Building retail solutions with Azure IoT Central

Azure IoT Central is an IoT app platform for solution builders that simplifies the challenges of building and deploying scalable and affordable enterprise grade IoT applications. Across the retail industry, the use of connected devices to deliver business performance continues to grow in popularity. New solutions are accelerating business model transformation by connecting manufacturers, supply chains, warehouses, and store shelves to owners, operators, and customers in exciting new ways. Today we’ll discuss our stance on IoT in the retail industry, as well as tell you about just a few of our partners building incredible solutions on Azure IoT Central.

Based on the recent IoT Signals report, our survey of over 3,000 enterprise decision makers across the world, the Retail industry has the highest adoption rate of IoT related solutions at 90 percent, which is higher than Manufacturing, Transportation, Healthcare, or Government. Right now, retail and wholesale companies see top use cases for IoT within their supply chains (64 percent) and inventory optimization (59 percent) and of course leaders across all industries have concerns about security. Yet, we know that retailers and companies along the value chain have a long way to go before reaping all the benefits that IoT will provide.

Updates to IoT Central

Today, we announced updates to Azure IoT Central to help solution builders move beyond proof of concept to building business-critical applications they can brand and sell directly or through Microsoft AppSource. IoT Central can help retail solution builders accelerate development, enabling them to get connected, stay connected and transform their business by managing IoT solutions that deliver IoT data and insights to business applications where decisions are made. For more information, please see our IoT Cental Blog.

We are supporting retail specific solution builders with five IoT Central retail app templates for builders to brand, customize, and make their own apps using extensibility via APIs, data connectors to business applications, repeatability and manageability of their investment through multitenancy, and seamless device connectivity. Get started today with any app template for free and starter materials like a sample operator dashboard and simulated devices to show you what’s possible. In early 2020 updated pricing will help with predictability as you sell your solutions directly to customers or through Microsoft AppSource.

When you are ready to get to customizing and extending, take a look at our rich documentation set, which augments the journey with overviews, tutorials, how-to’s, and industry relevant concepts.

INfographic of the five app templates.

Figure 1, Your brand — Your SaaS – Customize and extend one of these 5 retail app templates to make them your own

Innovative retail partners building their SaaS with IoT Central

Established industry leaders across the retail ecosystem are optimizing omnichannel solutions with IoT Central; delivering IoT insights and actions from the beginning of the supply chain through distribution, warehousing, and into the hands of consumers through storefront or delivery. Learn about what QuEST Global, C.H. Robinson, Dynamics 365 Connected Store, and Footmarks Inc. are doing today.

Digital distribution center solution from Lenovo

In July, Lenovo introduced Lenovo Digital Distribution Center (built with IoT Central) and discussed many of the challenges faced by distribution centers globally, including staffing surges during peak times, labor costs, space constraints, and overall productivity.

An infographic showing the Digital Distribution workflow.

Figure 2, illustration of the digital distribution workflow

A diagram of the Digitial DIstribution Center by Lenovo

Figure 3, Architecture diagram of Digital Distribution Center by Lenovo

Today we’ll introduce three more solution builders developing solutions across connected logistics, store analytics, and smart inventory management.

Connected logistics solutions from C.H. Robinson and QuEST Global

The challenges facing global logistics and fleet management continue to grow as more retailers move to just-in-time shipping and warehousing. With the holiday shopping (and shipping) season fast approaching, global shipping and freight transportation provider, C.H. Robinson, is putting IoT Central to work during its busiest time of the year. Intel intelligent gateways and IoT tags managed by IoT Central bring new data and insights into industry leading Navisphere Vision. Jordan Kass, President of TMC, a division of CH Robinson responsible for Navisphere told us; “Navisphere Vision provides global shippers supply chain visibility and a predictive analytics platform. To speed up our deployment, increase our capabilities, and evolve for the future, we are partnering and building new device connections with Azure IoT Central to empower one robust agnostic connection that allows for infinite scalability and speed. This enables us to further optimize and deliver better outcomes—such as improved savings, reliability, and visibility—during these high-stakes holiday shipping months.”

A screenshot of an example Navishphere Vision dashboard for IoT device insights

    Figure 4, an example of a Navishphere Vision dashboard for IoT device insights tracking temperature and humidity levels in shipping containers.  

A diagram for Connected Logistics solution by C.H. RobinsonFigure 5, Architecture diagram for Nacisphere Vision by C.H. Robinson

Road safety is a global issue affecting billions of people around the world. QuEST Global's fleet management solution Fleet Tracker aims to reduce roadside issues, using CalAMP OBD2 dongles to deliver real-time location, driving pattern, speed, engine health, and geo fencing; simultaneously managing vehicles nearly anywhere in the world. Maxence Cacheux, Head of Strategic Partnerships from Quest Global told us, “We are delighted with the successful deployment of our fleet management solution built on IoT Central, which enhanced its speed, security, and scalability. Now we are planning for the future when our customers around the world have tens of thousands of connected devices, delivering business transforming insights and actions.”

A screenshot of an example dashboard from QuEST Global’s Fleet Tracker solution,Figure 6, an example of a dashboard from QuEST Global’s Fleet Tracker solution, deliveirng insights from connected vehicles

A diagram for Fleet Tracker by QuEST GlobalFigure 7, Architecture diagram for Fleet Tracker by QuEST Global


Store analytics from Dynamics 365

Dynamics 365 Connected Store empowers retailers with real-time observational data to improve in-store performance. From customer movement to the status of products and store devices, Dynamics 365 Connected Store will provide a better understanding of your retail space. Built with IoT Central, Dynamics 365 Connected Store empowers store managers and employees to provide optimal shopping experiences through triggered alerts based on real-time data from video cameras and IoT sensors. This new workflow can significantly improve in-store performance by protecting inventory, increasing profitability, and optimizing the shopping experience in real time.

A screenshot of an example Dynamics 365 Connected Store dashboard

Figure 8, An example of Dynamics 365 Connected Store dashboard enabling retail staff to visualize the flow of traffic throughout their grocery store using optical IoT sensors

A diagram of Dynamics 365 Connected Store

Figure 9, Architecture diagram of Dynamics 365 Connected Store

Smart Inventory Management from Footmarks Inc.

Consumer packaged goods (CPG) manufacturers share many of the same challenges, one of them is getting hundreds or sometimes thousands of custom assets like displays to the correct retail locations, and keeping them in the store for the right amount of time.

When displays don’t reach their pre-determined locations, retailers experience significant loss in sales, a key impact for brands during important buying times. Around the country today, we know a significant portion of point-of-purchase (POP) display programs are not compliant, a problem that Footmarks Inc. is looking to solve through their Smart Tracking app built with IoT Cental, an asset tracking application that delivers previously unavailable insights to CPG’s.

CPG’s can now track the location of their POP assets throughout the entire supply chain and into store execution. Gone are the days of mystery shopping and expensive store visits to get details on your assets.  Shawn Englund, Footmarks Inc.’s CEO is enthusiastic for the future saying,“We are excited to be working with some of the world’s largest CPGs to solve the age-old issue of merchandizing compliance. By adding Azure IoT Central we are able to gain even more insights throughout our CPG partner supply chains and provide actionable insights throughout each of their campaigns.”

A screen shot of an example Footmarks dashboard

Figure 10, An example of a Footmarks dashboard showing POP asset tracking along the supply chain.

A diagram of Smart Tracking by Footmarks Inc

Figure 11, Architecture diagram of Smart Tracking by Footmarks Inc.

Getting started

We are at the beginning of an incredible revolution that connects strategy, tools, and devices, and empowers retailers to turn insights into actions. Retail companies around the world are using IoT today to reinvent how they connect to customers, empower employees with the right information, deliver an intelligent supply chain, and informing new business models as individuals and organizations continue to connect billions of new devices to business applications. Here is how you can get started.

1. Start building today on IoT Central

2. Browse the growing list of retail applications in AppSource, devices in the Azure IoT Certified Device Catalog, or contact any of the solution builders discussed today:

3. Connect with us at Microsoft Ignite, November 4-8

4. Visit us at the world’s largest Retail trade show, NRF in New York City where you can speak with experts and get hands on, January 12-14

Source: Azure Blog Feed

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