The power players of retail transformation: IoT, 5G, and AI/ML on Microsoft Cloud

BrandPost By Tata Consultancy Services
Apr 19, 20235 mins
Cloud ComputingDigital TransformationRetail Industry

End-to-end integration and cloud-enabled analytics are accelerating innovation and helping retailers achieve sustainability goals on Microsoft Cloud while staying compliant, maintaining security, and preventing fraud.

Credit: Tzido

Thanks to cloud, Internet of Things (IoT), and 5G technologies, every link in the retail supply chain is becoming more tightly integrated. These technologies are also allowing retailers to capture and gather insights from more and more data – with a big assist from artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning (ML) technologies – to become more efficient and achieve evolving sustainability goals.   

From maintaining produce at the proper temperature to optimizing a distributor’s delivery routes, retail organizations are transforming their businesses to streamline product storage and delivery and take customer experiences to a new level of convenience—saving time and resources and reinforcing new mandates for sustainability along the entire value chain.

“Transformation using these technologies is not just about finding ways to reduce energy consumption now,” says Binu Jacob, Head of IoT, Microsoft Business Unit, Tata Consultancy Services (TCS). “It’s also about being able to capture the insights needed to better forecast energy consumption in the future.”

Reducing energy consumption across the value chain

For example, AI/ML technologies can detect the outside temperature and regulate warehouse refrigeration equipment to keep foods appropriately chilled, preventing spoilage and saving energy.

“The more information we can collect about energy consumption of in-store food coolers, and then combine that with other data such as how many people are in the store or what the temperature is outside, the more efficiently these systems can regulate temperature for the coolers to optimize energy consumption,” says K.N. Shanthakumar, Solution Architect – IoT, Retail Business Unit, TCS.

Landmark Group, one of the largest retail and hospitality organizations in the Middle East, wanted to reduce energy consumption and carbon footprint, improve operational excellence, and make progress toward its sustainability goals. Working with TCS, Landmark Group deployed TCS Clever Energy at more than 500 sites, including stores, offices, warehouses, and malls, resulting in significant improvements in energy efficiency and carbon emissions at these sites.

“Retail customers are looking to achieve net zero goals by creating sustainable value chains and reducing the environmental impact of their operations,” says Marianne Röling, Vice President Global System Integrators, Microsoft. “TCS’ extensive portfolio of sustainability solutions, built on Microsoft Cloud, provides a comprehensive approach for businesses to embrace sustainability and empower retail customers to reduce their energy consumption, decarbonize their supply chains, meet their net zero goals, and deliver on their commitments.”

Optimizing delivery workflows

For delivery to retail outlets, logistics programs—TCS DigiFleet is one example—increasingly rely on AI/ML to help distributors plan optimized routes for drivers, reducing fuel consumption and associated costs. Video and visual analytics ensure that trucks are filled before they leave the warehouse or distribution center, consolidating deliveries into fewer trips. Sensors and other IoT devices track inventory and ensure that products are safe and secure. Postnord implemented this solution to increase fill rate, thereby improving operations and cost savings. 

“Instead of dispatching multiple trucks with partially filled containers, you can send fewer trucks with fully loaded containers on a route that has been optimized for the most efficient delivery,” says Shanthakumar. “5G helps with the monitoring of contents of the containers and truck routes in real time while dynamically making adjustments as needed and communicating with the driver for effective usage.”

More data, better insights

With cloud-driven modernization, intelligence derived from in-store systems and sensors can automatically feed into the supply chain to address consumer expectations on a real-time basis. In keeping with the farm-to-fork movement, for example, consumers can scan a barcode to find out where a product originated and what cycles it went through before landing on the grocery store shelf.

With 5G-enabled smart mirrors, a person can virtually try on apparel. By means of a touchpad or kiosk, the mirror technology can superimpose a garment on a picture to show the shopper how it will look, changing colors and other variables with ease.

Retail transformation enabled by AI/ML, IoT and 5G technologies is still evolving, but we’re already seeing plenty of real-world examples of what the future holds, including autonomous stores and drone deliveries. The key for retail organizations is building a cloud-based infrastructure that not only accelerates this type of innovation, but also helps them become more resilient, adaptable, and sustainable while staying compliant, maintaining security, and preventing fraud.

Learn more about how TCS’ Sustainability and Smart Store solution empowers retailers to reimagine store operations, optimize operational costs, improve security, increase productivity, and enhance customer experience.