Qualcomm has announced seven new chips designed to support new IoT devices in the retail sector. The line, which includes high-end and entry-level chips, includes chips with AI and image processing technology that will help make IoT devices with cameras more effective.
The launch is part of a broader trend in the IoT industry towards new applications in the retail sector — where business as usual has been significantly disrupted by the COVID-19 pandemic. These innovations could support major changes in the retail industry — like smart stores, interactive displays, and streamlined payment options.
Qualcomm Expands Chip Options to Support Retail IoT
The new chips, which may help accelerate the adoption of “smart retail,” are also designed to support new IoT applications in the warehousing and manufacturing sectors.
The line includes both entry-level chips, designed to support simpler IoT options for retailers and other businesses, as well as high-end chips that support a new range of devices and IoT features, including some powered by AI.
According to Qualcomm senior director of product management Nagaraju Naik, the high-end chips will support high-resolution video cameras and enable features like electronic pan, tilt, and zoom (or ePTZ).
The highest-end of the new chips accomplishes this with a range of features not present in many existing IoT chips — including reduced latency, triple-image signal processor (ISP) architecture, and an AI engine that supports up to seven concurrent cameras with 4K resolution each.
For several retail IoT applications — like interactive displays or security cameras that assist in smart store operations — these chips could help significantly improve device performance. Naik also said the chips would support new checkout and payment processing options — like “touchless [payment], smart carts, self-checkout, and mobile payments.”
In addition to these retail applications, the high-end chips will enable devices like autonomous picking robots in the manufacturing and warehousing industries.
IoT May Help Retailers Respond to a Changing Market
COVID-19 accelerated several existing trends in retail, and it’s likely that the pandemic significantly altered how consumers shop. According to research from WSL Strategic Retail, 48% of the population say they are now shopping for others they weren’t shopping for before the pandemic.
At the same time, the number of consumers shopping primarily or exclusively online has grown rapidly, and some industry observers believe these consumers will continue to shop online long after it is safe to return to stores.
New practices like Omni-shopping — the practice of consumers shopping in-store and using a retailer’s online storefront — will likely inform the tactics retailers will need to adopt if they want to succeed post-COVID-19.
The potential IoT offers, both in terms of data gathering and streamlining the in-store shopping experience, could be critical for retailers.
IoT devices enable touchless and smart payment options, such as allowing consumers to check out without needing to touch a credit card reader or similar device. In some cases, the new tech may enable checkout processes that do not require interacting with a cashier at all.
This new checkout experience is both streamlined and potentially more hygienic than the conventional experience. As a result, it could be appealing to customers who have left physical stores for convenient online shopping.
Novel IoT applications enabled by hardware like Qualcomm’s new chip line could help accelerate the digitization of retail over the next few years.
As data-gathering store sensors and interactive advertisements become more powerful and cost-effective, they will likely help businesses personalize advertising, optimize store layouts, and improve supply chain management.
These shifts could make in-store shopping a better proposition for customers who can just as easily shop online.
How New IoT Tech May Shape Retail’s Digital Future
The IoT industry has begun to invest in retail technology seriously. New hardware like Qualcomm’s IoT chips will likely help enable more powerful and cost-effective smart retail devices.
As the retail industry digitizes and adapts to the post-COVID-19 world, these devices could prove invaluable. Customers are turning away from in-store retail in favor of online shopping. Still, process changes and personalization made possible by new IoT technology could convince consumers to return to physical stores.