As new technologies emerge and the Internet of Things generates ever greater amounts of data that requires analysing, the issue for many retailers is around scaleability. The question is: how to build out the requirements across a broad enterprise at speed – ideally in real-time?
Greg Jones, director of industry solutions for retail and consumer goods at Microsoft, recognises the challenge of scaling within retailers’ businesses and points to how the cloud is playing an increasingly important role. A number of major retailers at NRF referenced the greater use of the Microsoft Azure cloud solution.
Among them is Walmart that highlighted its recent announcement of a partnership with Microsoft for the widespread adoption of the Azure cloud capability. Jeremy King, CTO at Walmart, predicts that the ability to call on massive capacity and processing resource will have a dramatic effect on his business and the retail sector in general.
This is the case at supermarket chain Kroger, according to Jones, who says: “It has its shelf edge labels, its advertising platform, a camera network, and scan-and-go in its stores that are all hosted in the cloud. It makes it easier to join this all together and to integrate it across the whole business.”
He adds: “Sensors and cameras are now used all around and the expectation from retailers and customers is to have faster access to data. It’s about empowering employees [with this data] and possibly also using robots to help with stock-outs in-store.”
Dean Frew, CTO of RFID specialist SML Group, agrees and says the use of Microsoft’s Azure is vital in ensuring the scaleability of the SML solution for large retailers who invariably require incredible processing power on a Monday morning but then need very little the rest of the week.
“The cloud talks to thousands of handheld scanners. Some retailers will do inventory checks on 500 stores at the same time. You need scaleabilty to cope with this large amount of processing. Monday is peak activity over a three hour period and this then falls to zero on Tuesday. We’ve built the application to support this,” he explains.