No checkout lines, personalized shelving and the IoT retail revolution
Here’s a big number: $94 billion. That’s how much the Internet of Things-enabled retail market could be worth by 2025 as more and more retail-related businesses adopt IoT technology to improve a variety of products and services — from warehousing and equipment maintenance to supply chain management and, of course, shopping itself.
Examples of IoT Solutions in Retail
- Personalized retail marketing and content delivery
- Optimal staffing level indicators
- Cashierless payment systems
- Movement tracking systems for optimal store setup
- IoT-enabled warehouse robots
- Wireless shipment tracking devices
- Real-time condition monitoring of goods
- Inventory management tools
- In-store buyer behavior tracking
“With the growth of the internet of things, customers will enjoy an increasingly connected or ‘smart’ shopping experience through a network of connections linking the physical and digital worlds into an ecosystem of devices, including vehicles, stores and software,” Walmart CEO Doug McMillon has written. “The internet of things, drones, delivery robots, 3D-printing and self-driving cars will allow retailers to further automate and optimize supply chains too. Both sides of the equation – demand and supply – will change dramatically.”
These retail and retail adjacent sectors are being transformed by the ongoing and ever-evolving IoT revolution.
By improving the customer experience through digital connectivity and data collection, smart stores help retailers retain business and increase revenues. Theoretically, anyway. From helpful robots that roam the aisles monitoring inventory to point-of-sale systems that let customers buy items on the spot instead of standing in a checkout line, the shopping experience is being transformed.
Location: Aliso Viejo, California
How it’s using IoT in retail: AWM's SmartShelf is outfitted with edge displays and high-def optical sensors to display product pricing and information that transmit data about inventory levels. It can also recognize a consumer’s age, gender and ethnicity for the purposes of delivering more specific display content.
Industry impact: Retail clients include WalMart, Hershey and Frito Lay.
Location: Denver, Colorado
How it’s using IoT in retail: Flonomics’ counting system and retail analytics technology helps retailers determine optimal staffing levels for different dates and times, improve marketing strategies, gauge traffic flow, enhance customer service and more.
Industry impact: Clients include Room & Board, Helly Hansen and Madame Tussaud’s Hollywood.
Location: Davis, California
How it’s using IoT in retail: Engage3’s Competitive Intelligence Platform helps retailers determine a pricing strategy by providing competitive price data and product linking capabilities as well as machine-learning-based analytics, all on one dashboard.
Industry impact: Engage3 was recently included on the Inc. 5000 list of Fastest-Growing Private Companies in the U.S.
Personalized deals, assistance finding products and easy checkout are just some of the ways retailers are staying connected with customers using IoT technology. These companies help make it happen.
Location: Brooklyn, New York
How it’s using IoT in retail: Caper Lab makes a smart self-checkout cart powered by Amazon-Go's AI, sensor and image recognition technology. Customers simply pick items from shelves, scan the item’s barcode, drop it in the cart, and pay directly on the cart when shopping is done. No app necessary, no cash changes hands, no waiting in line.
Industry impact: According to the latest news, Caper’s product has yet to hit the consumer marketplace.
Location: San Francisco, California
How it’s using IoT in retail: Plexure’s AI-driven platform helps retailers get the right messages to the right customers at the right times via mobile. The company’s simple interface includes “out-of-the-box personalized messaging, order and payment, loyalty and analytics with low total cost of ownership.”
Industry impact: Plexure recently saw its first net profit ($1.1 million) thanks to a 51% revenue increase for the six months ended Sept. 30.
Location: New York, New York
How it’s using IoT in retail: Kontakt makes several different IoT-enabled beacons that can track movements (of assets, employees, visitors), monitor environmental factors (temperature, humidity, light) and be stuck to stationary objects like shelves and ceilings to improve customer engagement and location-based content.
Industry impact: The company recently released three new Bluetooth products that will allow customers “to onboard third-party Bluetooth devices for real-time location tracking, condition monitoring and safety and security solutions.”
More easily locating items, reducing damage and increasing efficiency and productivity are just some of the ways retail warehouses are getting smarter through the use of IoT technology. These companies help make it happen.
Location: Seattle, Washington
How it’s using IoT in retail: Through its cloud-based platform, Flexe provides flexible on-demand warehousing by connecting companies and organizations that need space with those that have a surplus of space. The company’s North American marketplace includes more than 1,000 warehouses in more than 45 markets.
Industry impact: Flexe CEO Karl Siebrecht recently said his company is using part of a $14.5 million raise from 2016 to hire more software engineering and logistics professionals who can further improve the company’s software.
Location: Wilmingham, Massachusetts
How it’s using IoT in retail: Locus Robotics makes autonomous mobile robots that optimize warehouse operations by reducing labor costs and improving order fulfillment speed and accuracy, all without disruption to ongoing warehouse operations.
Industry impact: Locus robots are used by the worldwide shipping company DHL in some of the company’s more modern facilities.
Location: Boston, Massachusetts
How it’s using IoT in retail: Digital Lumens provides software, products and system integration through its cloud-based intelligence platform SiteWorx that enables connected LED lighting and IoT sensors. It claims to provide lighting for a tenth the cost as well as a reduced carbon footprint.
Industry impact: In order to meet company sustainability initiatives and comply with California’s Building Energy code, Gelson’s supermarket chain recently chose an intelligent lighting system from Digital Lumans for its massive distribution center in Santa Fe Springs, Calif.
Supply Chain Management
As Forbes contributor Daniel Newman recently put it, “The IoT is set to revolutionize the supply chain with both operational efficiencies and revenue opportunities” with its extreme transparency. Every step along the way, from production to transportation to storage to retail stocking is trackable and monitorable. These companies are helping to guide the way.
Location: Lincolnshire, Illinois
How it’s using IoT in retail: Zebra’s rugged tracking technology employs IoT to provide real-time visibility of products and people, whether in the warehouse or in transit. Services include customer fulfillment and experience as well as in-store operations like couponing, point-of-sale and inventory management. Through its IoT-connected Savanna data intelligence platform, the company offers an array of business solutions — including something called SmartLens, which automatically senses and records location and movement data for almost every item in a store, then offers actionable intelligence based on that data.
Industry impact: German supermarket chain Feneberg Lebensmittel GmbH upgraded its checkout systems with Zebra Technologies.
Location: Cambridge, Massachusetts
How it’s using IoT in retail: Through its proprietary sensor and software, Tive helps users keep real-time tabs on the condition of their shipped goods, notifying them about shock, vibration, tilt and other factors that might detrimentally affect those goods. Doing so allows retailers to expedite a replacement shipment and give customers a heads-up. Tive users are also able to tell when and where the damage occurred so future routes can be adjusted if necessary.
Industry impact: Tive recently upgraded its multi-sensor tracker, which now has a much longer battery life and more accurate WiFi-powered location tracking.
Location: Minneapolis, Minnesota
How it’s using IoT in retail: HighJump’s software gets inventory and information from supplier to shelf more quickly and efficiently for thousands of customers around the world. The company provides solutions that include warehouse management systems, transportation management systems, route accounting systems and much more.
Industry impact: The company recently rolled out its HighJump Warehouse Management System that will use IoT-culled data to improve warehouse operations.
Predictive Equipment Maintenance
Knowing when a piece of equipment might break down, or when it actually does break down, is invaluable when it comes to stocking, shipping, storage and more. These companies provide products and services that keep equipment in working condition and retail-related operations chugging along.
Location: Redwood City, California
How it’s using IoT in retail: Machinery supplier C3 uses IoT-enabled AI and machine learning to identify failures proactively by employing dynamic algorithms that analyze sensor data, SCADA data, asset management systems — even technician notes and weather — to predict failure well in advance and learn from that failure to fine-tune its future predictions.
Industry impact: The company recently updated its platform with a host of new features as well as improvements to applications used for inventory optimization, predictive maintenance and more.
Location: Chicago, Illinois
How it’s using IoT in retail: Cognizant’s technology helps bring non-digital things into the digital age. In the retail sector, it works with consumer goods, department stores, discount stores and grocers to enhance customer service, maximize profits, optimize merchandising, tweak pricing and much more.
Industry impact: Cognizant recently installed IoT-enabled sensors to cull and transmit data from a retailer’s refrigeration equipment controllers. The platform logged, monitored and predicted alarms and failures.
Location: Rome, Italy
How it’s using IoT in retail: Telit provides IoT modules, platforms, connectivity and services for multiple sectors, including retail, that give users real-time insight into buyer behavior and inventory. The company’s IoT retail applications include vending machines and kiosks, digital signage and monitoring systems for food and beverage companies.
Industry impact: The company recently announced the launch of mini IoT modules for use with wearable medical devices, fitness trackers, industrial sensors, smart metering and other applications.
Images via social media, Shutterstock and screenshots of company web pages.