In the late 1980’s, the phrase “ubiquitous computing” was coined by scientist Mark Weiser to describe how computers will become unseen, silent servants that are available everywhere and anywhere. Thirty decades later, we’re seeing this concept become a reality.
Digital computing as we know it, is becoming more of an invisible, effortless part of our everyday lives. The retail landscape has changed tremendously as a result, with auto-identification and data capturing technologies being increasingly pervasive at every stage of production, purchase and after-sales processes. According to research firm IDC, the installed base of things connected will be 212 billion by the end of 2020 with intelligent systems installed and collecting data by this point.
What does the Internet of Things mean for retailers?
For retailers, the growth of this universe of interconnected devices, people and equipment – otherwise known as the Internet of Things (IoT) – opens more possibilities in improving business efficiencies and delivering greater shopping experiences to customers throughout the retail supply chain.
Retailers can use IoT technologies, such as sensors and data tracking, to streamline retail processes. For example, businesses can tag individual store items so they can let shoppers know exactly what they have in stock, and where its exact location is for better shopping experiences. Sensors, such as RFID tags, also allow retailers to remotely monitor their inventory in real-time and be automatically prompted when stocks need to be replenished, leading to greater inventory accuracy.
Retailers can also gather consumer data and activity to deliver better and smarter customer service with technologies. For example, retailers can use location-based tracking to offer assistance to customers who are roaming the store, or even send real-time promotions based on customers’ shopping history.
How widespread is the adoption of IoT?
Research firms are now predicting that the number of connected devices will grow anywhere from 50 billion, to 200 billion by 2020. Retail, alongside manufacturing, transportation and energy, is proving to be the industry with the most potential, showing solid RoI and generating new forms of business value with existing assets.
One of the key factors fuelling the growth of the Internet of Retail is the proliferation of Internet-connected mobile devices and the accompanying trend in how consumers are accessing and acting on information in their shopping process. With consumers increasingly browsing, shopping and paying for merchandise with their mobile devices, retailers who do not embrace IoT are at the risk of losing customers to those who do.
What are the costs associated with IoT?
One of the many appealing things about the newest IoT applications is their scalability. By leveraging the cloud and utilizing user-friendly interfaces that be accessed through desktop computers, tablets and smartphones, the barrier to entry for businesses is coming down. SMBs can connect as few devices as needed, and large corporations can implement enterprise-wide global solutions. And even as the number of connected devices increases, the solution is still just as simple to use.
Clearly, with any new technology, there are benefits and challenges that need to be considered and addressed before any type of IoT implementation can take place. Machine-to-machine technology is growing at a rapid pace in the global economy.
According to the TechRepublic and ZDNet’s survey “M2M: Hype or Transformative Tech Survey,” 32 percent of respondents believe that machine-to-machine technology is integral to their business and about 29 percent stated they are already using M2M technology or have a project underway. These statistics prove that the Internet of Things is not a futuristic, lofty concept but rather a real-world technology that will continue to bring objects to life in a growing ecosystem of knowledge and business value.
This is a guest post by Ryan Goh, Vice President of Sales at Zebra Technologies Asia Pacific, the Registration Sponsor at Cards & Payments Asia 2014 expo.