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How IoT Is Poised To Change Retail

Megan Ray Nichols

The Internet of Things (IoT) has been causing quite a stir, and now it seems poised to cause a positive disruption in the world of retail. Here are some specific ways IoT-related technologies may be utilized to boost both in-store and online retail transactions.

Smoother, more connected experiences for in-store consumers

Analysts predict the Internet of Things will revolutionize the ways we shop at our favorite stores. Some technological advancements likely to soon become mainstream include intelligent barcodes customers can scan to get more details about products, in-store advertising that works via facial recognition and can give personalized insights, and the ability for shoppers to sign up for text messages that offer special deals on products as they move around stores.

The overarching goal of all these high-tech hopes is to create fun, exciting shopping experiences that integrate numerous promotional tactics. IoT can also help store employees learn up-to-the-minute details about shelf inventory and make real-time price updates, eliminating the need for workers to manually apply new price tags.

IoT-enabled robots could streamline supply chains and emphasize safety

It’s also expected that before long, robots that are linked to the Internet of Things could shorten the distance between warehouses and store shelves. Lowe’s, the home improvement retailer, has already begun experimenting with a robot to help customers learn whether desired items are in stock.

The IoT-connected technology, nicknamed the LoweBot, can scan items and capture real-time inventory about product availability. It’s easy to see how such technology could make the customer experience more efficient by promoting better connectivity between the stockroom and the sales floor.

Robots linked to the Internet of Things could also theoretically take on some of the characteristically unsafe conditions many warehouse workers must endure, such as temperature extremes and risks from use of heavy equipment. Common occupational hazards for employees include carpal tunnel syndrome and back pain.

In the near future, we may see a shift away from humans handling repetitive and potentially dangerous warehouse duties as IoT robots fill the void. Considering the massive scale of some online retailers’ distribution centers, it’s easy to see how warehouse robotics could have a positive impact in this area as well as in sales at both brick-and-mortar and online stores.

Major brands clearly see how the IoT could reshape retail

Clearly, the IoT is set to dramatically change how we shop for the things we love, regardless of whether we buy them on websites or in traditional stores. If the examples cited above make you feel excited about future possibilities, you’re not alone.

Intel is an example of a major brand that’s pledged to make investments into IoT-related retail ventures. Over the next five years, the company will invest more than $100 million into IoT retail technologies. Already, Intel has unveiled an IoT platform called the Intel Responsive Retail Platform, which will help employees figure out the best placement for different products, help them track sales, monitor inventory levels, and more.

Target is reportedly ready to reopen the Target Open Store, a concept house in San Francisco where customers can interact with IoT devices to explore how they could improve their lives prior to purchasing them.

The Open Store also includes “The Garage,” a section that features IoT products still in development, leading customers to wonder more about what’s in store for the IoT. In total, the Open Store can display up to 70 items simultaneously.

Theorizing about what’s ahead

Only time will tell what’s to come in the months and years ahead, but if headlines are any indication, we can look forward to an enhanced shopping experience that gives employees more flexibility to meet customers’ needs via high-tech platforms that manage formerly human-driven tasks like inventory management and price changes.

It’s also likely we’ll be less dependent on employees to provide details such as whether clothing in a certain color is in stock, or if a nearby store has the specific product we want. As for the giant warehouses that are a necessity for most large online retailers, expect robots to commonly assume some of the tasks that could be dangerous for humans to do.

One thing’s for certain: Thanks to the Internet of Things, the retail industry has already changed in major ways, with more still to come.

For more insight on digital transformation in the retail industry, see SMB Retailers’ Digital Strategy Is All About The Shopper.

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About Megan Ray Nichols

Megan Ray Nichols is a freelance science writer and the editor of "Schooled By Science." She enjoys researching the latest advances in technology and writes regularly for Datafloq, Colocation American, and Vision Times. You can follow Megan on Twitter.

Industry 4.0: Digital Transformation In Manufacturing

Sandeep Raut

Manufacturing companies have traditionally been slow to react to the advent of digital technologies like intelligent robots, drones, sensor technology, artificial intelligence, nanotechnology, and 3D printing.

Industry 4.0 has changed manufacturing. At a high level, Industry 4.0 represents the vision of the interconnected factory where all equipment is online, and in some way is also intelligent and capable of making its own decisions.

The explosion in connected devices and platforms, combined with the abundance of data from field devices and the rapidly changing technology landscape, has made it imperative for companies to quickly adapt their products and services and move from the physical world to a digital one.

Today, manufacturing is transforming from mass production to an industry characterized by mass customization. Not only must the right products be delivered to the right person for the right price, the process of how products are designed and delivered must be at a new level of sophistication.

The first step in digitization is to analyze the current state of all systems, from R&D, procurement, production, warehousing, logistics, and marketing to sales and service.

The digitization of manufacturing impacts every aspect of operations and the supply chain. It starts with equipment design and continues through product design, production process improvement, and ultimately, monitoring and improving the end user experience.

Digital transformation revolutionizes the way manufacturers share and manage product and engineering design specs on the cloud by collaborating across geographies.

Downtime and reliability are critical when it comes to the operation of equipment on a shop floor. Big Data analytics offers quick and easy access to operation, production, inventory, and other quality data, which enables managers and operators to adjust machines as needed across the enterprise.

Quality and yield are directly related to manufacturing processes, as the way that raw materials are used, inspected, manufactured, and integrated really determines product quality. Cognitive computing helps manufacturers identify quality issues more efficiently, increases production yield, and reduces problems that lead to service and warranty costs.

Implementing smarter resource and supply chain optimization strategies improves the cost efficiency of resources like energy consumption, worker safety, and employee resource efficiency.

Service excellence is also an important element of a manufacturing company’s digital transformation strategy. Connected devices and the Internet of Things (IoT) are changing how after-sales service is delivered. Here are a few examples from industries such as industrial equipment, power generation and HVAC providers:

  • Push service notifications
    • How is your asset health?
    • How is your asset usage?
  • Predictive/preventive maintenance
  • Breakdown assistance
  • Usage-based billing
  • Spare parts fulfillment

General Electric’s jet engines combine cloud-based services, analytics, and online sensors to report usage and status and help predict potential failures. The result is improved uptime and lower cost of ownership.

Additive manufacturing (3D printers) for prototyping help shorten the iteration cycles in the design process and help turn innovation into value. 3D printing is also quickly gaining ground in low-volume commercial manufacturing of customized products.

Smart machines integrated with forklifts, storage shelves, and production equipment are able to take autonomous decisions and communicate with each other to drive material replenishment, trigger manufacturing, and much more.

Industry 4.0 allows manufacturers to have more flexible manufacturing processes that can better react to customer demands.

For more on the impact of digital transformation in manufacturing and other industries, see Live Product Innovation, Part 3: Process Industries, IoT, And A Recipe For Instant Change.

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Connected Four: How EMEA Enterprises Excel With Connectivity

Franck Chelly

The objective of the game Connect Four is simple: The first player who forms a line of four of the same-colored discs wins.

For businesses, achieving connectivity in today’s world of Big Data, the Internet of Things (IoT), and intelligent devices isn’t quite as easy, but the stakes remain the same: connectivity equals victory.

These four organizations based in Europe, the Middle East, and Africa (EMEA) – the Connected Four, as I like to call them – are demonstrating how connected products, assets, fleets, infrastructure, markets, and people can result in a decisive competitive advantage.

1. Hamburg Port Authority: Increasing efficiency and capacity with smartPORT logistics

The Hamburg Port Authority (HPA) manages the safe maritime transport of goods for businesses across Germany and throughout the world. With shipping demand constantly growing, HPA sought a solution to increase port efficiency and capacity.

Through the development of the smartPORT logistics platform, HPA was able to ensure its freight forwarders, container terminal operators, and customers are always connected. By enabling real-time data exchange, HPA, its partners, and customers have a clearer picture of existing port traffic and operations. This will lead to more efficient cargo-handling processes across the supply chain.

2. Alliander: Providing improved energy service, saving time, and cutting project costs

Alliander, a Dutch energy distribution company, serves more than 3 million customers per year.

The organization is currently collecting data from sensors and other intelligent devices to ensure its employees, assets, and infrastructure are all better connected.

By making this information available to its staff in a single point of data access, Alliander can achieve a wide range of goals, including:

  • Pinpointing old gas pipes that need to be replaced, a previously hours-long process that now takes just seconds
  • Predicting peak loads in certain areas of its energy network, enabling the company to better understand where it needs to increase capacity

3. Piaggio: Giving people their kicks with peace of mind

Since the 1946 launch of its Vespa scooter, Italy-based Piaggio has been treating thrill-seeking riders to the time of their lives. And while enabling customers to hit the road for an exciting journey is top of mind for Piaggio, the company is fully committed to ensuring vehicle safety.

Piaggio is largely achieving this with bleeding-edge IoT technology. IoT-connected Piaggio vehicles can alert users that their scooters or motorcycles require service, as well as communicate potential issues directly to the manufacturer or a mechanic. Addressing these issues as soon as they’re detected would allow riders to quickly continue on their adventures, safe from harm’s way.

4. Roche: Stopping diabetes in its tracks with connected care

Connected care is creating stronger relationships between doctors and patients. It’s encouraging people to take better care of themselves. And it’s equipping doctors with greater insight into patient data.

Roche Diagnostics, a Swiss life sciences company, developed a mobile app that enables doctors to track the health of patients in real-time. Combined with a blood glucose monitor and wearable fitness device, the app helps doctors to prevent the spread of diseases such as diabetes. If unhealthy behaviors are detected, the doctor can immediately schedule an appointment with the patient to address the issues and develop a proper healthcare plan.

Turn connectivity into a competitive advantage

The connected four – HPA, Alliander, Piaggio, and Roche – are at the cutting edge of today’s digital economy.

Each enterprise has figured out a way to harness the power of connectivity and transform it into measurable business results, from more efficient processes and faster project turnaround times to lower project costs and new revenue streams.

Business leaders are always on the lookout for new ways to satisfy customers. To achieve this in today’s world of Big Data and constant connectivity, organizations need to embrace the latest technologies.

Download this free brochure to explore how your enterprise can begin implementing innovative solutions and turning connectivity into a competitive advantage and follow @SAPLeonardo on Twitter.

Connect with industry experts, partners, influencers, and business leaders at SAP Leonardo Live, our premier Internet of Things (IoT) conference for breakthrough innovation and technology. Register here and join us from July 11–12, 2017, in Frankfurt, Germany, to experience how your company can run a digitized business.

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Franck Chelly

About Franck Chelly

Franck Chelly is Vice President of Internet of Things and Digital Supply Chain at SAP EMEA. Over the last 29 years, he has presented to business and IT audiences in many different countries around the world on themes such as digital transformation, the Internet of Things, the new customer engagement, the future of digital marketing, the cloud revolution, and the challenges of adoption culture in organizations.

The Future of Cybersecurity: Trust as Competitive Advantage

Justin Somaini and Dan Wellers

 

The cost of data breaches will reach US$2.1 trillion globally by 2019—nearly four times the cost in 2015.

Cyberattacks could cost up to $90 trillion in net global economic benefits by 2030 if cybersecurity doesn’t keep pace with growing threat levels.

Cyber insurance premiums could increase tenfold to $20 billion annually by 2025.

Cyberattacks are one of the top 10 global risks of highest concern for the next decade.


Companies are collaborating with a wider network of partners, embracing distributed systems, and meeting new demands for 24/7 operations.

But the bad guys are sharing intelligence, harnessing emerging technologies, and working round the clock as well—and companies are giving them plenty of weaknesses to exploit.

  • 33% of companies today are prepared to prevent a worst-case attack.
  • 25% treat cyber risk as a significant corporate risk.
  • 80% fail to assess their customers and suppliers for cyber risk.

The ROI of Zero Trust

Perimeter security will not be enough. As interconnectivity increases so will the adoption of zero-trust networks, which place controls around data assets and increases visibility into how they are used across the digital ecosystem.


A Layered Approach

Companies that embrace trust as a competitive advantage will build robust security on three core tenets:

  • Prevention: Evolving defensive strategies from security policies and educational approaches to access controls
  • Detection: Deploying effective systems for the timely detection and notification of intrusions
  • Reaction: Implementing incident response plans similar to those for other disaster recovery scenarios

They’ll build security into their digital ecosystems at three levels:

  1. Secure products. Security in all applications to protect data and transactions
  2. Secure operations. Hardened systems, patch management, security monitoring, end-to-end incident handling, and a comprehensive cloud-operations security framework
  3. Secure companies. A security-aware workforce, end-to-end physical security, and a thorough business continuity framework

Against Digital Armageddon

Experts warn that the worst-case scenario is a state of perpetual cybercrime and cyber warfare, vulnerable critical infrastructure, and trillions of dollars in losses. A collaborative approach will be critical to combatting this persistent global threat with implications not just for corporate and personal data but also strategy, supply chains, products, and physical operations.


Download the executive brief The Future of Cybersecurity: Trust as Competitive Advantage.


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To Get Past Blockchain Hype, We Must Think Differently

Susan Galer

Blockchain hype is reaching fever pitch, making it the perfect time to separate market noise from valid signals. As part of my ongoing conversations about blockchain, I reached out to several experts to find out where companies should consider going from here. Raimund Gross, Solution Architect and Futurist at SAP, acknowledged the challenges of understanding and applying such a complex leading-edge technology as blockchain.

“The people who really get it today are those able to put the hype in perspective with what’s realistically doable in the near future, and what’s unlikely to become a reality any time soon, if ever,” Gross said. “You need to commit the resources and find the right partners to lay the groundwork for success.”

Gross told me one of the biggest problems with blockchain – besides the unproven technology itself – was the mindset shift it demands. “Many people aren’t thinking about decentralized architectures with peer-to-peer networks and mash-ups, which is what blockchain is all about. People struggle because often discussions end up with a centralized approach based on past constructs. It will take training and experience to think decentrally.”

Here are several more perspectives on blockchain beyond the screaming headlines.

How blockchain disrupts insurance, banking

Blockchain has the potential to dramatically disrupt industries because the distributed ledger embeds automatic trust across processes. This changes the role of longstanding intermediaries like insurance companies and banks, essentially restructuring business models for entire industries.

“With the distributed ledger, all of the trusted intelligence related to insuring the risk resides in the cloud, providing everyone with access to the same information,” said Nadine Hoffmann, global solution manager for Innovation at SAP Financial Services. “Payment is automatically triggered when the agreed-upon risk scenario occurs. There are limitations given regulations, but blockchain can open up new services opportunities for established insurers, fintech startups, and even consumer-to-consumer offerings.”

Banks face a similar digitalized transformation. Long built on layers of steps to mitigate risk, blockchain offers the banking industry a network of built-in trust to improve efficiencies along with the customer experience in areas such as cross-border payments, trade settlements for assets, and other contractual and payment processes. What used to take days or even months could be completed in hours.

Finance departments evolve

Another group keenly watching blockchain developments are CFOs. Just as Uber and Airbnb have disrupted transportation and hospitality, blockchain has the potential to change not only the finance department — everything from audits and customs documentation to letters of credit and trade finance – but also the entire company.

“The distributed ledger’s capabilities can automate processes in shared service centers, allowing accountants and other employees in finance to speed up record keeping including proof of payment supporting investigations,” said Georg Koester, senior developer, LoB Finance at the Innovation Center Potsdam. “This lowers costs for the company and improves the customer experience.”

Koester said that embedding blockchain capabilities in software company-wide will also have a tremendous impact on product development, lean supply chain management, and other critical areas of the company.

While financial services dominate blockchain conversations right now, Gross named utilities, healthcare, public sector, real estate, and pretty much any industry as prime candidates for blockchain disruption. “Blockchain is specific to certain business scenarios in any industry,” said Gross. “Every organization can benefit from trust and transparency that mitigates risk and optimizes processes.”

Get started today! Run Live with SAP for Banking. Blast past the hype by attending the SAP Next-Gen Boot Camp on Blockchain in Financial Services and Public Sector event being held April 26-27 in Regensdorf, Switzerland.

Follow me on Twitter, SCN Business Trends, or Facebook. Read all of my Forbes articles here.

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