Cloudy with a patch of fog – the retail response to IoT

Hubert da Costa, VP EMEA, Cradlepoint

The rapid rise of the Internet of Things (IoT) is causing a shift in many industries – no more so than the retail industry where it is fast shaping the way businesses and customers interact.

Smartphones and wearable devices are connecting customers to retailers, whilst a host of IoT devices are enhancing the retail environment. Digital signage is displaying interactive product information and live pricing, payment systems are linking to mobile platforms, smart shelves detect when inventory is low and RFID sensors track goods throughout the supply chain.

In fact, a recent study found that 70% of retail decision makers globally are ready to adopt the Internet of Things to improve customer experiences, says Hubert da Costa, VP EMEA, Cradlepoint.

However, this shift is presenting a unique challenge – how to manage these in-store IoT devices. There are two aspects to this. First, the amount of data that will be generated by IoT devices in the retail sector is growing faster than networks’ ability to process it.

The biggest immediate hurdle for retailers to overcome is how to manage, analyse and act on the reams of data pouring in from all of the connected devices. Second, nearly everyone has moved – or is moving – to the cloud. But as data volumes increase, even the cloud has the potential of becoming a bottleneck. In the race for mass IoT adoption IT managers have got their work cut out like never before.

To address this issue, many retailers are discovering the potential of ‘fog computing’, which simply means extending cloud-computing capability to the edge of the network. This adds process and memory resource to edge devices – be that switches, routers, or a Bluetooth beacon – so that data can be collected and pre-processed at the network edge before sending aggregated results to the cloud. This fog computing approach is fast, efficient and allows all of that potentially rich data to be utilised quickly, to better serve customers and improve the bottom line.

The technology in action…

Real-time retail applications are significant drivers of fog computing. Bluetooth beacons are a great example. They have become a popular tool for retailers to communicate with customers and send personalised offers to potential customers in the vicinity. But beacons are just one example of a host of IoT devices that are changing the retail environment.

Customer mapping applications will let stores extract customer insight including the most popular store areas, where people stop to look at merchandise, and how many visitors enter the store. Dynamic price tags can help increase profits and customer retention, by changing purchase behaviour and keeping buying in a store.

Fog computing enables the retail industry to leverage the data from these devices as quickly and efficiently as possible, whilst ensuring future IoT devices can operate at the same speed and efficiency as other networked devices.

Future-proofing the network

As retailers plan ahead for their future network needs, they are recognising the emerging role fog computing will play in their network architecture. In the past, with on-site technology mostly limited to computers and printers, retail stores could survive with traditional branch appliances and centralised servers, firewalls, VPN concentrators, and SNMP (Simple Network Management Protocol) management servers.

Today, with mobile devices such as phones and tablets so prevalent, retailers are moving many of their applications and management functions off physical devices and into the cloud.

Cloud today, fog tomorrow

As retail IoT adoption continues to grow, ATMs, kiosks, video cameras, HVAC controllers, temperature sensors, digital signage, and many yet-to-be-invented retail-specific technologies will likely become edge devices with fog computing capability – all expected to handle more computing than ever before.

There can be no doubt that the forces of cloud, mobile and the IoT are combining to transform the retail landscape. Today’s IT teams are faced with the challenge of providing connectivity to people, places and things anywhere, while ensuring visibility, security and control.

Fog computing has a pivotal part to play, as do advanced technologies such as SD-WAN and SD-Perimeter, which are already helping IT teams to manage their increasingly distributed networks. And with 5G set to arrive within the next three years (which has the potential to be as transformative as the introduction of electricity itself) the IoT era will be in full swing, giving them the network flexibility and scalability necessary to grow and improve at the rate their highly competitive industry requires.

The author of this blog is Hubert da Costa, VP EMEA, Cradlepoint

Comment on this article below or via Twitter: @IoTNow OR @jcIoTnow

RECENT ARTICLES

Nordic-powered smart utility access cover offers anti-theft protection and detects open/close events

Posted on: August 16, 2022

Oslo, Norway – China-based Jian-IOT has launched a smart utility access cover that can detect when the cover has been opened or closed, records water level and temperature data, identifies any damage, and includes an anti-theft system that tracks the current location of the device. The ‘Integrated Intelligent Manhole Cover’ employs Nordic’s nRF52832 SoC to both act

Read more

Helbiz to offer on-demand taxi services to widen international intermodal offering

Posted on: August 16, 2022

New York, United States – Helbiz, a global provider in micro-mobility, announced the beginning of a new chapter for its intermodal mobility offering, Helbiz Taxi. The micro-mobility company aims to integrate mobility services around the world in its app to widen the intra and extra urban mobility offerings to include vehicles from additional companies with

Read more
FEATURED IoT STORIES

9 IoT applications that will change everything

Posted on: September 1, 2021

Whether you are a future-minded CEO, tech-driven CEO or IT leader, you’ve come across the term IoT before. It’s often used alongside superlatives regarding how it will revolutionize the way you work, play, and live. But is it just another buzzword, or is it the as-promised technological holy grail? The truth is that Internet of

Read more

Which IoT Platform 2021? IoT Now Enterprise Buyers’ Guide

Posted on: August 30, 2021

There are several different parts in a complete IoT solution, all of which must work together to get the result needed, write IoT Now Enterprise Buyers’ Guide – Which IoT Platform 2021? authors Robin Duke-Woolley, the CEO and Bill Ingle, a senior analyst, at Beecham Research. Figure 1 shows these parts and, although not all

Read more

CAT-M1 vs NB-IoT – examining the real differences

Posted on: June 21, 2021

As industry players look to provide the next generation of IoT connectivity, two different standards have emerged under release 13 of 3GPP – CAT-M1 and NB-IoT.

Read more

IoT and home automation: What does the future hold?

Posted on: June 10, 2020

Once a dream, home automation using iot is slowly but steadily becoming a part of daily lives around the world. In fact, it is believed that the global market for smart home automation will reach $40 billion by 2020.

Read more

5 challenges still facing the Internet of Things

Posted on: June 3, 2020

The Internet of Things (IoT) has quickly become a huge part of how people live, communicate and do business. All around the world, web-enabled devices are turning our world into a more switched-on place to live.

Read more

What is IoT?

Posted on: July 7, 2019

What is IoT Data as a new oil IoT connectivity What is IoT video So what’s IoT? The phrase ‘Internet of Things’ (IoT) is officially everywhere. It constantly shows up in my Google news feed, the weekend tech supplements are waxing lyrical about it and the volume of marketing emails I receive advertising ‘smart, connected

Read more
IoT Newsletter

Join the IoT Now online community for FREE, to receive: Exclusive offers for entry to all the IoT events that matter, round the world

Free access to a huge selection of the latest IoT analyst reports and industry whitepapers

The latest IoT news, as it breaks, to your inbox