Executive Overview of IoT Platforms

An Executive's Overview of IoT Platforms

Executive Overview of IoT Platforms
An IoT platform is a sort of operating system that interfaces with applications and offers a security layer, data storage, device management, analytics services and more.

An Internet of Things project is composed of lots of moving parts. Sometimes, in fact, the parts are literally moving.

There are sensors, controllers, applications, data storage, analytics and analysis software, and more. But underlying all of that, there needs to be some software layer that holds it all together.

And in a nutshell, that’s the IoT platform.

Think of it this way: You may have a specific use case for your business in mind – perhaps in manufacturing, retail, a smart building, or transportation. Your specific use case suggests that you may need a particular suite of applications and analytics tools. But applications aren’t stand-alone solutions; they can’t deliver actionable results on their own. So, like Windows for the desktop computer market, an IoT platform is a kind of middleware that relies on a slew of important ingredients to deliver a complete IoT solution.

Making sense of the layers

Extending the Windows metaphor, an IoT platform is a sort of operating system that interfaces with applications and offers a security layer, data storage, device management, analytics services and more. And like a good operating system, the IoT platform “virtualizes” the connections between applications and hardware.

That means that software doesn’t necessarily need to be written to specifically work with every kind of device from every manufacturer on the market; apps can communicate with virtual hardware and the platform takes it from there.

Data flows from hardware to the software

To put all this in context, it can be helpful to think about your overall IoT project, which is generally composed of a number of layers.

Any IoT project will start with the hardware at the bottom – sensors and controllers, the “things” that make up the Internet of Things. Data streaming from that hardware has to inevitably pass through some sort of gateway, which is a hardware layer that conditions the data to go back through a communications network to the software that will analyze, report and take action on the information.

The platform level

The platform delivers most of the functionality between the things and the applications. A platform offers its own layers for infrastructure – the plumbing that connects the hardware.

In addition, the platform enables two-way communication between the devices and the cloud and collects data. And like a modern operating system, the platform also does essential maintenance and housekeeping: configuration management and over-the-air (OTA) software updates to components.

At the top of the platform? Data processing. The platform enables the IoT to generate reports, run analytics, send notifications, and pass data to applications that can take action on the information.

Questions to ask

Clearly, a platform is critical to your IoT project. But since platforms bring so much to the table, it can be difficult to know how to narrow your search for the right one. Here are five questions you can ask when sizing up potential platforms.

1. What kind of security does the platform offer? Does it meet the needs of security and privacy requirements?
2. Is the platform compatible with your current business applications, or applications to plan to deploy as a part of the IoT?
3. Is the platform adept at managing the data your use cases will require? Can it rapidly consume and process the volume of data you are expecting, and can it properly process, filter, and format the data appropriately?
4. Is the platform agile enough to process and analyze data at the edge of the network, or does it need to be imported to the cloud first?
5. What kind of infrastructure does the platform work on? Does the provider have its own cloud, or does it work with a third party cloud infrastructure?

Now that you know what an IoT platform is, learn more about how it actually works to streamline operations and reduce expenses.

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How IoT Analytics are Transforming Manufacturing

Man in a manufacturing plant with IoT capabilities.
By implementing an Internet of Things solution, manufacturing systems can be better informed about both supply chain and customer data.

The Internet of Things is a perfect fit for the universe of manufacturing; no matter what products are being made or who the customer is, the IoT offers a wealth of data that can be leveraged for significant returns on investment.

And that’s not hypothetical; the good news is that these kinds of IoT successes are already happening in the real world. For one example, look at Harley-Davidson, which last year deployed smart sensors and edge analytics at its York, Pa., factory. The result? The classic motorcycle maker was able to slash the time it took to create customized motorbikes from 21-days to just six hours – while simultaneously reducing operating costs by $200 million. Likewise, jet engine manufacturer Rolls-Royce used an IoT project to get data from engines it sold while in-flight; this information was fed back to engineering and manufacturing teams to create better designs and implement predictive maintenance that saved customers an average of $25,000 per plane – a compelling competitive advantage.

Approaching Analytics Differently

As we’ve mentioned already, it’s important to understand that capitalizing on the IoT in your business will require thinking differently. Rather than integrating your new flood of information into a data warehouse and running traditional analytics tools, the IoT begs you to approach your analytics differently. You’ll wade into data lakes and perform edge analytics – in which you implement automated systems to analyse data at the point of collection, at sensors and devices spread across your network. This let you easily analyse just the relevant subsets of data embedded within vast seas of information.

That transformation is powerful, because it allows you to get important insights and make decisions faster than would be possible through traditional human analysis alone. Combining the right sensors with edge analytics, for example, can lead to significantly streamlined shop floor control. Sensors can lead the way to improving planning and scheduling to deliver the optimum production rate; predictive maintenance can combine historical failure data with real-time feedback on wear and tear to predict anomalies before they occur and schedule maintenance at the optimal time. IoT analytics can also reduce waste of raw materials and lead to better scheduling of human resources.

In addition, manufacturing systems can be better informed about both supply chain and customer data. On the supply chain front, IoT analytics can be used – automatically – to set up feedback loops between raw material inventory and production systems, so manufacturing can be programmed based on scheduled availability and vendor lead time. And at the other end of the production cycle, customer data can feed back into systems for planning production tempo, warranty planning, and stocking parts.

Analytics to Inform Engineering

Indeed, it should be clear that one of the most interesting characteristics of the IoT is that it offers value holistically across your business. If, like Rolls-Royce, you’ve properly instrumented the product you manufacture, then it can deliver usage and failure information long after it rolls off the factory floor. You can lean into that data to monitor its lifecycle; analytics can inform engineering to improve the design. It can also be used to automatically advise the customer when maintenance, updates, or replacements are needed. And seasonal usage or other demographic insights can further inform the production cycle, raw material inventory, and the rest of your supply chain.

That’s not the whole story, either. While the obvious applications for IoT data include cost savings and additional revenue by applying the analytics to your own internal processes, there’s also an opportunity to sell the raw data or analytic insights your IoT captures to other businesses in your ecosystem. It’s a whole new way to look at your business, your data, and the real value of the data you collect.

Find out how an IoT platform like Canopy can help uncover value in your manufacturing program.

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The Business Impact of Smart Buildings and IoT

Connected buildings
These days, buildings can be engineered from the ground up to feature an environmentally conscious design with embedded, networked computer systems – an Internet of Things .

The average building wastes 30 percent of the energy it consumes. That’s according to the EPA, which cites a variety of common inefficiencies leading to the poor performance of traditional building design and operation. The agency, of course, advocates for buildings to become EnergyStar compliant as a way to mitigate this problem in existing structures, but there’s perhaps a much more compelling fix on the horizon: Smart buildings. These days, buildings can be engineered from the ground up to feature an environmentally conscious design with embedded, networked computer systems – an Internet of Things – with sensors embedded throughout the building to detect and help eliminate traditional waste.

Smart buildings are, to use an engineering term, “highly instrumented.” Like a high-tech space probe or a piece of industrial machinery, smart buildings are packed with embedded sensors that measure a wealth of information like temperature, light levels, energy use, and occupancy – and then take action, automatically, in programmed responses to rules and thresholds established by the building manager.

Where's The Value?

Of course, that might sound a little familiar even if you don’t operate a smart building. One could argue that many (if not most) commercial buildings already have at least some instrumentation in place without being networked into an IoT. Thermostats control the temperature in offices; light sensors illuminate rooms only when they’re occupied; doors and gates lock at specified hours but respond to security badges. With all that tech already in play, where’s the value in ‘smartify-ing’ a building from the ground up?

Well, there are a number of reasons, but it turns out that energy consumption is the low-hanging fruit for any smart building. With the IoT, building managers can control heating, cooling, airflow, and other essential settings in a holistic, whole-structure way. And the American Council for an Energy Efficient Economy estimates that buildings which leverage the IoT for a holistic approach to energy management can save as much as 50 percent, ten times more than when engineers upgrade individual systems in existing structures. In other words, there’s a lot of value in leveraging the IoT rather than managing discrete sensors and environmental controls.

Less Obvious Advantages

Moreover, the IoT delivers less obvious value in a smart building as well. For example, in addition to measuring and tracking analytics like whether a room is occupied – and therefore may or may not need lighting and temperature control – it can also record and assess occupancy and foot traffic by time of day, day of week, and time of year. It can assess how people enter the building, where they go, and how long they stay.

This kind of indirect surveillance can have implications not just for energy saving, but logistical support and security as well. Building managers can assess how rooms are used and detect when large conference rooms or meeting facilities are routinely used by small groups or large groups which need the space are displaced by smaller groups. With the right algorithms and monitoring, that can lead to happier, more productive, and more efficient employees, since the IoT of the building itself can help teams reserve, use, and maintain the facilities they need more efficiently.

Enter Analytics Tools

And the big data that smart buildings amass allows algorithms – not people – to obsess over the details, optimizing then facilities within. Analytics tools can process day-to-day performance data of all the connected hardware within the building to look for malfunctioning equipment, safety concerns, and energy waste.

At the same time, because all of this data is Internet-connected, it lets building managers virtualize and extend control over aspects of building systems to more users. To wit: Today, can occupants and users of the building directly control the environmental systems in a typical office building? Not at all. But the IoT suggests a future in which everyday building occupants can directly affect the building’s HVAC systems via web interface or smartphone apps, at the discretion of building managers. And that’s a win for everyone.

Find out how an IoT platform like Canopy can help uncover value in your smart building project.

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Operator at emergency center

How The IoT Can Help Cities Affected By Natural Disasters

Operator at emergency center
For the first time in history, it’s possible for emergency responders to know where a city’s population is located (at least in aggregate) in real time, not just estimates based on statistical and historical models.

Most of the time, we think about the Internet of Things as a value-added technology with obvious (and sometimes not-so-obvious) business applications. But IoT’s potential is far-reaching, and not unlike firefighters and FEMA, it offers the ability to help cities prepare for and better respond to natural disasters. Indeed, given a choice between responding to an earthquake with Duane “The Rock” Johnson or a thoughtfully deployed IoT, there’s no contest: Bet on the tech.

Consider the fact that without the kind of detailed geo-located sensor data provided by the IoT, most emergency responders can’t get reliable information about a disaster area until they actually arrive on the scene. But with the right sensor network (and the infrastructure to receive, process, and interpret the incoming data) they can intelligently react to conditions before they even arrive, giving responders military intelligence-style situational awareness and additional time to plan and deploy.

So what kind of sensors are we talking about? Imagine sensors positioned in critical facilities like power stations and distributed throughout urban areas on power lines and telephone poles. They can also be mounted along sea walls for coastal towns and on dams and at hydroelectric facilities.

These sensors can monitor and transmit a lot of information – temperature, water level, air and water quality (for example, the presence of smoke, chemicals and even toxins), and more. Camera-equipped sensors can even deliver real-time visuals from countless locations around the city. And because most people carry smartphones, data from those devices can be included as well – for the first time in history, it’s possible for emergency responders to know where a city’s population is located (at least in aggregate) in real time, not just estimates based on statistical and historical models.

With sufficient operational planning, ground-based sensors can be augmented, when needed, with mobile sensors in the form of drones. These drones can be used to provide additional sensor coverage in critical areas or to help in active search and rescue operations.

Indeed, government agencies at the city, state, and even Federal level should be embracing the IoT as a tool for responding to disasters of all kinds.

And it’s easy to sell the value of IoT. For the general population, these tools can be used to send warnings and alerts directly to citizens’ phones, giving everyone timely about earthquakes, hurricanes, tornados, wildfires, and more. During the recent fires in California, for example, the Camp Fire was moving at an almost unbelievable one football field every second, and many Californians found out about the fire’s spread via robocalls to land line phones. A smarter, faster, and more mobile solution can save lives.

There are other ways that the general population can benefit directly from deploying an IoT solution for disaster management. Thanks to geolocation, for example, when citizens access emergency services via their smartphone, intelligent systems can correlate their location with sensor data and provide the best escape routes and other critical information – helping them to avoid problem areas and reduce their dependence on news (which is likely already out of date) or emergency responders (who are spread too thin to help everyone). And even these incoming information requests can be tracked and analyzed for trends and assessments in real time during the emergency.

The good news is that these sorts of solutions are already finding their way out into the real world. Sections of the River Nare in Columbia, for example, already has a working network of sensors designed to monitor water levels and predict collapses in the river bank and subsequent flooding. And Girona, Spain is home to La Garrotxa, a county populated with dozens of volcanic cones. Here, the government has installed an early warning system to monitor telltale signs of volcanic activity.

Closer to home, a few cities in the US have already had the chance to use the data that comes from networks of sensors to assist with disaster recovery. The damage from 2017’s Hurricane Harvey, for example, was mitigated by data that kept residents informed about flood levels and shelter status. And various businesses – such as energy companies, telecommunications and insurance firms – directed their fleets of drones to assess damage to power lines, cell towers, and other critical infrastructure.

Find out how an IoT platform like Canopy can help your government agency turn its IoT ambitions into reality.

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Top 5 Use Cases for the IoT

Among the many IoT uses cases, many consider automated inventory management to be the killer app, in part because it is relevant across so many different business sectors.

Some technologies are inevitable, even if what we eventually take for granted looks a bit different than the way it was originally conceived. No one would seriously question the value of mobile tech today, but in its infancy – personal digital assistants in the 1990s – it bore little resemblance to modern smartphones and tablets and was, at the time, anything but a sure bet. The Internet of Things is another great example of a tech that’s unavoidably becoming an essential part of the business ecosystem. Forbes, for example, estimates that the IoT will be a $1.2 trillion – with a “t” – business by 2022, with companies of all sizes investing in a foundation of smart, connected devices and the data streams they provide.

Of course, it’s one thing to know you need to invest in the IoT; it’s another thing to know the smartest play for your business. Even if you know it’s a good idea to launch your IoT strategy with several different initiatives – it increases your chances for an early ROI and invests more people in the success of the program – you will need to choose the right use cases for your business. Here are five of the most compelling use cases in IoT today.

Inventory management. Software developers talk about “killer apps” – an application so transformative that it gives you a reason to invest in the platform that the app lives on. Spreadsheets were the first killer app and sold millions of early PCs. For the IoT, many might consider automated inventory management to be the killer app, in part because it is relevant across so many different business sectors. Imagine a network of sensors that can track not just the location of every product in your supply chain, but also its condition (is your refrigerated produce cool enough or your fragile glass goods unbroken?). You can know how many items are on the shelf (and where those shelves are within the store or warehouse, for that matter). You’ll be able to track where everything is in the supply chain and automate ordering, processing, and transport.

Predictive maintenance. Another compelling use case for IoT that has important applications in of a vast number of businesses is predictive maintenance. Any company that relies on hardware – manufacturing equipment, automated kiosks, transportation, and so on – knows that maintenance is a significant cost center; being able to smartly provide predictive and preventative maintenance can save enormous amounts of time and money. IoT has the ability to identify when equipment requires maintenance and allow you to deliver it just in time – not too soon, racking up unneeded costs and not too late, resulting in downtime.

Optimized production. If you are involved in manufacturing or production, you will no doubt want to invest in tech that lets your systems self-optimize. With the right IoT tools in place, your gear can automatically respond to all the other equipment in a workflow. You can reduce waste and streamline the time and resources if all of your equipment works together without human input.

Patient monitoring. In the healthcare industry, being able to track the health and status of patients is its own holy grail. Not only can the IoT keep track of vitals remotely, but with the right sensors it can ensure patients are taking the right medication at the right time, be notified about falls and other accidents, remotely and automatically track recovery and healing progress, and get instant alerts when there is a critical problem.

Fleet management. Finally, fleet management is a use case that in some ways combines elements of inventory management with optimized production. With the right vehicle tracking tools, you can track your fleet of vehicles – delivery trucks, passenger cars, or any other kind of vehicle – in real time. You can let automated systems make smart decisions about routing vehicles and leverage your data to more efficiently maintain and rep[air them as well. You can use the information for better routing and even find unexpected ways to make your fleet operate more efficiently – like developing routes that rely on only right turns.

Find out how an IoT platform like Canopy can help your business turn a use case from an idea into a reality.

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How To Maximize Your ROI From Data

Data visualization
The lion’s share of the IoT’s return on investment is due to the data it delivers from your network of connected devices

As you deploy some form of Internet of Things within your business – perhaps to better understand your customer, offer more specialized features and services, or explicitly to cut your competition off at the pass– you should be thinking about how to get the most out of the new technology. This much is true, though: the lion’s share of the IoT’s return on investment is due to the data it delivers from your network of connected devices.

Think about it: whether you’re building an IoT in the warehouse and delivery trucks to create a smart supply chain, in the retail space to better interpret customer buying habits, or within the products you sell to collect information about customer behavior, IoT’s value is in the data it generates. So you should plan now on ways to optimize how you use that data if you want to maximize your ROI.

Determine your objectives for the data

This falls into the same category as “know your destination before you start driving,” and is overlooked more often than you might expect. Do you know exactly what you want to get out of your IoT? What business goals will the data streaming out of your smart devices and connected sensors address? Make sure that you develop a plan and ensure that your tactical approach to deploying your IoT, collecting data, and analyzing the results contributes to it.

Make data from IoT more accessible

If your business has established Business Intelligence tools and processes, you might find the arrival of new IoT datasets jarring and challenging. It can take time to establish the right way to integrate all this data into your existing data warehouse and build views into this data into your tools.

And if that’s your entire approach, you’re probably using your IoT wrong. Many IoT users establish data lakes – data repositories where you can house your new and unfiltered IoT data for analysis and dissemination. The advantage of a data lake is that it doesn’t require you to structure your data in a way that fits in with all the legacy data you’re already collecting and warehousing. Instead, you can store the data however it arrives – structured or unstructured, in whatever data and file format it happens to arrive in. And your data experts can massage, interpret, and analyze that data quickly and efficiently without a lot of administrative and IT overhead. Will you eventually organize some or all of that data in your existing data warehouse? Of course. But don’t let the long term compromise your effectiveness in the short term.

Ensure you build a self-sufficient organization

Your IoT is delivering a wealth of data that you’ve likely never had access to before. And that means you need to make data available at all levels and across disciplines within the business who have never had access to such data before. Consider democratizing your business with self-serve analytics; your analytics team can offer tools, training, coaching, and insight to the entire organization, but make the data and analysis tools available at every level. Long gone are the days when a small group of analysts can deliver all the information everyone needs. The IoT offers the potential for far too many insights in niche categories--only people already well-versed in domain knowledge will even know the right questions to ask and get the most out of this data.

Find out how an IoT platform like Canopy can help your business realize a return on investment from its data.

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Man looking at futuristic screens

Why Your Business Needs IoT To Beat the Competition

Man looking at futuristic screens
Manufacturers using IoT saw a 28.5 percent average increase in revenues between 2013 and 2014, according to Business Insider.

It’s almost a cliché that your business needs every advantage it can leverage to outperform the competition. On the technology front, there are a handful of emerging and maturing products and services that can help you differentiate yourself from the rest of your industry and in fact outperform them. The ripest technological fruit ready to be picked? The Internet of Things, of course.

Because it’s not a single product or standard, IoT technology can be applied to virtually any industry and type of business. And the advantages it offers will help you surge ahead of your peers. According to a study done by Business Insider, for example, manufacturers using IoT saw a 28.5 percent average increase in revenues between 2013 and 2014. Here’s why.

Operations

Operating in a sea of smart, connected devices can enhance your business operations. Without the need for direct input or reporting from employees, you can track the status of projects, identify bottlenecks and route around failures. IoT, especially when combined with a bit of artificial intelligence, can be trained to make predictions about your business’s workflow. This is not unlike the way Uber collects data automatically from its fleet of cars to set rates, such as during surge pricing hours.

Automation

The IoT lets you do more with less – augmenting human beings with smart systems that work together seamlessly, performing repetitive and time-consuming tasks that humans need not perform. Look no further than retailers like Amazon (with their brick and mortar Amazon Go stores) that are starting to experiment with replacing checkout lines with systems that automatically charge customers’ digital wallets. Or, in a completely different industry, consider how farmers are using IoT devices to autonomously check soil composition and manage irrigation – tasks that used to be extremely labor intensive.

Inventory Management

As anyone who has ever been the victim of a catastrophic over-order can attest, inventory management is hard. And human errors aside, inventory management is nonetheless time consuming and resource intensive. IoT takes people out of the loop – or at least lets you rely less on people with wand scanners and clipboards – by letting smart devices sense inventory levels and manage your supply chain automatically, in the background, while you use your precious humans for smarter tasks.

Customer Insight

If customer satisfaction isn’t among your top three business goals, you’re almost certainly doing something wrong. But how do you know what your customers are thinking, and thereby how to improve their experience? Indirect methodologies – like customer surveys – are very last century. Instead, connected devices – like smartwatches, fitness bands, phones, home automation devices, and more are all part of the IoT, and they capture data directly from users. B y joining the IoT, you make it possible to get critical behavioral and preference data from your customers, which you can leverage to make your business more effective.

Better Marketing

Finally, while we’re on the subject of customer data, IoT can also improve your marketing in much the same way. The customer data you receive gives you insights into creating customized, personalized, and very targeted advertisements for precise demographics which you need to target. While your competitors are creating generic advertising campaigns, you know exactly who to talk to – and what kind of messaging will reach through the noise and appeal to them.

Find out how an IoT platform like Canopy can help your business stay competitive with better marketing, better operations and automation management.

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How Self-Service Kiosks are Changing Customer Behavior

kiosks
Self-service kiosks can be programmed to offer upgrade opportunities and smart pairing choices with every transaction.

The retail universe is starting to resemble a science fiction movie; as technology evolves at a feverish pace, the presence of everything from delivery drones leaving warehouses to customer location beacons on the retail floor is changing what it means to sell products to consumers. But it’s self-service kiosks that are proliferating the fastest – and having the most tangible effect on the customer experience.

For sure, there’s an argument to be made for deploying self service kiosksin retail. As we’ve said before, there are real benefits for businesses to adopt customer kiosks. But perhaps somewhat less obvious is the fact that the mere presence of these technologies is changing consumer behavior as well. Data shows that your customers will embrace self-serve terminals and change up the traditional dynamic you have with them.

Spending More At Checkout

Perhaps the most important change, for example, is that customers spend more money when they can place their own orders. At least one large retail chain, for example, has found that customers spend 20 percent more at the checkout when they have an opportunity to self-serve.

There are a number of reasons why this is the case.  When placing food orders, for example, it’s simply easier for a customer to customize an order – adding extra ingredients, toppings, and sides – when they can tap a screen rather than explaining the details to a harried (though perhaps pleasant) server.  Taco Bell, for example, has seen exactly this behavior, with customers at their kiosk ordering systems adding custom ingredients significantly more frequently than when in line for human cashiers. And these extras, of course, goose the bottom line of the customer’s bill.

Less Fear of Social Judgement

But that’s not all. There’s also no fear of social judgement. Do you want double beef or an extra-large soft drink? Customers who might be disinclined to initiate their own upsell like higher calorie ingredients or adding a desert because they’re self-conscious about the details of the order can do it in privacy when interacting with a touch screen.

And speaking of upsells, self-service systems can be programmed to offer upgrade opportunities and smart pairing choices with every order; even the most diligent servers can’t be expected do to that with every customer.

Breaking Out of Their Comfort Zone

And that’s not all. We’ve even seen that customers behave more boldly with self-service systems. Specifically, people are more willing to order products with foreign or difficult-to-pronounce names, breaking out of their comfort zones and trying products that they ordinarily would avoid. Why? Once again, there’s no social stigma – and this time it’s the fact that customers don’t suffer embarrassment by trying to order products they can’t pronounce, but rather simply get to select it from a touch screen. Indeed, one university study found that customer selection of these kinds of products increased by over 8 percent when dealing with electronic self-service systems.

The bottom line is that self-service kiosks are liberating technology for customers, enabling them to order more and more diverse products without feeling constrained by human servers and cashiers. And that’s a benefit that doesn’t just accommodate customers, but pays dividends for businesses as well.

Find out how an IoT platform like Canopy can provide help with your self-service kiosk network in addition to other features such as digital signage and unattended device management.

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Man and woman at the cash register.

Retail Analytics: A Beginner’s Guide

Man and woman at the cash register.
Modern point of sale terminals can capture a lot of valuable information that’s incredibly valuable to you.

Can you predict your customers’ behavior? If you can, congratulations. That helps you better anticipate their needs and serve them better – which is good both for you, the retailer, and the people visiting your store. If you can’t do that, though, you’re leaving money on the table. You really should know things like why they’re entering your store, where they go when they get there, what they put in their cart, and how to retain them so they’ll come back again. This is the science of retail analytics, and it’s something you should know something about.

So what is retail analytics? Well, analytics is just a formal term for systematically analyzing data. In the case of retail analytics, that data is coming from your customers – what they’re buying, when, and how it’s affected by factors like sales and promotions, advertising, inventory, and more. In fact, studies show that most retailers actually capture some sort of data – as much as three quarters of retailers gather insights about their shoppers. Unfortunately, it’s the follow-through that’s the problem; the vast majority of small retailers don’t do much with the data they collect.

Properly interpreting that data is important. Retail analytics can help inform you about all sorts of important business decisions, including managing your inventory (what items should you sell, and how should it be priced), marketing – where do you put your marketing dollars, and what should you say to your customers – and much more. Certain kinds of analytics can even help you optimize the layout of your store to bring foot traffic where it’ll have the most impact.

Ready to dive in? To get actionable models and profiles of your customers, you’ll need to invest in retail analytics software – generally, a service that takes raw data, processes it, and delivers usable information. Depending on the data you want to input, you might be able to get started with the point of sale terminal you already have. Analytics software can also assess the efficacy of communication you have with customers, such as email newsletters. And if you install specialized sensors in your store, you can even get information to help plan the physical layout and inventory placement. Here are some of the most common categories of retail analytics you should consider.

Point of sale data. As already mentioned, modern point of sale terminals can capture a lot of valuable information that’s incredibly valuable to you – it can reveal profit margins, sales trends, and shopper demographics. This kind of data can tell you what to products are driving your revenue so you can manage stock and inventory, plan the layout of your store, and more. POS data can also help you infer timing data; for example, you can chart sales in such a way that you can find the best days and hours for sales to set store hours and staffing.

Marketing data. Do you have any sort of email distribution? Many retailers stay in touch with customers through email, such as digital circulars, weekly newsletters, and sales flyers. Almost any email marketing package should be able to help you track and interpret basic data like open rates (how many people are reading your email), CTR (click-through rate -- which links are being opened), and even heat maps (which parts of the email are customers focusing on and which are they ignoring). This can help you fine-tune your offers and deliver more effective promotions to help get customers to order online or make the trip into the store.

SKU interaction data. With the right sensors and analytics, you can see things that are typically “invisible” to the POS terminal. For example, what products do customers physically handle, whether or not they purchased? How long did they dwell with a particular package? Did they return it to he shelf and choose something else instead?

Footfall data. Finally, how well do you understand the foot traffic in your store? If you only know they enter, look, buy, and leave, you should look to various kinds of beacon technology to better monitor your customers. There are active beacons that can track the comings and goings of visitors, as well as more passive tech like wi-fi that can geo-locate people and monitors their comings and goings. With the right tools, you can find out how long people spend in your store (also know as dwell time), how that time varies by day, week, and time of year, which parts of your store get the most attention, and more.

Find out how an IoT platform like Canopy can provide help with retail analytics in addition to other features such as digital signage and unattended device management.

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Updates to Operations pages, KPI panels and more

We’ve released a new version of Canopy and there are lots of improvements to the design, making it easier to reach certain items and view more KPI panels at a glance.

Here are the highlights of the newest version of Canopy:

A new and improved Operations page. When you log into Canopy and visit the Operations page, you will be greeted by a new and improved layout. We have tried to make it easier to read at a glance and make it easier to understand what the various numbers on the screen measure or indicate.

Updates to KPI panels. The KPI panels at the top of the operations page have been redesigned and enlarged. Users can also have more than six KPI panels at the top. Look for the ‘More KPIs’ text link on the right side of the Summary panel towards the top of the Operations page.

KPI panels can be added or removed by visiting the KPI settings, which are still in the same place as before (click on the gear icon on the left above the Summary panel on the Operations page).

Suspending a KPI is easier. Let’s say there’s one item in a row in the list of Devices on the Operations page that you don’t want included in the summary KPI panel at the top of the Operations page. With the new version of Canopy, you only need to hover over the column containing the item in that row and look for the three dots that will appear in the lower right quadrant. Click on the three dots and you will see several options for suspending that KPI (preventing it from being used in other calculations within Canopy). For instance, the option to ‘Suspend KPI’ will keep the KPI numbers in that row from being used in the Summary KPI panel at the top of the page. In addition, you can ‘Suspend Threshold Check,’ which translates to suspending the KPI for threshold calculations and ‘Suspend for Summary,’ which means the KPI will not be used for calculating the ‘Status’ on the left end of that row.

If you have ‘Actions,’ they’re easier to reach. Some Canopy customers are able to use Actions to perform certain tasks. If you have Actions as part of your Canopy installation, you can quickly get to the list of Actions by clicking on the three dots that appear to the left of the Status icon on each row in the Operations page.

A new and improved Marketplace page. If your instance of Canopy is able to integrate with third-party apps and APIs, you can visit the Marketplace page by clicking on ‘Marketplace’ in the upper right corner of any Canopy screen. Once you click on the link, you will be taken to the newly redesigned Marketplace page where you can explore all the different types of integrations that Canopy can accommodate.

The new Canopy Marketplace screen.

As always, please reach out to us if you have any questions. We encourage customers to send a note to support@banyanhills.com.