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TECHNOLOGY

How Big Data, IoT, Robotics and Modern Tech Are Revolutionizing the Retail Industry

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How Big Data, IoT, Robotics and Modern Tech Are Revolutionizing the Retail Industry

How Big Data, IoT, Robotics and Modern Tech Are Revolutionizing the Retail Industry

Modern technologies such as big data, internet of things (IoT) and robotics have gifted the retail sector with several advancements.

Hence, the retail sector is going through a revolution that has led to the creation of retail 4.0.

Since 2014, the retail industry sales have been rising at a steady rate. In 2020 alone, the retail industry sales were recorded to be around $18.5 trillions. One of the factors responsible for the steady growth of the retail sector is the rise of digitization and modern technology, which lead to the birth of retail 4.0. After the introduction of advanced technologies, several processes in retail workflow such as purchase, inventory management, customer service, accounts, and supply chain management became automated. Enhanced communication platforms have created a more connected landscape across the board. Thus, the retail industry is witnessing a shift in the work culture with the help of retail 4.0, giving rise to innovative business models. Another benefit of digitization in retail is the adoption of a data-driven approach that has given rise to consumer-centric product strategies.

Technology Trends Driving Retail 4.0

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Big Data

In today’s digital world, data is currency. Data is collected everywhere whether you are signing up for a new social network or looking to adopt a pet. Similarly, data is collected at every stage of a supply chain and in every department of the retail industry. With big data in retail, the accumulated data can be used for analysis and for building effective strategies.

Data helps retailers understand their consumers and the demographics they belong to. Such data-based insights offer an informative approach for recognizing consumer demands by identifying which products and services have a high demand and which products are not doing well in the market. By analyzing market sales and performance for their products, retailers can make informed investment decisions. As an additional benefit, consumer data helps in determining the price that consumers find suitable for a product. Big data analytics enables businesses to explore the changing industry trends and niche consumer demands. Retail store giant, Target, created a pregnancy prediction model with the help of their baby-shower registry, purchase patterns, customer support queries, credit card use, survey responses, website use, and personal data. The model distributed baby product promotions to specific customers in a timely manner based on their stages of pregnancy. Hence, gathering consumer data creates a consumer-centric business atmosphere that caters to individual consumer needs.

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Industrial IoT

Industrial IoT is one of the major contributors to the development of retail 4.0. IoT is consistently innovating the retail industry. IoT sensors help in creating an interactive environment across the board. The retail industry has realized the potential of IoT, which explains why 70% of retail decision makers globally want to adopt IoT for delivering better consumer experiences.

With IoT sensors, field devices can interact with each other and provide real-time updates to the concerned parties. IoT sensors can be installed to monitor expensive machines and equipment used for inventory management, production, and transportation purposes. IoT applications enable predictive maintenance of equipment, saving expenses incurred on equipment failure. IoT is giving rise to ‘smart’ retail stores that are connected with RFID tags. RFID tags help in the real-time management of stores. Similarly, IoT sensors can be used to track inventory levels of stores and warehouses. With such sensors, retailers will be notified if their inventory is running out of products and restock when required. At checkouts, consumers can scan IoT-powered tags and pay via mobile apps. Furthermore, retail stores can deploy beacons to alert customers about promotions and discounts when they are near certain products. Retail stores can also install smart shelves that scan RFID tags of products and measure their weight to monitor the availability of products on the shelves. When the shelves are empty, smart shelves alert the store owners. Such efforts can also enable theft prevention in the store.

Cloud Computing

A transparent business approach is one of the top priorities of retail 4.0. Cloud computing allows sharing crucial data and documents across various channels whenever required. Due to its online nature, cloud computing proves to be more secure compared to the traditional methods. Moreover, cloud computing helps in horizontal and vertical system integration by providing a transparent medium for tracking the exact status of consignments, stock-outs, high inventories and the digital documents received from suppliers, logistics providers, brokers, and carriers. Developers are constantly improving cloud computing to make the technology faster and more secure than ever. Therefore, cloud computing and retail 4.0 are together promoting data-driven business practices.

Additive Manufacturing

Modern technologies have developed new and innovative production techniques to ensure efficient and cost-effective manufacturing processes. Additive manufacturing techniques such as 3D printing are widely used to produce prototypes. But, in the era of retail 4.0, additive manufacturing is revolutionizing the supply chains by reducing material input and costs. With additive manufacturing, production processes will be simplified to enable large-scale production of products. Also, simpler machine-powered production processes will reduce the labor requirement.

With further developments in the technology, the production of new products that meet the changing customer demands will be quicker. Furthermore, additive manufacturing can also be used as a backup to traditional manufacturing techniques in the event of equipment failures.

Robotics

Robots are already extensively used for manufacturing operations in factories. But with the introduction of retail 4.0, autonomous robots have found mainstream applications such as in-store customer service, warehouse management, and delivery services. After much research and development, all logistics and delivery tasks will be handled by autonomous vehicles.

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In-store customer service robots guide customers across various sections of the store and help them find the required products. For example, Fellow Robots has developed LoweBot for the retail home improvement chain Lowe’s. Customers can ask questions or type them using the touchscreen on Lowebot and the bot resolves the queries or guides customers to their products. As an additional feature, Lowebot also performs inventory tracking across the aisles. Likewise, Chloe, Best Buy’s in-house robotics solution picks out products and merchandise from the shelves using a robotic arm as per consumer requests. Chloe also tracks shopping trends to refresh the inventory. Then there is Domino’s that’s deployed Domicopter, a drone, to deliver food to customers.

Augmented Reality

Although augmented reality is still a relatively fresh technology, industrialists are investing in the research and development of its innovative use cases. Currently, augmented reality is used for numerous functions like selecting warehouse parts and sending repair instructions with mobile apps.

Online retailers are already providing mobile apps that help consumers “try out” clothes or virtually place furniture to check if it fits with their interior design. Several consumers are also using IBM app and Google Lens to scan products for information.

Roadmap for Adapting to Retail 4.0

Retail 4.0 has led to the creation of more efficient and productive business practices with the help of advanced technologies. Big players are already using cost-effective alternatives for traditional methods. Businesses are now focusing on creating seamlessly integrated and data-driven business models. Such business models prioritize end-to-end transparency and communication to fulfill consumer demands and manage inventories. But, planning and implementation of such business practices along with the deployment of the necessary technologies is a complicated task. Hence, organizations need a roadmap to approach retail 4.0 in the most effective way possible. The roadmap involves the following steps:

  • Since several technologies and business models are required for adapting to retail 4.0, hiring experienced professionals with niche skills is essential.

  • Creating effective strategies and allocating sufficient budget for infrastructure.

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  • Updating existing systems to integrate new technologies.

  • Generating analytics to understand the changing industry trends as well as the organization’s performance in the market.

  • Educating employees about every technology being deployed and the effects of such technologies on the work culture.

  • Promoting the development of applications that ensure better consumer experience.

In the near future, blockchain will be a part of the global retail market where payrolls, supply chain management, investments, and purchases will be handled with the help of a transparent ledger. Therefore, the possibilities for retail 4.0 are endless. Hence, retail organizations need to stay updated about new technologies and business practices and adopt a holistic approach for retail 4.0.


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TECHNOLOGY

Next-gen chips, Amazon Q, and speedy S3

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AWS re:Invent, which has been taking place from November 27 and runs to December 1, has had its usual plethora of announcements: a total of 21 at time of print.

Perhaps not surprisingly, given the huge potential impact of generative AI – ChatGPT officially turns one year old today – a lot of focus has been on the AI side for AWS’ announcements, including a major partnership inked with NVIDIA across infrastructure, software, and services.

Yet there has been plenty more announced at the Las Vegas jamboree besides. Here, CloudTech rounds up the best of the rest:

Next-generation chips

This was the other major AI-focused announcement at re:Invent: the launch of two new chips, AWS Graviton4 and AWS Trainium2, for training and running AI and machine learning (ML) models, among other customer workloads. Graviton4 shapes up against its predecessor with 30% better compute performance, 50% more cores and 75% more memory bandwidth, while Trainium2 delivers up to four times faster training than before and will be able to be deployed in EC2 UltraClusters of up to 100,000 chips.

The EC2 UltraClusters are designed to ‘deliver the highest performance, most energy efficient AI model training infrastructure in the cloud’, as AWS puts it. With it, customers will be able to train large language models in ‘a fraction of the time’, as well as double energy efficiency.

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As ever, AWS offers customers who are already utilising these tools. Databricks, Epic and SAP are among the companies cited as using the new AWS-designed chips.

Zero-ETL integrations

AWS announced new Amazon Aurora PostgreSQL, Amazon DynamoDB, and Amazon Relational Database Services (Amazon RDS) for MySQL integrations with Amazon Redshift, AWS’ cloud data warehouse. The zero-ETL integrations – eliminating the need to build ETL (extract, transform, load) data pipelines – make it easier to connect and analyse transactional data across various relational and non-relational databases in Amazon Redshift.

A simple example of how zero-ETL functions can be seen is in a hypothetical company which stores transactional data – time of transaction, items bought, where the transaction occurred – in a relational database, but use another analytics tool to analyse data in a non-relational database. To connect it all up, companies would previously have to construct ETL data pipelines which are a time and money sink.

The latest integrations “build on AWS’s zero-ETL foundation… so customers can quickly and easily connect all of their data, no matter where it lives,” the company said.

Amazon S3 Express One Zone

AWS announced the general availability of Amazon S3 Express One Zone, a new storage class purpose-built for customers’ most frequently-accessed data. Data access speed is up to 10 times faster and request costs up to 50% lower than standard S3. Companies can also opt to collocate their Amazon S3 Express One Zone data in the same availability zone as their compute resources.  

Companies and partners who are using Amazon S3 Express One Zone include ChaosSearch, Cloudera, and Pinterest.

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Amazon Q

A new product, and an interesting pivot, again with generative AI at its core. Amazon Q was announced as a ‘new type of generative AI-powered assistant’ which can be tailored to a customer’s business. “Customers can get fast, relevant answers to pressing questions, generate content, and take actions – all informed by a customer’s information repositories, code, and enterprise systems,” AWS added. The service also can assist companies building on AWS, as well as companies using AWS applications for business intelligence, contact centres, and supply chain management.

Customers cited as early adopters include Accenture, BMW and Wunderkind.

Want to learn more about cybersecurity and the cloud from industry leaders? Check out Cyber Security & Cloud Expo taking place in Amsterdam, California, and London. Explore other upcoming enterprise technology events and webinars powered by TechForge here.

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HCLTech and Cisco create collaborative hybrid workplaces

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Digital comms specialist Cisco and global tech firm HCLTech have teamed up to launch Meeting-Rooms-as-a-Service (MRaaS).

Available on a subscription model, this solution modernises legacy meeting rooms and enables users to join meetings from any meeting solution provider using Webex devices.

The MRaaS solution helps enterprises simplify the design, implementation and maintenance of integrated meeting rooms, enabling seamless collaboration for their globally distributed hybrid workforces.

Rakshit Ghura, senior VP and Global head of digital workplace services, HCLTech, said: “MRaaS combines our consulting and managed services expertise with Cisco’s proficiency in Webex devices to change the way employees conceptualise, organise and interact in a collaborative environment for a modern hybrid work model.

“The common vision of our partnership is to elevate the collaboration experience at work and drive productivity through modern meeting rooms.”

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Alexandra Zagury, VP of partner managed and as-a-Service Sales at Cisco, said: “Our partnership with HCLTech helps our clients transform their offices through cost-effective managed services that support the ongoing evolution of workspaces.

“As we reimagine the modern office, we are making it easier to support collaboration and productivity among workers, whether they are in the office or elsewhere.”

Cisco’s Webex collaboration devices harness the power of artificial intelligence to offer intuitive, seamless collaboration experiences, enabling meeting rooms with smart features such as meeting zones, intelligent people framing, optimised attendee audio and background noise removal, among others.

Want to learn more about cybersecurity and the cloud from industry leaders? Check out Cyber Security & Cloud Expo taking place in Amsterdam, California, and London. Explore other upcoming enterprise technology events and webinars powered by TechForge here.

Tags: Cisco, collaboration, HCLTech, Hybrid, meetings

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Canonical releases low-touch private cloud MicroCloud

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Canonical has announced the general availability of MicroCloud, a low-touch, open source cloud solution. MicroCloud is part of Canonical’s growing cloud infrastructure portfolio.

It is purpose-built for scalable clusters and edge deployments for all types of enterprises. It is designed with simplicity, security and automation in mind, minimising the time and effort to both deploy and maintain it. Conveniently, enterprise support for MicroCloud is offered as part of Canonical’s Ubuntu Pro subscription, with several support tiers available, and priced per node.

MicroClouds are optimised for repeatable and reliable remote deployments. A single command initiates the orchestration and clustering of various components with minimal involvement by the user, resulting in a fully functional cloud within minutes. This simplified deployment process significantly reduces the barrier to entry, putting a production-grade cloud at everyone’s fingertips.

Juan Manuel Ventura, head of architectures & technologies at Spindox, said: “Cloud computing is not only about technology, it’s the beating heart of any modern industrial transformation, driving agility and innovation. Our mission is to provide our customers with the most effective ways to innovate and bring value; having a complexity-free cloud infrastructure is one important piece of that puzzle. With MicroCloud, the focus shifts away from struggling with cloud operations to solving real business challenges” says

In addition to seamless deployment, MicroCloud prioritises security and ease of maintenance. All MicroCloud components are built with strict confinement for increased security, with over-the-air transactional updates that preserve data and roll back on errors automatically. Upgrades to newer versions are handled automatically and without downtime, with the mechanisms to hold or schedule them as needed.

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With this approach, MicroCloud caters to both on-premise clouds but also edge deployments at remote locations, allowing organisations to use the same infrastructure primitives and services wherever they are needed. It is suitable for business-in-branch office locations or industrial use inside a factory, as well as distributed locations where the focus is on replicability and unattended operations.

Cedric Gegout, VP of product at Canonical, said: “As data becomes more distributed, the infrastructure has to follow. Cloud computing is now distributed, spanning across data centres, far and near edge computing appliances. MicroCloud is our answer to that.

“By packaging known infrastructure primitives in a portable and unattended way, we are delivering a simpler, more prescriptive cloud experience that makes zero-ops a reality for many Industries.“

MicroCloud’s lightweight architecture makes it usable on both commodity and high-end hardware, with several ways to further reduce its footprint depending on your workload needs. In addition to the standard Ubuntu Server or Desktop, MicroClouds can be run on Ubuntu Core – a lightweight OS optimised for the edge. With Ubuntu Core, MicroClouds are a perfect solution for far-edge locations with limited computing capabilities. Users can choose to run their workloads using Kubernetes or via system containers. System containers based on LXD behave similarly to traditional VMs but consume fewer resources while providing bare-metal performance.

Coupled with Canonical’s Ubuntu Pro + Support subscription, MicroCloud users can benefit from an enterprise-grade open source cloud solution that is fully supported and with better economics. An Ubuntu Pro subscription offers security maintenance for the broadest collection of open-source software available from a single vendor today. It covers over 30k packages with a consistent security maintenance commitment, and additional features such as kernel livepatch, systems management at scale, certified compliance and hardening profiles enabling easy adoption for enterprises. With per-node pricing and no hidden fees, customers can rest assured that their environment is secure and supported without the expensive price tag typically associated with cloud solutions.

Want to learn more about cybersecurity and the cloud from industry leaders? Check out Cyber Security & Cloud Expo taking place in Amsterdam, California, and London. Explore other upcoming enterprise technology events and webinars powered by TechForge here.

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Tags: automation, Canonical, MicroCloud, private cloud

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