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How Retail IoT Improves the Store Experience

On this episode of the IoT For All Podcast, Qualcomm Technologies, Inc’s Art Miller joins Ryan Chacon to discuss retail IoT. Art describes the current landscape of retail IoT and the various use cases he’s observed as Global Head of Retail IoT. Ryan and Art also talk about COVID-19 and the supply chain’s impact on the retail industry. In the second half of the episode, Art goes on to discuss what he is looking forward to the most out of retail IoT and how the future technology will integrate into employees’ work activities rather than replacing employees. He sees the most significant impact of retail IoT happening to customers’ in-store experience as it needs to evolve to better compete with online shopping.

Art Miller serves as Vice President of Business Development and Global Head of Retail IoT for Qualcomm Technologies, Inc., where he leads the global retail IoT business. His more than 25 years of mobile wireless experience spans development engineering, certification, manufacturing, MNO account management, business development, and product marketing of cellular wireless devices, infrastructure, and chipsets. Before his current tenure at QTI, Art held engineering design and management roles within Kyocera Wireless’s phone division and Motorola’s cellular infrastructure group. Art has a B.S. degree in Electrical Engineering from the University of Michigan.

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Interested in connecting with Art? Reach out to him on Linkedin!

About Qualcomm Technologies, Inc

Qualcomm Technologies believes in the power of technology to enrich lives through purposeful innovation. Qualcomm Technologies IoT solutions are helping reimagine how the world works, plays, and lives. The growing number of IoT devices that make up the connected, intelligent edge are digitally transforming virtually all industries, revolutionizing and driving enhanced, modern experiences where everyone and everything is intelligently connected across cities, in smart warehouses, in homes, at workplaces, in hybrid classrooms and learning environments, in retail stores and much more. 

Key Questions and Topics from this Episode:

(02:00) Introduction to Art Miller and Qualcomm

(03:52) Specific use cases of Qualcomm

(04:59) Landscape of retail IoT

(06:35) The priorities of retailers in regards to IoT

(07:46) How has COVID influenced the retail industry

(09:24) Building a better in store experience with IoT

(11:55) How will IoT improve the supply chain in regard to retail

(15:18) What does the future of IoT and retail look like?

(17:37) How IoT will affect the retail job market

(20:54) Where do companies push back when looking to adopt IoT?


Transcript:

– [Voice Over] You are listening to the IoT For All Media Network.

– [Ryan] Hello everyone. And welcome to another episode of the IoT For All Podcast. I’m your host, Ryan Chacon. And on today’s episode, we have Art Miller, the VP and global head of retail IoT at Qualcomm technologies. For those of you who may be unfamiliar with Qualcomm. They are a leading innovator in wireless technologies in the IoT space, they do a ton of great things for the IoT industry. So check them out if you’re unfamiliar, but I’m sure most of you have heard of them before and have potentially even worked together. So on this episode, it’s a really good one. We talk about the retail space as it connects to IoT. So what does retail landscape look like in IoT? How’s it evolved over the years with technologies are playing a role, those kinds of things. We also talk about how the pandemic actually impacted the retail space and potentially how IoT can help solve some problems that were realized. And start to be experienced during the pandemic that have now bubbled to the top as something that companies and these organizations wanna focus now on. We also dive into the supply chain logistics side of retail and how IoT’s playing a role in really supporting that area. And then also we kind of, I guess, wind that down with talking about the future, talking about the future of what retail and IoT look like together. The power they can kind of do together and what digital transformation at a high level looks like in the retail space. So overall great episode. But before we get into that episode, if any of you out there are looking to enter the fast, growing and profitable IoT market, but don’t know where to start, check out our sponsor Leverege. Leverege’s IoT solutions development platform provides everything you need to create turnkey IoT products that you can white label and resell under your own brand. To learn more, go to iotchangeseverything.com, that’s iotchangeseverything.com. And without further ado, please enjoy this episode of the IoT For All Podcast. Welcome Art to the IoT For All Show. Thanks for being here this week.

– [Art] Thanks for having me.

– [Ryan] Yeah, I’m looking forward to the conversation. Let’s go ahead and start off by having you introduce yourself to our audience, a little background information. anything you think is relevant to get some context as to who we’re listening to.

– [Art] Sure, all right. It’s Art Miller. I run a retail IoT business at Qualcomm. For those of you who don’t know Qualcomm, we’re known more for the mobile side in smartphones and other such devices. And I’m part of our IoT business group, which takes assets originally developed or intended for mobile usage into adjacent markets. And I specifically look after technology that goes into retail.

– [Ryan] Fantastic. And for those who may be a little bit unfamiliar with Qualcomm at a high level, we’ll talk about kind of what the focus is of the organization and how you all fit into the IoT space.

– [Art] Sure, all right. So as I mentioned, we do well in the mobile space. We have a very broad portfolio, primarily focused on cellular connectivity, local area, or personal area networks, heavily focused on compute and security. So three pillars that we build everything on which is the connectivity, compute and security, all highly integrated power efficient solutions. And we’ve taken some of these mobile assets and start going into IoT. So if you think of specifically in retail and IoT, if you look at enterprise access points and retail environments, the likes of let’s say Cisco and Meraki. Or if you look at industrial handhelds being used by a store associate from Zebra or Honeywell, or even if you’re scanning to find out what a price is in a lane, in a store, those are typically or often powered by Qualcomm. If you start looking at newer use cases you might see us in smart cameras or in self checkout or alternative forms of checkout or payment.

– [Ryan] Fantastic. Well, that kind of answered my next two questions, which we’re talking about from your role in kind of the retail space. But is there anything you wanted to kind of elaborate on when it comes to retail specifically. Or any use cases that you think would kind of be good to highlight kind of the power and the focus that you all have?

– [Art] Sure. I think, you know, use cases today because if you look at retail, it hasn’t changed much over time. But the use cases we’re looking at as things become automated, the use of robotics, whether it’s to bring things from the back of the store, to the front of the store. Or to use drones for delivery or autonomous vehicles for delivery, those are some of the advanced technologies we’re using. If you look at an associate in store mentioned the handheld, but maybe some augmented reality glasses to interact with the environment around them to make them more efficient while picking or stocking. And then when you start looking at the consumer interacting with the consumer at the shelf edge, potentially from either advertising or, you know, just more information at the shelf edge. Or engaging them creating relevant recommendations. So, those are some areas that we’re currently in and we continue to evolve.

– [Ryan] Fantastic. So let’s back up for a second and talk about retail IoT and kind of the overall landscape from your perspective. So what does it kind of look like for those who may be unfamiliar with IoT and retail, kind of how it works together. And how has it kind of evolved over the last number of years to get to a point today?

– [Art] Sure. So IoT and retail, I guess if done properly, none of us will notice it, right. We’ll just have better experiences in store. So we believe technology will be deployed to help improve our experiences, consumers and associates experience working in the store or improve operational efficiencies. So it’s about digitizing everything in the store, eventually digitizing everything in the store. So we have kind of this replica of, you know, in physical space of what we can do online. I think that’s the key thing. So whether or not that’s done with computer vision or with connecting individual devices, I think you’ll see technology in kind of connecting everything, creating this. What do you call it? This connected, intelligent edge where we know where everything is. We know how people are behaving in an environment and then being able to dynamically impact their experience in the store. So if done properly, it should be seamless. But you you’ll start seeing things like maybe smart card implementations or you’ve seen of unattended retail maybe, and just work out formats. So it’ll scale from everything as simple as engaging some at the shelf edge to a full blown autonomous experience, right when you walk in.

– [Ryan] Right. And from a retailer’s perspective what are the biggest priorities that they have and how are the technologies today kind of helping play a role there?

– [Art] Sure. I think some of the priorities today, obviously you know, go back a decade. There was this threat of online. So there was some attention paid, hey, we need to do something in retail to change. But there was never necessarily enough motivation to do anything. COVID kind of accelerated that, where there was a shortage of labor. There were changes in behavior with us as consumers of you know, buy online, pick up at curb or maybe pick up in-store or have delivered to your home. So a lot of the things we’re hearing from retailers today are, you know, keeping track of inventory, keeping inventory on the shelves. Accurate count of things in the supply chain, because of those different modalities. If they’re sending someone out to pick on our behalf and it’s not on the shelf, even though it said it was in inventory, now it leads to an unhappy customer. Because I ordered it, it said it was there. I don’t get it. I get a poor substitution, something else.

– [Ryan] And let me ask this. And this is kind of unique to the times that we’re in now, how have you seen things like the pandemic influence the retail industry as a whole. And how is technology and IoT technology specifically playing a role in kind of as retail comes back or how has it kind of improved the experience throughout the pandemic or maybe I guess, you know, in a sense connected to that.

– [Art] Sure, sure. And so I mentioned a couple headwinds, right. It’s more difficult to find someone to work. Maybe there’s potentially more regulations, so simple things of knowing how many people are in the store, technology can do that. You know, having, let’s say automating checkout, you know that’s something you can do with limited resources. Maybe they’re, you know, assisting customers instead of just sitting at a checkout lane. So we’ve seen a lot of that. And then obviously the picking is a big deal. So technology to make picking more efficient, either through augmented reality glasses, edge shelf displays that blink when an associate’s picking something to make sure they’re getting the right thing. Or even just the full automation of these physical spaces turning into partially autonomous picking for delivery or pickup and then experience. So, you know, we as shoppers now our behaviors change. Things that we would touch before we don’t wanna touch, you know, so that it’s changed. It’s forced different modalities with checkout or just in-store behavior.

– [Ryan] Yeah. And that kind of ties into what I wanted to kind of spread into next is more about the in-store experience. And the effort that retailers are going to, to making that more relevant and interesting to drive people in versus potentially purchasing online and kind of battling that. How do you all see that kind of evolving or how has it evolved and the role you all play in that space?

– [Art] Yeah, I think there’s gonna be many things happening over time. I think the simple thing of digitizing the edge, you know, something as simple as automating pricing so that, you know, we can see dynamic pricing or pricing online matches that that’s in physical space. So digitizing things in physical space, understanding how people are moving through the store, maybe through loyalty, rewards or through applications or scan and go or smart cards. We now know someone’s physical basket in that space. So now retailers can start to create these physical, online experiences. First when we shop online, we don’t mind recommendations because typically they’re relevant because they’re based on our basket, our behavior. So if we can start translating that into physical space, it’ll make for a more rewarding trip to the store. And to be honest with you, a lot of people wanna go back to the store we see a lot of demand there. At the same time, no one wants to give up their delivery or their pickup options either. So I guess it’ll depend on mood of consumers, but the key thing here is to start to align these physical and online experiences. So it’s what we experience online or in physical space is more similar to what we’re used to online in these times.

– [Ryan] We’ve kind of seen certain kinds of retail establishments, certain based on what they’re selling kind of gravitate more towards these technologies as opposed to other types of stores.

– [Art] Sure, well, you know, we’ve been engaged with some of the bigger retailers I know at our investor day, we had mentioned we’re working with Walmart. Doug McMillon was kind enough to mention our collaboration with them. When you look at the essential stores, the ones that are most heavily utilized or most dependent upon in times like COVID,. You know, those are the ones we see really embracing technology or wanting to get more technology because they’re heavily dependent on the labor shortages, the increase in wages, the increase in product costs. It’s more heavily burdened for them. So fixing supply chain, helping the associate be more efficient and at the same time improving experience to encourage people back into the store. I think are all major priorities for the big retailers, the essential retailers.

– [Ryan] You mentioned supply chain, which is the topic I wanted to get into anyways. So supply chain logistics kind of that whole area is super popular right now. It’s a very hot topic to understand, talk about and discuss how technology is playing a role now. How it has in the past and what we’ve kind of predicted we’ll do in the future. How do you see kind of IoT technologies and maybe some things that you all have done impact the supply chain, improve the supply chain logistics side of things to help businesses on the retail side?

– [Art] Sure. It’s a good question. So I think that the good news about Qualcomm, our foundation was more in supply chain. We actually did Omnitracs back in the 80s to track trucks across the country, you know, pre cell phones and the ability to do that. So if you look, one of our core businesses at Qualcomm has always been the tracking goods or trucks or the logistics. So we’ve been engaged for multiple decades. What’s surprising at this point is even if we know where a truck is, we don’t necessarily know what’s on it. Even if we know something’s been delivered to a store, we don’t know if it was the right delivery. So as we engage with some retailers, it’s interesting to hear that they may not know where things are. And which may not have been a problem in the past because we would walk in and we’d see something on a shelf and take it or not. But now we expect to see inventory in real time on our phone online. So I think the visibility into supply chain is gonna be more important than ever, and it’s gonna be a combination of technologies. It could be cellular wifi, Bluetooth. It could be, you know, know RFID, computer vision. It’s a combination of all of these technologies working together so the retailer simply has to ask, how much do I have and where is it? Today that question is nearly impossible. And to get that level of insight, they spend a lot of money manually figuring that out or after the fact figuring out they didn’t have something. So I think just that pure visibility, the very simple question, how much do I have? Where is it? Is it in the proper condition? Is it in the right place are gonna be key. And I think we’re in a unique position with our portfolio, our connectivity portfolio, our computer vision portfolio, to kind of help enable that. And we are engaged with a few folks right now.

– [Ryan] Yeah, it’s been interesting to kind of monitor the evolution of technology over the last number of years, especially as you’re thinking about different connectivity options that are out there. Prices, find the cost for those going down, making solutions more affordable for companies to adopt and seeing what it’s enabling in tons of different industries, but in supply chain logistics. And as we’ve also mentioned in the retail space, it’s quite fascinating to see, what’s been able to be enabled with the combination of these technologies and working with organizations who really understand it. And allow the companies that are working or the companies that are shipping the products, the companies that are ordering the products, not have to worry as much as they did before. And there’s a huge value for that for them.

– [Art] Absolutely. Yeah we believe so too. And that’s one of the reasons we’re looking at that space very closely and investing heavily there.

– [Ryan] So let me ask you forward thinking kind of through the rest of this year, into the next couple years. What is the future of retail look like through your eyes and kind of, how does IoT and digital transformation as a whole really play a role in getting there?

– [Art] Yeah, I think the key thing, and we mentioned it a couple times, you hit on it. It’s gonna be more about experience, you know, it’s gonna be walking into a store and experiencing things. Maybe even not even walking out with having it delivered home, but it’s having a relevant experience. It can’t be just technology bombarding us with things we’re not interested in. It’s gonna be about the technology, monitoring us in the store, looking at the store and making real time relevant recommendations. So that it’s a meaningful experience to us in the store. At the same time, we do believe there’s gonna be things where there’s gonna be multiple modes of checkout, right. There’s gonna be the ability to walk in and walk out. There’s gonna be unattended lanes. There’s gonna be smart cards or scan and go. But we believe retailers are gonna have to embrace what consumers want at this point. And I think that we’re looking for different experiences based on different people and different modes to engage. So, you know, that’s one thing. The other thing is we’re looking over the horizon on, you know, payment paradigms, right. Not a lot has changed with cards over time. NFCs become much more popular payment method through COVID no one wants to touch anything again. But, you know, is there really a reason for us ever to pull out a card? Is there ever a reason for us not to just be able to pay any device anywhere in the store that’s trusted. So we’re looking over the horizon with different payment technologies or, you know, I mentioned earlier robotics. We’re heavily investing we’re on our sixth generation robotics platform. We’re in the Mars drone with Qualcomm chip. So, I’m pretty sure if we can handle that environment, we can certainly help deliver packages either with eight autonomous vehicles or with drones. So, I think a lot of things are gonna change. What actually sticks is to be determined, but the good news is we’re in a unique position to kind of step back, and look at how these things will interact.

– [Ryan] And how do you think this influences the job market in the retail space. Say influencing like the likes of cashiers and people who stock the shelves, people who go around and work with customers, help them find what they’re looking for. How does these technologies kind of, you know, whether it’s complimenting, replacing, you know, what do you kind of see that kind of evolving into?

– [Art] I see it as complimentary. To be honest and hopefully making a much better work environment. Let’s say, you’re the person responsible for putting toothbrushes on a shelf on peg hooks and you walk over and there’s soft, medium and hard bristles and multi pack and different things. It all looks the same. If you were to walk up and look down with your augmented reality glasses or your industrial handheld and scan something, and you look up and something’s flashing exactly where it should go. Or you see in your eyes exactly where it should be placed, that’s a much more enjoyable experience than this nightmare, figuring out where something belongs. So I think there’s things we can do to make the employee or the associate’s journey or daily activities, much more efficient. And then enable them to, you know, free them up to actually sell, maybe become an expert in a particular area where they can advise people who are trying to shop instead of just struggling and picking or stocking something. And then at the front, you know, from a cashier perspective, it’s more about choices again. There will likely be attended lanes still, cause my parents, if they walk into a store without someone at the register, they’re gonna walk out. So I think there’s gonna be a need for that. But in a very high turnover environment, you know, I think it’s gonna allow people who wanna stay there and wanna be there to do jobs that are meaningful to them. I don’t see it, you know, replacing, I see it putting people in a position to be either experts or do something that they feel as meaningful in that environment.

– [Ryan] Yeah, I’ve kind of always viewed it as like for me, when I go into a store, let’s say go into Costco and I actually prefer the self checkout because it’s faster and get more people through. And it makes going to Costco on the weekends, much more enjoyable than it was before. But what I think that allows companies to do is like you kind of already talked about is train their employees up to be product experts and help increase the likelihood of sales by being able to pay more attention to the actual customer. Now of course, some people just like to be left alone and do their own thing. But, I guess there are stores that really could benefit from being more of a hands-on experience and providing different kinds of opportunity for people to learn about stuff. Like if you go to Target the good chances, you’ll probably know what you’re looking for. And you know, there’s definitely technology based applications that would help them, but there are unique I think opportunities for technology to even go further with that experience. And I think building that skillset within individuals is how this technology expands the potential for these jobs. As opposed to feeling like it’s just going to replace them. And it’s just gonna be run by robots or some other kind of way being done. Well, this has been a great conversation. I actually, haven’t had a chance to talk to anybody about retail IoT for a while. So, I really appreciate it. I wanted to ask you before we wrap up here, when you all talk to companies in the retail space, where is the biggest area that you get pushback. As far as is it a cost thing? Is it a implementation integration type thing? Is it a, just lack of knowledge and understanding how the technology would work and benefit them? Is it ROI? Like where do you kind of get the most pushback and where do you see the biggest challenges of these technologies being adopted more widespread in the retail space?

– [Art] Sure, I think all of the above, you know, you can run a lot of the points, but it depends on the retailer. Some retailers are very tech savvy and have embraced technology and they have IT departments and engineers to support deployment. They’re a little more, you know, forward looking or not so daunted by the bringing technology in. There’s also the small regional, let’s say grocers or smaller format stores they’re overwhelmed when they see the picture of what can happen. So there’s been some things we believe we’re big proponents of standardization. We think standardizing, you know, air interfaces or standardizing technologies that read things or digitize things will not just be beneficial to Qualcomm, but beneficial to the entire ecosystem. So I know there has, in the past, some of the reluctance was simply, you know, ROI and then others were concerned about am I gonna make the wrong decision by picking a proprietary implementation from a particular vendor? So some of the ways we’re looking at it is how do we reduce the cost of technology? And then have that technology address multiple ROIs. So if you look at I’ll use shelf labels, I like that one. Cause it’s very easy to understand. There’s a return on investment for just digitizing the paper label. You don’t have to send someone out to replace paper labels. Then if you look at that, I talked about picking efficiency. Now your picking efficiency potentially goes up, your interaction with the customer. So now you’re talking there’s maybe two or three or four ROIs for particular technology that go. So technology pricing has come down. Labor pricing has gone up and at the same time, now there’s other use cases being applied to what used to be seen as a single mode. And I think that’s happening everywhere. So now there’s the overwhelming task of what do I choose? And we’ve worked ourselves as Qualcomm, we’ve worked ourselves into a unique position because we don’t sell anything to retailers. But we talk to retailers about what’s possible with technology. So we sit back and look at everything, talk about use cases more than we talk about technology. And then we bring in one of our 13,000 IoT customers to deploy technology in those retail spaces. Yeah, so I think we’re in a unique position to calm people down, tell them what’s possible and how things will interact. And you know, we start at the top, what use case is most important to you and then talk through how they could potentially enable that with technology that we’re behind.

– [Ryan] Fantastic. So as we kind of finish up, tell our audience what they should be able to look out for coming outta Qualcomm in the next number of months. And at the same time where they can stay in touch, how they can learn more and all that kind of good stuff.

– [Art] Sure, okay. So what’s upcoming oh man. So we’re taking some of our premium phones, smartphone chips. You know, the premium smartphone space and driving it into applications such as self checkout or smart cards or unattended retail. So it’s actually fun to go in with something that was intended to be held in your hand and then do a use case that used to be a PC or a server in the back room. It’s fun to go through that. So you’ll see some of that. I’m very excited about the changes in checkout, you know, whether it’s self checkout or smart card I mentioned or unattended, you know, we’re investing a lot there. And then over the horizon, we’re trying to rethink how payment happens. So we’re investing heavily there in computer vision, but everything we’re doing is all about experience for the customer and the associate or improving operational efficiency. So I think you’re gonna see some pretty cool applications with mobile devices that weren’t intended to be there originally. And then if you wanna find out more about what we’re doing or keep track, if you just go to qualcomm.com/retail. You can do that or look me up on LinkedIn drop me a note.

– [Ryan] Fantastic. Well, this has been a great conversation. Thanks so much for taking the time. I’d love to kind of keep a eye on the space and see how things are going and have you back to kind of talk further about the evolution of the technology. How it’s being applied, where we’re seeing kind of the biggest opportunities and things like that later this year. So thanks again for being here.

– [Art] All right, perfect. Thanks for having me.

– [Ryan] Thank you. All right, everyone. Thanks again for watching that episode of the IoT For All Podcast. If you enjoyed the episode, please click the thumbs up button, subscribe to our channel and be sure to hit the bell notifications so you get the latest episodes as soon as it become available. Other than that, thanks again for watching and we’ll see you next time.

https://www.iotforall.com/podcasts/e168-retail-iot

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