desks and with Beacons or NFC payment options  consumers can do the payments automatically  so they no need not bother about having the correct denomination of currency to pay for their purchase thus providing consumers with seamless ,easy payment experience

Soft wares tailored for retail bridges silos of data across physical, digital, and social channels and thus creating a real-time enterprise, with that retailers and manufacturers, who can personalize offers for deeper engagements with customers.  Like for example, run personalized campaigns to give exclusivity to the consumer and offer products based on parameters like shopper’s age, medical record, dietary requirements or purchase history. The interesting point here, is that the retailers not only recommends the products based on the user preference and purchase pattern but, also, involves the social angle to make recommendations, by matching the purchase pattern of friends and peers in the social networks

New breed of vending machines called the “Smart” Vending Machines (SVMs) are coming into existence are going to be popular mode of retail outlets. Equipped with geo-fencing, telemetry sensors, barcode readers, NFC payment options, and personalized gigantic touchscreens (42” HD), connected to the Internet via the enterprise cloud.  These machines are designed and enabled to deepen engagement with customers, beyond vending they take the interactions to a different level by allowing options like gifting, where, consumers can gift their family and friends who are connected through the social networks. Users register their social media accounts into the vending machine for it to identify the friends and send the chosen recipient a notification message to collect the gift from the nearest SVM’s. Some of the other things that SVM’s can do is allow interactive games, showcase movie trailers, and personalization.  Since the machines are cloud connected to other vending machines, owned by the same company, the user can customize the machine with different themes, background colors, currency and language; so each time, the user logs on to any (other) machine, owned by the same company, it would remember the personalization settings and display accordingly in the appropriate language.

Another example of increasingly predominant trend in IoT by an innovation company  is the concept of “Smart” mirror  , they are designed for in-store clothes shopping, capturing stills and video of everything you try on .Using simple hand gestures,  you can control the mirror to see 360-degree back and side views and observe outfits side by side , it also allows to change the color of clothing with a gesture in real time without changing clothes .it doesn’t stop there in case if you  need second opinion, instead of low quality selfie , smart mirror allows you to capture a variety of whole body still or a video that you can share with your friends

These are some of the burgeoning Internet of Things (IoT) innovations which has redefined the way how traditional retailers approach and interact with their customers to drive extra ordinary customer experience

Smart Supply chain The traditional supply chain behind the scenes of demand-supply curve is rigid as of today and this needs to be redefined to meet the challenges of digital era and this can be made possible with the advent of IoT and sensor technologies .For instance ,Innovations like RFID based “smart” shelves continuously scans items on the shelf and notifies the appropriate systems ,for instance existing items in the system and their movement, identify items that does not belong to specified shelf and mark them as misplaced items (this typically happens with clothing/apparel), item movements and whereabouts for transparency reasons and gain insights into when it has been scanned last to avoid potential thefts and counterfeits, identify the items nearing expiry date and inform retailers for quick sale options  . During low or out of stock situations they create automatic replenishment alerts and send automatic orders directly to central warehouse and to manufacturers .

Additionally re-order process is getting redefined by building  intelligence into  inventory decisions by considering external factors like events, social sentiments , For instance, just because it’s low on specific soda doesn’t mean the system will place orders for more sodas e.g. What if it is going to be raining in the following days. . Popular and fast moving products are replenished more quickly so that they are always available and enable leaner inventories

Retailers being the face of supply chain , IOT enabled supply chain,inventory,logistics and fleet management can bring good big smile to them and keeps customer engagement at apex

Predictive Maintenance & Self healing – Companies are looking for lead prediction of equipment failure rather than acting upon  failure, With the advancement in sensors and embedded devices multiple of these things are getting embedded to the manufacturing equipment, and different techniques like novel data fusion  algorithms , machine learning methods and artificial intelligence  are applied on top of this continuous stream of sensing data to not just predict when equipment failure might occur but also prevent occurrence of the failure by performing any required maintenance

However the future trend is not just providing optimal maintenance and service before machine fails , it is much beyond to have self healing mechanisms in place incase of failure .

A simple example to illustrate  the same, a freezer or cooler which dispenses medication is located in a hospital pharmacy , for the pharmacist to store very expensive medication that is temperature sensitive and when this medication looses it’s potency or becomes toxic when it remains above a temperature for some time.The alert was generated because the inside temperature in the freezer had gone above the threshold of 55 degrees Fahrenheit  and the system had automatically looked at the sensor data and figured out that the compressor  and power to freezer was okay but the door was left open for 10 minutes and the system had activated the door magnet to close the door and also sent out an SMS to the pharmacist with the report of action taken .

An another example to illustrate customer serviceability and increase sales ,  A safe-way is located near a school and the school usually ends at 5 PM at which time students usually come and buy ice- cream, drinks and pizza etc. from Safeway which are in these coolers.  Due to frequent door opening the temperature goes down at a faster pace and also the transparent freezer door gets fogged up very frequently. System does not know about the school but based on the historical data it has predicted that between 5 PM and 7 PM the freezer sees frequent door opening on weekdays and as a corrective measure  it has cranked up the cooling at 4.45 PM and also increased the frequency to start the de-fogger.  Due to these actions the freezer is de-fogged for more time  and the products are at the optimal temperature which has lead to increased sales and better customer satisfaction.

Given that , In smart manufacturing environment every machine is connected and every variable is continuously measured and anlaysed,this enables smarter decisions which can  prevent expensive downtime and improve the operational efficiency .

  What analysts are talking about these trends

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Are you ready for IoT ?The IOT is not a distant concept for consideration.

Disclaimer: The views expressed in this article are those of mine as an individual

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