Supply Chain Shaman

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The BIG Show: Clouds of Sensors and Sensing

This week, I am attending the annual NRF event in New York. For those that have never been, it lives up to its claim of being a BIG show. Few attendees leave without blisters and the lines of people try your patience. Retailers packed the halls.
I spoke yesterday on Big Data and signed some copies of the book that I have written, Bricks Matter. It is exciting to hold it in my hands and talk to people about it.
Here I write about some general observations on technologies.
Store Sensing: I enjoyed the discussions at the RetailNext booth.  Their new store sensing allows new forms of shopper insights. The cameras can discern gender and the sensor technology can detect patterns in wi-fi addresses. (e.g., phone with wi-fi address x has visited my store Z times with Y behaviors.) The mapping shows heat maps of browsing and buying behavior.  My mind imagined hundreds of use cases. Pretty cool stuff for both retailers and manufacturers. Anyone with a store, and interested in shopper insights, should give them a call.
Sensors: I then stopped by the Tyco Retail booth to catch up with my old friend Jim Caudill and discussed advances in item tagging in the store. RFID for luxury goods is booming, but more interesting to me is the use of dual tags (EAS and RFID) in stores like Zara. Zara is tagging clothing at the distribution center. Imagine a supply chain where you have real-time visibility and monitoring of items. RFI is far from dead in retail.
Cloud. Retailers are moving faster than manufacturers on the use of cloud-based analytics.  I watch the year-over-year growth of the merchandising, forecasting and replenishment vendor Predictix, and the slower growth of the licensed offerings.  It is exciting to see new supply chain applications designed for and implemented in the cloud. Refreshing.
So, as I went to sleep last night, I imagined clouds of sensors and sensing designed to manage the supply chain for retail outside-in not inside-out. After all, it really should start with the shopper, shouldn’t it?

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