Benoit Couchon

Head of Alliances & Partners for Edge & AI, Atos

Enabling next-generation retailing

With the ability to gather and analyze data at the edge, retailers will have new insights for enhancing the in-store experience of their customers while optimizing revenue and developing new business ideas.

Thanks to digital technology, retail has been fast-evolving; data has increasingly been used to manage every part of retail operations – in stores, in stockrooms, and at warehouses. And now there are added pressures on retailers, not only to drive revenue but also to look after the safety, security, and confidence of customers and employees.

In the past, installing sensors and CCTV cameras in and around retail outlets previously required time, investment, and wiring in-store and outside – and monitoring video and other data consumed human resources. With 5G, the use of smart retail applications will be accelerated and amplified, and the deployment of video analytics in the field (at edge level, in technical language) will be made easier. On top of that, 5G will enable new applications that require mobility or private mobile networks.

Enhancing customers’ experiences while driving revenue

Virtual Reality (VR) shopping

Whether using scroll buttons on a smartphone for a virtual visit to the shop floor or virtual reality goggles for an immersive experience, virtual shopping is well on its way. 5G connects all the smartphones and other devices – wherever the shopper is physically located.

Optimizing customer flow

With a constant and intelligent eye on what’s happening in-store, retailers can respond in real-time, such as sending a member of their team to help a customer or taking steps to disperse a long queue. They can also get insights into customer footprint over time, for example, by visualizing data as heat maps to plan staffing levels or reduce overcrowding.

Maximizing store usage

By capturing analytics about store visitors – complemented by metadata on demographics, if available – retailers can get even more intelligence on how best to use each square meter of the store. Data can be aggregated and visualized anonymously to analyze the effects of positioning different products, displays, and offers in different places.

Location-based services

Retailers will be able to receive statistics about pedestrian traffic density at times of day in real time, for instance, where a crowd is forming. Geo-optimized advertising can be pushed on smartphones and wearables and encourage spontaneous purchases when individuals give their consent.

New selling channels

Vastly increased connectivity and ubiquity will spawn new business models, for instance, nano stores such as Amazon Go and others. All the retailer will need is the physical space, the stock, and access to electricity, combined with 5G connectivity and edge application software to run the nano store.

Improving security, safety, and efficiency

Retail logistics

5G will enable supply chains that are more intelligent than ever before. Whether you need to monitor online the cold-chain transport of perishables or fine-tune just-in-time delivery in real-time, mobile sensors, cameras, and GPS units on trucks and trains will do the job.

Express delivery

An emergency shipment of medical supplies by drones is already being tested. 5G-controlled delivery drones will significantly extend applications and coverage.

Loss prevention

Given that loss can account for up to 5% of the margin on a retailer’s business, its prevention is a major concern. Retailers can use 5G-enabled computer vision technologies – without cabling restrictions –to keep a bird’ eye view on retail spaces and warehouses, all while relieving pressure on the control room and shop security teams.

Warehouse safety and back-of-house operations

Retailers and their logistics partners will be much better able to monitor employee health and safety using video combined with analytics, respond to any security incidents, and provide mobile devices for stock management and pick-up.

Stock management and inspection

5G will help to mature intelligent store management capabilities. Given the need to maintain lean stock levels, the ability to combine video with AI to monitor stock levels on shelves makes a significant contribution to managing supply and demand.

Monitoring and protecting outside spaces

Car parks and other spaces can be monitored using computer vision capabilities. In combination with smart access controls and security, license plate recognition will automate the operation of car parks. The same is true for petrol-filling stations: Thanks to video cameras and analytics – and 5G makes the cameras ubiquitous – these can operate with significantly lower staff.

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