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5 Real-time IoT Applications in the Retail Industry

What started out as just computers and laptops, have now evolved into smart phones, smart watches, smart cars and even smart houses. Everything is connected and everything is at your fingertips. The Internet of Things or IoT as it is more commonly referred to, is a system of interrelated computing devices or machines that can transfer data with reduced human interference.

Quite simply put, IoT is the start of a new wave of connective technology, and the retail industry has not been left out of this smart connective revolution. Here’s a glimpse of some IoT applications that have made a splash in the retail industry.

      • Smart Shelves
      • Automated Checkout
      • Robot Employees
      • Beacons
      • Personalized Discounts

Smart Shelves

Smart Shelves uses weight sensors and RFID tags to scan products in stock and on the shelf to inform employees when the inventory is low. This guarantees that employees do not have to waste time and energy on continuously checking whether the shelves are stocked. Smart Shelves are also equipped with technology to detect potential theft.

Automated Checkout

Why have long queues of people waiting to checkout their items? The automated checkout system scans the item codes of the customer’s items as they leave and automatically deducts the costs of the items from the customer’s mobile payments apps. With this application in place, there is no need for multiple checkout counters with overworked employees, and can even reduce the cost of labor for the owners.

Robot Employees

Several leading stores have already implemented ‘Robot Employees’ in their workforce to lessen the burden of tedious tasks for employees. For example, Lowe’s robot employee, the OSHbot is an English and Spanish speaking shopping assistant who helps customers find the products they are looking for and provides information on products and discounts.  Target on the other hand, uses robot assistants to take note of misplaced inventory items and items that are out of stock, while the other employees can freely focus on providing customer support.


Beacons are small Bluetooth devices that send alerts to smartphones based on proximity of location, and was introduced by Apple in 2013. Beacons can be used in the retail industry to send notifications about discounts, events, and reminders to customers who use the app while they are in the proximity of the store. Leading stores including Macy’s, Urban Outfitters, Timberland, and Universal Music have already integrated Beacons in to their proximity marketing strategies.

Personalized Discounts

Much like Beacons, this IoT application uses sensors to send notifications about rewards, loyalty benefits, and discounts to customers who have signed up to the loyalty program while they are simply in the store or standing next to a particular product at the store. IoT can also track the customer’s online purchase or search history on the store’s website to give them personalized discounts when they visit the store in person.