Solution providers got a preview of this year's newest products in the retail space at this week's National Retail Federation (NRF) conference – and the internet of things was the star of the show.
Channel partners like Ira Grossman, CTO of end user and mobile computing at Cleveland, Ohio's MCPc, said that resellers would benefit from the internet of things (IoT) opportunities in the vertical segment.
"The IoT solutions will be a boon for the channel – beyond those partners focused on big data – as they require more devices, introduce new, and different, security use cases and move to mission-critical devices and workflows that previously were either nonexistent or didn’t demand the service levels that they will now," he said.
Grossman said that the biggest players in retail IoT that he saw at NRF were Intel and Samsung.
Intel announced Monday it would invest $100 million in IoT retail efforts over the next five years through its new Responsive Retail Platform. The platform, which offers retail hardware, software, APIs and sensors to help retail businesses integrate technologies and find new business insights, will be available through the channel, including Arrow Systems, Bluemetal, and Smartrac.
"IoT was pervasive at NRF with many solutions leveraging Intel’s new platform," said Grossman. "The Intel booth showcased solutions across several verticals – all directly retail or adjacent to retail, such as supply chain or logistics – and most based on collecting some sort of predictive analytics, such as a variance in temperature in a cooler that is being monitored, or directing a shopper to merchandise that aligns with previous purchase trends."
In its show recap, the NRF's blog quoted Sandra Lopez, vice president of Intel's new technology group, as saying that sensors and wearables have a huge role to play in retail. "By 2020 there will be 50 billion connected devices, and they will interact. It’s all going to be driven by 220 billion overall sensors."
Samsung also showed off its IoT smarts at the retail show, introducing new IoT tools in partnership with digital agency SapientRazorfish that are intended to link online and in-store shopping activities – including smart merchandising, mobile payment, and customer interaction technology solutions.
Brent Fairbanks, president of Electronic and Computer Specialties, Inc., an Orange, Calif.-based solution provider, said that the opportunities are endless for the internet of things in the retail space.
"If the owner of a mall would like to send out ads targeting women between 40 to 52 years old ... They can have cameras analyzing people as they go through stores," he said. "Stores can now see if they are bringing in the target clientele that ads were supposed to bring in. IoT devices are wonderful for generating that types of data – now people can use technology to make sense of the data."
Stephen Monteros, vice president of business development at Sigmanet, an Ontario, Calif.-based solution provider, said that he sees the retail IoT segment gaining traction for applications like digital signage.
"Retailers are definitely looking for new ways to communicate and automate," he said. "I see a lot of [applications] around Raspberry Pi-enabled devices including digital signage, that is cloud-enabled on the backside."