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Safety, Service and Sustainability: How Connected Equipment Offers Retailers a Competitive Advantage

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In a pharmacy in Seattle, when the temperature in its drug storage refrigerator falls below protocols, an automated alert warns the store manager before temperature-critical medicines spoil.

In a clothing store in Phoenix, the AC automatically adjusts to keep customers comfortable and lingering longer, happily trying on sweaters in the store’s new fall collection despite the blistering 100-degree late-summer day.

In Austin, a hardware store is getting paid to help the city reduce its energy consumption during an extremely hot period by participating in its utility’s demand response program. By using an AI-enabled software solution to pre-cool the store before a planned energy reduction, the retailer ensures the event doesn’t impact customer comfort.

These three examples are based on multiple real-life scenarios that illustrate how advances in technologies, such as the Internet of Things (IoT), can empower retail facility managers to improve their oversight of critical equipment, including lighting, HVAC, refrigeration and more. Through IoT, these managers can seamlessly maintain safer, more service-friendly, energy- and cost-efficient environments by accessing data from the cloud and gaining remote, real-time visibility into their equipment across multiple locations. This enables an “S3strategy that improves the Safety, Service and Sustainability of their multi-site retail operations and impacts their top and bottom lines.

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Safety: Ensure the Well-Being of Customers and Staff

  • IoT automates a retail store’s lighting at various times of the day, always ensuring that the store is bright and inviting so customers are encouraged to browse and linger during business hours and employees can work comfortably and safely. When the store is closed, lights go off to reduce energy bills — regardless of whether staff check every switch before they lock the door.
  • Connected technologies also distribute consistent safety protocols across a multi-site retail enterprise. Since the pandemic, providing alerts and automated checklists offsets the “cognitive overload” that has become a growing challenge among workers. Automated lists also reduce the stress employees may feel when having to remember many different cleaning and safety procedures. The data from these IoT solutions allows store managers to recognize when defined processes aren’t followed so that issues can be resolved swiftly.
  • IoT provides important oversight for retail sectors that require refrigeration to keep products cool, such as vaccines or other temperature-critical medicines in a pharmacy. IoT monitors the equipment’s temperatures and flags issues before products are damaged.
  • Smart technologies also streamline a retailer’s ability to enhance the well-being of customers and staff by improving air quality. For example, stores can integrate ultraviolet (UV) air cleaning technologies into their HVAC systems and use IoT to control both simultaneously. Another example is a connected filtration system, which automatically recognizes when filters need replacing to maintain a healthy environment.  

Service: Optimize Equipment Maintenance and Improve Customer Experiences

  • Multi-site retail operations distributed across a large geographic area rely on IoT to remotely monitor equipment performance and avoid problems before equipment fails. Proactive vs. reactive repairs are not only three times less costly, but they also help extend the life of expensive, mission-critical machines.
  • Remote automated HVAC controls allow retailers to establish consistent temperature set points that accommodate weather conditions in each store location. Temperatures during business hours are set to keep staff and guests comfortable. Temperature setbacks are scheduled when buildings are unoccupied, reducing energy consumption. One national discount brand has saved more than $2 million in energy costs year over year, mainly by following this approach.

Sustainability: Reduce an Organization’s Carbon Footprint and Energy Costs

  • Energy is the fourth-largest in-store operating cost for U.S. retailers. When retailers drive spending and usage down, they also improve their sustainability. IoT platforms help make this possible. For example, one national cosmetics retailer with 195 locations established a robust IoT program that reduced energy expenditures by $215,000 each year while lowering its energy consumption by 23%.
  • Layering AI-enabled technology onto an IoT platform reduces electricity demand charges for a retail store by automatically synchronizing the run times of HVAC equipment. This capability delivers significant energy savings because, unlike energy charges that are based on the total amount of energy consumed over time, demand charges are based on peak power usage during a particular interval and are often 30% of an energy bill.
  • The data derived from AI-enabled IoT identifies which HVAC units perform in the most energy-effective manner. This allows retailers to prioritize their use to optimize energy consumption reduction and realize savings. When equipment needs to be replaced, that data also helps facility managers make informed decisions on the most energy-efficient upgrades.
  • Extending the life of HVAC equipment reduces the carbon intensity of producing, shipping and installing new equipment. It also keeps the original equipment out of landfills longer.
  • IoT solutions allow retailers to support communitywide sustainability and reap the financial benefits of participating in their utility’s demand response programs in ways that don’t impact customers. During peak demand periods, utilities notify participants of a planned reduction in energy usage. AI-enabled IoT platforms can be programmed to establish cooling periods before and after the planned reduction period so that stores remain consistently comfortable for shoppers.
  • In this era of socially conscious consumers, it’s more important than ever to conserve energy and resources, especially for retailers eager to align their brands with a commitment to sustainability. What’s more, when major retailers prepare for an initial public offering (IPO), their investors often analyze their support of environmental, social and governance (ESG) performance to gauge risks and growth opportunities. Fortunately, the analytics derived from IoT-enabled technologies help retailers report their progress toward ESG goals and reinforce their perception as an environmentally friendly brand.

A Smart Strategy that’s Good for the Planet too

For all the reasons outlined, establishing a robust IoT strategy provides retailers with a more cost- and energy-efficient approach to managing their facility operations, which enables more sustainable, environmentally friendly practices. Small wonder that more retail executives are discovering the Safety, Service, and Sustainability benefits of moving toward an “S3strategy. What’s good for the planet is also good for the health of their brands.


Jay Fiske is President of Powerhouse Dynamics, a leading Internet of Things (IoT) solutions provider for eliminating waste in the operations of multi-site foodservice and retail facilities. Its IoT platform, sold under two different brands — Open Kitchen® for foodservice operators and SiteSage® for retail and other commercial operators — provides control over key equipment for reduced waste and increased cost savings, actionable insights for more informed decisions on equipment and operations, and improved processes for consistent, positive experiences in their facilities. The platform is connected with over 50,000 pieces of equipment across 15,000+ locations. Contact Jay Fiske at jay@powerhousedynamics.com.

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