IoT technology has reached critical mass. Today, there are more than 10 billion IoT devices in use around the world. Approximately 127 new devices are connected every second, according to PYMNTS’ monthly Intelligence of Things Tracker report. That’s more than 2,000 new connections since you started reading this article.
While much of the IoT conversation focuses on the devices themselves, the true potential of IoT extends well beyond hardware. Instead, it’s in the data a device generates, the action it instigates and the ultimate value it delivers. For example, sensors deployed in a grocery store are important because they send real-time data about stock levels to store employees so they can manage inventory accordingly.
As the volume and sophistication of connected technology increases, IT leaders must ensure devices, architecture, automation and human intelligence are working in harmony to create superior end-user experiences. This is a framework known as the autonomous enterprise. Let’s explore how to combine IoT technology with AI and automation to create the autonomous stores, classrooms and smart cities of the future.
Modernizing retail stores
From buy-online-pickup-in-store options to mobile point-of-sale systems, new IoT technology makes the check-out process and in-store experience more seamless and convenient for customers.
Increasingly, retailers also experiment with video analytics and sensors to automate inventory management and track product sell-through rates. For instance, grocers use IoT devices, such as temperature sensors, to preserve cold and frozen goods, ensure food safety and minimize spoilage.
Store managers can also deploy shelf sensors to analyze which products a shopper removes from a shelf, and then replaces without purchasing. This data is valuable for store owners and brands because it provides insight about consumer shopping behaviors and helps answer questions about why a product has a strong or poor sell-through rates. Did consumers engage with your product, such as by picking it up, or were they more attracted to a different, neighboring product in the store?
Furthermore, automated real-time notifications about inventory levels can ensure shelves are adequately stocked for shoppers, and it can save employees time on manual inventory monitoring tasks so that they can be more readily available for customers.
The potential for IoT also extends to the backend of retail operations, and helps optimize companies’ supply chains. Kroger is among the leading innovators in the grocery retail category, deploying IoT and automation technology such as robotic carts and robust warehouse management systems in its distribution and fulfillment centers. These technologies help employees expedite picking and packing processes. The combination of technology and human intelligence increases the efficiency of retail operations and helps deliver exceptional customer experiences.
Powering digital classrooms
Previously, I highlighted how classroom environments are becoming increasingly digital. Smartboards, robotics and video live-streaming technology are just a few examples of the kinds of IoT technology used in schools today. According to a Deloitte survey, 80% of teachers use digital education tools at least once a week.
However, the influx of devices presents new challenges for IT teams and school networks. A robotics lab supporting a STEM lesson plan or a video live-stream broadcasting to remote students are both bandwidth-intensive. When Wi-Fi traffic is not properly managed during these activities, students and teachers will likely face connectivity challenges, and it will cause significant network latency for the rest of the campus. In turn, network downtime in schools impedes educators’ curriculum, and disrupts digital-dependent learning such as online testing or smartboard lectures.
School administrators can supplement their Wi-Fi network with AI functionality to improve radio frequency efficiency, and expand wireless capacity to meet new bandwidth demands across the campus automatically and on-demand. Specifically, AI can seamlessly optimize the wireless network in changing environments such as the cafeteria or gymnasium where RF characteristics can vary significantly depending on the number of people and devices present. With strategic automation, students, faculty and staff can rely on consistent connectivity.
In addition to cultivating immersive learning environments for students, the combination of automation and IoT devices can play a critical role in supporting day-to-day operations and reinforcing school safety. For example, Forsyth County School District recently announced plans to deploy 600 cameras with advanced analytics and facial recognition capabilities to enhance attendance tracking and increase campus security.
Automating the administrative task of manually taking attendance enables teachers and students to maximize time spent on learning. Meanwhile, automated facial recognition and video analytics can help to identify potential intruders and unauthorized visitors that may threaten school safety.
Fortifying smart cities
By 2050, 70% of the world’s population will live in urban areas, according to the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development. As urban density increases, city planners and CIOs are looking to smart, connected technology such as digital signage, traffic cameras, stoplight timers and roadway sensors to help alleviate congestion, prevent traffic accidents, and improve overall living conditions for citizens.
This IoT technology is already driving meaningful results. In 2018, McKinsey Global Institute found that various smart city applications could reduce fatalities by 8% to 10%, reduce the average commute time by 15% to 20% and cut greenhouse gas emissions by 10% to 15%.
While smart city innovation helps the urban population in many ways, it also introduces new challenges for city CIOs. Namely, managing hundreds of thousands of disparate systems and IoT devices while preventing bad factors from infiltrating critical functions such as traffic control and water and energy management.
To enhance security and to ensure citizens don’t lose access to these critical public services, municipalities can leverage real-time network analytics so they can have a clear understanding of device usage patterns. In turn, they can use AI and machine learning technology to monitor network traffic by application and device type, detect anomalies and quickly mitigate potential security incidents.
Fueling the autonomous enterprise
As IoT technology becomes more entrenched in our everyday lives, industry-leading organizations understand that the devices are not the end game. Rather, when IoT technology, architecture, automation and human intelligence work together in harmony, IT leaders can drive operational efficiency, reduce time spent on mundane, administrative tasks and fortify network security to deliver enhanced end-user experiences. This is the autonomous enterprise vision that we’ll continue to see come to life in stores, schools and cities.
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