The Internet of Things (IoT) is creating new opportunities to drive competitive advantage in retail.
Retailers have long touted potential use cases for IoT, from predictive maintenance to temperature sensors. And before that, talk of the “RFID revolution” and its promise to transform inventory management dates back almost 20 years. While RFID technology is often seen as a precursor to IoT, the truth is the retail sector has been slow to invest in IoT.
Many retailers have told me that they expect IoT to shake up the sector, but operational challenges and lack of infrastructure are holding them back. This is changing, however, as early adopters are now demonstrating good returns from IoT solutions.
IoT Use Cases In The Retail Industry:
• IoT opportunities go beyond inventory management. Installing IoT devices on shopping carts and baskets helps retailers better understand in-store customer behavior. They can use data to find out where people linger and to identify blind spots. Ultimately, it can help them improve store layouts and operations.
• Mobilizing point of sale (POS) terminals with PCI-compliant devices for debit and credit card solutions for merchants across the globe. Additionally, retail wireless WAN (WWAN) deployment can back up critical communications data inclusive of those POS terminals and literally reinvent their supply chain
• Retailers can also use IoT to enhance customer engagement. With IoT tags on products, they can monitor how consumers are using and storing products. This enables the creation of personalized advertising and expanded cross-selling opportunities. If consumers had a tag reader on their fridge or pantry, the system could monitor expiration dates and product recalls and automatically re-order products as they run out.
From Strategy To Execution: Three Steps To Begin Your IoT Journey
• Start small. A small IoT project with fast payback is the best way to begin. This will help you get buy-in from stakeholders and win C-Suite support. It also paves the way for larger and more strategic IoT investments in the future. Using IoT to manage air-conditioning or lighting systems can be a good first option, providing immediate energy savings and building the bones of an in-store sensor platform that you can then use to do more sophisticated things, like traffic analytics.
• Choose your partner carefully. An IoT deployment is complex, requiring an ecosystem of products, technologies, services and collaborations. An ideal IoT service provider should help you manage the entire implementation — from planning to devices, apps, platforms, connectivity and staff training. Your IT team will need support to help them manage the new infrastructure and analyze and use the data it generates.
• Ensure security up front. I’ve heard the Internet of Things called the Internet of Threats. IoT devices have the potential to be used by hackers as network backdoors, so it pays to get the fundamentals of security right from the start. It is mission critical to work with proven service providers and educate yourself about their security and encryption.Many companies are now turning to reliable managed security services to help them monitor their networks and better detect and respond to threats.
IoT can streamline processes, create visibility and improve operations to help drive significant cost savings and return on investment. We are already seeing retailers generate real value by engaging in the IoT solution provider ecosystem, and we expect IoT deployments to rapidly accelerate in the sector.
Joe Mosele is vice president of AT&T’s Internet of Things Solutions and leads the business development and account management team, which is responsible for driving innovation in bringing wireless connectivity and solutions to next generation devices/applications with a vertical focus, including commerce, retail and consumer electronics.