What was the last thing you bought online? Why didn’t you go to a store to buy it? Was it for the vast number of items you could scroll through before making a choice or the recommendations that the website or app pulled up for you, remembering your choices and interests from a previous visit, or the ease with which you paid for it with a card whose details were already stored with the website?
The online shopping experience is leaps and bounds ahead of the traditional experience in terms of using data and technology to provide unique and personalized customer experiences. While brick and mortar stores also have their own upsides, the move towards omni-channel retailing today is key.
So what does an omni-channel experience really mean? The term refers to merging of services and features of multiple channels in order to provide a seamless, integrated and consistent experience to users. It means bringing the best of online shopping to the physical store to enrich customer experiences and create new channels for revenue generation.
The reason that e-retailers are able to provide a vast number of superior and personalized features is because of access to a larger volume of data and analytics. Their algorithms are constantly monitoring your every step, from consideration to the point where a sale occurs. Traditional retailers need the same approach and connected products under Internet of Things provide a way to do exactly that. A digital transformation of store assets by connecting them to each other and the internet through means of sensors or digital tags (barcodes, QR codes, Datamatrix codes, NFC & RFID tags) working together with AI and cloud computing, will result in smart connected products at every point within a customer’s journey, collecting and analyzing data.
Many brands already have an online presence as well as applications from where one can directly buy their products. However, a true omni-channel retail experience is one where it works in tandem with, influences and enhances the in-store shopping experience.
A number of leading brands are also coming up with innovations to improve customer engagement and play to their expectations born from online buying habits regarding a seamless and hassle-free shopping experience. Here is a look at the areas within a brick and mortar store that could see incorporation of connected products to facilitate an omni-channel retail experience.
Analytics and personalized services and features go hand in hand together. Brands need to know about their customers in order to curate services for them. Data on a customer’s journey across the store, products they pick up or put back, keeping track of their past purchases and recommending more according to that, and extending coupons and offers specifically for them; feeding data of such nature into algorithms that perform analytics then deliver insights upon which personalized services can then be built.
Kroger has partnered up with Microsoft to roll out EDGE™ Shelves (Enhanced Display for Grocery Environment). Equipped with digital displays, these shelves promise to provide a unique guided customer experience. The solution will also utilize in-store sensors to identify individual shoppers and extend custom recommendations, promotions and offers as well as other personalized content.
Customer’s in-store journey:
The journey of a user buying things online is not too complex; browse, select, pay. If they are a regular customer, chances are the app already knows their delivery points and payment details. A similar journey is far more difficult to emulate inside a retail store. The popularity of Endless Aisles technology is a step in this direction. This technology is based on the observation of how some people fail to find a particular product in their size or colour. No problem! They can simply place an order with their specifications using an endless aisle in the form of an interactive kiosk within the store itself, and the product gets delivered at their doorstep in a couple of days. It’s a win-win situation; customers don’t leave the store unsatisfied and the retailer does not lose out on a sale.
Another feature gaining traction is “click and collect/return”, where customers can place orders through the brand website or mobile app and collect their items from a store at their own convenience.
Smartphones are everywhere and 71% of consumers use theirs to conduct research on products before buying them in-store. Retailers can capitalize on this medium’s ubiquitousness and familiarity to create a similar experience inside retail stores. Modern consumers are also more conscious of how their lifestyle choices, including products they buy and consume, impact the environment and society. Electronic labeling practices incorporating scannable QR codes, RFID tags or NFC stickers, let the customer pull up expanded product information instantly on their smartphones, presenting more than a simple ingredients list, and allowing the brand to display the entire journey of the product from its origin to the shelf. These tags can be further utilized to enrich customer experiences by providing tailor made content for a particular customer such as promotions and offers.
In-store navigation services are another example where connected smart products can contribute to unique multi-channel experiences. Retailer Target has installed store fixtures like LED lights which have built-in bluetooth beacons. Their app takes advantage of these beacons to locate users inside the store and guide them to their desired locations by pulling feed from shopping lists stored by the user on it. French Retail giant Carrefour in partnership with Philips has implemented a similar system, however using Visible Light Communication (VLC) technology instead. VLC enabled LEDs emit a code that is readable by any camera on a smartphone, connecting customers to the digital experience provided by the store through their app.
Beating the Queue
Amazon Go is the true embodiment of what a connected retail store of the future will look like. Customers in these cashierless stores need not stand in long queues for checkout as they can just grab what they wish to purchase and walk out. The exit turnstiles trigger an automatic payment from the customer’s credit card, which is already stored on the app, on leaving the store. Not only are these stores getting rid of one of the most annoying bits about shopping in a a brick and mortar store, they are also combining multiple sensors across the store to collect a treasure trove of valuable data. Weight sensors on shelves know exactly when an item is removed from the shelf, or when it is put back. Multiple cameras track and record each customer’s movements within the store. Computer vision along with intelligent algorithms combine to create a unique identification for each customer and separate them from others.
Traditional brick and mortar stores are in an urgent need to innovate in order to maintain a competitive edge by keeping up with consumer expectations and habits, which are constantly evolving thanks to e-commerce. They need to look towards Internet of Things and establish a connected and digital ecosystem within their stores which collect valuable data on their customers, data that can then be converted into smart insights, on the foundation of which smart decisions can be taken to provide sophisticated, delightful and engaging customer experiences.
The massive data streams produced by IoT devices can be efficiently processed using flow-based programming. This approach allows for the interconnection of multiple IoT devices, creating a flow between them, and thus the ability to exchange data across predefined connections and networks.
Thanks to the capabilities of the cloud, this approach can facilitate the processing of deep real-time telemetry data pools. Such a solution can be especially useful in asset-intensive industries such as logistics and transportation, automotive, agriculture, utilities, oil, gas and manufacturing.
Learn how to build IoT telemetry simulators for Azure and Amazon cloud platforms using the Node-RED tool. Read more...
The three Ds – decarbonisation, decentralisation and digitisation – are transforming the energy sector, as the quest for a carbon-free world continues. This falls on a backdrop of the IoT’s driving of efficiency around wind turbines and solar systems, which look set to represent the future of global energy consumption. The new connected energy business model is already here, it is called the internet of energy.
The internet of energy explained
The year is 2018 and the demand for clean energy has never been higher. Governments presiding over developed markets face pressures to cut emissions in the face of global warming, while projections from the International Energy Agency outlines a rise of 55% in the global demand for energy between 2005 – 2030.
Access to energy has already increased in recent years, but with the UN estimating global population growth of a further two billion by 2040, the coming years will lead to huge pressure on solar and wind power to meet this growing demand.
Another factor is the decentralisation of energy grids as a result of old, centralised systems failing to integrate newer units, like solar panels. Operators claim that billions are being spent on stabilising faulty power grids every year, with some of this passing onto the consumer.
A solution comes in the form of an internet of energy, whose technology can provide the infrastructure for decentralised, smarter energy grids and a stable supply of power.
The future of power
The internet of energy is based on a foundation of data, collected by a network of sensors with varying applications.
General Electric is one of the groups that use sensors within its turbines to monitor things like output and productivity. This is funnelled into a computer providing information on external factors, like the weather or fuel costs, which churns out recommendations for peak performance.
Artificial intelligence is ideal in this situation as a result of its ability to analyse data much quicker and more effectively than humans. In 2017 the concept was praised by the United States Department of Energy following its examination of past fluctuations in power to determine the answers for a more stable and efficient grid.
Quantum computing is another area of much interest for energy players. Its ability to process and store data at a faster pace than a classical computer makes it perfect for oil rigs, where tens of thousands of sensors are used to collect information on the performance of equipment.
At the core of further decentralisation has been blockchain; touted by China’s State Grid Corporation as a way of securing information on things like use of power and market prices. Data can then be shared with government bodies and private firms to develop a deeper understanding of the country’s energy consumption.
In near enough every use case of the internet of energy, there is an underlying theme: connectivity. By collecting, analysing and trading data via a secure, decentralised network, the energy industry can start to find a route towards providing renewables for the world’s population.
The truth is, solar and wind turbines will not solve our problems alone. With revelations that the annual waste of renewable energy from China is enough to power Beijing for an entire year, there is a clear need for a network to make better use of this equipment.
Given the rising demand for energy – and its following of a production model that dates back over 100 years – our companies must embrace the innovations that can accelerate its production. Through an internet of energy, we might have found the answer.
Get in touch to see how your own organisation can benefit from decentralised solutions and IoT.
Originally published at eleks.com
In recent years I have listened till the satiety about the importance of ecosystems to make the promises of the IoT come true and in some way for not to leave in bad position the analysts who have flooded us with their optimistic predictions.
All, or at least most of those who read my articles know that there is no company in the world, no matter how great it is, it can do everything in IoT. So, ecosystems are the key to successfully in this business.
The ecosystem allows to achieve a multiplier effect and a trusted environment.
Creating an IoT ecosystem either horizontal (technology) or vertical (industry) requires a lot of talent alliance managers able to maintain win-win transactions over the time.
Select an IoT ecosystem is not an easy task. In the IoT ecosystems there are fights between equals, also abuses usually produced from the big ones over the little ones. There are conflicts with companies that are in several ecosystems sometimes with contradictory interests. It is very usual how partners collide with the objectives of the ecosystem and you can imagine betrayals and back stabs.
In my post “The value of partnership in Industrial Internet of Things” and subsequent comments I presented several successful cases of collaboration among members of these ecosystems. But let's be honest, there are few references and examples after 4 years.
The fragility of Alliances in IoT is a challenge to accelerate adoption of IoT Ecosystem solutions.
In Harbor Research article “ Has Anyone Seen A Real Internet of Things Ecosystem?” ,dated November 2013, the analyst firm wrote that no really significant ecosystem or network of collaborators had emerged in the IoT arena in spite there was early and very interesting efforts being made by several players. We can thing that in 2013, these ecosystems were very emergent alliance developments and have had not attained the scale, scope and momentum we expect will be required to really drive this opportunity to its intended and expected scale. Most of the attempts thus far to drive an ecosystem advantage have failed to scale and reach critical mass. This just underscores how challenging building a high velocity network of partners can be.
In this article I will focus my analysis on 4 examples of IoT ecosystems that represent a big portion of the value chain in the multiple IoT submarkets: IoT Connectivity Provider, IoT Cloud Platform Vendor, IoT Professional Services and IoT Solution Aggregator.
Telefonica: IoT Connectivity Ecosystem - https://iot.telefonica.com/partners
One of my first attempts to monetize my IoT services was through the Telefonica IoT Solution Partners program. It was four years ago. At the beginning I received a couple of calls from the Operator to help me create my account and describe my services. We were many partners and although the Partners Search portal left a lot to be desired, I did not see much competition in my services and I thought that we would be the perfect accelerator for the ecosystem. I was wrong. Since I register, I have not received any invitation to participate in any event for partners, nor has anyone contacted me to request my services, nor have I needed the portal for contact any other partner (for that I already have my LinkedIn network).
How the hell are you going to find me as IoT Solution partner if Telefonica IoT web page does not offer a link to the partner search page ? and the use of this non update page is frustrating with duplicates names, closed companies, etc.
Telefonica identifies 3 types of Partners: Operators Alliances, Channel Partners and Solution Partners.
Operators Alliances: Telefonica is partnering with other Tier-1 telecom operators including the IoT World Alliance and other operators like China Unicom, Sunrise and Avea in order to provide IoT customers with the best, seamless services worldwide and lower costs.
Channel Partners: Telefonica enables partners to drive growth and differentiate their business by reselling their Global Managed IoT services. It helps to increase their capabilities, enabling deployment on a global scale, in particular in regions such as Europe and Latin America
Solution Partners: Telefonica Solution Partners ecosystem consists of a global network of IoT providers with functional or industrial expertise: IoT Device Providers, IoT System Integrators and IoT Industrial Experts.
I never liked the idea of Telefonica oriented to quantity (around 1000 partners including duplicate names and not updated list) instead of quality in Partners and I think the results have been and are very poor. Clearly a point to improve if they want the IoT to take off inside the Operator.
Talking with Telefonica IoT you quickly recognize that if you are not Microsoft, AWS, or similar unless you bring business to them you will never get business from them.
Telefonica does not lead any IoT ecosystem, neither geographically, nor industrially nor technologically. It is just one more logo (important of course) in many presentations of IoT vendors.
I can not understand of its win-win strategy and goto market regarding IoT platforms. In addition to its own platform, Telefonica appears as a partner of at least Microsoft Azure, PTC-Thingworx, SAG Cumulocity, AWS IoT, Cisco Jasper, Libelium, etc. Maybe they should select partners around ‘share of outcome’ rather than share of investment if they want to lead some ecosystem. Pecking is good for the birds.
Telefonica need an open-minded company culture to become comfortable with an ecosystem structure.
IoT Cloud Platform Vendor - Microsoft IoT Ecosystem
Having worked at Microsoft, I recognize that I have had the temptation to become an IoT partner. But also, because my business model is based on vendor independence my decision was to help other companies to enter in the MSFT IoT ecosystem
This year I was convinced that I needed to change my approach. But, instead of becoming a partner, I decided to convince other 2 Microsoft partners strong in complementary disciplines (Business Intelligence and Cloud) to create a specific area for IoT. I have not succeeded, which makes me think that despite the efforts and investment planned by Microsoft, Partners do not see IoT business clearly yet.
The list of Internet of Things Trusted Partners certified in Microsoft Azure Certified is impress and I recognize the effort of Microsoft building an IoT ecosystem that fuels business transformation. Without going further, the largest partnership with GE Predix and the partnership with PTC will help industry customers accelerate their digital transformations by adopting IoT.
In this case, finding an partner de Microsoft Azure IoT is easier than in the previous case. The categories of IoT partners for Microsoft are: Devices, Gateways, security, isv, network and telecommunication and system integrators.
By the way, no partner in Spain according with this web. ☹. Maybe is the right time to invest.
Microsoft is expert identifying, nurturing and managing partners and Azure IoT is a great opportunity to lead some IoT ecosystems.
IoT Professional Services - EY IoT Ecosystem
EY, otherwise known as Ernst and Young, is a leader in the IoT space. Not involved in the construction of devices themselves, EY is instead helping organisations navigate the largely unchartered waters of IoT.
While working in an engagement with EY IoT, I read a report developed by Forrester Research dated Oct/18, 2017 “Vendor Landscape: IoT Professional Services”. This report segments the landscape of IoT Professional Services firms, based on functional capabilities to help enterprises deploy IoT-enabled processes, vertical market focus, and geographic reach. Based on the service offerings, vertical capabilities, and characteristics of a broad array of professional services firms, Forrester has identified eight categories. The major players in the consulting firm segment include Deloitte, EY, KPMG, and PWC because these strategic consulting firms combine strong business strategy capabilities with the ability to execute on digital transformation initiatives. The report clearly showed EY strong IoT capabilities across the globe. EY was also recognized as Internet of Things services leader by HFS Research.
For EY, initiatives like launch a global IoT/OT Security Lab to help clients stay ahead of emerging threats or to launch EY wavespace™, a global network of growth and innovation centers to help clients achieve radical breakthroughs is a way to demonstrate its strategic alliances like SAP, GE Digital, Microsoft, IBM or Cisco how important is to create an ecosystem with the firm. These technology vendors rely on EY to implement IoT solutions in large customers with a business-driven approach.
Do not expect EY or any of the consulting firms to lead any IoT ecosystem. Their role is to leverage their business strengths and client relationship to empower the ecosystems to which they belong
IoT Solution Aggregator - Tech Data IoT Ecosystem
Perhaps the most complex task I have done regarding advising of IoT ecosystems was with one of the largest IT distributors in the world, Tech Data. The challenge of balancing players like Microsoft, Dell, Cisco, IBM, Schneider or Vodafone with innovative startups in several industry verticals and different use cases without anyone feeling careless was very exciting.
To find a right place for Tech Data in the IoT value proposition schema, , was another challenge. It was great helping the company defining its role as an IoT Solution Aggregator and define which partners should be included for Tech Data IoT repeatable solutions.
Tech Data has been able to demonstrate how to become useful for IT and OT vendors and how provide value to existing and new channel of IIOT system Integrators worldwide.
I always have believed this approach could make easy for their small and medium end clients to adopt IoT solutions quickly.
I did not have time during my engagement with Tech Data to analyse and support the launch on new business models, but I am sure they will leverage its position to offer new services based on data aggregation.
Education, the latest products, support services, and firm footing in the B2B world put IoT Solution Integrators at the centre of the Internet of Things craze.
The IoT market is still in its early stage. Enterprises face many different options for IoT partners and suppliers. Choosing the right ecosystem is critical not only for a successful IoT project implementation but for the journey in their Digital Transformation.
IoT ecosystems need to understand that most industries thrive on "coopetition," it’s important to become cognizant and respectful of competitors, as they may also be your potential partners.
Just like with people, when it comes to IoT business, no two ecosystems are alike. We have been helping different type of companies to build or enter in the most suitable ecosystem. I have no doubt only the best ecosystems will survive; the challenge is to rank among so many. It is really a nightmare.
Ecosystems is hardly new but as rapidly evolving and if they are able to leverage the shared data and information from intelligent sensors, machines and assets, radical new modes of value creation will emerge.
We are fast moving towards a future where cities will feature hundreds and thousands of smart connected objects, talking to each other, exchanging and producing meaningful data and insights, basically reshaping the urban landscape into intelligent and autonomous systems. Internet of Things will be at the heart of this technological transformation, as sensors and digital tags will find their way into various physical city infrastructure, monitoring traffic, weather, crime and even rat infestations! However, it’s not just hardware IoT and sensors that will provide city planners and authorities to gain more visibility into the working and management of a city. Smart connected products or ordinary consumer products tagged with digital ID’s and digital twins can open up new dimensions in how we imagine Smart Cities to function.
For the sake of painting a picture of the role of connected products within Smart Cities, let’s consider a pharmaceutical company supplying critical drugs to a city. Enabling every drug product at batch and serial item level to have a digital twin of its physical self will allow for exchange of product related data to happen between manufacturer, the supply chain, the city authorities, end consumers and the products themselves. Read on to see how the pharmaceutical industry could look like in the not so distant future.
Smart Logistics & Traceability: Digitally tagged consumer products such as medical products will paint a clearer picture of each item’s journey from the manufacturing facility to the hands of a customer, resulting in intelligent movement of products characterized by autonomy. Each time a product moves, whether it’s from the factory to a truck, or from the truck to a warehouse, its location and movement will be logged against its digital twin in real time with the help of a scanner, RFID reader, smartphone or other connected devices.
So, when situations arise where brands or smart city authorities become aware of substandard or defective products in circulation, the process of factoring on the production source for them and a faster and leaner product recall will become easier by tracing back to the relevant point in the product’s journey.
Smarter Production & Distribution Channels: Smart connected products will help in procuring the right amount in the right place at the right time. Complete visibility at all events of the supply chain will allow brands to better predict demand in respective locations in a city. Better predictive ability will help them to create seamless intelligent systems capable of efficiently managing production and distribution channels, ultimately leading to reduction of wastage by preventing accumulation of unused medicines.
In fact, brands will be able to predict demand on a much larger scale than before. They will anticipate when a particular medicine is supposed to run out at the city-level and trigger production cycles for the particular product.
Smarter response to Public Health Crises: With IoT powered smart products, the engagement and the monitoring does not stop at the customer level. Even after the product leaves the shelf, customers can input valuable data through the digital twins which can be mined into to tailor smarter responses to public health emergency situations.
For example, city authorities will be aware of exactly how many medical products are in inventories across the city by keeping track of their movement across every touchpoint in the supply chain. In situations where a contagious disease breaks out, public health officials will be instantly alerted by hospitals that are also hooked onto the network. By keeping track of the quantity and location of stocks of medicines dispersed across city, public health officials will always be prepared to tackle such high priority situations as they can more efficiently assess and redirect required medicines to appropriate locations.
Even smarter, cities of the future could be prepared for seasonal illnesses by predicting their onset based on algorithms derived from a mix of data from weather forecasts, hospital reports and product supply chains.
Smarter Citizens: Digital twins will give rise to smarter citizens, who will be capable of using smartphones to digitally interact with the packaging in order to obtain accurate information pertaining to authenticity, ingredients, color-coded expiry dates, instructions for use (IFU) etc. Not only will digital twins of medical products enforce transparency, but they will help in improving health literacy by weeding out counterfeits and providing easy-to-read and user-friendly formats to dispense IFUs.
Medical products empowered by IoT will also lay the foundations for a multiway communication channel between consumers, manufacturers, and city authorities, especially aiding researchers to collect and analyze feedbacks for clinical trials and development of new cures.
Smarter ways to tackle Counterfeits: Falsified medical products take the top spot in the fraudulent products market, being worth US$163 billion to $217 billion per year. Falsified, substandard and unlicensed medicines and medical devices pose a serious threat to public health. Counterfeit medicines are on the rise and no place remains untouched by them.
However, medical products with digital twins can have vast implications in fighting the war against falsified medical products. The sophisticated digital tags on these products can act as a unique identifier, at the same time providing a user-friendly way to verify their authenticity. Both retailers and consumers just need to authenticate the product using the digital tag which will allow it to confirm the product’s genuineness by running it against an online database.
Going one step further by taking advantage of a highly connected ecosystem, fraudulent products can instantly be reported by consumers directly to manufacturers and city authorities. City authorities can thus keep track of regions in the city reporting counterfeits and crack down on the sources for such illegal operations.
The goal of smart cities is to create intelligent urban spaces and infrastructures to improve the lives of their citizens. But the first step towards this goal is to set up digital twins for products to bring them onto the Internet of Things platform. For these automated and intelligent systems would be impossible without various products generating and transmitting data about themselves. At this point, we have barely scratched the surface with IoT’s potential to create smarter cities, and smart connected products will lead the way in laying the foundation for the cities of the future.
The agricultural sector is in the middle of the data-driven transformation. Farmers and commodity traders are heading towards technological innovation in agriculture, adopting data analytics and smart farming technologies. Facing a crucial period in their history, agricultural businesses are tasked with combating the issues that will change not only their working methods but the world as we know it.
The agribusiness issues at hand
One of the greatest pain points associated with agriculture is the ability to predict the events that will achieve a given result.
Conditions play even less in the favour of farms positioned within markets that face rising production costs. The global population reaching 9.6 billion people by 2050, up from around 7 billion at present, according to forecasts from the United Nations, combined with the spread of economic prosperity are adding great pressure to the market. The UN suggests the doubling of crop production by 2050 as a countermeasure to this growth.
Some farmers simply cannot increase their land in order to grow more crops. As a result, there is a case for technology to make better use of the space available.
How IoT and predictive analytics can solve agriculture’s pressing problems
To become more efficient, agricultural businesses need data and plenty of it. This opens the door for technological innovation, as the size of these businesses and their plots of land prevent any kind of manual surveying.
Already we are seeing an active use of IoT devices to analyse the status of crops, capturing real-time data with sensors. For instance, with soil sensors, farmers can detect any irregular conditions such as high acidity and efficiently tackle these issues to improve their yield.
The data gathered from sensors allows to apply advanced analytics and get the insight that aid decisions around harvesting, while machine learning can transform the figures into solid predictions. Using advanced analytics, agricultural businesses can forecast yields, foresee unexpected weather conditions, predict market demand and mitigate risks, as well as better plan their capacity.
Agricultural drone is also among the key components of smart farming today. Tasked with the surveying of crop and livestock conditions from up high, their use of time lapsing within onboard cameras is helping farmers identify problems in areas like irrigation, which would otherwise go undetected.
Other members of the drone family allow for the spraying of crops at a greater accuracy than a tractor. As an added benefit, this also seeks to reduce the risk of human exposure to harmful chemicals. Back to ground level, there is potential for other robots to help out with manual duties like planting, ploughing and meat production.
The end goal in this case? A more efficient, more effective farm.
To spell things out: population growth could mean that every agricultural business will have to increase their levels of productivity over the next 30 years. That said, a review of the tech on today’s market suggests even the most specific problems can be matched with smart agribusiness solutions.
In the era of smart agriculture, IoT and predictive analytics are powering more efficient operations around the world. Combining IoT with analytics, agribusinesses get accurate predictions for crops and market conditions, allowing to increase their yields and profits. Smart application of technologies can facilitate warehouse and inventory management, help plan and execute seasonal works with the automated flow of data from the fields and agro-research labs.
Get in touch to discuss where the IoT can help futureproof your own agricultural business.
Originally published at eleks.com
Internet of Things is the talk of the town over in construction, manufacturing, healthcare, transportation and home automation. But we are yet to fully tap into the potential of IoT driven solutions to trigger disruption in and deliver value to the consumer retail industry.
Enabling smart attributes and inter-connectivity to store assets can have a plethora of exciting applications: engaging customer experiences, leaner and more efficient store operations, products and services as well as opening up of new streams for revenue generation. According to Zebra Technologies, 7 out of 10 retail brands will be investing in IoT technology by 2021 and a few have already begun rolling out IoT powered smart stores and services. With more and more retailers looking to reimagine every aspect of their supply chain with technology, let us look at some future possibilities for IoT in the retail industry :
1. Creating Experiences with Lighting
Lighting devices are an ubiquitous presence inside any retail store and connected smart lighting can do more than save energy. Emerging technology is exploring avenues to utilize connected and automated smart lighting for retail displays to create superior customer experiences and indoor positioning, expanding the horizon for an experiential store.
Retail giant Carrefour partnered with Philips to install LEDs in one of their hypermarkets in Lille, France. Enabled with Visible Light Communication (VLC) technology, these LEDs emit a code which is readable by any camera on a smartphone, connecting the smartphone to a digital experience provided by the store. Customers can then locate items on their shopping list using the indoor positioning activated by the LEDs, experiencing an in-store navigation system.
2. Smart Packaging and Digital Labeling
Under the constant pressures of demands for more consumer transparency and capricious regulations, brands and retailers are running out of space on the physical packaging of products to put relevant information. IoT will play a major role in the future of the labeling and packaging industry as brands turn to technology to solve challenges related to packaging.
QLIKTAG Software is providing solutions using their IoT platform to enable all products to have a globally unique identifier “QLIKTAG” and hence a digital twin, allowing “dumb” products to have a presence in and participate in the Internet through smart devices. These digital tags, consisting of barcodes, QR codes and Data matrix codes, pave the way for a vast variety of digital interactions like better stock and inventory management throughout the supply chain, product traceability all through its lifecycle, consumer transparency in multiple languages, product authentication, consumer feedback, insight and analytics as well as better consumer engagement experiences. Brands also save on costs incurred in reprinting and repackaging as these digital tags allow real time edits and updates of label content remotely.
3. Smarter Inventory Management Solutions
The future of retail will see increased integration of technology into brick and mortar stores and a more connected ecosystem giving rise to sophisticated experiences for both customers and retailers. IoT will enable the development of smarter inventory management solutions that will be capable of detecting and solving out-of-stock situations on its own.
WiseShelf is converting shelves in retail stores into smart shelves to address the issue of shelf out-of-stock incidents. Equipped with light sensors, the shelves can detect when an item is removed from the shelf and send alerts to the management application through WiFi when it assesses low levels of stock. Apart from leading to more efficient restocking operations and inventory management, these smart shelves are also freeing up employees to engage in more customer interactions. They are also providing key data and analytics on popularity of products, enabling better design of store layout in accordance to foot traffic.
4. Automated Events Of Supply Chain
Plenty of countries are plagued by an ageing population and rising labor costs and retailers as a result are turning to digital solutions to reinvent supply chains. Panasonic in partnership with Trial Company Inc. conducted a demonstration experiment for an automated self-checkout system with RFID tagged shopping baskets and products. The smart shopping baskets are capable of calculating the total cost and the number of items in the basket due to the RFID tags, generating your bill when you place it on the checkout counter. Not only does it allow automated billing, but on being placed on the self checkout counters, the bottom of the basket can open up releasing all contents into a bag, which the customer can collect and leave.
5. Facilitating Omni-channel Retailing
In order to consolidate online shopping practices with in-store ones, retailers are looking to ingrain technology into physical stores for a seamless customer experience. Ralph Lauren launched interactive fitting rooms in its flagship store in Manhattan, furnished with RFID tagged interactive mirrors. Powered by retail technology platform Oak Labs, the mirrors automatically detect and display the clothing items brought into the room along with available sizes, colors and recommendations for a complete look. Enriching the entire digital experience, customers also have the option to call an associate on the floor to the fitting room, to bring more items to try out for example.
6. Reducing Food Wastage and Spoilage
IoT could have vast implications in reducing global food wastage and spoilage, especially at the retail level. Wasteless, a startup from Israel, has successfully implemented IoT enabled digital pricing labels in an international Spanish retail store in an effort to reduce food waste. Using data regarding expiry dates encoded into the barcodes or RFID tags on labels, Wasteless’s platform enables a dynamic pricing system with the cost of the product dependent on its freshness, becoming cheaper as it nears its expiry date. The platform has led to reduction of waste by 33%, better inventory management and monitoring of products in terms of their expiry dates to reduce out-of-stock incidents as well as improved sales by allowing customers a more dynamic pricing range to shop from.
7. Food Traceability and Quality Control
The entire food supply chain will see a transformation as IoT enabled sensors and smart devices will become more common to track and optimize each supply chain event. With more demands for fresher food products and sustainable sourcing, these sensors will be able to collect and transmit relevant information like location, temperature etc to all supply chain stakeholders in real time. Consumers buying at retail stores can scan digital tags like QR codes, Data matrix codes or RFID tags on packaging to get assurance about the quality and provenance of the food product.
Zest Labs is working to improve real time visibility for farm to shelf at all levels of the supply chain. Their unique ZIPR code (Zest Intelligent Pallet Routing) enables real time tracking and monitoring of the actual freshness of each pallet of food product, using a combination of wireless IoT sensors and cloud based predictive analytics and machine learning. The result is in supply chain managers being able to make better decisions about sending a particular pallet across a certain distance based on its freshness, thus preventing food spoilage in-transit.
The fourth edition of the Internet of Things Solutions World Congress (IoTSWC), which took place in Barcelona earlier this month, signaled an increasing interest in the technology, with the number of attendees jumping by 25 percent year over year, to 16,250. The range of topics discussed shows that IoT is being embraced by companies in every sector, and that the technology has now passed from the development phase to the implementation of practical solutions whose results are increasingly evident.
The 200 speeches and panels were divided into thematic areas (manufacturing, healthcare, connected transport, energy and utilities, buildings and infrastructures and open industry). Along with two related events, AI & Cognitive Systems Forum and Blockchain Solutions World, these included -- at the insistence of Richard Soley, Executive Director of the Industrial IoT Consortium -- presentations of concrete use cases. The Industrial IoT Consortium was co-organizer of the event together with Fira Barcelona.
Bringing order to the Babel of protocols
Although natural selection -- perhaps facilitated by the future evolution of 5G networks -- is likely to reduce the number, too many standards and communication protocols for the Internet of Things will continue for a long time. The "translation" of the signals and their integration into information flows will therefore continue to represent an opportunity for system integrators and companies operating in this sector. Although frameworks and platforms are emerging to manage and standardize the different peripheral systems (the Foundation's open source EdgeX Foundry proposal deserves attention), they do not exist yet and there will be no "plug and play" solutions for IoT for a while.
Artificial intelligence to give value to data
Artificial intelligence is the fundamental ingredient needed to make sense of the vast amount of data collected these days, and increase its value for business. The easiest way to implement it is to resort to the API services of cloud operators such as Amazon, Google, Microsoft and IBM. The risk of using standard solutions accessible to all is that they reduce the competitive advantage of the enterprises that use them, since they can be easily implemented by competitors. Creating a proprietary IA platform, however, will not be possible for everyone.
Edge computing to overcome the limits of the cloud
The cloud, meanwhile, is showing its limits: Fast and constant connectivity is not always possible, especially in the case of connected vehicles or installations in remote areas; latency between sending data, processing and response is not always compatible with certain applications; and storage costs are are high even for data that is not necessarily indispensable.
There is therefore a growing tendency to relocate part of the storage and processing of data to the periphery of the network, close to sensors and connected objects. This so-called "edge computing" will be increasingly important and increasingly intelligent, thanks to chips optimized for machine learning and solutions able to bring "on premises" the AI algorithms of the "usual suspects", such as Amazon Greengrass, Google Cloud IoT Edge (still in alpha version) or Microsoft Azure IoT Edge.
Digital twins pass from objects to production flows
The creation of a digital twin, which thanks to data collected by sensors can provide a realistic virtual representation of products and systems, will be increasingly applied to entire production processes, allowing not only the monitoring of entire plants, but also predicting what will happen when a new model is out into production, or some variables change. This, according to proponents of the technology, will lead to greater efficiency, faster time-to-market and fewer glitches and non-compliance issues.
The discussion around IoT has been around since last 5 years. Take those 2020 projections to the table, and see how many have quoted them as the moment of truth for IoT. But those projections and data remained as it is in 2018 with mass adoption yet to become a reality.
As an IoT practitioner what amazes me is why only a handful enterprises and products have made it so far.
The undeniable truth about IoT is that it definitely brings huge competitive advantage to the table for consumer products and enterprises. While scaling IoT and building LPWAN networks that had more than 100,000 nodes we say more than just connectivity, we saw revolution, we saw how fast we could reduce “revenue leakage”, we saw how fast we could bring “disruption” to the table and we definitely saw business models that were never seen before.
The moment of Truth for me in IoT was when I built an LPWAN network that was more efficient than a six sigma process - That’s how powerful IoT really is!
But, let’s get to the point, what I really said before are the results. There are so many steps to actually reach there. When I take lessons from the software world, there’s something called “First mover’s advantage”, well that changes when it comes to IoT.
First movers fail, that too miserably. First movers for the most part are someone that fail and create a path for others.
So, what is it that makes adopting IoT so difficult?
Unfamiliar territory for business buyers
How many enterprises do you see that still run on managed data centers and legacy apps? Why do you think they aren’t adopting amazing next generation cloud technologies? Now put IoT at the center stage and try to understand this. At minimum there are three technologies that need closer inspect for any IoT implementation in enterprises: Cloud, hardware and wireless technologies.
Cloud has evolved and maturity is good enough to make sure that the adoption remains streamlined. But even with a mature technology, IoT use case challenges all forms of our existing cloud connectivity models.
As far as hardware is concerned, the last 30 years of manufacturing and other core engineering industries have been working, we have seen mass adoption of close sourced hardware in form of PLM and other technologies. With such a heavy industrial adoption, closed source tech has associated heavy costs even with minor pivots. This created agility issues that are difficult for industries to look through as they can’t simply throw away their entire infrastructure.
Open source tech has been influencing and driving IoT since last 3 years. But majority of our core engineering industries have largely been unaware of how open source tech works. There are potential pitfalls and immense opportunities with open source tech that software world has been extensively leveraging. But with hardwares, everything has a cost or license associated with it. With this closed nature of hardware industry, it gets difficult to customize off-the-shelf products to match with specific process or innovate on top it.
Nobody, absolutely nobody has figured this out yet. No matter what you implement can be broken down, or at least blocked to create service disruption. Internal processes being disrupted is one thing, but what’s even more damaging is your IoT product/service compromising customer’s privacy.
It was until 2015, when we shifted IoT communication security from 64 bit encryption to 128 and then to 256 bit encryption. OWASP has established some best practices and awareness around IoT security, but as I said before this has been a largely the biggest factor preventing IoT adoption in enterprises as well as consumer facing products.
Extremely painstaking product development
Lack of understanding of how IoT technologies work, how IoT product development should be done, and how the costs of product development should be controlled, etc makes IoT product development a discouraging step for many enterprises.
The technology fragmentation and lack of standardization further increases the pain that C-suites have to go through when they implement IoT programs.
For example, we were in middle of implementing a mesh network based out of Zigbee back in 2015, when we meet folks from Bluetooth SIG and nRF that hinted us towards an upcoming mesh network on nRF’s stack.
We saw the subsequent release in 2016, with an extremely easy to manage and govern stack. Point being that these technologies are evolving faster than ever, while the opportunity window seems to be shrinking as the technologies mature as well. So, it really boils down to risk vs opportunities and tons of fragmentation and vagueness ahead of it.
The way we have been building connectivity in the last 2 decades was dependent upon wireless, and built for a local-on-premise infrastructure. That had its benefits before Industry 4.0, but now things have changed.
“If you can connect it, you can improve it”
But we never built anything for low power and wireless connectivity. What we built was supposed to talk over RS232s, USB serial or PLCs.
I have met enterprises that have invested more than $20M and can’t replace even 10% of their existing investments in the next 2 years. They are stuck, stuck with legacy equipments that somehow needs to be connected.
If you have a programming experience like I do, you would straightaway think that simply by passing a serial command over USB or RS232/487 interfaces you should receive this information. But things aren’t this easy. The plant that I spoke about had 67 different devices, all have been implemented with Fortran, Cobol, Visual Basic, etc with each equipement being uniquely built. Most of the documentation was lost and the enterprise rarely knew what commands did what. It took us a month to figure that out for their behalf.
Even though we figured out all communication protocols, it was another puzzle to get through how the legacy programs actually worked. Remember, we were doing all of this without documentation. We even had the original programmers sat across the table and look at these programs. Even they couldn’t recall what they did at that time. Glad that code documentation and architectural documentation are a real thing these days.
Lack of off-the-shelf solutions to match for processes
Not each and every C-suite out there is looking towards custom hardware product development as a potential solution. With that being said, off-the-shelf solutions aren’t customizable enough to match their requirements. Not without inducing significant risks to the entire operation the C-suite is concerned with.
Take Beacon’s for example, ready made off-the-shelf beacons look good at the start, but if you are really looking to induce the battery life, implement a different routing algorithm and add more number of states, you will find them to fall short in a lot of ways.
Lack of subject matter expertise
I would personally rate this as one of the major concerns that industry executives have when they work with external or internal teams on IoT programs.
There’s a lack of understanding and product empathy in general when it comes to IoT. How many IoT vendors have you came across that talk about building automation systems and can get into specifics of HVAC?
If that wasn’t enough, the real revenue leakage in an industry comes from understanding real processes, not just blindly enabling tracking. Lack of real subject matter expertise is what prevents IoT adoption.
Well, these are some of the largest challenges that IoT faces before it goes mainstream. If you have any questions, or if you have any suggestions, feel free to drop a comment.
Given my Telco background, it was logical that back in 2014, I published some of my first articles in my IoT Blog about the topic “IoT Connectivity” . I described how the optimist predictions of analysts and companies like Cisco or Ericsson, made the Machine to Machine (M2M) an attractive market to invest.
The fact that “Tata Communications have acquired mobility and Internet of Things specialist Teleena is a clear indication of the phenomenal growth rate in the global IoT connectivity market. “By 2021, enterprises’ spending on mobility alone is set to surpass USD 1.7 trillion,” said Anthony Bartolo, Chief Product Officer, Tata Communications. I hope to see Tata Communications/Teleena in the next Gartner´s Magic Quadrant for M2M Managed Services Worldwide.
There are still people who doubt that connectivity is a key component in the M2M/IoT Value Chain. Please remember without connectivity simply there is not IoT.
Obviously during these years many of my projects have been associated with IoT connectivity. From the analysis of M2M/IoT Service Providers to the conceptual design of end-to-end solutions where connectivity selection was a key component. One of the most interesting projects was the analysis that I made for the Telefonica project "IoT in a box". Without forget projects to compare LPWAN technologies, End to End Security, Identification of Uses cases for 5G. Sometimes also I had to sell IoT connectivity.
In the last years in the IoT connectivity market I have seen:
- Consolidation of the market like “KORE buys Wyless” or “Sierra Wireless, Inc. Completes Acquisition of Numerex Corp.”
- The appearance of companies like 1NCE, the first dedicated Tier 1, Narrowband IoT MVNO providing fast, secure and reliable network connectivity for low data B2B applications offering a set of optimized product features – such as an IoT flat rate and the first of its kind 'BUY ONCE' lifetime fee
- The still not bloody battle between LPWAN operators (SigFox, LoRA network operators, NB-IOT, LTE-M)
- Telco Vendors, Operators and Analysts talking about the promise of 5G
- New Wifi and Lifi IoT use cases
- IoT Security breaches
- Operators focus on key industries and use cases
- The partnership M2M/IOT Service Providers ecosystem evolution
- Agreements among M2M, MNO and Satellite operators.
- The lack of standards in the Smart Home connectivity
- The expectation for solve the real time connectivity challenges in Industry 4.0 and Edge Computing –
- Time Sensitive Networking Industry 4.0 use cases and test bed by IIC members
But in my opinion, enterprises still are confused and delaying their decisions to adopt IoT / IIOT because they need good advice about the right IoT connectivity not just the cheapest prices but easy integration or better customer support.
I want to remember again that I can help you in the selection of the right M2M /IoT Service Provider for your enterprise business requirements as a strategic decision.
IoT Connectivity - the ugly Duckling of IoT Network Operators
Telecoms operators’ more focused approach to bolstering their IoT businesses appears rooted in refining the technology inherent in their connectivity networks. And no wonder, The powerful GSMA has been helping Mobile Operators to define their role in IoT. At first sight, the best way for large telecoms operators generate value from the IoT might appear to be by providing connectivity via their networks. Additionally, they could leverage their vast experience in customer engagement, customer premise equipment (CPE) support and their robust, proven back-office systems by offering their OSS and BSS platforms externally to IoT users, using their OSS to provide users with a turnkey platform to manage their equipment proactively in real time, and their BSS to support the related billing requirements. In fact Global telcos set sights on IoT for growth in 2018.
Nevertheless, Analysys Mason, highlighted “Telcos have been working with the broader ecosystem, including developers, cloud players and hardware vendors this past year – all of which “should set the market up for an active 2018”.
Although many people think that IoT connectivity is or will become a commodity with little value for customers and along with the hardware will form the ugly ducklings of the value chain, IoT Network Operators should strive to demonstrate that IoT connectivity is vital for the global adoption of the IoT and seek to increase the income derived from its connectivity services with aspect like security and the contextual data value that their networks transport.
IoT Data is the new Oil also for IoT Network Operators
If connectivity seems doomed to play the role of ugly duckling, the data on the other hand see how its value increases and increases with each new technology.
How many times have we seen a presentation with the title "Data is the new Oil”? Even taught by me
Many Telcos are in process of Digital Transformation. The want to compete with the Google, Apple, Facebook, and Amazon (GAFA) and avoid same situation lived with these Over the Top (OTT) vendors. IoT is giving them an opportunity to monetize the IoT data and convert their networks in pipelines of value.
IoT data is a new source of revenue without forget that will also produce incremental profit through operational productivity and efficiency.
The new stream of data coming from the physical world and the billions connected things are mostly transported by the IoT Network Operator´s networks and once these data is captured, the IoT Network Operators can monitor everything and feed their AI systems. Is then, when finally, IoT Network Operators can make a lot of money of IoT contextual data and aggregated data.
Can you imagine the opportunities leveraged by the connection of millions of devices and intelligent things over your IoT network? A vast amount of useful data generated by smart containers, smart home appliances, smart cities, connected cars, smart healthcare devices, or wearables, which for many businesses is an extremely valuable commercial tool. IoT Network Operators possess the capability of performing real-time data analytics on readily available data to determine product performance, improve customer experience and forecast network capacity, all of all which IoT-ready businesses could benefit from.
IoT connectivity is still at the core of all IoT Network Operators / M2M Service Providers. But some of them are implementing different strategies to capture more business of the IoT value chain. The idea of IoT connectivity will become a commodity with not added value is influencing the decision to invest in new IoT enabled networks (5G, LTE-M, NB-IoT).
It’s clear that there are some strong opportunities for IoT Network Operators / M2M Service Providers looking to capture the full potential of IoT, and it’s time that they open up their services to support companies from all sectors who are looking to employ IoT connectivity but also machine data intelligence as part of their business models in this IoT driven digital transformation.
Telcos offering IoT connectivity should look to monetise data and offer businesses unique insights that could potentially open doors to new revenue streams or even improve operational efficiencies.
If IoT business is about data and assets, Telcos need to shift from technology and connectivity to business value and creation of valued services.
Thanks in advance for your Likes and your Shares.
The amount of load and data generated on the cloud is also increasing because of increasing applications and systems moving to cloud, making it difficult to perform analytics and extract important insights. To deal with this challenge, enterprises are leveraging edge analytics. Read on to find how edge analytics accelerates cloud analytics.
Mobile devices, wearables, cameras and many other connected devices or better-called “devices on edge” in different organizations and enterprises, generate a huge amount of decentralized data. Moving this data to the cloud to derive various insights and perform further analytics on them seems a very good option, but there is also a huge dependency that adds to the headache if we have everything on the cloud.
Why not to put everything on the cloud
- Continuous consolidation and synchronizing of data on the cloud can drain resources.
- Maintaining a consistent connection to the cloud gets difficult.
- Costs attached to data transfer and data storage on cloud grow significantly over time.
- Delay-induced due to data transfer and processing on cloud put a restriction in providing near real-time analysis.
So can edge analytics replace cloud analytics completely?
Honestly, edge analytics is not here to replace cloud analytics completely, but it is here to complement cloud analytics by driving near real-time analytics as it is close to the data source. Let us see how edge analytics empower cloud analytics.
According to the market research firm IDC, around 45 percent of data will be stored, managed, analyzed and kept right where it was produced, at the edge. So, organizations with 100% total cost of operations on the cloud can leverage edge computing to reduce it to 60%.
- Cloud operations cost can be reduced by using a distributed edge computing architecture, where edge devices together process a critical operation, which a cloud device cannot process on its own, thereby reducing cloud dependency.
- A combined edge-to-cloud architecture is critical for any industrial success. For this, experts need to differentiate and define the real-time analytics to be run at various levels, including edge sensor, infrastructure machine, gateway, controller within on premise appliances and racks or in the cloud.
- We are seeing a tremendous growth in sensor technology. By combining the innovations of sensor technology with the reducing hardware costs, we can establish an edge-to-cloud paradigm. Sensors with processing units can help take critical actions in an inconsistent cloud environment and can later synchronize with the cloud. The required architecture can vary as per industry.
So overall, a well-defined edge-to-cloud architecture as per domain and data would be accelerating cloud computing.
RELATED BLOG IoT Gateways – Drivers for Fog Computing
How edge analytics work for all industries
Edge analytics benefit organizations where data insights are needed at the edge. Manufacturing, retail, smart cities, energy, utilities, transportation, and logistics segments are leading the way in deploying edge analytics.
Let us look at sectors that can benefit from edge computing & analytics:
Brick-and-mortar stores are rich with edge devices such as cameras, beacons, sensors, Wi-Fi networks etc. They are looking for competitive advantages that can help them beat eCommerce businesses, and real-time edge analytics can provide them just that. With edge analytics, sales data, images, coupons used, traffic patterns, and videos are created to provide unprecedented insights into consumer behavior. They have perfect infrastructure and devices to explore edge analytics. Moreover, the mobile devices of customers and data generated by store apps, make this number swell more.
Real-time insights are of prime importance since retail stores need to know their customers’ needs immediately when they enter the store to keep them in store. A recommendation or an offer coming after the customer has left store can be of no use. Identifying customers’ behavior data is something that requires heavy processing power on the cloud. Leveraging some processing at the edge like tracking items viewed, picked, and bought can be a good idea. Other than that, metadata can be sent to the cloud lake to get recommendations, offers, etc., keeping the entire process near to real-time. A distributed edge computing architecture can boost this up further.
Manufacturing is an industry that requires analytics and computing at the edge. Take an example, an average offshore oil rig has nearly 30,000 sensors. They measure gas emission, pressure, temperature, etc., continuously. Connecting these to cloud lake and deriving analysis will be too costly and time-consuming. A majority of this data is actually not required for analytics; hardly 1-3% of data is used for analysis after cleaning the data. It can bring tremendous advantageous if these edge devices knew what analysis needs to be performed and what data needs to be sent to the cloud, thus saving ample bandwidth. Embedding computing capability in the form of complex event processing (CPE), edge devices can filter out noisy data and collect only information that is deemed useful. In the absence of cloud, the distributed edge computing can process this data for analysis, take critical actions, and can later notify the cloud about the updates.
Another example is of a smart production line. We know that in a production line, each process is time bound. Every action has to be taken in line with production processes. Hence, it becomes important to derive analysis at the edge. Pointing out manufacturing defects or anomalies, badly printed stickers, packaging, etc., in real-time can be achieved using edge analytics.
Healthcare is another domain where we are seeing a huge surge in the number of connected devices. In the near future, a hospital room on an average will have 15 to 20 medical devices, a majority of which will be networked. A large hospital can have as many as 85,000 connected medical and IoT devices, putting a massive strain on the cloud network. Edge computing and analytics can reduce this burden to a great extent. Here again, real-time analytics will carry more importance than delayed analytics. For example, a clinician’s mobile device is the edge between the patient who is the data source and the cloud. A clinician treating a patient with a tablet will be able to enter patient data into the analytics platform at the edge where it is processed and displayed in near real-time. Patients no longer need to wait for analytics results, which may reduce their number of visits.
In addition, edge computing in healthcare offers another concept called collaborative edge. In a collaborative edge, geographically dispersed data can be fused by creating virtual shared views. This shared data is exposed to the users through some pre-defined interfaces, which edge devices can directly consume.
To sum this up, with edge computing practitioners and patients can get the best response times from the data that is generated and collected by healthcare facilities. As the healthcare sector is using more and more medical devices that are connected to a common network, edge computing is about to become a standard in health IT infrastructure.
Note: this page contains paid content.
Please, subscribe to get an access.
Note: this page contains paid content.
Please, subscribe to get an access.