IoT 4 mins read

Lessons from Walmart on IoT data

How can you normalize IoT data and become your own control plane like Walmart did? Read this and see…

Oliver Guy Oliver Guy

Imagine you are a large retailer with over 10,000 stores in dozens of countries and multiple ecommerce sites.

You have Internet of Things (IoT) devices monitoring thousands of sensors on freezers, coolers, refrigerated trucks that provide temperature information on the food being stored or shipped. And the devices come from different vendors or original equipment manufacturers (OEMs), and many of them need human interaction to collect the data.

Now imagine how much data you would get, and what a variety of different formats it would be in. Connecting, collecting, analyzing and acting upon this volume of data requires scale – and finesse. Otherwise the ice cream made in Maine is melted before it gets to California.

This is one of the issues facing Walmart, the world’s largest company by revenue. Every day, Walmart takes in approximately 1.5 billion messages and analyzes over one terabyte of data. In an article on VentureBeat, Walmart’s VP of technology Sanjay Radhakrishnan said the biggest challenge was in connecting so many different devices from differing vendors using different protocols and languages.

As part of the giant’s technology journey, it decided to take control of the datasets coming in and normalize them, so that it could convert the data into insights.

What about you?

As a retailer, think of the sheer scope of what that project would entail, then ask yourself whether you want to take control of all that data if it means gaining immediate access to your business insights.

Obviously, the answer is yes, but the real question is how? It wouldn’t take much effort or cost to simply connect your devices and then pull the data from a location designed to house it – like a database. But, the time to accumulate all the data, plus the sheer amount of it, would quickly add up.

This is precisely why normalizing the data and becoming your own control plane like Walmart did would make a lot of sense. Leveraging the cloud may prove to be an advantage, so you’re not only centralizing the information your devices are collecting in real time, but you also control it.

By owning that control, you’re able to also convert the data much faster into actionable information that can communicate everything a whole lot quicker, such as:

  • Stock depletion on shelves
  • Maintenance deadlines for machines
  • Regular sensor notifications

Walmart did just that by building its own software designed to connect, compile and analyze the data efficiently and fast. Not an easy undertaking, no doubt, but with the scale and resources available for the retail giant, it was more conceivable to build all of it from scratch.

But not every retailer has Walmart’s resources. The answer lies with having right proprietary software that puts you in the driver’s seat. It would be more cost effective and require fewer specialist skills and domain knowledge to implement.

You may run into specific challenges, such as all the different OEMs in your store with varying protocols, different sensors to target and monitor, and a myriad of models collecting unique datasets. But with the right IoT platform, the connection’s a snap. You’ll be able to have data quality checks managed, with data certifications to ensure the information you have will in fact be usable – then you can harness ready-made applications designed to analyze that information, leveraging top cloud infrastructures to ensure security, latency and connectivity of the highest caliber.

There is so much data available from individual IoT devices but, to attain synergies, connecting everything is key. Without this all you have is data. Data that cannot be transformed into insights to help you reduce inventory, eliminate waste, increase margin and remain in-step with customer expectations.

So, what are you waiting for? The project isn’t as intimidating as you might think with Cumulocity IoT on board.

Learn how to triple your ROI using Cumulocity IoT: A commissioned study by Forrester Consulting on the Total Economic Impact™ of IoT: A study of cost savings & business benefits of Cumulocity IoT.

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