For the retail industry, these are exciting times. With the massive amounts of data generated in the course of day-to-day operations, retailers can now gain intimate insights into their customers, products and operations. With these data-driven insights, retailers can provide richer customer experiences, optimize business processes and unlock new monetization opportunities.
This is an opportunity that is there for all retailers who have the systems, strategies and analytics tools in process or in place to capitalize on the growing amounts of data generated by multichannel customer interactions, Internet of Things devices, computer vision systems and a wide range of business processes.
This is where Edge computing solutions appear in the retail landscape.
Computing at the Edge
Edge computing moves data processing and analytics closer to the points where the data is born. While it is by its nature a loosely defined term, this much is certain: The Edge exists wherever the digital world and physical world intersect and data is securely generated, collected and processed to create new value.
For retailers, there are three compelling reasons for moving data analytics to the Edge, rather than sending everything to analytics engines in corporate and cloud data centers:
- Volume — The amount of data generated at the Edge is growing at an astronomical rate. By some estimates, Edge data could account for three-fourths of enterprise data within the next two years. The greater the volumes, the greater the challenges of moving it all to a faraway data center.
- Cost — As data volumes grow, the cost advantages of processing data at the edge become more compelling. In many cases, it can cost less to process and analyze data at the Edge rather than moving the data to a corporate or cloud data center.
- Speed — The process of transmitting data to distant data centers for analysis introduces a great deal of latency into the data analysis equation. And many use cases simply cannot accept the inherent latency in sending data over a network for processing and then returning a response — as in the case of security systems that leverage computer vision to keep an eye on the retail environment.
These new realities of the retail world build the case for analyzing more data at the Edge, where IoT and computer vision devices are located and where intelligent systems can take immediate actions based on the results of data analytics. This is all about bringing the analytics to the data, rather than sending the data to the analytics.
Some common use cases
The use cases for Edge and IoT solutions in retail environments span the business, from personalized customer interactions to loss prevention and inventory optimization. Let’s look at a few of these use cases, which illustrate some of the ways in which Edge and IoT strategies are rewriting the rules of retail.
Dynamically personalized customer experiences
Today’s connected consumers want a highly personalized, seamless experience across every shopping channel. To that end, Edge and IoT solutions enable merchants to combine data from many sources to enable seamless insight-driven customer experiences.
These solutions can bring together IoT data collection and analytics, artificial intelligence, computer vision, and even augmented reality/virtual reality experiences. The large volumes of data and the immediacy involved in this process make personalized shopping experiences an inherently Edge and IoT solution.
Put it all together and retailers are poised to deliver outstanding shopping experiences that are personalized from the moment customers walk through the door. For example, a retailer might use in-store sensors to build stronger customer relationships through timely offers, VIP-style perks and more.
Advanced loss prevention
Edge and IoT solutions now play an important role in loss prevention in retail environments. In this use case, cameras capture video of shoppers and stream the footage to Edge gateways for analysis.
With the right artificial intelligence tools in place, including computer vision, Edge and IoT systems can automatically detect behaviors that are often associated with criminal activity, and then issue alerts to security personnel on the retail floor. Even better, AI models can be trained to see the difference between normal customer behavior and criminal behavior.
As with dynamically personalized shopping experiences, advanced loss prevention is inherently an Edge and IoT use case. Data needs to be analyzed in real time, as it is generated, to enable store security personnel to put an immediate stop to shoplifting, label switching, insider sweet-heart deals and other criminal activity.
Predictive inventory and supply chain control
Smart retailers are making use of Edge and IoT solutions to predict demand for bestselling products and to optimize inventory levels to help ensure that the right products are in the right place at the right time — without costly overstocking.
These solutions can incorporate data gathered through drone-based sweeps of inventory with compute vision-based location identification. Stock control powered by computer vision delivers compelling benefits, including automated inventory management processes with precise level and location information, increased visibility and inventory management information, all delivering cost and time savings.
Once again, predictive inventory and supply chain control is a natural use case for Edge computing, because of the large volumes of data, the timeliness of the task and the need to continually restock inventory to meet demand.
If you’re a retailer looking to rewrite the rules of retail with Edge and IoT solutions, please contact Dell Technologies to discuss opportunities. Across the globe, we leverage our strategically aligned businesses, global partner ecosystem, robust services and financial offerings to provide end-to-end solutions that power customer-centric retail transformation — from the Edge to the core to the cloud.
Today, we’re ready to do the same for you.
To learn more
For a graphically oriented look at the case for Edge and IoT solutions in retail, view the Dell Technologies Retail Edge and IoT Solutions infographic. And for a broader look at secure, scalable Edge and IoT solutions, visit the Dell Technologies Edge and IoT site.
Kirsten Billhardt is Marketing Director for Edge and IoT at Dell Technologies.