Retail markets are changing rapidly, making it more important than ever for retailers to be flexible and responsive. Consumer habits are shifting as economic uncertainty, technological advancements, and evolving demographics all push shoppers in new directions.
Let’s start by considering the global economy. Although conditions are improving, the uncertain recovery is making it difficult to predict consumer behavior. Sudden developments– such as the series of crises in Europe – can cause massive, unexpected changes in consumer behavior. Planning for these contingencies is difficult, to say the least.
Technology is creating a very different kind of change – one where the smart phone is an increasingly integral part of the “brick and mortar” shopping experience. Retailers around the globe are using mobile apps to let customers know if an item is in stock, help them locate it within the store, and recommend alternatives if an item is out of stock. Consumers can scan shelf tags to pull up reviews and other information, helping convert browsing into sales – even enabling immediate purchase via the mobile phone. Mobile apps can also keep consumers engaged after they leave the store, alerting them to special offers base on past purchases and browsing history.
Retailers are also seeing broader shifts in shopping behavior driven by ecommerce. Deal-of-the-day sites like Groupon can deliver huge short-term bumps in purchases, but create challenges of inventory management and uncertainty about longer-term purchasing. Meanwhile, social media can transform unknown brands into must-haves seemingly overnight, making it more challenging to stay on top of the latest trends.
Demographics are also bringing dramatic changes to the retail sector. In the United States, for example, the mass retirement of “baby boomers” is changing everything from purchasing priorities to the time of day when stores can expect crowds. In contrast, the youth population is exploding in the Middle East. Adapting to the tastes and priorities of changing populations will be a critical task for retailers worldwide.
To keep up with all these changes, retailers must deploy smart, connected devices throughout their operations. By tying together everything from inventory tracking to advertising (Figure 1), retailers can gain visibility into their operations and nimbly respond to shifts in consumer behavior. The challenge is finding a scalable, secure, manageable path to deploying all of these systems.
Figure 1. Connecting devices throughout the store and beyond can help retailers keep up with changing consumer habits.
The Intel® Intelligent Systems Framework (Figure 2) was developed to meet challenges like these. The framework outlines fundamental capabilities such as connectivity, manageability, and security, with specifications for the underlying hardware, operating systems (OSs), and software. By specifying these system basics, the framework provides a foundation for scalable, interoperable designs that retailers can deploy throughout their operations. What’s more, this foundation enables developers concentrate on innovative features and services rather than rudimentary design.
Figure 2. By identifying common requirements and consistent ways to address them, the Intel® Intelligent Systems Framework ensures the interoperability of elements based on Intel technology.
The framework is fairly new – it was introduced in late 2012 – but it is already garnering significant support from the Intel® Intelligent Systems Alliance, an ecosystem of 250+ global member companies that collaborates closely with Intel and each other to deliver the latest technologies. These include solutions for point-of-sale (POS), ATM, and kiosk devices; digital signage; and surveillance; as well as a variety of solutions for the broader machine-to-machine (M2M) market. Let’s look at a few examples of the framework-ready solutions for the POS/ATM/kiosk space next.
The BCM BI255-67QMD (Figure 3) is a good example of an embedded PC that can be put to work in a variety of retail roles, such as a POS terminal or a signage player. This compact, fanless system measures just 7.5” L x 7.1” W x 2.5” H, and supports a selection of 2nd generation Intel® Core™ and Intel® Celeron® processors. I/O includes support for 3 independent displays via onboard HDMI, DVI-D, and VGA, enabling graphically rich multi-screen applications. For developers with entry-level performance needs, Avalue-BMC offers an Intel® Atom™-based version, the BCM BI255-255D, with dual-display support.
Figure 3. The BCM BI255-67QMD
Developers looking to build their own PC can look to motherboards like the SuperMicro X9SPV-M4 80 (Figure 4). This framework-ready Mini-ITX board features a 3rd generation Intel® Core™ processor and a wealth of I/O and expansion options, such as SATA3 6 Gbps with RAID; USB 3.0; and gigabit Ethernet (GbE). These powerful components make the motherboard a good fit for high-end applications such as advanced signage.
Figure 4. The SuperMicro X9SPV-M4 80.
Another build-your-own option is the Advantech MIO-5290 (Figure 5). Based on the 3rd generation Intel Core processor, this 46 x 102 mm (5.7” x 4”) SBC has the unique ability to be expanded via Avantech’s “multiple I/O” (MIO) boards. These boards offer various combinations of add-on I/O, such as USB, Ethernet, and video. This makes the SBC an interesting option for addressing varied retail applications with different I/O requirements.
Figure 5. The Advantech MIO-5290.
These are only a few of the Intel Intelligent Systems-ready systems available in the Solutions Directory. I recommend checking out the full listing for yourself to see how they can help you meet the needs of today’s rapidly-changing retail markets.
Solutions in this blog:
- Connectivity - Top Picks (blogs, white papers, and more)
- Retail and Digital Signage - Top Picks (blogs, white papers, and more)
Advantech is a Premier member of the Intel® Intelligent Systems Alliance.
Avalue-BCM is an Associate member of the Intel® Intelligent Systems Alliance.
SuperMicro is an Affiliate member of the Intel® Intelligent Systems Alliance.
Roving Reporter (Intel Contractor), Intel® Intelligent Systems Alliance
Editor-In-Chief, Embedded Innovator magazine
Follow me on Twitter: @kentonwilliston