For some, holiday shopping is the best time of year. For others, it’s chaotic and overwhelming. This season, we’re hoping to help deliver the best shopping experience for consumers by reimaging the in-store retail experience while also helping the environment.
As a retailer, big box, or SMB, you constantly have to adjust the prices of your goods. During the holiday season especially, there are promotions, discounts, or price drops. And while it’s often a win for customers, it can be exhausting for store employees who have to change price tags and signage constantly. Increasingly, paper tags are becoming less used, and programmable Electronic Shelf Labels (ESLs) and other digital signage are becoming more prevalent in-store.
The upfront, most significant benefit of electric signage is that updates can automatically be applied across all products and quickly. However, many of these devices are battery-operated, which ultimately creates another headache for store employees to replace the batteries while also being costly to purchase more batteries. An alternative is using ESLs with energy harvesting technology, which can significantly extend the battery life of these devices – and in some cases, energy harvesting can replace the need for batteries. That means employees don’t have to worry about changing batteries every few months for the thousands of ESLs in the store. Think about the cost savings on the batteries and labor to replace the ESL signs – in addition to the positive environmental impact of less battery waste. This holiday season, we anticipate stores will start to adopt ESLs that are battery-free or have extended battery life to reduce costs and waste at the same time.
In the coming shopping season, we anticipate the use of electronic price tags and other digital signage will pick up traction thanks to new advancements in energy harvesting technology, low power Bluetooth solutions, and on-demand wake-up technology. Combining these three technologies will enable cost-effective and increasingly efficient ESL implementations, overhauling the retail industry.
So how does energy harvesting work? A device can leverage multiple energy sources, including radiofrequency (RF), photovoltaic, thermal, and motion, to provide enough power to run on a single battery forever or run without any batteries. Controlled energy harvesting solves some of the challenges of ambient energy harvesting, which is characteristically volatile, by leveraging many different energy sources to guarantee robust functionality while reducing the system’s dependence on battery power. This technology will allow retailers to set up ESLs effortlessly without worrying about maintenance time and costs down the road. Frequently changing batteries in ESLs will become a thing of the past – ESLs with batteries that last forever and ones that don’t require any batteries will become the new industry standard.
The other critical pieces enabling battery-free ESLs are a low power radio implementation for Bluetooth 5.0 standard and on-demand wakeup technology. The Bluetooth 5.0 platform – which has four times the range, two times the speed, and eight times the bandwidth than its predecessors – makes it possible to achieve radical power performance improvements while maintaining complete standards compliance. On-demand wake-up technology helps to extend battery life further. On-demand wake-up implements two levels of listening, essentially providing the radio with two sets of ears: one set offers the lowest level of “radio consciousness,” listening in a very slight “conscious” state to perceive incoming transmissions; the other set is a deep sleeper, waking less or only when alerted to incoming signal transmissions by its light sleeping counterpart. This dynamic combination of low-power Bluetooth 5.0 and on-demand wake-up technologies allows devices to consume up to 100 times less energy than traditional solutions. This enables batteries to last the lifetime of a device and can allow some devices to operate without any batteries.
Safer Shopping Experience
Energy harvesting will help make your shopping experience a bit more enjoyable while also helping to provide a safer shopping experience. While unlikely, hazardous chemicals can seep out of batteries. ESLs with batteries that can last forever or are battery-free can minimize environmental damage and lessen the cost and employee time it takes to replace the power-cell of these connected devices. In many stores, there can be upwards of hundreds to thousands of ESLs, so controlled energy harvesting technology, low-power Bluetooth solutions, and on-demand wake-up technology will significantly impact the environment and companies’ bottom lines.
ESLs are just one way that retailers can take advantage of energy harvesting technologies. In the future, we’ll see stores integrate energy harvesting into many other types of applications, from lights to door locks to temperature sensors and beyond.