Online retailer Ocado will have to team up with consumer goods brands in order to fully exploit the Internet of Things (IoT), according to its head of data, Dan Nelson.
Ocado has been heavily focused on IoT over the last few years. The company has equipped all of its vans with IoT sensors, so that it can use the data to maintain its fleet of delivery vans and find optimum routes to increase overall efficiency.
The company has also designed its own 4G-based standard for communications, which it uses in its own warehouse for robots to communicate with each other. The robots are used to fetch particular packages and bring them back to a human who then gets the item ready for delivery. They are armed with sensors which can send back signals through the 4G network about the robots health – whether they need to be fixed, or cooled down, for example.
The firm believes that the 4G standard could be used in the future for things like driverless cars, and other IoT scenarios where low latency communication is needed, while the warehouse robots could be used by other online retailers who become customers of Ocado’s Smart Platform.
Ocado partners with technology giants
Nelson believes the key IoT area which Ocado can really benefit from is in the home, with smart appliances.
“I think the home is the place [where IoT can be exploited] – we’re wired up now, we’re just not making use of the information that’s potentially available there,” he told Internet of Business at Google’s GCP Next conference in London yesterday.
But consumer goods brands like Reckitt Benckiser are also looking at the IoT space, and want to create their own strategies to ensure they can collect and analyse data from their customers directly – so how will the likes of Ocado ensure it still has a presence in the smart appliances space?
“There will need to be partnerships, and we’ll have to make sure we’re part of ecosystems,” said Nelson.
“If there is going to be a ‘battle royale’ between [Amazon] Echo and Google Home and various other offerings, it’s about being a part of those ecosystems, so that we can benefit from that kind of penetration,” he added.
Nelson also suggested that Ocado’s own technology could be deployed in people’s homes in some form, or that by partnering with a technology vendor it could gain more information about its customers in a bid to make transactions easier for them.
“Perhaps we can learn from a Nest thermostat what people’s general availability is like in the home, so they don’t have to say what time they’d like a delivery or that they’re away – we could pick up on those sorts of things,” he said.
“It’s about being smart, so that customers’ shopping experience with us is almost effortless,” he added.
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