IoT Applications in Retail; 5 Real Examples

The Internet of Things (IoT) buzzword that has been hyped all across the maker market for years is continually becoming more visible, not as “IoT” but as business solutions via digital transformation. With online retailers reigning king over brick and mortar retail stores, Mom and Pops are responding with tech to fight back.

IoT solutions are being created and implemented not only by major retailers with millions to spend on proof of concept and software development, but also makers installing insight driven devices for Mom-and-Pop stores all across the world. This blog will highlight 5 actionable IoT solutions in retail we have seen at Ubidots, the benefits they serve, and how device developments are becoming even easier to deploy with application builder platforms that merge the ever-time-consuming hardware/software integration.

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1) Beacon Alerts

The first IoT solution on our list is beacon alerts. This alert application uses bluetooth geolocation to provide shopper with potentially valuable information to their smartphones like, “sale in isle 3” or “Uptown is having 40% off anniversary sale.” Connecting with customers is key in all business, and as digital technology permeates the regularity of spoken conversation, beacon alerts have allowed merchants to reach their audience without uttering a word. InMarket’s proof of concept with Rainbow Light, a prenatal vitamin, shows us very telling results. Using beacon advertising the campaign saw a 125% ROAS and an increase in overall sales volume by 15%, dramatically outperforming expectations.

What is a beacon? A beacon is a Bluetooth Low Energy device located at or near a vendor (like inside a store) and is programmed to advertise a product. The beacon (called a slave or a peripheral) will distribute an advertisement, in the form of electrical signals carrying personalized and useful information, to local smartphones and tablets (called masters or centrals) with the intent of marketing a product or service.

Sounds simple enough, but balancing the tradeoffs of speed vs. energy consumption and meshing a technical understanding with the marketing aspirations of business owner can be challenging but fruitful for both the business and the beacon designer. With eventual uses in the tourism industry, beacon alerts provide a wealth of knowledge to shoppers when their buying power is highest, in the store. For more, check out inMarket and their lapse shopper technology.

2) Shopper Mapping

Strategically placed sensors provide valuable insights to shopper mapping and high traffic points within a store. Knowing where and how a customer finds a product is valuable to sales departments, managers, and marketers. With the insights of heat maps and customer trace, retailers can better position items for sale, adjust store setup to eliminate empty space, and record shopping trends over time. Prism Skylabs’ technology uses security camera images to generate a heatmap of a shop’s layout and translates that data onto a dashboard for store managers.

For example, the traffic volume of individuals walking by the storefront vs. the number of people who enter the store. This insight paired with the frequency of a shopper making a purchase hugely drives advertising success statistics. Using people counters and location heat maps, a store owner can refine the interior and exterior advertising and appearance to maximize the number of shoppers entering the store and making purchases. As sensors and application development continue to decrease in price, the demand for more insights continues to grow.

3) Customer Relationship Management

Traditionally, customer relationships were built on the foundations of face-to-face conversations. Today, merchandisers are utilizing the IoT to learn from, interact with, and advertise to those who consume their products. Recently in real estate, Centaline has teamed up with Microsoft Hong Kong and TFI Digital Media Limited to make house hunting as efficient as possible. When a home is for sale, an agent can place sensors and upload video from his/her smartphone to use an IoT based cloud app, allowing prospective home buyers visit homes, wherever and whenever they want. No longer are the days of Sunday open houses.

4) Smart Signage

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Smart signage is revolutionizing the way people shop. Physical stores are utilizing digital displays, such as Ipad screens, to display content facilitating the customer.  Moving Tactics, a South African fashion retailer, is the leading digital signage solutions company. Research in 2013 confirmed that 41% (almost half!) of shoppers were influenced to make a purchase in-store, based purely upon the advertising on in-store digital screens, and 92% of shoppers interviewed thought that it was a great idea to use screens in-store for customer communication. With the company booming and still making progress, digital signage proves a dramatic success.

Not only does digital signage serve as an attractive and aesthetic advertisement to customers, the system is successful in thinking logically and making rational decisions for the customers, facilitating their shopping endeavors. Digital signage is programmed by accumulating contextual cues and patterns from the customers and establishing connections based on expectations. Using hardware placed in advertising or around stores, software is calculating when customers typically group particular items in the same purchase, the time of year these items are typically purchased, and generates relevant information pointing the customers towards their next possible route or purchase in the store.

5) Smart Shelves

A smart shelf is a shelf equipped with an RFID (Radio Frequency Identification) reader, either built in the shelf itself or installed behind, under, or above normal shelves. This reader scans the tagged items on the shelf and consistently notifies the back-end system about the existing items. By tracking items and their nutritional information, their movements, and whereabouts, the system provides retailers with information that can be analyzed and translated into customer preferences.  Kroger, the United State’s largest supermarket chain by revenue (115.35 billion in 2016), is completing the installation 2,200 Edge shelves throughout the center of the supermarket, including most aisles with dry goods. Now, a digital grocery list carried by the customer will ring when the customer is nearby an item on the list, or even more conveniently, a shelf will light up when it knows the customer is nearby and looking for the items that the particular shelf is holding and monitoring.

Smart shelf systems have three components: an RFID tag, an RFID reader, and an antenna. The RFID tags on the goods contain an integrated circuit and a microchip antenna that transmits data to the RFID reader. Information is collected from the tags and then transferred through a communications interface to an IoT platform, where the data can be stored, formatted, and analyzed.

Besides what Kroger’s smart shelves can do, many other implementations around the world have additional functionalities. A strong interconnected network of sensors can send automatic replenishment alerts (for items out of stock), misplaced item alerts, last scanned alerts (for prevention of theft), expired date notifications, customer interest notifications (how much is the item looked at, picked up, put back, etc), and added product information for customers. RFID-equipped smart shelves provide retailers with various ways of improving their customer service and increasing customer-product interaction.

Brick and Mortar Retail Has a Chance

Implementing IoT solutions provide insights for business owners to both generate more income, and also facilitate patrons and their endeavors when shopping. Business owners and makers are combining knowledge and skill to deliver insights to why and how merchandise is selling.

Typical IoT solutions for retail will consist of devices (sensors, cameras or RFID readers), connectivity (Ethernet, WiFi, Cellular, etc.) and an IoT cloud, where data can be interpreted for decision making. IoT clouds like UbidotsAzure IoT, and AWS IoT are three IoT cloud platforms capable of this feat. Using these platforms or others, developers and makers are designing the next round of technology offerings to bring knowledge to businesses that converts shoppers into customers.

This content was originally published as a Guest Post by Hardware Massive on August 14th, 2017. Special thanks for Matt Hall and the entire Hardware Massive Community for its continual support and development with Ubidots.com.

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4zerobox: the new tool for Industrial IoT connected to Ubidots!

The first Python-programmable modular toolbox to develop Industrial-grade IoT solutions connected to Ubidots is now live on Kickstarter

November 21, 2017 – The Italian tech startup TOI (Things On Internet) Srl, active in the development of IoT solutions, launched a Kickstarter campaign for 4zerobox: the first modular electronic board that is easy-to-configure and specifically designed for IoT and Industry 4.0 solution providers. Starting at $149 for the Special Early Bird adopters, the Kickstarter campaign can be found here .

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Infographic – How IoT Works…and some thoughts to guide your development

The term IoT, short for the Internet of Things, is becoming quite popular as businesses and individuals continue to incorporate internet connected devices into their lives. Amazon’s Alexa is an IoT device as is your smart phone. These commercial products already number in the millions, but the largest growth of IoT expansion can be found outside these personal experiences and in our chairs, washing machines, streetlights, factory floors, oceans, and beyond. When referencing IoT, it is becoming increasing difficult to navigate all language, acronyms, and 1,000s of platforms all vying for your attention. To alleviate this headache, Ubidots put together an elementary infographic to help guide the development of any IoT solution. Sure, this is a rudimentary description of an industry driving the next evolution of business and personal efficiency, but with this infographic focused on How IoT Works help you better understand the steps and immediate questions to ask when building any IoT solution.

Live infographic How IoT Works Ed

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Ubidots Announces Embedded Technology Partnership with Zerynth

Ubidots and Zerynth partner embedded solutions with data analytics, and visualizations for your IoT applications.

Ubidots is pleased to announce its technology partnership with Zerynth, providers of a suite of professional development tools that support Python or hybrid C/Python firmware development for 32-bit microcontrollers and the most common  development boards: ESP32 and ESP8266, Arduino DUE and MKR1000, ST Nucleo, Particle Photon and Electron, Flip&Click, Quail, and more. Zerynth was created to simplify the access to the embedded world, and with the Ubidots-Zerynth integration, firmware developers can now connect their designs to the cloud in just a few lines of Python. Continue reading “Ubidots Announces Embedded Technology Partnership with Zerynth”

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Our connected world; explaining Finite State Machines

 

INTRODUCTION

Man/women is said to have been created in God’s image. In a similar fashion, Men/women now create machines in our own image. One such example of this is the Finite State Machine programming, or FSM for short. Engineers and developers now use computers to operate tasks that were previously operated by hand. For example – got any dirty laundry laying around? – I know I do. Previously we had to rinse clothes in a tub or sink, add soap, scrub, rinse again, and whatnots to get a clean t-shirt to go to work or have a night out. Now we have washing machines to do this work for us. We got to this point with engineers having designed 1,000s of products and devices that execute programs based human thought or action. This is no exception to today’s machine learning or other AI buzzwords. Millions of devices and applications are being developed to increase efficiency and ease of men and women and many of these aiding process exist thanks to FSMs.

Finite State Machines are simply a mathematical computation of a series of cause with events. In relation to our washing machine example – the FSM determines when to start the rinse cycle, when to spin, and when to stop completely. To better understand a Finite State Machine (FSM), we first need to define the concept of a ‘state.’ A state is a unique piece of information inside a larger computational program. The FSM computation changes or transitions from one state to another state in response to external inputs. A FSM is defined by a listing or logical order of its states; its initial state and the conditions for each transition, concluding with a final or end state. The FSM is a series of thoughts programmed by the computer to execute operations based on inputs– the same way man thinks and acts, so too do our machines and the computers that control them. 

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Customize and connect Industrial IoT Solutions with Controllino and Ubidots

Ubidots and Controllino partner for affordable Industrial IoT Solutions without the headache.

Ubidots is thrilled to welcome Controllino to the Ubidots ecosystem of device manufacturers and providers. We have been playing around with countless devices these past few years and the Controllino is just simply amazing. This industrial PLC device is freely programmable to your needs and specifications and is based on the Arduino open source software technology to tailor the MINI, MAXI, and MEGA Controllino boards to tackle the shop floor’s most desirable data collection and automation needs.

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