IF THE BUZZ COMING OUT of the National
Retail Federation’s “Big Show” in January is any
indication, the timeline is advancing for the
Internet of Things (Io T), and society is poised
to reap the benefits of visionary technology.
As Bill Wasik, a senior editor of Wired, put it in
a May 2013 article, “In our houses, cars, and
factories, we’re surrounded by tiny, intelligent
devices that capture data about how we live and
what we do. Now they are beginning to talk to
one another. Soon we’ll be able to choreograph
them to respond to our needs, solve our prob-
lems, even save our lives.”
When considering the list of places where
devices will talk to each other for the better-
ment of our experience, we must include retail.
Through our involvement with the Internet of
Things product displays for some early entrants,
we know that retailers will play a key role in
making the possibilities of the Io T evident to
consumers. Retail product displays will educate
us about the hubs and apps available to control
devices like thermostats, locks, and light bulbs
with our phones—and, of course, the smart
devices we can purchase and control. They will
also sell us biofeedback devices that help us
track our fitness and other kinds of wearables.
Estimates on tracking the explosion of the
Internet of Things vary widely. ABI Research
projects more than 30 billion devices worldwide
will be wirelessly connected to the Internet by
2020, while analysts for Morgan Stanley predict
the number will be 75 billion.
Initially consumers may be focused in on what it means to control devices in their homes or on their bodies. Increasingly they will
reap the value that the Io T can bring to shopping, where devices
communicating with each other will make operations more efficient and in-store communications more personally relevant.
Following are a few of the more noticeable benefits we expect.
INVENTORY VISIBILIT Y
The tracking and more effective deployment of inventory has value
that is highly visible to consumers since item location and availability have a direct impact on the ability to complete a purchase.
A study by WD Partners presented at NRF revealed that 79 percent
of respondents felt “instant ownership” was the most appealing
attribute of any retailer. Retailers will increasingly be able to pro-
vide up to the minute inventory availability for
customers as they more effectively connect the
digital to the physical and employ insights to
improve their operations.
The connection of devices, processes, and people makes possible innovations like smart
shelves that can signal when they are getting
empty, trigger restocking at the store level,
and communicate back through the supply
chain. Fewer out-of-stocks mean more satisfied
Beacons that recognize the presence of mobile
operating systems will usher in more finely targeted proximity marketing inside stores. Some
retailers that have customer data tied to mobile
apps are already doing this at the store level.
In the Internet of Things, newer Apple and
Android devices using Bluetooth Low Energy
can intercept messages from beacons at the
aisle or shelf level. Retailers must experiment
and learn as they go from generalized to customized messaging, but when married with
customer data and the requisite permission,
they can deliver highly relevant messages and
offers that may help forge closer relationships
with customers. Indeed, about half of online
consumers say they are comfortable revealing
personal information if they get customized
offers and rewards in return.
THE EVOLUTION OF CONNECTIVITY
There were some technical conversations at
NRF by people who have built their careers
in the era of connectivity that went something like this: We are
evolving from a time where the phone serves as the storehouse for
myriad apps to one where the phone becomes, as mobile CEO Gary
Schwartz phrased it, “an intelligent server interacting with the
world of wireless signals” based on consumer preference.
The Internet of Things is poised to touch society on many levels
from personal satisfaction and efficiencies to revenue improvements for businesses to real wealth creation.
Ron Bowers is senior vice president of business development for
Frank Mayer and Associates Inc., based in Grafton, Wis. Contact him
at 800-225-3987, or e-mail email@example.com. See more of
his thoughts at FMA’s blog, www.frankmayer.com/blog/.
Retail Brings Visibility
to the Internet of Things
“We know that
play a key role
in making the
senior vice president of
FRANK MAYER AND