Retail

When Customer Experience Lessons for IoT Come In the Dairy Aisle

Create: 05/01/2016 - 13:00

Grocery chain Kroger’s foray into IoT highlights the opportunity marketers have to learn about how to personalize campaigns for the shopper’s benefit. Yes, it's beacons, not bacon we're talking about here. Make no mistake when it comes to applying IoT to improve operations; the savviest leader in that department is Kroger.  

CIO reported last July that Kroger introduced beacons to monitor the temperature of its freezers. The beacons are meant to equip refrigerated containers with sensors that check temperatures every 30 minutes--instead of having employees manually check thermometers twice a day--and then alert store managers and facilities engineers if the mercury hits unsafe levels.

In addition, Mobile Commerce Daily reported on Kroger’s app that connects a grocery list to locations within a store, so that customers can find their items quickly and conveniently.  The post also reports the use of consumer analytics to provide personalized offers.

Kroger's forays have positioned it as one of the sleeper retail technology stories over the past year, is because journalists and experts have directed a plethora of media attention on a potential new influence in grocery retail, Amazon. 

Amazon's IoT devices are expected to grow its revenue: Alexa has challenged search engines in being a starting point to research information while Dash provides replenishment services for everyday consumer goods.  Ideas such as those give Amazon the opportunity to gain the mindshare of the everyday consumer alongside other retailers such as Kroger.  

Amazon also is likely to strengthen its grocery retail foray, Amazon Fresh. Bloomberg reports a letter from Bezo noting his interest in building the Amazon Fresh service’s market share.
  
But Kroger has been in a good position to give Amazon a run for the consumer’s money.  It is highly regarded as a brand among its customers.  In a list of supermarket brands called the Tempkin Customer Experience, Kroger tied for third with other well-known brands and just slightly behind direct competitors such as Publix.

Kroger’s beacons investment represents the key frontier for predictive analytics: improving efficiency in how a retailer provides its products and services. Supermarket inventory replenishment drives ongoing demand for truck deliveries. Thus, the operations of supermarkets offer a unique analytics opportunity because of the effort involved in establishing logistics that support customer demand. As customers have accepted e-commerce, the nature of retail logistics has grown more dynamic.  

Plus the identifying of inventory allows predictive analytic to serve the customer better. Predictive analytics play a key role in advancing core business capacity.  Grocery retail is ripe for experimentation – margins on products are thin, and competition has grown from unexpected entrants, namely Target, Wal-Mart, and, naturally, Amazon.

There can be misfires with consumers, such as the famous Target overreach in which a customer incidentally discovers his daughter’s pregnancy when he complains about the number of pregnancy coupons coming to his door.

But as Kroger has demonstrated through its app and beacon usage, the promise of delivering a more personalized experience offers too many benefits to be overlooked. 

Probably the best lesson from an IoT perspective is that customer experience from within the supermarket  will come forth with how services are linked. Amazon’s Dash is an example of relying upon a customer familiarity with products to drive interest in using a service.  When Internet of Things is positioned as Internet of Your Things – with “Your” being the consumer – retailers can learn how to better serve the needs of the customers.

The best result from predictive analytics can lead to growing sales, reinforcing the integrity of a grocer’s brand, and its capability to defend against competitors.

Chat: Should I Sell Chromebooks?

Create: 04/26/2016 - 13:00

The Chromebook market segment  is set to take off, with analysts projecting it could practically double by 2019. Meanwhile, the overall PC market – the "bread and butter" of many  solution provider businesses --  is in a slump. As a result, Chromebooks are much more appealing to bundle into solutions than PCs, customers are beginning to embrace the change, viewing Chromebooks as a cost effective way of updating old PC systems.

Join us for more on that topic tomorrow, April 28 at 10 a.m. PT/ 1 p.m. ET., during our live chat, "The Chromebook Opportunity for Solution Providers." Peter Krass, editor of Business Compute Forum, will join me and discuss the various opportunities Chromebooks represent, including and in addition to the popular education market.

Tomorrow's chat will address:

  • What exactly is a Chromebook?

  • How big is the market, and how can I capitalize on it?

  • Which segments are the biggest Chromebook users/buyers? How can solution providers position them to their customers?

  • Who are the top suppliers?

Peter and I will be online, ready and willing to take your calls and questions. We’re eager to hear of your experiences with Chromebooks as well!

Come and participate – and you may be the lucky recipient of a $100 Amazon gift.  Simply register for and participate in Thursday’s chat, at 10 a.m. PT/ 1 p.m. ET.

See you there!

 

 

Words Do Matter: Poor Retail Product Descriptions Scare Off Customers

Create: 04/17/2016 - 13:00

In the world of e-commerce, product description is paramount. Customers depend on detailed information to make informed purchasing decisions. But a surprising number of retailers think a picture alone is worth 1,000 words -- and it's not. One in four consumers has completely abandoned a purchase because of insufficient product information, according to a recent Shotfarm survey. Further, a whopping 87% of consumers said they would not  consider a retailer a second time if it provided wrong information for a purchased product. In a newly released infographic, Shotfarm unveils the results of poor product content, based on its survey of 1,500 consumers.

Do you have examples of poor product content? Share in the comments below!

How To Fight Return Costs with IoT Solutions

Create: 04/07/2016 - 13:00

As the Internet of Things technology increasingly intersects with retail, solution providers have an opportunity to help merchants recoup the $1.75 trillion lost annually due to poor inventory control processes. According to a study by IHS, retailers worldwide lose a staggering $1.75 trillion annually due to the cost of overstocks, out-of-stocks and sales returns. 

The impact of inventory, organizational and data disconnects is significant; with a total retail economy worldwide of $14.5 trillion, finding solutions could have a tremendous positive impact on retailers’ bottom lines. The IHS report suggests that the average retailer can gain 11.7% in revenue by understanding and correcting the issue.

The worldwide losses annually are:

    •    Returns: $642.6 billion

    •    Out-of-stocks: $634.1 billion

    •    Overstocks: $471.9 billion

Walmart provides an example of how IoT can help retailers manage inventory, and reduce out-of-stock as well as overstock problems. When a product is scanned through the point of sale (PoS) system, the information that the item was sold is immediately communicated to the stock system. That not only helps purchasing determine when to reorder, but, because the data also is shared with suppliers, helps keep the vendors in the loop also. Keeping tabs on what is selling and what is stalling makes retailers more efficient and more profitable. According to Intel: 

Lost sales from out-of-stock merchandise and deep discounts on overstocked products are estimated to cost retailers $818 billion annually. By ensuring that each store has the exact products that its shoppers want and need, retailers can better ensure they always have the right product available at the right time.

As for returns, it's a big pain point for retailers. According to the Motley Fool, Americans returned $284B worth of merchandise in 2014, with returns and excess inventory cost retailers $500 billion in the United States, and more than $1T worldwide.

By adding IoT solutions, retailers and manufacturers can track returns in real-time. That lets them identify trends and warranty issues, and helps retailers prepare. For example, a defective product can be spotted earlier and retailers can allocate resources to having either replacements or comparable items available. 

By incorporating IoT into existing procedures, every part of the retail supply chain benefits, from vendor to warehouse, from store to customer. Returns, out-of-stocks and overstocks are  dramatically reduced. Implementing such “smart” solutions is a critical step for retailers looking to become more efficient, more profitable and a more responsive place for customers to shop.

Why Digital Signs Are Critical To Fast Food

Create: 04/03/2016 - 13:00

One of the most challenging aspects of operating a restaurant lies in increasing customer loyalty. For those customers of retail-focused solution providers, digital displays that are connected to Internet of things technology can play an integral part of any integration.

Today's displays are so much more than electronic billboards. They can recognize customers, customize selections and make the buying process more efficient and faster. For the busy customer, such displays are more than signs promoting a product. They function as a sales assistant that has a good memory, provides appropriate purchasing suggestions and is efficient.

Accenture and Intel have created one such system for the fast-casual and quick-serve restaurant industry. A digital sign "recognizes" the customer as he or she nears the restaurant. A tablet or kiosk displays the customized menu based on the guest's past purchases. Options include add-on items — "do you want an apple pie with that? — which are appropriate and based on customer history. Providing those types of relevant suggestions help boost basket size and are also perceived as helpful by customers.

The impersonal nature of such systems can be seen as negative by some, which is why the knowledge database on every customer must be extensive. The stakes are high for solution providers to partner with the right vendors to ensure the solutions implemented do their job perfectly the first time and every time. 

No one expects a human to recognize every customer going through a fast food franchise location, and a slight error is often tolerated ("I asked for a side of barbecue sauce"). Customers are expecting a reasonable efficient, pleasant interaction from the server. But it's tougher for machines.​

Machines are supposed to be immune to errors (OK, let's not get sidetracked with science fiction tales of doom here). The bar is set higher for automated systems: They must be faster, more efficient and "polite." Customers will easily become frustrated if the kiosk has mechanical problems — touch pad is inaccurate, or screen refresh is slow, for example. Further aggravation comes if the personalized suggestions are off-base. Finally, if the delivered product is incorrect, the customer is unlikely to use the automated system again. Need more proof? Imagine if the early ATMs were kludgey.

Therefore, it's imperative these IoT business emissaries are thoroughly "vetted": Can they accurate;y predict a customer's preferences? Are they easy to use? Secure? Accenture demonstrated its solution, which is built on Intel's Retail Sensor Platform, at last month's Digital Signage Expo. It aims to provide a reliable, user-friendly implementation that helps these restaurants stand out in a positive way from the competition. Importantly, the system recognizes that patrons already have a pre-existing mindset as to how these solutions should act, largely based on their prior interaction with mobile apps.

Blending the physical world with the digital one is well underway in the retail shopping arena, but for restaurants, it's only just beginning. It's critical for solution providers to work closely with restaurants so they understand not only the restaurants' goals, but also to provide a user experience that encourages loyalty.

Connect the Dots: Idea Forum – Use the IoT to Make Better Gyms

Create: 03/31/2016 - 13:00

Public gyms are great, except for people: they’re everywhere. And they’re always on the machine you want to go on next, on their phone or just chatting. There has to be a better way perhaps a perfect application of the Internet of Things (IoT).

Don’t get me wrong, I like people, just not when they’re between me, my workout, and my deadlines. I was pondering options as I was changing to leave and asked the manager on the way out if the gym had an online traffic-monitoring system or app. 

So armed, I could see gym occupation in real-time as well as see  graphs of traffic peak and low patterns, and schedule accordingly. 

I was surprised he said no, given the size of the LA Fitness chain: it seemed like an obvious feature to have. But the young member standing next to me turned to me and said, “That’s a great idea!” It turns out he’s a software developer who just started his first job, so we got to talking and ended up exchanging contact info, and he promised not to steal my idea.

It turns out the concept of monitoring gym traffic, or flow, isn’t original: a startup called GymFlow was founded by University of Southern California (USC) students in, ironically, LA. It is “…the first and only provider of real-time traffic data to fitness clubs and their members.” They may be facing some competition from readers of IoTSolutionsProvider.com soon, as there are some distinct flaws in its approach to solving the problem.

(Figure 1, right: GymFlow’s app tracks gym traffic patterns, but can this be done better using the IoT?)

The promise is good: smooth out traffic flow to make customers happier and optimize capacity for the gym owner, while also providing business statistics and retention tools to keep users engaged. 

Interestingly, its approach has a uniquely “millennial” feel to it, “Based on card swipes, not social check-ins!” Tracking based on social check ins never even occurred to me: Does anyone really base a real-time app on the vagaries of this? 

Anyway, GymFlow’s solution is to use card swipes and then apply proprietary analysis and prediction algorithms to give a “real-time” view of traffic. The gym owner uses an API to query the database and it returns queries in JSON format. Here’s GymFlow’s sample query:

http://api.mygymflow.com/v1.0/your-api-key/2013-09-16

And here’s a sample response:

(Figure 2: Sample GymFlow response from gym owner request showing data every 15 minutes. Image courtesy of gymflow.com.)

So here’s the fundamental flaw and where the IoT comes in: The core data is based on card swipes. This is good, in that no new equipment is required, but here are some inherent issues with this approach:

  • It’s one-way data: it doesn’t track how many leave the gym (hence the need for fancy prediction algorithms.)
  • It doesn’t tell where those users go: Are they at a dance, fitness or yoga class, or on the gym floor.
  • Not everyone swipes their card all the time, so there’s an accuracy problem.
  • It needs to be integrated with the gym’s system.
  • Privacy concerns: real or imagined. Another third party with a users’ data just opens that Pandora’s Box unnecessarily. 
  • Gym owners already do gather business data based on card swipes, so that’s not really an advantage. 

Now, GymFlow company is doing just fine and I am sure they’ve thought and worked through these issues over time and that everyone truly is happy. 

But, what if you took a more IoT-enabled approach? The options boggle the mind. For starters, simply place battery powered, wirelessly connected sensors at the main entrance/exit, at ankle level: a simple two-beam infrared sensor can tell direction of movement – in and out – to give an absolute value of how many customers are in the gym. 

The wireless connection can be Bluetooth LE, ZigBee or even ultra-low-power versions of Wi-Fi, such as the emerging HaLow standard. These can then be gathered using an IoT Gateway and connected back to the cloud, without having to interface with a gym’s system – assuming it has a computerized system. Some off-the-beaten-track “purist” gyms don’t: they use the handshake and “honor” system (pay me when you can and the key is under the mat ‘round back.) This makes a separate system even more attractive and scalable outside of major cities.

If you’re using a Dell Gateway, by the way, make sure to tell us your own implementation story and win fame and fortune, by entering the IoT Contest: the deadline is today (how’s that for real-time?)

Adding similar entrance/exit sensors to the yoga or dance room, or even the sauna, can give a very precise indicator of how many customers are actually on the gym floor through simple subtraction.

From the members’ point of view, an app that simply provides this information, with some predictive analysis based on real to-and-fro data, can be useful and solve the baseline problem of gym floor occupation and timing. However, from the gym owners’ point of view, the fun is just beginning. Adding various types of what are now extremely low cost and versatile sensors, all feeding back to a small Atom-powered gateway, an IoT system can provide value to the customer by:

  • Tracking temperature, humidity, oxygen and carbon dioxide levels.
  • Show which machines – and even weights – are being used.
  • Track the actual usage of bikes, treadmills and other machines that suffer wear and tear to schedule maintenance as needed, and optimize space if they aren’t being used enough.

Those are just three applications of a truly “accsensorized” gym that don’t invade privacy and provide real results for your customer. If you want to get fancy, you can use wide-spectrum CCTV video cameras to track gym movement using the infrared (privacy) region. With smarter and more advanced convolutional neural networks (CNNs) now adding greater opportunity to analyze motion, an owner can see if customers are using machines effectively – or even dangerously – to give advice as needed.

The options abound, and with good analysis of the (anonymous) sensor-to-gateway-to-cloud data, gyms and members can greatly improve the gym experience, topline growth, and lower costs and maximize profits.

Feel free to steal the idea. If you have more, share them here and I’m sure someone in our community can help you bring them to life. In fact, let’s start an idea-of-the-month club! Email the site editor at jbosavage@thechannelcompany.com

 

Intel Chips Target IoT Markets

Create: 03/24/2016 - 13:00

Intel has announced several new cellular communications, each a good fit for a specific job in the world of Internet of Things implementations. Here’s a brief note about each.

Automotive

The Intel Atom x3-M7272 solution is designed for automotive telematics applications. This series of processors comprises quad and dual-core processors at up to 1.4 GH “Burst Mode,” which provides on-demand, higher performance for very short intervals of time in small device form factors.It supports HD video and dual cameras, and combines 4G LTE technology with worldwide roaming. Connectivity capabilities include Wi-Fi, Bluetooth and global navigation satellite system.

Product brief: http://www.intel.com/content/www/us/en/processors/atom/atom-x3-c3000-brief.html

Industrial

The Intel XMM 7115 modem will, upon introduction in the second half of this year, support Narrowband IOT. That technology will take advantage of LTE mobile networks in order to efficiently connect difficult-to-reach devices at data transfer speeds of up to 200 Kbit/s. The device is intended to integrate with sensors, smart grid meters, and other equipment that requires infrequent reporting of small amounts of data.

The Intel XMM 7120M modem is also suited for industrial applications,including security monitoring, smart metering, asset tracking, and industrial automation. It offers low- and high-speed connectivity for broad IoT use. Its space-saving design features stacked NAND and DRAM memory, making it a good choice for small form factors.

Product brief: http://www.intel.com/content/www/us/en/wireless-products/mobile-communications/xmm-7120m-brief.html

Smart Building

Looking for really small? At just 245mm(2), the Intel XMM 6255M (pictured) is the world’s smallest standalone 3G modem. Its system-in-package (SiP) design wraps up the baseband processor and memory dies in a one package. The ultra-tiny PCB footprint fits smaller form factors, and offers reduced complexity and cost. It’s suited for safety monitors as well as areas in which signal retention and enhancement are important, such as in low signal zones, i.e., parking garages or basements.

Product brief: http://www.intel.com/content/dam/www/public/us/en/documents/platform-briefs/xmm-6255m-brief.pdf

Trendsetters: IoT Solution Services Provider Teams Up With IoT Vendor

Create: 03/20/2016 - 13:00

By 2019, the location and context-based services market is expected to reach $43.3 billion, Asif Khan, founder and president of the Location Based Marketing Association told Borrell Associates’ Local Online Advertising Conference recently. So it’s no wonder that an IoT vendor would consider partnering with an IoT specialty service provider to capture larger sales. 

The most recent pair is Happiest Minds and Tickto. Aside from sharing extraordinarily upbeat monikers, the two offer complementary technologies and services that, together, provide a nifty retail solution.​

One of the largest challenges facing brick-and-mortars is in collecting and analyzing customer trends. E-commerce retailers have an advantage with the cadre of software tools available to help them promote, sell and analyze their sales. Until relatively recently, brick and mortars had to play catch up largely using feedback from associates and manually kept records. However, with beacon and proximity management offerings now readily available, solution providers can help their retail customers crack the customer code. 

The Happiest Minds-Tickto deal melds Tickto's offering of in-Store IoT, beacons-based customer engagement and visitor analytics with Happiest Minds digital transformation services. Happiest Minds offers infrastructure, security and product engineering services. Its goal is to increase customer retail engagement via Bluetooth-based beacons, and improve customers’ omnichannel fulfillment, build brand loyalty and increase store revenue.

“Every offline store needs big data solutions to trace a customer's purchasing journey and our technology will help retailers gain multiple insights into store design, behavior, product placement etc.,” said Tickto’s founder and CEO Sudip Roy, in a statement. Added Salil Godika, Chief Strategy and Marketing Officer and Retail Industry Group Head of Happiest Minds: “Retailers are interested in unlocking insights and engaging with customers by leveraging in the moment 360-degree view. Our partnership with Tickto will help retailers rapidly improve their customer buying and in-store experience. The joint solution will improve conversion across channels with a path to purchase insights.”

That conversion will lead to greater customer satisfaction as associates become more knowledgeable about customer tastes, which, ultimately will lead to greater revenue.

Connect the Dots: Video Surveillance Moves From Cost Overhead to Revenue Booster

Create: 03/15/2016 - 13:00

Thanks to advances in vision sensors, compression, communication, storage, processing and data analysis algorithms, retailers are able to turn video surveillance from a defensive, security-focused cost overhead to a proactive, customer-oriented revenue-generating asset.  

How many times have we watched “Caught on Video” store crimes and bemoaned the low-res, grainy video that made perpetrator identification almost impossible? This assumes the act was caught and stored to begin with, and that it also wasn’t erased to make room for the next recording cycle.

Those artifacts of a bygone era are fading fast as the Internet of Things pulls video surveillance into the 21st. Leveraging the work of companies such as Nexcom and Kontron, retailers will be able to not only prevent crimes before they even happen, but also to use surveillance to enhance the shopping experience – and their own bottom lines.

The innovation that makes this all possible starts with high-definition CMOS image sensors from the likes of OmniVision, Canon and Samsung, all of which have been competing vigorously in the mobile handset category. The fruits of their labor have transferred to in-store video cameras where size and power consumption are not as much of a concern, but high definition can be critical. Canon just introduced a 250-megapixel CMOS sensor last year. Combined with good optics (lenses) to get a wide-area view, and smooth motor drives for accurate and response zoom, the sensor and camera are where the video and imaging journey begins for retail. 

  

Figure 1. Enabled by high-resolution, low-cost CMOS sensors and combined with wide-area optics and good zoom drives, high-quality video capture is only the starting point for the IoT-enabled retail store.

There are many stages upstream, but three of the most exciting for retail in the context of IoT are storage, analysis and the communication of outcomes. 

In storage, the massive amounts of digital data coming from high-resolution cameras would have swamped yesteryear’s storage systems. Now, the rapidly falling costs of both semiconductor and hard-drive memory means low-cost networked video recorders (NVRs) can store from gigabytes to terabytes, and can scale easily if necessary. However, advances in compression/decompression schemes, such as H.265, mean that not as much memory is needed to store a given frame, and not as much bandwidth is required to transmit the information. That eases the pressure on networks and storage, even as they become more capable.

That said, coordinating and making use of the video feeds from multiple cameras requires a lot of processing horsepower and a dedicated system to host it. That’s where Nexcom comes in. It introduced the NViS 1410 1U-size NVR last summer, breaking ground with an Intel Pentium N700-based system that can store 4K video, uses H.265 (HEVC) and a 1 x 3.5” hard-disk drive bay for up to 6 Tbytes of storage. 

A key aspect of any such device is the number of inputs, outputs and what speeds they can support so they can be matched to the store layout plan, which determines the number of cameras required. The NViS 1410 has one HDMI 1.4 and one DVI-I video output can support up to 16 network cameras. It also has mSATA and eSATA support. 

Figure 2. The NViS 1410 from Nexcom supports up to 16 networked cameras and features an HDMI 1.4, DVI-1, and regular VGA port. However, its use of H.265 HEVC is what gives it the added value for flexible, strategic deployment of fish-eye or PTZ cameras.

For larger deployments, companies like Aaeon offer the likes of the NVR-B75, a behemoth with up to five hot-swappable SATA bays and based on the Intel Core i3/i5/i7 processor and B75 chipset.

But the size of the NVR isn’t what’s important here: it can scale as needed, though opting for a solid, scalable foundation is generally good practice. 

What’s important here, and where Nexcom has really shone a light, is what’s possible once the data is acquired. Allow me to get personal here, just for a minute.

My wife is a physical therapist and she can identify a friend two blocks away by their gait: everyone is different. She doesn’t even have to see their face or hear them talk.  She’s also armed with massive memory capacity and instant recall. She beats me to the punch on Jeopardy almost every time. 

Now, take that expert knowledge and capability to a retail store, and a system can identify a would-be thief or assailant from gait analysis and recognition alone. Face masks don’t matter anymore. The algorithms are being put in place to do just that as we speak, and much more. From zooming in to review contested transactions to monitoring customer traffic and patterns, down to eye movements that may indicate pleasure or disgust, a high-resolution surveillance system, when combined with the right analysis, can affect how much revenue a retail store can generate and increase its immunity to crime.

The next step is to communicate the information and alert both store owners and emergency services to unexpected events. That’s where systems such as the NViS 1410 come into play too. They can send alerts to mobile phones and remote displays, anywhere, while also being connected to the store’s security services. 

Figure 3. NVR 1160 is the older brother to the NViS 1410, but the principle is the same: a store can be video connected, data stored and analyzed, and stakeholders notified whenever an incident occurs.

 

 

How Wearables are Influencing Retail IoT Development

Create: 03/06/2016 - 12:00

The wearable technology market is growing at breakneck pace — which will lead to huge opportunities for solution providers who can implement innovative solutions in several market segments. A recent report on wearables from IDC said wearable technology shipments worldwide last year grew 171 percent. While much of that was tied to the health and fitness arena, retailers are getting into the action, too, offering garments that take wearables to new heights.​

At last week’s 2016FLEX in Monterey, Calif., Dr. Tolis Voutsas of Sharp Labs discussed the flexible hybrid electronics (FHE) ecosystem that is the foundation of wearable electronics, medical devices and devices that use the Internet of Things (IoT) as a platform. A significant challenge for solution providers is not just in the imagining of products that use IoT capability, but also in the implementation of new and effective power sources for wearables. Tolis also noted that improving user friendliness, was also a top-of-mind issue.       

Retailers are already in the game, with much of their efforts concentrated on creating user-friendly designs. Instead of simply wearing a smart watch or fitness device, consumers are looking to incorporate technology into garments they already wear. In response, DuPont has developed smart textiles and fabrics that literally weave in electronics. In addition, Google has partnered with Levi to for Project Jacquard, which makes garments interactive using haptic technology. Gestures such as tapping or swiping relay a signal wirelessly to the wearer’s mobile device which then activates a particular function, for instance turning off a phone ringer or sending a text message.

[The Intel Curie Compute Module, a complete microcomputer the size of a button, has made the creation of wearable devices faster, simpler, and more accessible.]

"Fashion and design will play an equally important role in increasing adoption," said Jitesh Ubrani, senior research Analyst for IDC Mobile Device Trackers in a statement. "Simply encrusting your watch with gold and jewels is not going to cut it. Rather, forming partnerships with notable fashion icons, a route taken by Fitbit and Apple, is far more likely to succeed. "It's also worth noting that the wearables market isn't just about smartwatches and fitness bands…Though the top 5 certainly dominate with wrist-worn devices, there's been an immense amount of growth in other form factors like clothing, footwear, and eyewear – form factors that arguably require even more fashion sense than watches or bands.”

Gartner has reported that smart garment sales were about 100,000 units in 2015, but that number is projected to grow to a staggering 26 million units this year. Furthermore, while fitness tracking and heart-rate monitoring devices are currently available and grab most of the headlines, the ability to put on a clothing and get usable feedback is attractive to many consumers. For example, a Hexoskin smart shirt with its Bluetooth recording device (pictured, right) offers the wearer numerous possibilities for data gathering, including sleep pattern information. The manufacturer recommends VivoSense advanced physiological data analysis software to then translate findings into useable information for the wearer.

Wearables must be easy to use and the data they collect must be simple to understand. The beauty of the market is the customers' enthusiasm for it. Solution providers can help clients create, sell and implement such popular IoT devices by understanding the market, the customers and the demand — as well as the technology itself.

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