The last inch to the IoT revolution

22nd March 2017
Enaie Azambuja

Everywhere you look, the IoT is driving commercial innovation. Smarter inventory management, delivered through RFID location-based technology, is removing human error and the costs of manual checks and missed deliveries. Sophisticated data capture is driving enhanced customer insight, leading to increased revenue and profitability. And operating costs are being slashed as processes become more efficient and less reliant on manual labour.

According to Kaz Matsuyama, President and CEO of SATO Holdings, the most forward-thinking enterprises see IoT as much more than a device-to-device (M2M) communication process. “At SATO we believe that how you define IoT is critical to how you approach it as a business".

"It's not about simply offering technology, nor is it merely the connection of devices to the network, otherwise there would be little difference between IoT and M2M. We see ‘the real IoT’ as a method to enable the creation of real value for customers through integration of the virtual and the physical. Importantly, this ties in with IoT-driven trends that are emerging as we head into the 2020s,” said Matsuyama.

Noriyasu Yamada, Chief Product Planning Officer of SATO explained, “We are starting to see a general shift from a typical B2B mentality to a broader B2B2A (business to business to anyone) stance, where ‘anyone’ can represent employees, business partners, retailers, or consumers, who are the end users of our customers.”

“This means even large B2B2A businesses will need to have answers for the end user. In the next phase of IoT, we believe we need to evolve how we develop our human resources to match the market’s demands through an IoA (Internet of Ability) approach".

"Business offerings will move from beyond hardware to end-to-end solutions so the workforce will need to adapt, with salespeople acting more as consultants and even logistics staff expected to add value to the end customer.”

“Methods of mass-collection of personal information will also change, with cloud-based storage becoming the norm. On-premises servers are still prevalent, primarily due to security concerns. A more flexible approach to keeping and processing ‘Big Data’ is essential to realise the full benefits of the IoT.”

“As demographic-led labor shortages bite in markets like Japan, companies will accelerate towards full automation for next generation delivery systems. This approach offers huge advantages in cost-savings and efficiency and accuracy.

In inventory management, for example, RFID technology is already delivering real-time accuracy without human error. One example of this is SATO’s revolutionary RFID-enabled Trace Cabinet, which allows accurate, high-speed management of critical healthcare inventory.

“In the healthcare workplace, 99 per cent is never enough. Our simple-to-use first-in, first-out tracking solution is perfect for mission critical items such as blood bags, orthopedic implants, dental implants, powerful narcotics and specialty drugs and pharmaceuticals.”

“Larger companies will increasingly collaborate with AI start-ups to revamp their offerings, but technology is not enough on its own. On-site innovation ability is critical for companies implementing IoT solutions. Our on-site integration capabilities – or ‘genbaryoku’ approach – play a key part in how we help customers realise the full potential of the IoT/IoA.”

As businesses and consumers adapt to the B2B2A business model, another exciting trend and key element will be ‘hyper personalisation’. SATO’s DataLase Inline Digital Printing (IDP) technology means the company expects to be able to print variable data in full color by 2020, which is a major milestone in Japan with the Tokyo Olympics.

“We can envisage a day when laser technology will enable brand owners and consumers themselves to print personalised messages directly onto products. This will revolutionise the total product and packaging ecosystem by creating closer connections between consumers and brands,” commented Yamada.

Hyper personalisation and other IoT/IoA possibilities will offer a huge competitive advantage to retailers in particular. In retail, competition has always been fierce, but with the introduction of the disruptive influence of online shopping, innovation has become essential to businesses that want to thrive, or even survive.

Consequently, both online and physical store retailers have been investing heavily in IoT for their inventory transportation and demand-aware fulfilment.

But the owners of High Street businesses have also realised the in-store experience is a competitive advantage that cannot be replicated online. They are using IoT solutions including SATO’s VISION Retail Platform to leverage this natural advantage to its maximum effect.

Goro Yumiba, Chairman and CEO of SATO Global Solutions said, “Our technology capitalises on a robust foundation of scalable, secure technologies providing business intelligence targeted to the specific challenges of the retail industry. It efficiently connects item RFID tags, sensors, gateways, and videos to deliver actionable data-driven insight on all aspects of inventory management.”

“When retailers understand and embrace the power of data, the results are higher sales conversions, operational efficiencies and, for their customers, a better shopping experience. We’re delighted to be helping in this way.”

VISION Retail is part of the Acuitas Digital IoT retail platform, which is being tested in Wall Street, New York, by luxury retailer Thomas Pink to track real-time movement of merchandise around the store.

Big Data analytics predicts shopper behavior, and provides a foundation for real-time, interactive in-store experiences. This means retailers like Thomas Pink can provide personalised customer service, optimise store layout, improve employee workflows, reduce costs and grow sales.

“The IoT offers huge possibilities for retailers; in customer experience, inventory visibility and workforce efficiency to name only three.” explained Yumiba. “We expect retailers to embrace the IoT, thus empowering their sales associates and increasing customer loyalty.”

“In retail, as in so many other industries, SATO is integrating the virtual and the physical to bridge the last inch to the IoT.” SATO is exhibiting at CeBIT, the world’s leading event for the digitalisation of business, government and society. Taking place in Hannover, Germany, 20-24 March 2017, SATO can be found in the Japanese Pavilion, Hall 12 at Stand D04 during the show.

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