Two months after first revealing their partnership to build an extended ecosystem for 5G and mobile edge computing (MEC) solutions aimed at manufacturing and retail, Verizon Business and Deloitte have unveiled a retail-specific 5G/MEC digital platform designed to improve store operating efficiency and enhance customer experiences.
According to Verizon Business, the platform can unlock in-store data with near-real-time analytics to improve customer engagement, inventory efficiency and associate productivity. Verizon says the 5G and mobile edge tech can enhance in-store experiences like out-of-stock items, planogram compliance, and frictionless and cashierless checkout.
This co-innovation aims to help retailers increase sales, improve margins, offer greater product availability and give associates more time to engage with customers when they don’t have to spend as much time on back-office activities like manual inventory checks and cycle counting.
Overall, 5G technology can offer employees real-time, immediate visibility into enterprise-wide level data via a mobile device to perform tasks more efficiently.
Verizon’s 5G network and MEC, combined with advanced technologies such as video camera and sensor-based analytics, artificial intelligence and augmented reality, are the foundational elements of the retail platform.
Deloitte’s industry and solution engineering experience has benefitted Verizon in the establishment of the platform by enabling the companies to develop not just a set of enterprise-wide use cases, but also a reference architecture designed to amplify back-office application integration value and a customizable approach to accelerate outcomes and ROI.
The platform is being developed in coordination with another big name in tech. Verizon Business and Deloitte are collaborating with SAP to integrate the business software giant’s suite of solutions, including SAP Customer Activity Repository and SAP S/4HANA, into the platform. The enablement of these technologies can offer retailers sustainable business performance and profitability acceleration across key levers, such as revenue, cost of goods sold and operating margin.
One use case from the collaboration includes a near real-time actionable intelligence to address out-of-stock shelf inventory management, where the platform generates automated replenishment notifications to in-store associates to refill shelves from the back of the house and alerts distribution centers to allocate additional inventory.
The automated replenishment development is timely given the recent upgrade within SAP’s software suite. Last month, SAP unveiled it had launched a replenishment planning add-on to its Customer Activity Repository, which collects, cleanses and centralizes customer and transactional data previously spread over separate applications into one single source for analysis.
Verizon Business has crowdsourced ideas from potential users as far as where additional benefits may arise. In a January survey of 200 retail decision makers, 84 percent said that 5G is valuable for two reasons: enabling real-time data processing and improving their ability to analyze foot traffic. While the first can potentially maximize cost efficiency from the point of sale to product delivery, the second could potentially better pinpoint dwell points in store, which in turn would enable dynamic floor plans and displays that maximize product positioning.
In a July webinar hosted by Verizon Business, Christian Guirnalda, Verizon’s director of 5G labs and innovation centers, said that what makes 5G technology so valuable is its ability to ensure applications have low latency—meaning they can process a very high volume of data with minimal delay. These 5G-powered networks are designed to support operations that require near real-time access to rapidly changing data sets.
“It might be an employee that’s trying to pick up and pack for in-store distribution and they can use augmented reality to help them do that in a faster manner, but it also might be the consumer who’s got their preferences and looking at an entire shelf using computer vision to understand things that might be more relevant or personalized for them,” Guirnalda said during the webinar.
As part of the extended partnership, Verizon and Deloitte are co-developing a smart factory solution at Verizon’s Customer Technology Center in Richardson, Texas, that will use computer vision and sensor-based detection coupled with MEC to identify and predict quality defects on the assembly line and automatically alert plant engineering and management in near real-time.
The companies will also introduce an integrated network and application edge compute environment for next generation application functionality and performance that reduces the need for manual quality inspection, avoids lost productivity, reduces production waste, and ultimately lowers the cost of raw materials and improves plant efficiency. The combination of Software Defined-Wide Area Network (SD-WAN) and VNS Application Edge technologies is designed to bring together software defined controls, application awareness and application lifecycle management to deliver on-demand network transformation and edge application deployment and management.