Internet of Things (IoT) technology harnesses the combined power of connectivity and data to provide greater operational awareness and drive innovation.  Since its inception, IoT has been used in a variety of fields where management and technology teams saw the advantages of enhanced connectivity and exceptional data gathering power.  Recently, IoT has been successfully integrated into the commercial refrigeration sector.  Within commercial refrigeration, IoT technology is seeing increasing popularity as both manufacturers and end-users are experiencing the tangible benefits of technological integration.  In this article, we’ll outline what IoT is, and discuss how IoT technology can be used to improve operations, drive increased sales, and help both manufacturers and retailers connect with consumers in new ways.

What is IoT?

At this point, nearly everyone has interacted with IoT technology.  The premise behind the “Internet of Things” was to foster enhanced connectivity between devices that we use on an everyday basis.  By bringing unconnected devices into the fold of internet connectivity, designers and engineers were able to give end-users enhanced awareness and control over their devices.  In industrial sectors, IoT technology functions very similarly to its application in the commercial sector.  In an industrial setting, an IoT network consists of an array of sensor nodes that gather specific types of data and stream it to a cloud system.  The cloud system then transmits this data to management and engineers to give them a full-field view of their system’s operational health.

Using IoT to Improve Operations

IoT technology helps improve operations through two key functions; gathering large amounts of data, and providing real-time information about the health of operations.  The data gathering power of IoT technology is unsurpassed in the modern world.  Each sensor node collects data continuously.  That data is then transmitted constantly through an interface, such as a sim card or Bluetooth device, to an analytic system that renders the data into an accessible format in real-time.  The stream of constant data that an IoT system provides is critical for understanding operational health.  The types of data that an IoT system collects depends on the field of application.  Within the commercial refrigeration sector, IoT systems collect and transmit data that helps management understand current conditions both within the unit and outside of the unit.  Understanding current operating conditions helps management gain a full-field view of the health of their operations in real-time.  Additionally, IoT sensors will also allow both managers, and the machine itself, to monitor and regulate the efficiency of operations.  Lastly, the large scope of data gathered from an IoT sensor network allows engineers to design and implement changes in product design, resulting in more efficient and reliable commercial refrigeration units over time.

IoT Data to Drive Sales

The data gathered from IoT networks can also be used to drive increased sales.  Managers and brand marketers can analyze this data to discover insights into their most popular products and the consumption patterns of consumers.  The data provided by an IoT network can provide context to how products are being consumed.  For example, what days products are most popular on, what times those products are being purchased, and if specific product locations are more beneficial than others.  IoT data can also be used to determine cooler purity.  Retailers will be able to quickly assess anomalies in data, such as a high rate of door openings but a low volume of resulting sales.  This data could then be used to apply targeted adjustments to product placement within the cooler in order to increase the volume of sales from that specific cooler.  Taken together, the data provided by an IoT system can help retailer managers and brand marketers determine the most effective way to display, market, and position their products to maximize consumption.  One strength of an IoT network is its flexibility.  If retail managers and brand marketers find that they need different data, they can configure the network to gather the specific data they need in order to generate insights and drive increased sales.

Using IoT to Connect to Consumers

IoT is a powerful tool that will help close the gaps between manufacturers, retailers, and consumers.  The data provided by an IoT network will help manufacturers and consumers gain a better understanding of how products are being used and consumed.  Through analyzing use and consumption patterns, manufacturers can incorporate design changes that more closely match how their products are being used in the real world.  Retail managers can encourage closer consumer-product interaction as well.  For example, an IoT sensor network can be used to detect when a consumer is in front of a specific cooler.  The system can then provide coupons or product promotions to the consumer in real-time for the specific products they are viewing.  By using IoT technology in this way, retailers will have greater control over the timing and effectiveness of sales promotions, while offering the consumer an enhanced and customized shopping experience that provides greater value.  The introduction of IoT into the commercial refrigeration sector is relatively new, and as such there is enormous potential to use this technology in a variety of innovative ways.  Over time, IoT technology will allow manufacturers and retail managers to push the boundaries of how they connect and engage with consumers.