The Evolving Definition of Retail and Robot - Part Three, Think & Act

May 8, 2018 Monica Weglicki



Enabling the store of the future with technology today is an imperative for retailers to meet the needs and expectations of the customers.

E-commerce sales penetration is growing precisely due to the ease of the experience, and has raised the shopper expectations.  Acuity's AtriusTM IoT Platform equips the store with the capability to sense, think and act to provide this ease of experience in a physical environment.

The store with a sensory network and a thinking cloud platform can also be equipped to answer questions on demand. Since the lighting network also provides indoor positioning capabilities, a shopper can request the location of any item in the store. The planogram connected to the Atrius location service would show the item on the retailer app with a pin on the store map. Another application is on-demand route generation for a customer’s grocery list or a BOPIS customer order for an associate. The data captured from the sensing platform is visualized on a map for retailer's merchandisers to evaluate a promotion’s performance with shopper foot traffic. The store manager or merchandiser can query the foot traffic, visits or dwell time around a specific spot in the store at any given point.



A robot acts when it contacts the physical world.

And, there are two ways a store can "act" – automatic actions and on-demand assistance. Automatic actions by the robotic store take the form of alerts or messages to store managers and associates' mobile devices. An alert could be too many shopping carts dwelling in checkout, where an automatic message would be sent to the store manager to "open a new checkout lane”. Another programmed alert is when a high-value electronic item is not in the geofenced, physical space where it belongs for a prolonged time; an automatic message could be sent to the nearest associate's device to go "return an item to its proper location", preventing a possible theft. And, if a customer is standing near the same product for a while, a message to go "see if a customer needs assistance" would be sent to the nearest associate.

When IoT technology infrastructure is embedded in lighting, the store “thinks” in the space between the lighting infrastructure and a cloud platform receiving data from the store. Each store’s lighting fixtures are embedded with a digital driver, edge nodes and a fog gateway. And all include on-premise processing capabilities to collect useful data, and discard what is not based on their programmed capabilities. Then they transport this data to the cloud via the BLE network and a gateway. Once the data is sent to the cloud, it provides true aggregation and processing against pre-programmed code. This is thinking in the cloud.  This cloud-based data aggregation and processing can then be connected to other store software in the cloud – like planogram, inventory, point of sale data, marketing campaigns, etc. to truly capture the customer journey in store.

What does it mean for a robot to think? In the ‘store as robot’ analogy, the amassing of data in the sensory network initiates a pathway for thinking. In other words, the sensory network functions like the body’s sensing organs, and the data collected from them like movements in the store are saved in the memory. The thinking capacity of the store is its ability to use that sensory data as input into its preprogrammed code.

Does this make the store a robot? You be the judge.


About Vinod Kashyap

Director, Product Market Development for AtriusTM IoT at Acuity Brands, Inc.

For 15+ years, Vinod Kashyap has been engineering and developing nascent technologies in hardware, firmware and software. Vinod most recently focused on the development of the full IoT solution stack for Indoor Positioning Solutions (IPS) deployed via lighting infrastructure for the Acuity Brands technology business. His experience leading operations and product strategy has yielded a strategy mindset bridging the physical to the digital world, which leverages customer insights to develop integrated solutions.

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