Retail: how edge-to-cloud is gaining popularity in supermarkets

Digital transformation as a business priority has been a topic of the last decade. But in the early 2020s, in response to the global COVID-19 pandemic, digital transformation gained momentum. Companies that had a five- or even ten-year digital transformation roadmap suddenly tried to make drastic changes in five to ten weeks.

At ZDNET, we dive deep into technologies that drive digital transformation. Most of our stories focus on technology, from artificial intelligence and cloud computing to mobile and edge computing.

In this article, we’ll take a slightly different approach. Instead of starting with the technology and what you can do with it, we’ll visit a prototype company and look at all the technology it might need to meet its growth and profitability goals.

Since many of these initiatives are confidential within companies, in this article we will discuss a fictitious chain of retail stores selling home and construction products. Let’s call it “Home”. This way we can delve into some trade secrets that a real company might not feel comfortable disclosing publicly.

Case: “For home”

Essentially, Pour la Maison Home-by-Home stores need to manage regular payment and customer transactions. While this is a common operation for almost all stores, it is also deeply saturated with technology and innovation.

Each validation transaction triggers many data updates. The stock level of any purchased product must be deducted, which may result in a new order or move from warehouse to store. This decision can be communicated to a sales representative or processed by artificial intelligence that takes into account a wide range of prices and availability around the world to make the best decision.

Customer, store and geographic data is fed into the analytics system to give product managers insight into shopping trends and possibly identify new trends that would not be apparent without access to operational data.

Benefits of RFID and Microservices

And since most home improvement stores are equipped with wireless on-shelf price tags (tiny displays that act like labels telling shoppers the price of an item), another AI process takes into account sales levels, demand, and available inventory, allowing you to dynamically reduce or increase prices on store shelves. or run a promotion.

On a global scale, a retailer must monitor supply chain issues around the world and consider weather forecast, policy, and supply chain analysis to ensure products are where they need to be, at the desired time. AI also plays a role in this area. In fact, we will see AI play an increasingly important role throughout the Pour la Maison network as well as its supply chain.

By combining API access and microservices with real-time big data and analytics, Pour la Maison and its suppliers can take into account the constantly changing conditions of international supply and demand and change suppliers, orders and promotions based on availability and logistics as they become available. . .

Pour la Maison has invested heavily in the edge-to-cloud concept.

The company has thousands of stores ranging from 10,000 to 15,000 square meters selling between 30,000 and 60,000 products depending on the market they operate in. To keep track of all this inventory, every store uses a variety of IoT tools, including RFID and theft prevention tools. RFID also speeds up checkout with self-service checkouts.

In addition, the company uses sensors to monitor the environment (in some cases humidity control is necessary) and energy consumption. While Pour la Maison has long installed CCTV cameras in stores and parking lots, the company recently began streaming video feeds through a series of intelligent imaging systems that enable immediate reporting of safety-related incidents and accidents.

Since many processing operations must be performed in real time and in every store, Pour la Maison has invested heavily in the concept of “edge to cloud”. Each store has its own secure computer rack that acts as a mini data center. On-site work is processed in real time at the edge (i.e., in each store), and data is constantly transferred from the store to Home Decor’s central data systems and cloud computing operations.

E-commerce sales site

The company practices e-commerce through browsers and a mobile application that helps manage product availability, orders, and the delivery process. With over 70% of online customers ordering through the mobile app and even using the mobile app in the store, the company has invested heavily not only in the quality of the app, but also in the integration between the app and real-time commercial information and data that is transmitted from the stores. into the cloud.

Since 2000, Pour la Maison has turned department stores into dual-use properties, using them for visiting customers during the day and as warehouses to process e-commerce after business hours. The company has added autonomous picking and packing robots to the night shift, forcing it to rely even more on real-time inventory management, cameras and artificial intelligence. All of these improvements have allowed the company to deliver heavier, more frequently ordered items directly to customers in the store, while significantly reducing waiting times and shipping costs. Central warehouses that fulfill e-commerce orders still hold several hundred thousand items shipped by parcel delivery services.

Earlier this year, Pour la Maison acquired a 450-store competitor and began a massive migration to move them from legacy point-of-sale systems and siled central databases to an edge digital transformation in the cloud.”

End-to-end integration with all stores and suppliers

There is a general operating principle by which Pour la Maison evaluates all its IT solutions: everything must be integrated, and do it intelligently. It is not enough to have constant data flows from stores to corporate databases.

This data needs to go to the right places, at the right time, and trigger the right operations. The data flow also cannot be one-way. Data must be transferred between merchants and suppliers, business departments and stores, and vice versa.

Pour la Maison defines edge computing operations as everything that happens at the store level, as well as everything that happens during delivery, at docks, and even at supplier warehouses. Pour la Maison systematically improves its choice of vendors, taking into account the ability for its IT operations to share API data and microservices in order to have a global view of operations down to the minute.

Data centers or the cloud? Both are my captains!

Pour la Maison still operates its own data centers. Two of them manage sensitive information, including employee personal data, financial data, data that must be hosted in accordance with GDPR requirements, and information that may affect performance.

But the company is also investing heavily in cloud computing as well as SaaS implementation. As a general rule, any application that can be delivered as a SaaS is preferable to the time it takes to build it in-house.

All this end-to-end integration, from the edge to the cloud, between stores and suppliers, with weather forecasts and logistics and shipper tracking, can be extremely complex. The number of IT systems, accounts, dashboards and management consoles is staggering. But when Pour la Maison decided to make uncompromising digital transformation its core value, the company set out to find vendors that could provide the integration needed to make it manageable.

Dynamic provisioning and on-demand infrastructure from the edge to the cloud are key elements of this solution. So when the company adds new resources — like when it needed to support the 450-store chain it acquired earlier this year — it doesn’t rely solely on transportation infrastructure. Most server functionality can simply be scaled as needed and dynamically provisioned.

Seasonal congestion is also factored in, allowing the company to add approximately 30% more IT infrastructure resources for critical sales periods and then cut costs during those months when customers are focusing on other interests.

Edge-to-cloud platforms

HPE GreenLake is an example of one of the companies offering edge-to-cloud services that provide a centralized control panel, on-demand provisioning, and pay-as-you-go benefits of public cloud infrastructure, on-premises IT tools, and edge devices. IT objects. This is exactly what a company like Pour la Maison needs to be able to start serving their new acquisition immediately. No order and no waiting period for new configurations.

Other cloud vendors such as AWS Outpost, Azure Stack, Google Anthos, IBM Cloud Satellite, and Red Hat Edge Validated Patterns offer their own versions of the edge stack. The bottom line is that IT professionals no longer need to use their solutions in silos to solve problems in different places in their operational infrastructure.

Edge-to-Cloud platforms allow entire solutions to be combined, delivering the benefits of each vendor’s offerings, but without the clutter of multiple management consoles and billing requirements. Instead, you can take advantage of the best available solutions while managing your entire hybrid, multi-cloud, multi-vendor, multi-component network as one. The result is not only productivity and cost savings, but also fewer errors and improved overall security.

To go further in the topic of digital transformation

Source: “.com”

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