The Evolving Definition of Retail and Robot - Part Two

What does it mean for a robot to “sense” the world around it?

Robot’s sensing abilities pertaining to a physical environment are its abilities to see things, hear different types of broadcasts, and move around objects. The robot can “see” with a camera, “hear” with microphones or radio sensors, or “move” on wheels.

One could see how a store itself could begin to use these technologies to perform these sensing functions. To be clear, the purpose of enabling a store to be like a robot is not for the sake of technology alone, but to make the store's "robotic" capabilities become an instrument of transforming the shopping experience for the customer.

With VLC capability, the store lighting infrastructure interacts with the mobile phone’s camera sensors. With a BLE sensor consistently powered by each light fixture, the entire interior of the store can be canvassed with BLE to create a sensing platform. Each light fixture is also wirelessly connected via BLE to all the other light fixtures and to edge gateways via a flood network, enabling an easy mechanism to transfer in-store data. Therefore, "things" in store such as a shopping cart retrofitted with a BLE beacon, mobile devices with an in-store app, handheld store-associate devices, high-value items with BLE security tags etc., and any other BLE enabled device would be able to be “sensed” by the store's infrastructure.


Technologies for store sensing

There are many technologies that enable a store to sense, but one technology that completes the sense-think-act paradigm is the AtriusTM IoT solution from Acuity Brands that features sensors embedded in a LED lighting infrastructure. These sensors include a Visible Light Communication (via the digital driver powering the LEDs for light production) and a Bluetooth® Low Energy sensor (integrated within the luminaire to communicate with the digital driver). For the uninitiated, Acuity Brands is the largest lighting manufacturer in North America, leading the market share in the retail lighting space. Due to the shift in technology from fluorescent to LED lights for energy cost reduction, Acuity has embedded IoT capabilities (Atrius-Ready technologies) into the ceiling infrastructure for retrofits and new LED luminaire installations. The technology can be Atrius-enabled, meaning “turned on” when the client is ready to embark on an IoT-enabled building.


Stores acting like websites

Stores and buildings that are retrofitted to sense the shoppers in it act more like websites with virtual shoppers. The store can capture data about its visitors just like a website – data which helps retailers improve the shopping experience for customers. Look for my next post that will explore the “think-act” portion of the robotic store.


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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