One of the most promising next-generation retail technology is smart shelves. Smart shelves which are also known as “intelligent shelves” are electronically connected shelves which are designed to automatically keep track of inventory in any retail establishment. Manufactures can collect real-time data about their products usage and get sales data. Smart shelves use a combination of sensors, digital displays and RFID tags to provide detailed product information, marketing and cross-selling suggestions, while providing retailers invaluable insights into customer preferences and shopping patterns.
Absence of stock items in retail stores resulting in causing dissatisfaction among the customers is one of the biggest challenges the retail industry is currently facing. Smart shelves technology enables automated tracking of stock availability and informs retail stores if the items are running low or if they have been misplaced from the original place. Smart shelves can be connected to the internet and in turn, offer helpful data about customer practices and relevant information about how to optimize their in-store experience dynamically.
Smart Shelves allow retailers and manufacturers use real-time inventory data to optimize stock availability. Retailers can focus on providing customer-centric retail space to enhance customers in-store shopping experience. Manufacturers get closer to customers by gaining more visibility, thus enabling branding.
The store shelves are equipped with Weight sensors, Proximity sensors, 3D cameras, Microphones, RFID tags, NFC, Electronic printed tags, LED sensors, Optical sensors, IOT sensors, etc., to monitor the shelf stock. When the customer picks an item from the shelf, product levels get low, Smart Shelves send a refill notification to employees/ store keepers on their connected mobile device. The stock is replenished by the store keepers.
ELECTRONIC SHELF LABELS (ESLs): This is a next-generation solution available for managing the retail stores. It displays information in real time using electronic/digital paper and display instead of printing product information and price on paper. A communication network allows the price display to be manually controlled or automatically updated at the business’ discretion. The wireless communication is based on infrared, radio or even visible light. The QR code which is presented on the electronic shelf labels connects the offline products with the online products. Combined with the shelf management solution, stores could execute promotions in a timely manner and have more interactions with customers.
PERSONALIZED ADVERTISEMENTS: Smart shelves have the ability to interact with apps on a customer's smartphone. Sensors installed in the shelves can sense the customers approach them and can they can show a deal, for example, on the same product that was purchased during the previous visit. Additionally, if the customer uses a store's app to create a shopping list, the smart shelves can interact with the list and show the customer where to find the items in the shelves. Although there are privacy and data collection concerns, it is expected that some consumers will share their personal information and purchase history to score a deal. Smart cameras can capture and identify customers’ gender and age within any pre-defined ranges. The system also records facial expressions, giving retailers a sense of customers’ moods as they watch ads, providing clues about which products they like or don’t like. Smart shelf technology uses beacons which are proximity-based communication devices that use low-energy Bluetooth technology to send personalized messages and promotions to shoppers’ smartphones.
IOT SENSORS: The Internet of things (IoT) is a network of connected devices embedded with electronics, software, sensors, actuators, and so on which enable these objects to collect and exchange data. Internet of things (IoT) sensors have many potentials uses in a supermarket, and one of the most basic is temperature control. The internet of things can also collect data from smart shelves and transmit the collected information to store staff for analysis. This technology can help supermarkets to assess which products appeal to consumers and can affect how stores arrange items on display. Using IoT technology, digital screens can display not only commercials and catalogs but also personalized promotions based on collected data.
5G TECHNOLOGY: 5G is the next (and fifth) generation of wireless technology systems. Shelves equipped with sensors could stock position of a product, ping a distribution center to restock its inventory, and also dynamically monitor the progress of that shipment. 5G also has the potential to create entirely new types of shopping experiences such as an augmented reality application that triggers when you enter a store and guides you directly to the shelf where you can find your product of interest.
RFID: A radio frequency identification reader (RFID) usually has a tag that contains a microchip, reader and antenna to transmit and receive data. The tags contain electronically-stored information. RFID tags uses smart barcodes and radio waves to identify items and transmit information about them. RFID enabled smart shelves have recently attracted enormous attention. RFID-enabled smart shelves ensure product placement in desired locations and enable data collection and delivery along the supply chain without human intervention. RFID tags can provide alerts to store associates whenever the shelves are empty and need restocking. RFID tags on every item combined with robotic checkouts can automatically scan your purchases and make shopping faster.
PRESSURE SENSOR FOILS: Pressure sensor foil that detects the changing of objects on a shelf could be used for a range of applications in retail, hotels and hospitals. Integrated into the sensor foil are active components, which include a multiplexer chip and a capacitive-to-digital converter, along with a number of passive components such as resistors and capacitors.
WO2017183038A1 filed by Wishelf Ltd. discloses a shelf monitor comprising an array of sensors deployed in proximity to a stocking shelf and so that the sensors face a region containing shelved goods. A CPU module is configured to receive outputs from the sensors and execute an algorithm to detect a change event in the shelved goods and to train the detection algorithm. Shelf monitors can be used in multiple numbers; a master shelf among the shelf monitors serves to aggregate the data and local control of the system. A master controller can establish communication with a cloud server, allowing many additional features such as integrating the shelf monitoring system with inventory and point-of-sale database.
US10121121B1 titled Smart shelves from Amazon Technologies Inc. discloses tracking an inventory of items stored on a traditional shelf, including not only identifying the items but also determining their locations on the shelf, based on their respective weights. Interposer assemblies may be inserted between a traditional shelf and traditional supports for the shelf. Each of the interposer assemblies may be configured to generate signals corresponding to changes in loading on the traditional shelf, and information regarding the changes may be determined to identify items placed onto or removed from the traditional shelf, and locations at which the items were placed or from which the items were removed.
US patent application US20170228686A1 from International Business Machines (IBM) has disclosed smart shelves having a mesh arrangement of sensors that include strain sensors, photodetectors, microphones, and spillage sensors placed on a bottom to form a sensor mesh layer for generating a signal representative of a product count for a given product to be sold from a corresponding smart shelf. The system further includes a data processing system for transforming the signal from each of the smart shelves into a product count value. The system also includes a set of video displays for displaying characteristics of the given product to be sold from each of the smart shelves. The system additionally includes a set of wireless radios for transmitting the characteristics of the given product to be sold from each of the smart shelves to the set of video displays.
US20180231973A1 from Walmart deals with systems and methods for a Virtual Reality Showroom with Autonomous Storage and Retrieval. It discloses how robots in a remote fulfilment facility would monitor consumers’ movements. As shoppers add virtual items to their virtual baskets, the self-driving robots would locate those items in the real warehouse, pick them up using an articulated arm and deposit them into a container for shipping. These fulfilment centers would also utilize smart shelves to monitor inventory in real time.
WISESHELF: WiseShelf founded in 2016, offers a cutting-edge technology “smart shelf” which prevents “out of stock” situations by alerting when the stock gets low.Features:
TECH SHELF: Tech Shelf founded in 2017 uses modules and sensors to track every item on the shelf, offering the collected data in real-time to retailers, producers or distributors.Features:
KROGER CO, America’s largest supermarket chain, has implemented Kroger EDGE, a cloud-based signage solution for retail shelves. EDGE stands for Enhanced Display for Grocery Environment. It relies on Microsoft Azure to store and process volumes of data generated by customer actions on and around the shelves.Features of EDGE shelves:
AWM SMART SHELFis an innovative smart shelf technology. AWM’s Automated Inventory Intelligence solution can view and track virtually any product or UPC in a retail environment. It is highly accurate, and results can be provided as quickly as near-real-time and as frequently as hourly or even less in response to shopper activity.Features of AWM Smart Shelf:
WISESHELF transforms standard retail shelves into IoT world. Wiseshelf is an appliance mounted on existing retail shelves that provides real-time information regarding the stock level of each product. WiseShelf developed a unique patented technology to detect and manage shelf inventory.Features of Wiseshelf:
POWERSHELF is a leading provider of retail technology solutions. The Powershelf system provides constant power and two-way communications to software-enabled applications and devices which deliver a variety of advertising, merchandising and pricing services to customers.Features of Powershelf:
IMCo is a manufacturer of innovative intelligent retail shelf solutions that helps to sell more. IMCo is one of the leading producers of intelligent systems that stop theft while maintaining an open shopper-friendly presentation. The patented IMCo Smart Shelf exists as a product pusher based system, IMCo Push, as well as for retail hooks, IMCo Hook.Features of Smart Shelf:
Smart Shelves is an emerging technology that is rapidly being adopted by manufacturers, retailers and consumers. Integrating IoT software solutions will accelerate development of Smart Shelves technology and enable implementation at supermarkets or retail stores. Digital transformation is reshaping the retail industry with new technology trends such as Omnichannel, Internet of things, Virtual & augmented reality, Artificial intelligence and Hyper-personalization. In future, retail stores are expected to integrate several product sensing devices which are more intelligent than ever before such as the RFID tags, 3D cameras, LED displays, stock management applications, etc. Many stores are beginning to understand the advantages that the smart shelf-management system offers. It is not only for managing purchasing histories but also measuring market trends and customer preferences. The future is going to witness a convergence of many technologies which will make retail experience a very enjoyable one for the consumer, and a profitable one for the retailer.