Innovative Retail Technologies

MAY-JUN 2017

Innovative Retail Technologies (formerly Integrated Solutions For Retailers) is the premier source for innovative yet pragmatic technology solutions in the retail industry.

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A s the IoT (Internet of Things) hype cycle finds its fifth gear, there are plenty of pundits, vendors, analysts, and tech futurists contemplating the great potential of a granularly connected retail enterprise. No matter your purview of retail operations, regardless of your disciplinary responsibilities as a retail exec, there are countless reasons to get excited about the prospect of seamless data sharing and interconnectivity among a growing host of devices, equipment, and infrastructure. Oh, the possibilities! Meanwhile, the top brass at Kroger made a declaration years ago. We got the talking par t done, they collectively said. Innovative Retail Technologies covered the company's initial foray into IoT back in October 2015. Since then, the IoT initiative spearheaded by a cross-disciplinary team of Kroger execs including Director of LP Karl Langhorst, VP of R&D/OR Brett Bonner, LP Technology Manager Randy Christian, and Chief Technology Officer Kirk Ball has grown by leaps and bounds. Birth Of The Retail Site Intelligence Platform It started out as a theory. Bonner's R&D team was working on the development of an interconnected IT system that would leverage radio and IoT-based technologies to enable everything from consumer-facing shopping tools to mobile device-enabled temperature monitoring for food safety. Langhorst's loss prevention crew was mapping out a migration to IP video. Conversations between the two departments revealed synergies. Instead of developing and supporting two disparate infrastructures to meet each department's objectives, the teams collaborated on the buildout of a single platform to serve store operations and LP. Kroger dubbed the project its RSI (Retail Site Intelligence) enterprise IT architecture. The immediate benefit was monetary. Kroger's in-house developed platform, featuring multiprotocol ZigBee/Wi- Fi/Bluetooth access points mounted strategically on IP video cameras that number anywhere from 120 to 200 per store, saved the company millions of dollars in redundant equipment, labor, and cost. But that was just the tip of the iceberg. In this hyperconsumer-centric retail convenience, but with gluten falling out of vogue for so many, it's paying dividends for the grocer. "Previously, we would print 'gluten- free' shelf labels as a service to customers, but we couldn't be sure they were placed," says Ball. "Now, with integrated systems, we've engineered assurance and quality into the organization, and the quality of that process equals productivity." The integration he references includes rich product attributes acquired through subscription to GSN data, which is how Kroger can preemptively prepare to deal with trends like celiac awareness. "It's no longer a manual exercise to identify and react to these trends," says Ball. "As the trends reveal themselves, we're armed with the product attributes necessary to take action." But consumer purchases aren't just driven by digital shelf-level promotions. They're also the product of produce, meat, and frozen food superiority derived from a temperature-monitoring solution that automates the task of keeping tabs on cooler temperatures. That element of its RSI infrastructure saves the retailer money through streamlined operations and the avoidance of food spoilage. Real-Time Customer Interac tion, Enabled By IoT The four ZigBee radios mounted per camera at Kroger support queue management, mobile shopping environment, Kroger has begun to leverage its homegrown IoT-inspired infrastructure to deliver more personal and interactive shopping experiences to its customers. RSI now incorporates its Edge shelving infrastructure, which features digital displays that not only save thousands of dollars in weekly labor and tag printing costs, but also drive consumer purchases. For example, Kroger is leveraging its digital shelf-level tags to highlight gluten-free products, eliminating the need for customers to scour labels and ingredient lists for that information. It sounds like a small 7 May-June 2017 "Now, with integrated systems, we've engineered assurance and quality into the organization, and the quality of that process equals productivity." Kirk Ball, CTO, Kroger

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