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Today, retail stores are constantly focusing on leveraging the emerging technologies like cloud, mobile, RFID, beacons, etc., to provide connected retail services and better shopping experience to customers. For example, store owners are integrating sensors in the key zones of retail stores and connecting them to cloud through a gateway that enables real-time data analysis related to products, sales, and customers from these sensors.

Interestingly, IoT and connected technologies are taking the retail industry by storm. 96% retailers are ready to make changes required to implement the Internet of Things in their stores

IoT in retail can help retailers improve store operations, enhance customer experience and drive more conversions. Moreover, IoT can help retailers solve day-to-day problems such as tracking energy utilization, managing in-floor navigation, detecting crowded areas, reducing check out timings, managing product shelves, preventing theft, monitoring goods, etc. Let us how IoT helps in few of these scenarios.

 

 

In-Store Navigation with IoT-enabled Devices

Identifying in-store navigation is one of the common problems in retail stores. Here, IoT devices with integrated technologies like Bluetooth, Wi-Fi, magnetic positions and augmented reality, etc., can facilitate in-store navigation to help customers navigate through the store and find the desired product.

It gives customers a multichannel shopping experience through digitization of physical assets. In-store navigation also helps increase the path to purchase rate before a product stock outs.

Example:
Bluetooth low energy (BLE) beacons are small sensors placed strategically throughout the retail store. These sensors are equipped with Bluetooth smart technology and compatible with smartphones. This BLE beacon device sends out continuous radio signals to nearby smart devices in the range. Smart devices in that range catch the signal and trigger events such as availability of a new product or launch of a new offer. Further, that device sends a unique ID to cloud server. The server checks that ID and responds back, through which communication between signal and smart device is established using a unique ID. Almost all customers nowadays carry smart devices like mobile phones and tablets. If BLE is used, customers can be notified on their smartphone with personalized coupons and deals as soon as they enter the store.

The above solution improves customer’s in-store experience and also increases footfall ratio. It also facilitates quick product search and increases conversion rates while generating a powerful shopping environment that can help enhance product offerings and store layouts.

Energy Management with Smart Devices

Energy consumption is a major cost consuming factor for the retail businesses, be it in refrigeration, lighting, heating, air conditioning, etc. Using these energy sources efficiently can bring cost saving of up to 20 percent per year. IoT-enabled smart devices can help resolve problems of energy management and saving.

There are several IoT-based platforms that can log, monitor and beep alarms or alert the in-store personnel about temperature, energy usage, heating, gas leakage, electricity breakdowns, etc., with the help of integrated sensors. Using these smart energy management devices, store owners can directly interact with the controllers of refrigerators and retrieve prioritized information with the help of sensors.

Example:
Every year, a large retail chain attributes nearly $2B of loss to wasted or spoiled food, with issues relating to its legacy refrigeration system, accounting for approximately 15% of this total—or $300 mm. In case of emergency situations like powercut or excessive heating, alarms from the controllers of these refrigeration systems reach the operations team only after 5 or 6 hours, and there is no mechanism to provide warnings before these situations occur. Here smart refrigeration IoT device can provide cloud-based temperature monitoring solution to notify the controllers about emergencies using temperature sensors and mesh networking technology.

Theft Prevention with Geo-Fencing

The crime of shoplifting in the retail industry is increasing day-by-day, because retailers fail to provide sufficient attention to shoplifters. According to National Association for Shoplifting Prevention (NASP), more than $25 million worth of merchandise gets stolen from retail shops each day. Adding more to retailers’ loss is retail shrinkage, which includes shoplifting, employe theft, paperwork error, vendor fraud and many more.

To overcome the problem of shoplifting and retail shrinkage, retailers can use Geo-fencing technique.
Geo-fencing relies on the global positioning system or a radio frequency identification (RFID) tag that allows a store operator to create a virtual barrier or zone around specific locations in retail shops. When a customer tries to move product from the specific location, an alert is triggered and a message is sent to the store in-charge. Geo-fencing enabled in IoT devices or beacons can help retailers in a number of ways; from keeping goods safe, tracking customers and employee movements, managing company-owned resources to minimizing incidents of theft and loss.

Customer Engagement with Sensor-Enabled Shopping Carts

The sensor-enabled shopping cart is a technique adopted by most of the retail merchandisers. These shopping carts help retailers grow their business in every aspect by helping them visualize shopper’s flows by category/subcategory, understand the shopping pattern, analyze the dwell path, and enable faster checkout.

This smart cart design involves sensors with connectivity protocols around the cart, which have the ability to track the movement of the wheels and match up with the distance the cart has traveled. It helps retailers with an accurate data of shopping carts with the inside-store journey. The data from this cart can be sent to the server or to cloud for further analysis.

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With the exponential increase in the IoT and connected devices, it is difficult to ensure scalability, security, and robustness of these devices. Cloud computing platforms like AWS help enterprises accelerate their development to deployment cycles, enhancing robustness and scalability of the entire IoT solution.

People perceive cloud as a platform only for storage and computing. However, there are many other capabilities that cloud offers with cloud computing, such as application deployment, data transfer, database management, etc. Moreover, with the onset of IoT and connected technologies, the role of cloud computing has expanded even more in terms of enabling communication between devices and providing scalability to applications.

How Cloud Computing Helps in IoT Deployment

In today’s time, deploying an IoT solution takes a lot of effort and time, due to the increased number of software applications and hardware integration it requires. Also, when it comes to deploying a new, robust and scalable IoT platform for any industry vertical, it can be very tedious and costly to set up the infrastructure. For example, in a smart factory model, there are many machines and devices to be connected to the cloud. Developing a whole new infrastructure for those Internet of Things applications from the scratch can take up to five to six months’ time in development, deployment, and testing. This prolonged time delay is not appropriate since enterprises need to respond to the market demands quickly, especially when the market competition is too high and when the connected devices and technologies are increasing exponentially. This is where cloud computing plays a crucial role in IoT deployment.

There are several cloud platforms and service providers such as AWS (Amazon Web Services), Azure, and Google Cloud for deploying IoT solutions. Of these, we will focus on the integrating AWS cloud platform in this blog.

Why AWS Cloud Platform

Cloud service platforms like AWS help enterprises accelerate their development cycle from months to a few days and hours, allowing them to build a robust and scalable IoT solution. AWS platform also allows easy and secure on-boarding of billions of devices according to the enterprise’s needs. It is one of the robust platforms for accelerated development, which enables the developers to connect the device to cloud quickly. AWS has recently launched AWS IoT 1-Click that easily triggers the Lambda function for any device to perform a specific action.

AWS is offering various services like cloud computing, machine learning, analytics, storage, IoT platform, security, AR & VR, etc. With AWS, organizations are just paying for the services that they utilize, which provides the benefits of cost reduction and better asset management.

Let us see how an enterprise IoT solution can be leveraged with the AWS IoT platform.

Sensor and Device Connectivity with Edge Analytics

The most important and basic aspect of an IoT solution is to connect all the devices and sensors to the cloud for management and control. Since the development of software and services to connect the devices to the cloud is tedious and time-consuming, AWS IoT Core helps IoT developers with AWS IoT SDK, which allows them to choose SDKs according to their choice of hardware for applications development. These applications help users in managing their IoT devices on air.

  • The AWS IoT SDK supports C, JavaScript, Arduino, Python, iOS, and Android with open source libraries and developer guide, which helps developers with their IoT product development. AWS IoT Core consists of the Device Gateway that allows bidirectional communication between devices and the AWS. The device gateway ensures that the devices are communicating through cloud securely and efficiently in real time. This device gateway supports MQTT, Websockets, and HTTP 1.1. It can also support billions of devices at a time without the infrastructure management.
  • Device gateway also consists of the AWS Greengrass a software agent that runs the computing on the edge for the connected devices. Greengrass consists of the Lambda Function, which allows users to run the rule engines, which are coded for particular events like temperature rise, light intensity, etc. AWS Greengrass also brings the AWS to the devices so that they can perform the local compute on the data when they are already using the cloud for other processes like management and storage. It can also be programmed for transferring only necessary information to the cloud after the local compute has been executed.
  • Greengrass enables the device to cloud data security by encrypting the data. This data can be secured for both local and cloud communications. So, no one can access this data without any authentication. It uses the same security model as AWS IoT Core, which contains the mutual device authentication and authorization and secured cloud connectivity.
  • Organizations can also create the digital twins, also known as Device Shadowing, for their IoT devices in the AWS cloud. In device shadowing, the current state of IoT devices gets replicated in the cloud virtually and this virtual image can be accessed at the time of no internet. This helps in the prediction of the desired future state of a device. IoT Core then compares this desired state with the previously accounted state and can send the command to the device for making up this difference.

Cloud Computing and Storage

The Internet of Things generates a huge data at every moment. The storage and management of this data require a lot of infrastructure deployments and maintenance efforts. AWS provides storage and computing services, which help enterprises in reducing the infrastructure development cost. These services also provide real-time analytics and accessibility of the data at any moment. Also, the developers can access the required data from the cloud without any delay.

  • When we talk about the data management, AWS Kinesis can be considered as a great example of the real-time data streaming and analytics. It continuously analyzes, captures, and stores the huge heterogeneous data (terabytes per hour) that gets generated from the IoT devices or any other resources.
  • After the data has been stored, Amazon EC2 (Elastic Compute Cloud) provides a secure, resizable, compute capacity in the cloud. Its web service interface allows developers to scale their computing requirement with minimal efforts. Users can scale up and down their computing resources according to the requirement and they just have to pay for the resources utilized. Apart from that, AWS also provides data storage services as AWS S3 and Glacier. They both provide 99% durability, comprehensive security and compliance capabilities that can help meet even the most stringent regulatory requirements. Amazon S3 and Glacier both allow running powerful analytics on the data on the rest.
  • For Database management, AWS provides its service called AWS DynamoDB as NoSQL database that can support both key document-based database. Due to the NoSQL database, it enables benefits like ease of development, scalable performance, high availability, and resilience.
  • For data and asset security, AWS has features and services like AWS Identity and Access Management, AWS Key Management Services, and AWS Shield along with the AWS Cloud HSM to enhance the security.

eInfochips (an Arrow company) is an Advanced Consulting Partner for AWS services. We help clients in implementing a highly scalable, reliable, and cost-efficient infrastructure with custom solutions for IoT on the AWS platform. Know more about our AWS services.

 

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When Internet becomes commonplace, the world will become a smaller place where anything and everything will communicate with each other.

This is why Internet of Things app development has become such a hot topic in the recent days.

“In 2016, global spending on the IoT was approximately $737 billion. IDC predicts that by 2020, it will touch $1.29 trillion with a CAGR of 15.6 percent.”

This make us wonder how much does it cost to build an iot app? As a Digital Transformations company that has developed and launched Iot apps for healthcare, connected cars and connected manufacturing, we feel we are the best fits to answer this question.

The Multidimensional Impact of IoT App Development

There are two things to consider in IoT app development. The cost of building an iot app is also directly reliant on these two things. They are:

  1. App concept
  2. Proof of concept

The App Concept, in simple terms is the idea of the app. It should pertain to an industry, like healthcare, manufacturing, logistics, retail, automobiles, etc. The idea should be to connect and automate a process which was earlier dependent on manual processes.

Example: Collecting pressure, volume or heat readings from factory equipment

The idea should be conceived in such a manner that it can be collaborated or integrated with existing mobile applications for extensive usage and scalability.

The Proof of Concept (PoC) is like a feasibility report for your app concept. It establishes the workflow of your app and proves that it is possible to scale the concept into actual operations. Ideally, the PoC will be implemented in a real-life scenario where its commercial viability can be measured and recorded.

Example:  A manufacturing plant for automobiles that wants to automate its manufacturing workflow at each stage of operations at body shop, paint shop and dispatch.

Once you have sketched out the app concept and proof of concept you will have a precise idea of your app development requirements, like:

  • Hardware
  • Infrastructure
  • App in ioS, Android or Windows

Challenges in IoT App Development

Now comes the tough part. Unlike ordinary mobile app development, developing apps for IoT devices calls for unique set of abilities and infrastructure. The choice of hardware is the primary challenge.

The hardware should be something which has a tiny physical size and also can run for a long span of time without running out of power. The sensor must also have a low power appetite to meet the low cost expectations of an enterprise.

IoT devices primarily connect over a variety of connectivity protocols like Bluetooth, Wifi, Zigbee, RFID, Infrared, etc.

There are also other protocols followed for device identification, sensors, security and devices. The image below depicts how a typical IoT ecosystem is distributed.

Picking the right mix from the above is one of the toughest challenges in getting started with IoT development. The cost of building an IoT solution is also directly proportional to the choices made.


How Long Does it Bring an IoT to Market?


Wireframing, developing and deploying an IoT market is a hypothetical matter. There is no one answer which fits all situations. Depending on the app’s complexity, hardware used, software configurations required, the time required will vary. Some other factors which determine the time to market include:

  • Project size
  • Features involved
  • Dynamic changes 
  • New tech to be included
  • Visual Identification

Further, the cost to develop iot app will also increase or decrease with relevance to the teams involved. For a simple IoT app that can connect a Thing to a mobile app or cloud server will need a basic team consisting of:

  • 2 developers
  • 1 UI/UX designer
  • 1 QA engineer
  • 1 Project manager

For advanced IoT app development, the team requirement will include:

  • 3 to 4 developers
  • 1 UI/UX designer
  • 1 Business Analyst
  • 1 Backend developer
  • 1 Administrator
  • 1 Panel Designer
  • 1 QA engineer
  • 1 Project Manager

Overall, the cost estimation for IoT app development can be summarized as under:

  • Basic App - $3,000 to $8,000
  • Complex app - $8,000 to $15,000
  • Highly sophisticated app - $15,000 onwards

Is this a final quote for iot app development cost? Not exactly. Every mobile app, especially one designed to work with IoT will have dynamic pricing. 

 

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