The widespread use of standard refrigerators surged towards the early 20th century, and what was once considered a luxury item, quickly emerged as a familiar, affordable appliance desired by most American households. Today, an estimated 98% of Americans own at least one refrigerator, myself included. I own a functional, albeit ordinary refrigerator which serves the intended purpose well, it keeps my food cold; however, this may no longer be sufficient as consumer behavior and preferences continue to drive new business and service models through digitization. Digitally savvy consumers are starting to demand more, and the refrigerator as we know it today may soon take on a new role, one that extends beyond just keeping your food cold.
Refrigerators are becoming “cool,” meaning hip, chic, smart and more sophisticated than ever before. In today’s connected world refrigerators are re-emerging as the “hub” of the home and getting smarter every day. Samsung recently introduced the “Family Hub,” a revolutionary new refrigerator with a WiFi enabled touch screen that allows you to connect with family and friends, take photos, manage your groceries and more. Samsung is betting on this new breed of refrigerators to strike a chord with consumers, minus the hefty price tag, but are we really ready for this? With technology changing and evolving so quickly, the ROI may not be convincing enough to justify the initial investment and purchase decision. For tech-loving enthusiasts, however, the cool factor of owning a connected smart refrigerator may sway them, even if the price tag doesn’t. As a consumer, I’m not sold quite yet.
While the consumer angle is interesting, large enterprises with Big Data have much more to gain by using connected coolers from an ROI perspective, particularly in the retail and consumer product industries. These industries rely heavily on refrigeration to keep their perishable goods fresh, beverages cold and customers happy. With connected coolers, enterprises can start to re-imagine their business in a connected world and explore the IoT possibilities. Leveraging business data via sensor-enabled devices, enterprises now have the capability to remotely manage, monitor and control high volumes of connected devices, not only coolers, but also freezers, vending machines or coffee makers for example.
By combining IoT technology with cloud infrastructure, business processes and enterprise back-end systems, such as SAP, enterprises can monitor device status, detect error-trends or product usage patterns, trigger real-time alerts for replenishment (e.g. low stock notifications) or service requests and generate data-driven metrics to facilitate decision-making. These possibilities are real and SAP is enabling this new reality with proven technology, which is, in and of itself, pretty cool.
Connecting a large volume of smart devices and corresponding sensor data with SAP back-end systems allows enterprises to dramatically extend their insight into the device ecosystem. Imagine an enterprise with millions of connected devices, but no device status insight, meaning no transparency or visibility to ensure optimal device performance. Let’s consider one million beverage coolers, with an estimated cost value of $1000 USD per cooler. This equates to one billion dollars in unmonitored devices, not including the monetary value of the actual merchandise stored in each cooler. These are compelling numbers by any measure, prompting enterprises to increase visibility and expand their device insight, to ensure their valued assets are effectively monitored, managed and optimized.
Lukewarm beverages or spoiled food, often resulting from a cooler or freezer device malfunction, can have dire consequences for a business, including lost sales and dissatisfied customers. Even the simple human act of inadvertently leaving a cooler door ajar can cause extreme temperature fluctuations, which may impact a product’s integrity or quality. SAP is helping organizations detect device malfunctions, such as temperature change, identify error codes and trigger corresponding service or maintenance alerts in real-time to minimize disruption and downtime. Automatic alerts notify Retail Store Managers and Service Technicians, providing actionable insight to ensure perishable food or beverages are preserved and energy consumption minimized. This not only reduces operational costs and saves energy, but ultimately enhances service quality and the customer experience.
The Internet of Things is transforming the way we live and work, reshaping consumer expectations. Enterprises are stepping up their game to ensure high quality standards and customer satisfaction, investing in new IoT technology to increase automation and transparency, enhance operational efficiency, minimize risk and strengthen customer value. SAP is helping enterprises optimize and extend their digital ecosystem, with powerful analytic insights, to maximize the value of their connected devices and enhance the consumer experience. Now, that’s cool. Connected coolers stay cold, food and beverages stay fresh, businesses stay informed and customers stay happy, which is about as cool as it gets, for both the consumer and the enterprise.