US supermarket chain Kroger has rolled out a new smart shelving solution which relies on the Microsoft Azure cloud to store and process volumes of data generated by customer actions on and around the shelves.
Connected by internet of things (IoT) enabled sensors, the enhanced display for grocery environment (EDGE) technology eliminates the need for printed price tags and cardboard promotional materials.
“It’s cleaner and environmentally efficient – and our customers perceive that and like it,” said Brett Bonner, Kroger’s vice president of Research and Development, in an interview for Microsoft.com. “This is green power.”
At the moment EDGE uses a low-voltage current, but in the coming years Bonner expects that it will run using renewable energy. This will help Kroger to meet its goal of cutting its cumulative electricity consumption by 40% across the nearly 2,800 stores it operates in 35 states.
“The main reason for having big lights in stores is because you’ve got to light it up to read paper tags,” Bonner said. “With this, you can also turn down your lights.”
The retailer also hopes the solution will deliver an enhanced customer experience and is currently testing a number of ‘futuristic features’. “For example, in a recent demo that involved a special app, customers were able to give their smartphones instructions like: ‘Show me the item with the least sodium,’ causing the shelf containing that product to light up,” said Kevin Fessenden, EDGE product manager.
“Another demo links the digital shopping lists in customers’ smartphones to EDGE, creating a custom avatar for each shopper,” Fessenden added. “My avatar is Spiderman. As I’m walking through the store, every time I see a digital tag on the shelf with Spiderman on it, I know that’s an item on my shopping list.”
EDGE is currently being trialled at 16 Kroger stores, with plans to roll it out to 120 locations by the end of the year.