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GUEST COMMENT Leveraging IoT for a safe reopening

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Store re-opening may also need IoT to be safe (Image: Shutterstock)
Store re-opening may also need IoT to be safe (Image: Shutterstock)
Ajay Rane, VP of Business Development, Sigfox
Ajay Rane, VP of Business Development, Sigfox

As the country begins to reopen after a months-long hiatus, retailers have a lot to consider when it comes to providing safe environments for their employees and customers. From warehouse floors to shop floors, retailers need to create models that foster social distancing best practices and support the wellbeing of all occupants.

 

However, manually monitoring these things can be an arduous task. Fortunately, IoT devices can help retailers adjust to the new normal and adhere to critical safety standards. Here are a few ways the IoT can assist retailers as they start to open for business:

 

Managing warehouses remotely

Because they store critical inventory, warehouses must be regularly monitored to ensure the security and integrity of retail items. Historically, retailers have relied on employees to manually check and adjust the conditions of rooms or containers to ensure products are properly stored. These employees were responsible, for instance, for properly stocking containers including fragile goods and regulating warehouse temperature controls so perishable products would not spoil.

 

However, in an effort to limit unnecessary foot traffic and keep employees safe, retailers could consider using IoT devices to support warehouse management. By placing IoT sensors on containers, retailers can remotely monitor inventory conditions, such as humidity levels. This way, warehouse managers can check and adjust the temperature and pressure of containers without ever leaving their home or office, and keep human contact, and the spread of germs, to a minimum.

Monitoring store capacity

It’s not just warehouses where human contact needs to be limited. Many new safety guidelines suggest brick and mortar stores keep to 50% occupancy or less to make social distancing easier for shoppers and to limit the spread of the virus.

 

By placing IoT sensors on shelves or on grocery carts, retailers can get accurate and up-to-date information on the number of shoppers in stores. This information enables them to efficiently manage capacity – which not only ensures shopper safety, but also removes the need for store “bouncers” at entrance and exit points, keeping employees safe as well.

 

Retailers could also offer a unique and safe shopping experience by taking advantage of IoT to ensure social distancing and contact monitoring (and tracing if required). Before they enter the store, shoppers are provided an IoT enabled wearable such as a wristband (similar to concerts), key fob or a badge/card that is paired with the shopper’s smartphone through either the store’s app or a third party contact tracing app. The wearable will detect if shoppers get too close (less than 6 feet) to another shopper and notify them through their phone and also record the incident in their phone. If any of the shoppers test positive at a future date each shopper they had contact with at the store will be automatically notified so they can monitor their health and get tested, if necessary. The wearables are collected and cleaned at the end of the in-store visit and recycled for use by other shoppers. IoT devices can help build customer trust and loyalty by creating an enhanced shopping experience that ensures shopper safety that extends beyond a single visit. Employees would also be required to use similar wearables to keep track of their interactions as well.

Guaranteeing safe, timely delivery of online orders

Despite reopening initiatives, retailers may still see some resistance to in-store shopping. With online shopping increasing 49%through mid-April, it’s very likely that this trend will continue for some time.

By turning to IoT-enabled devices, organizations can secure insight into shipment whereabouts and keep customers up-to-date on delivery approximations as they await their packages. Data collected by IoT devices can also empower retailers to optimize shipment routes for faster delivery – improving operations and further bolstering customer experience. Identifying warehouse delays, addressing weak links in the supply chain and driving overall efficiencies can also be several benefits that come from deploying IoT.

 

Monitoring container conditions--such as temperature, humidity and shock and tilt--as packages make their way through the supply chain also becomes increasingly important for perishable items like groceries and medicine. By having devices monitor conditions, retailers can be sure they are getting consumers the goods they need in the condition they expect.

 

Whether retailers are reopening stores or managing an increase in online orders, the IoT can provide the reliable insights needed to adjust course while still delivering exceptional service. Retailers can also collaborate with delivery services by requiring drivers to use contact tracing wearables and testing drivers on a periodic basis to keep track of their deliver locations and customer contacts. If a delivery driver tests positive, their most recent customer delivery locations can be notified so they are aware and can get tested if needed.

 

To get IoT solutions up and running – and fast – retailers need to have a simple, low-cost network, like 0G. With a 0G network, retailers can count on cost-efficient, global connectivity and a quick deployment, ensuring that when they’re able to provide safe and flexible experiences for customers and employees alike.

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