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The Internet of Things: Retail without Boundaries at Synergy

Last week I was in Orlando attending NCR’s Synergy Conference, which, this year focused on “Inspired Commerce.”  At the show I heard a lot of dialog with retailers and technology partners about how the Internet of Things and the integrated use of mobility in our day-to-day lives is changing how retailers engage with consumers. I addressed this topic in my session at the show, but wanted to mention a few highlights in hindsight.

First, the use of mobile devices during the shopping journey is no longer for millenials and early adopters only. They are certainly the heaviest users, but across the board in the US, 55% of shoppers are making use of retailer-specific applications, and 34% are using independent shopping apps such as Groupon, Zulily, etc. More than 40% of consumers want to receive their loyalty points/perks and discounts in real time, while shopping in the store, vs. receiving the same information in snail mail or in email.

Second, mobile is becoming integral to the shopping process. Retailers are facing demands for greater convenience, transparency, and interactivity with their consumer base that would have been unimaginable even a decade ago. (As a side note, this is extending into other industries as well, such as healthcare and financial services.)  Consumer expectations are evolving, and with this, retailers need to be able to offer new and effective engagement opportunities with their brand.

Other disruptors include fast-changing technologies such as social media use (not just Facebook and Twitter, but now Pinterest and Instagram) and the need to aggregate social sentiment data; unstructured data such as photos, posts, Tweets; and structured data coming from legacy systems such as CRM, SCM, and POS to make real-time decisions at the edge of the network – in the store or online where the rubber meets the road.

So – high volumes of structured and unstructured data, exponentially growing sophisticated consumer demands, and the growing use of mobile devices in the shopping journey. How does the retailer leverage all of these opportunities to make the most of this evolution?

With billions of connections, sensors and devices lighting up the Internet of Things, the aggregation of structured and unstructured data to deliver real-time analytics on mobile devices for store associates and mobile engagement via apps aimed at consumers, the opportunities are endless.  Retailers that can deliver hyper-relevance – which, according to Cisco’s research, is increasingly what consumers prefer during the shopping process – will be the ones who stand out.  Hyper-relevance delivers to me, the consumer, what I want, when and how I want it, in the context where I am at that particular moment.

To succeed in this new paradigm, retailers must earn consumers’ trust and deliver consistently as a brand to get access to the data that lets them provide a truly relevant real-time experience. Once consumers are willing to share a certain amount of personal data – at Cisco, we call this the “trust cliff” – retailers can use real-time analytics to turn that data into actionable insights.

We have identified three key attributes that retailers must possess to deliver hyper-relevance and build a dynamic infrastructure and processes:

  1. Hyper-aware: By implementing and automating edge technologies such as sensors, cameras, beacons, and RFID tags, retailers can capture value from the intelligence and automation that is now available to them. This is the way to begin to gain true visibility into what the customer is experiencing in the store, how they are dwelling in the store, where they need help with the shopping process.
  2. Predictive: By overlaying intelligence and analytics on top of these edge technologies, retailers can gain real-time anticipatory insight into what is happening, what to expect, and how to meet customers’ real-time needs. If retailers can more systematically determine peak timeframes and loyal customers’ shopping patterns, they can anticipate the staffing needs to speed up the shopping process and assist customers through the checkout process faster.
  3. Agile: Agile, solid infrastructures, adaptive business processes, and associate training capabilities are critical to being able to deliver the kinds of dynamic experiences discussed here. When business processes can change dynamically and associates trained to respond and do what’s best for the customer, all while leveraging technology and insights gained from integrated systems, the customers’ shopping experience can delivered in an excellent manner.

This is obviously not as easy as it sounds.  Implementing a hyper-aware, predictive, and agile network to respond to your customer demands is very difficult.  We in the Cisco Business Transformation Team work with customers to help them explore where they are today and where they want to take their business in the future, and work arm-in-arm with them to look at what it would take to get from where they are today to this desired future state.

We recommend the following steps:

  1. Forget everything you thought you knew about the digital consumer – all the old paradigms are melting away and “segmentation” no longer applies
  2. Go to the edge for visibility into what customers are experiencing at that moment
  3. Build a dynamic infrastructure and create agile processes that to support the customer experience
  4. Develop new business models that drive innovation and enable hyper-relevance

If you would like to download the white paper from Cisco Consulting Services that I’ve referenced, please click here.

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Event Recap: Cisco at the EEI Annual Convention

I had a great time recently at the EEI Annual Convention on June 7-10 in New Orleans, LA. EEI is the Edison Electric Institute, the industry association of the Investor Owned Utilities in the U.S. with international utility membership from all over the world. The Annual meeting is a unique event that includes the attendance and presentations by the CEOs of member utilities. The theme of this year’s conference was “Electricity Matters”, exploring the exciting changes happening all across the electric power industry.

The first day was full of excitement, with presentations from Ted Craver and Energy Secretary Ernest Moniz. Moniz shared his thoughts about the dramatically changing U.S. energy landscape, outlining the recommendations defined in the administration’s Quadrennial Energy Review (QER), particularly relating to grid modernization, resiliency, and infrastructure investment.

EEI Chairman Ted Craver led a thought-provoking discussion with Elon Musk, CEO and product architect of Tesla Motors, who was joined by Tesla Motors Chief Technology Officer and Co-Founder JB Straubel. The three leaders discussed electric transportation, energy storage, and the role of technology and innovation for utilities and their customers. Other sessions on the first day included:

  • Approaches to Grid Security and Resiliency – panel moderated by PPL Corporation Chairman, President and CEO Bill Spence, discussing specific actions and approaches the electric sector is taking to improve grid security and resiliency.
  • The Role of the Utility in the Evolving Distribution Grid – Company leaders, regulators, and consumer advocates highlighted the role of the utility in four areas: planning, design and operation, infrastructure enhancement and customer education and protection.
  • Complying With the EPA Clean Power Plan – moderated by Gerry Anderson, Chairman and CEO of DTE Energy, the conversation centered on the EPA’s Clean Power Plan and highlighted how new and innovative technologies can quickly change a state’s strategy for complying with the new rules.

The second day of the EEI Annual Conference was just as exciting as the first, beginning with a general session roundtable discussion with the EEI leadership. EEI Vice Chairmen Nick Akins, Chris Crane, and Tom Fanning, and outgoing EEI Chairman Ted Craver shared their insights on the future of the integrated grid. Dominion Resources Chairman, President and CEO Tom Farrell moderated the discussion, which also touched on transportation electrification and distributed generation.
Additionally, there were four “Electricity Matters” session tracks:

  • Microgrids and More—Integrating Diverse Resources into the Grid – Panelists discussed some of the critical questions surrounding the future of microgrids and emerging distributed energy resources.
  • Electrification—Utilities Leading the Charge – Panelists considered questions including: How do you address the claim that electric vehicles (EVs) are only for the wealthy? How do EVs and chargers factor into utilities’ long-term distribution planning?
  • Leading the Solar Growth Engine – Julia Hamm, president and CEO of the Solar Electric Power Association, moderated a discussion on how utilities are innovating with new technologies and programs that enable the deployment and expansion of solar and other distributed energy resources, while meeting customer needs for reliable, affordable, and increasingly clean electricity.
  • Competing for Talent: Building the 21st Century Workforce – Panelists discussed how electric companies are using new hiring and training practices to engage today’s workforce.

Day three marked a great General Closing Session with former CIA Director and decorated General, David Petraeus, as the featured speaker alongside Nick Akins, CEO of AEP. Petraeus talked with Akins about the significant global challenges facing countries and organizations today, including ongoing international security issues, macroeconomic trends, energy policy, and strategic leadership in the 21st century. Petraeus also offered some thoughts on the changing energy landscape in the United States, as it relates to fuel diversity, cybersecurity, and the need for infrastructure investment. He believes that one of the biggest threats to the United States in security terms is cyberspace, especially the infrastructure for which the utilities industry is responsible.

What Does This Mean For Cisco?

The common theme of the conference was that huge changes are not just the future, but are here today. Industry leaders continue to emphasize the need to embrace distributed generation and the requirement to increase the automation and intelligence of the Distribution Grid. Ted Craver, both during his opening remarks at the General Session and his remarks as a panelist on the Role of the Utility in the evolving Distribution Grid, emphasized the dramatic changes in the mission of the distribution grid to connect diverse and variable customer owned energy resources. This represents enormous opportunity for Cisco but also requires flawless execution to address industry concerns for cost, security and performance.

The conference proved to be meaningful, and provided some great topic interaction and discussions between attendees.

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The Cisco IoT System and Industry Solutions: Enabling rapid prototyping, faster time to market, and better value

TonyShakib95percentImageThere’s no doubt that deployments of Internet of Things (IoT) solutions are increasing at a rapid pace as organizations face intense pressure to innovate and embrace the next wave of the Internet. Digital technology advances now enable new market entrants to threaten — and overtake — incumbents who fail to answer the innovation challenge. Think Uber, Airbnb, Tesla, and more. To up the ante on innovation and stay relevant, organizations across all industries are deploying IoT in an effort to embrace digitization.

How organizations embrace IoT as part of their digital transformation varies widely from industry to industry. For example, in manufacturing the focus is on automating inventory management, real-time monitoring/controlling of machine operations, and energy management. In the public sector, the emphasis is often on theft protection, asset tracking and real-time billing. What these industries and solutions have in common is the challenge of successfully navigating the very complex technology environment involved in getting the insights that drive successful outcomes. Successful IoT deployments require complex elements – connectivity, security, automation, analytics, and application enablement — to work together as a system to deliver those business insights.

At Cisco, we’ve done a great job of bringing powerful industry solutions to our customers that give them the business outcomes they need. Building these solutions requires drawing upon different ingredients to deliver an offering that is simple, agile, and repeatable. Many elements must to come together to deliver the value our customers need. The process for building a solution that seamlessly integrates all the elements to support a specific industry can be lengthy.

That’s why I’m excited about this week’s announcement of the Cisco IoT System. Read More »

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Accelerate Your Business with the New Cisco IoT System

Consider this: By the time you’ve finished reading this short paragraph, another 1,000 “things” will be connected to the Internet. And we’re not even talking about a lengthy paragraph of Dickensian proportion — just this modest paragraph of 39 words.

Those newly connected things will be a mix of mobile devices, parking meters, sensors, thermostats, lab equipment, supermarket shelves, cars, cardiac monitors, and more. The fact is, this list of connected things keeps expanding by the second. Just a few years ago, the number of connected devices began outnumbering the Earth’s human population. Fast forward to 2020, and this gap will widen exponentially – with the number of connected things projected to exceed 50 billion.

As a result, countries, cities, industries, and businesses around the globe are becoming digital to capitalize on the unprecedented opportunity brought about by the next wave of the Internet. When people, process, data, and things are connected, we can capture unprecedented business value. And an essential part of capturing this value is connecting the unconnected through the Internet of Things. Read More »

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Unleashing Value with Today’s IoT Innovation Leaders

Who is innovating the next big thing? Where are they? Will it be you?

Whether in a garage, lab, university, startup or coffee shop, we at Cisco are searching the world over for entrepreneurs developing the next innovative game-changers around the Internet of Things (IoT).

How will we find you?alexbloginnovationgrandchallengepic1

On Monday, June 22, we launched the second annual Innovation Grand Challenge to discover the latest and greatest IoT innovators over the next six months. We’re enticing them out of the shadows and into the spotlight with $250,000 in total prizes and $150,000 to the overall winner. Further, winners will gain access to Cisco’s IoE Centers of Innovation, premier resources, mentorships and vast opportunities with partners and investors to change the way we live, work, play and learn.

When will we identify the winners?

The submission period runs from June 22 through Sept. 7, with the top three innovators to be announced on Dec. 7 at the IoT World Forum in Dubai. Information about guidelines and submitting entries can be found here. Read More »

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