Advanced retail technology relies on cellular broadband and IoT integration from supply chain to store shelves
This article originally appeared on Retail Insights on January 23, 2019
Well, another National Retail Foundation (NRF) show is in the rearview mirror, but this year’s confab of retailers and retail technology shined a bright light on the transformative road ahead. Here are just a few of my musing and perspectives from NRF 2019.
The digital transformation of retail is built on IoT
You don’t have to wander far on the show floor to find some Internet of Things (IoT) invention that is destined to transform customer experiences, streamline supply chains, reduce shrinkage, or improve employee productivity and safety. After nearly a decade of “somedays," IoT is here today in a big way. Here are several solutions that stood out:
- Cradlepoint customer and Johnson Controls subsidiary Sensomatic Solutions (formerly Tyco Retail Solutions) demonstrated sensor-driven and data-powered solutions for loss prevention, inventory intelligence, and store traffic insights.
- Cooler Screens has trials underway, connected by Cradlepoint, for its smart cooler door that integrates an intelligent, sensor-laden screen. Among its many talents, it makes the underpaid stockboys look like maniacal perfectionists — every product is perfectly displayed on the screen as if stocked by the manufacturer. But what makes this screen cooler is its built-in computer vision technology that can demographically identify an approaching person and display ads of interest and make suggestions based on your selection — think: Do you want fries with that burger?
The D=death of brick-and-mortar stores has B=been greatly exaggerated
It seems every other magazine you read these days is proclaiming the death of brick-and-mortar retail. It looks like someone forgot to tell the retailer community at NRF. From American Eagle’s interactive fitting rooms that help shoppers get just the right style and fit to Kroger’s digital shelves that highlight items on your shopping list, brick-and-mortar stores are transforming into interactive and immersive shopping bazaars that facilitate and enrich the customers’ experience in ways that online can never replicate. As millennials usher in the “experience” economy, forward-thinking companies are transforming their stores to prepare of the next generation of experience-based retailing.
Robots in retailers are becoming commonplace
Robots were roaming the halls of NRF, and they are on their way to a retailer near you soon. Last year, Walmart announced a trial with Bossanova to use robots to streamline inventory functions. Hoteliers have been using robots to speed up room service, efficiently bringing you that toothpaste you forgot to pack. And now grocers such as Giant and Stop & Shop have plans to use robots to roam the aisles and notify staff of safety hazards before they become liabilities. Cradlepoint has been involved in a number of these deployments.
Smart retail applications begin with supply chain
It’s not just the front of the house that is getting all the tech transformation; a lot of the focus at NRF this year was about automation of the supply chain and delivery chain. The goal of these new innovations is to reduce the number of human touchpoints as products move from the warehouse to customer's hands. Everything from next-generation automated check-outs to fully automated stores, autonomous distribution and customer delivery vehicles, and technologies that enable the average retailer to achieve Amazon-like warehouse automation and efficiency.
Wireless broadband connectivity and cloud-based management are the backbone of modern-day retail
It’s clear to anyone attending NRF 2019 that the rate of innovation in the retail space is staggering. It’s a battle royal between the forces of disruption and the power of innovation, with IT teams on the front lines. While the adoption of new technologies and business models will have far-reaching effects on IT organizations, there are several common threads that have already appeared. Cloud and connectivity are the engines of transformation. All new and exciting technologies are almost universally powered by the agile, pervasive, and elastic nature of public clouds — like IBM Watson, Amazon AWS, and Microsoft Azure — and wireless connectivity in the form of cellular broadband, Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, and NFC. The advent of 5G and Private LTE and 5G Networks will only accelerate things.