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4 food retail IoT use cases

4 min
IoT in Retail: a typical use case, cooling system monitoring Source: ©iStock/VLG

For every food retailer, digitization and IoT means something different. Here is an overview of current digitization trends in the industry.

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In an earlier blog post, we wrote about the diverse needs of food retailers when it comes to digitization and IoT. In our discussions with food retailers about the challenges of digitization, we gain insight into their ideas of how they can benefit from IoT. Together, we identify and evaluate use cases they plan to implement to increase customer satisfaction and cost efficiency. We are happy to share some of these insights here with you.

Automatic notification from reverse vending machines

Everybody has been in this situation: you enter a store to bring back your bottles. However, the reverse vending machine is full of empty bottles, there is a growing line-up of people, and everybody is waiting for the employee to come and empty the machine.

Iot in the food retail industry: 4 uses cases Source: Fotolia / Aleksej

In order to avoid this situation, we have defined the following use case: the Bosch IoT Suite controls the status of the reverse vending machine and counts the bottles in the machine. Once the machine becomes 80% full, the system sends a push notification via email, text message or a mobile app to an employee of the retail store. The software is responsible for informing the store employee in advance, so they are able to empty the reverse vending machine before the queue forms. Up until now, the employee had to wait for a failure alarm. Now, they are able to predict failure in advance and can increase the efficiency of the process.

Even if this is a use case for which it is not so easy to calculate the return of investment, it is an emotional topic. It has high potential to increase customer satisfaction with their shopping experience.

Remote monitoring of cooling systems

There are two drivers why food retailers are seeking solutions that remotely monitor cooling systems: 1) to comply with legislation, and 2) to reduce the amount of spoiled food. German law requires the temperature and humidity levels of cooling systems to be monitored and logged as a proof the food has been adequately stored. Up until now, cooling systems are manually inspected once per day in every store. Depending on the size of the store and the number of cooling units, this may take up to several hours per store. In addition, stores are closed Sundays and public holidays, so if a cooling system breaks, no one may notice and the result is spoiled food that needs to be discarded.

IoT in Retail: a typical use case, cooling system monitoring Source: ©iStock/VLG

In order to avoid an unnoticed malfunction of the cooling systems, the following use-case has been defined: the Bosch IoT Suite implements an automated monitoring system that works 24/7 and eliminates manual inspections. The system is able to remotely monitor and log temperature, humidity, and air pressure so the store is compliant with legislation. Any change in conditions triggers notifications that are sent to employees so corrective actions can be taken before any food is spoiled. With this solution, retailers experience substantial reduction in costs due automation and reduced food spoiled.

Energy and building management

One of the biggest challenges for retailers is the energy management of their stores. Retail stores have many systems that consume a lot of energy, such as lighting, air conditioning, heating or cooling units. There is a lot of room for improvement in this area. For instance, in many retail stores the temperature inside a store is not balanced with the outside temperature. This leads to high energy consumption and costs because the HVAC system is blowing hot air in the retail store when it is not needed since the outside temperature is 18 or 20 degrees, or vice versa. In addition, retailers notice that some of their stores experience a higher spoilage rate for fruits and vegetables than others. The reason for this seems to be a temperature imbalanced inside some of their stores.

In order to optimize in-store energy management, we defined the following use case: Using the Bosch IoT Suite and environmental sensors, retailers can monitor temperature settings for all their stores. Based on current weather conditions, they can adjust the in-store HVAC systems to meet the current conditions. They are also able analyze temperature data across their stores to see if some stores need additional refrigeration to reduce the amount of spoilage of fruits and vegetables.

Parking lot monitoring

The lack of available parking spots can affect a store’s customer traffic. If retailers can identify cars that have been parked over a long period of time and likely not belonging to customers, store personnel can take appropriate actions to discourage the practice.

Parking lot monitoring: an application of IoT to the food retail industry Source: iStock/Tramino

Additionally, a full parking lot is an indication that there are more customers in the store. In this use case, the Bosch IoT Suite can send a notification to the store manager or the information desk so additional cashiers can be opened to reduce waiting time and improve customer satisfaction.

The Bosch IoT Suite is a platform that facilitates the implementation of IoT use cases.

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IoT use cases for the retail industry

The two most important goals for IoT and digitalization in retail are improved efficiency to reduce costs and improved customer satisfaction. These two goals can be applied to the diverse use cases and initiatives for IoT projects in the retail industry. Using the Bosch IoT Suite, retail companies can accelerate their ability to achieve these goals.

More information

Food retailers have specific needs when it comes to digitization. Read about them in our last blog post

The Bosch IoT Suite supports retailers implementing IoT use cases.