Jun 28 2022

How the Internet of Things Can Benefit Grocery Stores

IoT devices are contributing to grocery stores' bottom line while making a positive impact on the environment.

Let’s begin with the basics: The Internet of Things is a computing concept that describes the idea of everyday physical objects being connected to the internet and able to identify themselves to other devices so they can send and receive data — as in, they can “speak” to each other. And some of the biggest businesses are putting IoT technology to work to improve their operations in ways big and small. 

So what kinds of things can IoT technology do? “There can be sensors for alerting when shelves need to be replenished or tracking to tell where items are in the supply chain,” says Sucharita Kodali, an analyst at Forrester. She cites IoT’s use in Amazon Go stores and smart carts. 

Walmart has been using IoT devices to monitor energy output, among other things, according to Sanjay Radhakrishnan, the company’s vice president of global technology. In a Walmart blog post, Radhakrishnan describes how the company manages more than 7 million unique IoT data points across its U.S. stores. “Every day, this network of connected devices sends almost 1.5 billion messages regarding temperature, operating functions and energy use,” he writes.

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IoT’s Impact on the Environment

IoT technology affects more than just the bottom line; it’s also good for the planet. Throughout the grocery industry, connected devices are being leveraged to improve food safety and reduce excessive energy consumption, according to the World Economic Forum. For example, one of the IoT applications used by Walmart monitors refrigeration units that house products like ice cream and milk. It reports back to a maintenance team if sensors indicate equipment problems so they can be fixed early with minimal downtime and without serious malfunctions. To put the technology’s impact in perspective globally, over the past five years, IoT solutions have saved $37 million for food retailers by cutting food waste, while avoiding more than 2 million tons of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere (equivalent to the annual emissions of Malta).

IoT-enabled waste management and recycling also promise more environmental efficiency. Retail waste and recycling solutions use IoT-enabled sensors to monitor receptacles’ locations and capacity levels to optimize collection schedules and routes, allowing retailers to reduce operational costs and increase waste management efficiency on location. IoT-enabled retail waste and recycling solutions also eliminate the need for retailers to physically monitor their waste receptacles and pay for additional pickups. 

IoT solutions also allow food retailers to store energy in battery banks and redirect the heat from refrigeration systems to nearby homes. In short, not only can IoT technology ensure that proper temperatures are maintained in food to reduce losses, it can maximize efficiencies for heating, ventilation, air conditioning, lighting, appliances and more.

EXPLORE: Find out what tech tools stores can leverage to enhance the in-store shopping experience.

Weak Security Can Be a Drawback to IoT Technology

Despite its many benefits, IoT technology can introduce security vulnerabilities. “Data gets hacked,” Kodali says. (To safeguard your data and infrastructure, consider CDW’s Amplified™ Security services, which can help you protect your network via an array of options, including penetration testing.) It’s also important to understand what IoT data your business needs and whether you have the infrastructure to support it. In designing an IoT architecture, organizations need to be aware of legacy technology in use that is not IP-compatible and thus not IoT-ready. 

Ultimately, the potential of IoT applications is "limited only by the human imagination,” according to the World Economic Forum. CDW’s Amplified™ Infrastructure services can help you design, orchestrate and manage a modernized IT environment that will leave your business poised for growth. 

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