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How edge computing can benefit retail
William Pao, a&s International 2019/9/26

More and more, the processing of data has moved closer to closer to the edge. This edge computing trend can benefit users in various vertical markets, including retail.More and more, the processing of data has moved closer to the edge. This edge computing trend can benefit users in various vertical markets, including retail.
For the longest time, the processing of data has taken place in the cloud, which has the capability to process complex, AI- or deep learning-based data generated by endpoint devices. Yet more and more, this capability has moved to the edge device, be it an edge server or camera, which now has enough processing power thanks to advances in hardware and chip technology.
The benefits of this are manifold, including minimized usage of the network bandwidth, which is expensive. Processing on the edge also allows decisions to be made nearly instantaneously: while it might take hundreds of microseconds for data to travel back and forth between endpoints and the cloud, it only takes a few microseconds between endpoints and the edge. In certain applications, this is critical. In factories, for example, robotic arms can stop instantly once a human worker is approaching. In automobiles, detecting a potentially dangerous situation can allow the car system to react immediately.

How retail can benefit

Needless to say, retail has become more competitive than ever. Physical storeowners are constantly seeking to improve their operations and environments to lure and retain customers who might otherwise be drawn to online shopping. In this regard, edge computing would help retailers in the following ways.

Improved customer experiences

Needless to say, customer experience plays a key role in retail. With edge computing, edge servers or even AI cameras can recognize for example VIP customers who can then be greeted by the store staff immediately. Upon walking closer to a digital signage board the customer can be recognized by their age and gender or even past history record, and can get related merchandizing information on the board immediately.
Meanwhile it should also be noted that edge computing can help improve the security and safety of the store as well. A blacklisted or suspicious individual entering the store can be picked up by the edge camera which will then send an alert immediately.

Operational efficiency

In a blogpost by Lanner, the use of edge computing systems can go beyond enhancing customer experiences or understanding trends. “Many retailers are relying upon their edge computing infrastructure to offer up insights into how best to leverage their technological resources so as to promote the highest level of operational efficiency,” the post said. “There are now also artificial intelligence and machine learning technologies that, powered by edge computing, look to further enhance retailers’ ability to do this and similar activities through detailed analysis of customer and operational data. Edge computing can also be used to better connect and synchronize in-store, online and mobile services so as to both enhance the operational efficiency of all services offered, but also enable unique and bespoke customer experiences and open up revenue streams on new and future platforms.”

Understanding consumer trends

Finally, the post said when it comes to better understanding consumer behaviors, edge computing can enable retailers to gather insights into how shoppers are likely to behave, both in-store and online, through the data collected when they use either physical or online services.
“This information can then be used to help create predicative models of future behavior while also considering what drives the decision-making process and, with help from either AI or automation technologies, possibly even reacting accordingly,” it said. “The latest fashion trends or celebrity-inspired looks can also be used to help predict customer behaviors and understand what drives purchasing trends. Being able to understand how consumers are likely to react to certain trends would enable retailers to further tailor their retail experiences to suit their personal tastes.”

Messe Frankfurt New Era Business Media Ltd. All rights reserved. 2019/11/17 print out