According to the latest ONS figures, the impact of Covid-19 restrictions on the physical retail sector has been mixed. Stores…

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According to the latest ONS figures, the impact of Covid-19 restrictions on the physical retail sector has been mixed. Stores selling hardware, paints and glass, for example, saw a 13% increase in the value of retail sales compared to last year. Others have been hit particularly hard – with clothes store sales down by more than a quarter (26%) in the same time frame.

The forthcoming wave of vaccinations promises to restore the UK’s economy to a more stable position. Nonetheless, we must consider the possibility that changes in consumer behaviour may linger even when lockdowns and social distancing are a thing of the past, as well as how different sub-sectors within the industry will be affected.

Let’s therefore look at two opposing, but equally possible scenarios on the road ahead.

Scenario A – Opening the floodgates

After months of being cooped up at home, customers flock to town centres, industrial parks and shopping centres to exercise their freedom to purchase goods in-person. Sales volumes increase, but supply chains become stretched due to spikes in product demand and store inventories become more difficult to effectively manage.

In addition, disruption to both the need and availability of workers in the months prior leaves stores understaffed, leading to long queues and disgruntled customers. Finally, customers who for months have been encouraged to go cashless are now making far more card and contactless payments, leaving some POS systems struggling with the uptick in data traffic and leading to more frustration for staff and customers alike.    

Scenario B – The high street ghost town

For many, shopping online during the pandemic switched from something people wanted to do to something people needed to do. As a result, those who were previously sceptical or unfamiliar with technology (or who simply preferred shopping in-person) had to familiarise themselves with the process. Of course, although many within this group may still be averse to e-commerce today, we must assume that at least some will use their newfound familiarity to continue shopping online in the post-Covid era.

In this scenario, customers new to e-commerce have been swayed by the user-friendliness, low prices and fast delivery on offer online. As a result, footfall on the high street struggles to recover to pre-pandemic levels, creating a tough environment for the small independent retailers who compete with the online giants.

Preparing for every outcome

While these two scenarios are diametrically opposed, the Internet of Things (IoT) could help address some of the issues described in both situations. Comprising a dynamic network of sensors, devices and equipment, the IoT makes it possible to view and interact with physical objects as easily as files and folders on a computer. In other words, the IoT creates a digital overlay that sits across the physical infrastructure of retail stores, effectively facilitating the agility of online shopping in a physical space.

It will require investment, but securing the future is a goal that pays dividends. Here we look at the solutions the IoT has to offer in these two scenarios.

Solution A – Unlocking efficiency at every stage of the supply chain

Preparing to mitigate the negative outcomes in this scenario requires retailers to take a hard look at the systems they have in place, identify areas in urgent need of greater efficiency, and implement new IoT tools to address them:

  • Real-time supply chain – inventory sensors and POS data are integrated into a direct communication system with supply chain partners, triggering automated manufacturing and production systems and adjusting stock delivery schedules accordingly.
  • Data-driven decisioning – capacity sensors linked to data analytics platforms not only track the number of customers in-store, but analyse seasonally-adjusted data relating to the length of time customers spend in the aisles and predict where and when staff will be needed.
  • Robotic process automation (RPA) – from processing supplier deliveries to quarterly stock counts, RPA systems automate time-consuming tasks that happen behind the scenes, freeing up staff time for better workforce scheduling and more focus on customers.

Solution B – In-store customer experience unmatched by online retailers

Innovations such as live product tracking and same day delivery have recently tipped the customer experience race in online retailers’ favour. To attract new customers and retain their business, brick-and-mortar stores must emulate the dynamic, digital and personalised experience offered by their online counterparts:

  • Interactive digital displays & kiosks – positioned at the store entry, customers can benefit from an optimised in-store journey and a highly personalised experience by viewing commonly bought items, their location within the store and in-the-moment marketing offers based on purchase history.
  • Roaming POS – queuing is eliminated as tablets carried by staff process customer payments anywhere in the store. In addition, RFID scanners built into trolleys and baskets can total large volume purchases in real-time, without needing to take a single item out to scan.
  • Customer application integration – in-store geotargeting systems can link via Bluetooth to customer-facing smartphone applications to help locate specific items and provide other useful pieces of information, such as stock levels, current offers and the location of staff.

LTE & SD-WAN branch networking: laying the foundations for the future of physical retail

Regardless of which scenario becomes a reality, any subsequent IoT strategy must begin with a reliable, secure and agile network. The first step is cutting the cord with fixed broadband connectivity and setting up a private in-store network running on LTE. Also known as wireless WAN (WWAN), this solution offers retailers greater levels of flexibility thanks to out-of-the-box connectivity and unparalleled reliability through multiple network channel management.

The second foundational requirement for retail IoT is SD-WAN. With the sheer quantity of network applications running in most branches, cloud monitoring and troubleshooting features – including automated alerts – SD-WAN enables retailers to cost-effectively manage WAN conditions at widespread locations. Crucially, SD-WAN also allows secure VPNs to be established in a matter of minutes, providing robust protection for devices and sensitive information, such as customer payment data.

Survive and thrive in the future of retail

The past year has been an uphill struggle, not least for retailers contending with limited footfall in their physical stores. Investing in new technology may not be top of mind for all retail businesses in the immediate future. But for those who are able and willing to make small adjustments to innovate may find they are able to unlock efficiencies in their supply chain, improve their in-store experience and attract and retain new customers once lockdown restrictions start to ease.

Strategic senior hires and innovative new solutions will support European customers on the pathway to 5G

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Cradlepoint, the global leader in cloud-delivered LTE and 5G wireless network edge solutions, today announces its rapid expansion into Europe with senior hires, investment in new teams and new product offerings.

With a strong heritage in the US to build upon, a clear addressable wireless WAN market in Europe and the emergence of 5G networks, the company is ready to truly ‘go global’ in 2020, winning more customers across Northern, Central and Southern Europe.

Evert Suur, previously Head of Channels for Northern Europe at Forescout, joins Cradlepoint as Area Director for Northern Europe. He brings to the role 25+ years of experience in the IT and networking industries and will be responsible for driving forward Cradlepoint’s ‘go-to-market’ strategy in the Netherlands, Belgium and the Nordics.

Lorenzo Ruggiero also joins the company, as Area Director for Southern Europe. Based in Milan, Lorenzo will lead customer satisfaction initiatives, partner relationships and revenue growth across Italy, Spain, France and Portugal. Lorenzo joins from Vodafone and previously worked at French software company, Infovista, where he was in charge of leading the enterprise market proposition. 

There will be expansion and new hire announcements for Central Europe, in the coming months.

In each region, a sales and support team will be built throughout 2020, with team leaders, sales engineers and business development executives being hired.

Cradlepoint’s ‘go-to-market’ strategy in Europe will be driven through third parties and partner programmes in each geo, with the company actively recruiting partners across Europe as part of its expansion plan.

James Bristow, SVP EMEA, Cradlepoint comments, “We invented the wireless WAN/ Edge movement and lead the industry. This will grow to a $5bn Market in EMEA by 2025 – but now it’s time to establish our presence in Europe and tap into the growing demand for mobile, branch and IoT networks. We want to win more Fortune 500 companies in the year ahead and dominate the market as 5G infrastructure rolls out across the region.”

Amid the COVID-19 crisis, Cradlepoint has been rolling out new solutions to support the European market. The organisation has seen an increase in demand for products that can support pop-up healthcare environments, home working and retailers to onboard an influx of new staff quickly and securely. Some of its new product offerings include:

·         The E300 Series Enterprise Router, which supports the increased performance and advanced LTE, Wi-Fi, security, and management requirements of high-traffic pop-up sites, including quarantine centres, small clinics, and treatment facilities 

·         Expansion of vehicle solutions for the UK emergency services network:  A new Gigabit-Class MC400 Modular Modem, which upgrades the IBR900 Mobile Router to being an ESN ‘Connect Critical Approved Solution’ for UK emergency services

·         A comprehensive portfolio of 5G solutions powered by the company’s NetCloud Service, built exclusively to meet the business imperatives of availability, interoperability, security, and manageability. The new portfolio of “5G for Business” solutions enables customers to deploy fast and reliable wireless business internet and wide-area networks (WANs)

Bristow conclud

es, “We have responded rapidly to the needs of our customers in Europe during the COVID-19 crisis with best in-class products and solutions in the wireless WAN market. We are confident, that when we come through this crisis, the rise of high speed wireless 4G Gigabit LTE and 5G networks will present huge opportunities for enterprises to cut the wire and build better, more agile and manageable networks. A huge number of ideas, innovations and new companies will be born out of the 5G movementglobally, and Cradlepoint is at the forefront of this change.”

Industrial companies are embracing 5G connectivity as a primary enabler of digital transformation, and plan to implement the technology within…

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Industrial companies are embracing 5G connectivity as a primary enabler of digital transformation, and plan to implement the technology within two years. This is spurring interest in private licenses, which nearly half of large industrial companies (47%) intend to apply for, according to the latest findings from the Capgemini Research Institute.

The 5G in Industrial Operations: How Telcos and Industrial companies stand to benefit study found that 5G is regarded as a catalyst of digital transformation, and that manufacturers expect it to deliver more secure and efficient operations.

Key findings of the study, which surveyed over 800 industrial companies’ executives and 150 telecoms executives across 12 countries, include:

5G is critical to digital transformation: When industrial companies’ executives were asked which technologies will be the most integral to their digital transformation over the next five years, 75% mentioned 5G as a key enabler, ranking second to cloud computing (84%), and ahead of technology innovations such as advanced automation and AI/machine learning. Industrial companies believe that 5G’s versatility, flexibility and reliability will help address connectivity challenges (a limiting factor to digital transformation for 44% of those polled) and fuel future use cases.

Industrial companies want to move quickly to implement 5G: There is widespread confidence in 5G’s potential, with almost two-thirds of industrial companies (65%) planning to implement it within the first two years of availability. In Italy (35%), France (30%) and Canada (27%), over a quarter intend to use 5G within the first year, while 75% of industrial companies in the UK and Italy, 69% in Spain, and 68% in the US and Norway plan to start within the first two years. The largest manufacturers are most likely to implement 5G first compared to the broader industry: 74% with annual revenue above $10bn expect to do so within the first two years, compared to 57% with revenue between $500m and $1bn.

One-third (33%) of industrial companies are planning to apply for their own 5G license and large organizations will take the lead with 47% expressing interest. This is fuelled by a desire for greater autonomy and security combined with concerns about telecom operators being too slow in rolling-out 5G public networks. However, there will be regulatory barriers which differ across countries.

Gunther May, Head of Technology and Innovation, Business Unit Automation and Electrification at Bosch Rexroth AG says, “As a solution provider and a manufacturer, we are monitoring the 5G landscape closely and we believe there are multiple benefits to holding our own license. It would allow us to be in full control of our 5G strategy by giving us the freedom to either deploy the network alone or with a telecom operator.”

Security and operational advantages will drive 5G adoption: When asked about the business reason for investing in 5G, more than half cited more secure operations (54%) and efficiency of operations/cost savings (52%), with the expectation that 5G will help in enabling or enhancing use cases such as real-time edge analytics, video surveillance, remote control of distributed production, AI-enabled or remote controlled motions, remote operations through AR/VR, etc.

Industrial companies will pay more for premium services: Despite uncertainties around the speed of deployment, manufacturers are already willing to pay a premium charge for enhanced 5G connectivity. 72% of industrial companies will pay more for enhanced mobile broadband speed and increased capacity, yet only 54% of telecom operators think there is appetite for this. This presents an opportunity for telecom operators to consider how they build a highly profitable 5G business model.

Pierre Fortier, Principal Consultant in Telecom, Media and Technology at Capgemini Invent comments: “This research makes it clear that industrial companies are confident about the benefits of 5G before it has even come to market. That said, 5G is an emerging technology and there will be many challenges to overcome before it is ready to be deployed at scale. Co-innovation between industrial companies and the telco ecosystem, in the form of pilots and open experimentation platforms, will be essential to create win-win business, service and operating models that will foster 5G adoption.”

Research Methodology

The Capgemini Research Institute conducted, with Capgemini Invent experts, a primary survey of over 800 executives from industrial companies. Respondents were based in 12 countries: Belgium, Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Netherlands, Norway, South Korea, Spain, Sweden, United Kingdom and United States, and across a dozen sub-sectors: Aerospace & Defense, Airport and Railway Operators, Automotive, Chemical, Consumer Product, Energy & Utilities, Industrial Machinery, Logistics, Medical Devices, Pharma & Life Sciences and Semiconductor and Hi-tech Manufacturing. The Institute also conducted a survey of 150 telecom executives from these 12 countries and also finished more than 20 one-on-one interviews with industry and telecom executives.