Technology hook-ups that promise real benefits in retail by James Pepper, CEO, Vista Retail Support

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NRF was as absorbing as ever. Held in New York City, the world’s largest retail expo gave me the chance to examine cutting-edge solutions and concepts.

What was so impressive was how different technologies are hooked up to produce innovative solutions that deliver real benefits for retailers.

NRF 2019

Powerful Intel chips, for example, already allow stores to demonstrate incredible image quality on high-resolution display screens. 

IOT

But with high bandwidth now obtainable in most locations, Intel has launched the ‘open retail initiative’, which is the first Internet of Things (IoT) open source initiative dedicated to enabling retailers to unlock the power of data and insights within their business to scale and address market challenges.

The Intel chip is married to customer vision technologies, enabling store operators to judge the age, gender and mood of shoppers, using the power of AI to gauge behaviour and the likelihood of an individual moving to a purchase. With the ability to intervene through notifications and offers, a retailer can bridge the gap between online and physical retail, producing an immersive experience in-store. 

AI-enabled computer vision tech is also addressing the major problems surrounding loss of products. A great example was a collaboration between Intel MeldCx and Aopen, for bulk scale and labelling systems that cut out the sale of high-value food products at prices that are too low, either through mistakes or fraud.

In the era of emerging frictionless retail technology, I was also impressed by Cloudpick++ which uses computer vision, machine learning and IoT sensing technology to allow members of the same family or group to shop in a store and use a single account. 

Pensa, meanwhile, were exhibiting AI-powered drones to monitor stock faster than any human.

AI Drones

Goods are replenished and demand met far more quickly as a result. At Vista we are already involved in this area, deploying RFID devices in projects that use RFID tags to transform the efficiency of stock handling and security.

Since Vista has such an amazing track record in EPoS maintenance and support, it was also inevitable that I would take a close look at the resurgence of point-of-sale technology. EPoS is one of the many features of our in-store maintenance expertise. However sophisticated any technology may be, once implemented it still requires in-store maintenance.

NCR demonstrated a self-checkout system which uses computer vision and computer learning to identify all products – including those that have not been scanned. Furthermore, it identifies when multiple items have been scanned together, when extra items have been placed in a bag but not paid for and when items have been deliberately scanned using the incorrect price. This is a fantastic innovation for self-checkout loss prevention.

HP PoS

We seem to be moving towards a more hybrid EPoS, which is basically fixed but detachable. Many retailers still have a strong incentive to have fixed points of sale because it optimises opportunities for upselling. EPoS is the workhorse of retail and the new systems with their interoperability are providing the horsepower to drive omnichannel commerce.

Self Service

Finally, NRF confirmed that another area of tech collaboration – self-service and self-checkouts – is moving into many new settings, including fast food outlets, providing solutions that appeal to the 16-34 age group.

It’s true that not every technology hook-up develops into a productive marriage, but at NRF, we can already see plenty of extremely fruitful relationships.