IoE and Retail

I read an article by Mala Anand (@malaAnandCisco) of Cisco on how Internet of Everything (IoE) can be harnessed for retail, and that got me thinking. This is another of those dream product posts that I occasionally write (dream-write?). There may be overlaps in some of the things that Mala had used, but this here post is my interpretation 🙂

My definition of IoE or IoT is the system where multiple devices capable of collecting, transmitting, and/or processing data, are interconnected towards achieving a specific result.

Let us take retail as an example, for the case of this blog post.

As you walk into the door, apps from your mobile phone could communicate to the store about the list of things that you are looking for. Perhaps at a high level, you walk into a super-store such as Star Bazaar in India, or Walmart in the US, and your intention is to buy some groceries and perhaps a dress for your nephew. One of these things could be done:

  • Your to-buy list could be transmitted to a central unit, which could dispatch a human personnel to you to guide you through buying your dress.
  • The store central unit sends the directions to your app indicating where the items you intending purchasing are stocked. It is worth mentioning here, that stores tend to keep changing their locations. So without the latest directions, you could be searching for a while.
  • If you have a long list of grocery items, the central system could guide the phone in your app to an optimized route.
  • If you have taken a shopping cart/trolley, the central system could now talk to a display on the trolley and guide you.
  • And ofcourse, let us toss in a bit of capitalism in here, judging you by your past behaviors, the system could ‘surreptitiously’ guide you to some items that you did not have on our list, but you crave/wish for. And ofcourse give you some deals while at it, to persuade you to buy it.
  • The system could also help you keep you within a budget – money-wise and time-wise.

And hey, while you were still at home, creating your to-buy list, your refrigerator could have let you know the status of milk and other staples at home, and if you need to purchase any.

While at the store, let us shift away from the customer experience, and move towards how it could potentially help the store itself.

  • Based on the sensors that could detect weather (current and predictions), the store manager could get data on if he should be stocking up on related items such as umbrellas, suntan lotion etc, and if he should be putting them up in the center aisles.
  • The temperature sensors could also optimally adjust the thermostats and lighting (this is already done by NEST kind of devices)
  • Stock inventory (weight sensors on the shelves) and Resource deployment could also be updated based on connected devices in the store.
  • Billing lines could be avoided – the connected devices would have calculated the bill, gotten the buyers approval and charged the credit card or deducted from an online wallet.
  • Connected cleaning agents such as robotized roombas could help clean the stores in co-ordination with the other systems in the store.
  • Connected cameras could potentially infer demographics of the customers visiting the stores. Example – Retired folks in a Target at St.Petersburg, Tampa would probably not be needing baseball bats and specialized soccer equipment. Golf clubs might be a better idea to stock.

These are some of the ideas that came up, off the top of my mind. But the Internet of Things is a very interesting subject and even though, much of it is made of dreams, there are promising directions that companies are headed towards, which makes all of these dreams potentially feasible in the not so distant future.


OpenTable’s new feature


Restaurant reservation startup Open Table has a new feature and I think it is a pretty cool feature (I think!). This is rolled out only in select cities and in select restaurants.

You book a restaurant reservation through OpenTable. You arrive at the restaurant. You order your meal. You finish. And then the restaurant bill arrives on your mobile phone through OpenTable. You swipe to pay direct from your phone. Done. You walk away.

And yeah, ofcourse, this caught my attention of the South Indian food on display in the phone app in the picture 🙂 And sure, it will not roll out in India for a while, but I think this is where the future lies.

Read the full article on techcrunch here. [link]

Google Glass Creepiness


Wow. This is creepy.

As I approached the line to the restroom, I took a deep sigh, thinking that I might find some respite from the hundreds of cameras strapped to people’s heads at the conference.

Yet when it was finally my turn to approach the rows of white urinals, my world came screeching to a halt. There they were, a handful of people wearing Google Glass, now standing next to me at their own urinals, peering their head from side to side, blinking or winking, as they relieved themselves.

Read the full article here.

Image courtesy

Turn your window into a power outlet

Wow. Just read this in This is still in concept stage. But if someone ever makes this, I want one. Please Please. A mindbogglingly simple solution. And its portable too.

Just see these images below and wow yourself.

solar1 solar2 solar3 solar4

(click to enlarge)

Read the full article here.

All images from the same URL above.

Apple Magic TrackPad

Is it not amazing to see the level of innovation and game-changing that Apple always try to do. They removed the floppy. They removed many other things that PC people are so used to. Why .. at some point in time, they even removed the computer – putting it on the monitor itself! Now, they are getting people to do away with the friendly rodent – the mouse – as well ! It is introducing the multi-touch trackpad that is found in the Macbooks as a separate input device.

And it looks fancy. Same style as the wireless keyboard. Same incline as the keyboard. Same brushed metal finish. Eye candy at its best.

The apple page.

(via Lifehacker. )

Craigslisting my IPAD: Vivek Wadhwa

There are two interesting themes reflected in the title. Craigs-listing is actually now a verb ! Wow. That is the impact an online sharing/marketplace site can create. For those who are not in the know, please go here and check it out. The other interesting theme is something that I will summarize momentarily below. Vivek Wadhwa writes a very compelling article on what the IPAD is NOT. Now that the hype is died down (a bit? maybe just a little?), Vivek dissects on some features that he had expected and how it is not found in IPAD 1.0. He also says that, since he is an apple fan-boy (unashamedly so!), he will check if 2.0 will have it, and stand in line, and pay his dues to Steve Jobs when it releases. Thats the fan following Apple has. Applegate, Antennagate – whatever! 😉

Now for some of the key points that Vivek points out that is not present in the first version of IPAD:

First, I can’t easily load my Microsoft Word, Excel, and Powerpoint documents on the iPad or access the year or more of e-mails that I carry around on my 32 GB USB drive.  The iPad has no USB port, and its means of transferring documents—through iTunes—is pathetic.

I agree with Vivek here. For the most part of the public – especially the atypical non-apple folks, who bought the IPAD, this would be a huge bummer. Also for the large non-technical populace, it would be a challenge (fondly called Grandma and the junior in the article).

Second, Apple’s Microsoft Office-like products on the iPad are just cheap imitations. Apple’s Pages is a decent word processor, and Numbers is okay as a spreadsheet manager, but these don’t hold a candle to Microsoft Word and Excel. Moreover, I can’t use the excellent cloud-based word processing tools that Zoho offers, or the decent tools in Google docs. The iPad doesn’t recognize the rich-text format that these applications use, so it doesn’t display a keyboard when you try to type.

For those people, who thought, Fine, there is no office, but I can use google docs or Zoho, Bang, it cannot be done either. Another huge bummer. For a device, which touts working off the cloud, if it cannot support Zoho or GoogleDocs, it is not cutting it, in my opinion. But then, Apple has never really cared about interoperability (until more recently ofcourse).

Third, I usually need to view different applications in multiple screens when I am writing.

Oops. I did not know about this. This is a huge bummer for the folks who live on alt-tabbing (or window-tabbing). Apparently the IPAD only lets you multiprocess one app – which is – you can listen to music, while you are surfing. Hrrm. #FAIL.

Fourth, on many of the websites I visit, I can’t watch Flash presentations.

I thought this would be #1 on the list. But it finds a mention in the list (It has to!). For those following the Adobe-Apple war, this would not be a surprise. Lets just wait for everyone to switch to HTML5 (2020? anyone?).

Last, I didn’t miss the camera that didn’t come with my iPad until I got my new iPhone, but now I can’t fathom why it isn’t there. Facetime, on the new iPhone, is a killer app. It changes the way you use your phone and the way you communicate with your friends and relatives. The iPad lets you make Skype calls over Wi-Fi, but there is no Facetime app—and that’s because there is no camera.

This is an issue too. No Camera? Why Steve? Why? How can you create a tablet which you expect non-technical people also to use, and NOT have a camera? First thing, someone is going to try and do is to do videoconferencing with grandma ! Well, hopefully IPAD 2 will have it.

I think this is a great list. Kudos to Vivek Wadhwa for his very insightful comments.

(Article found through TechCrunch)