Going contactless with IoT
The idea of touching a pin pad or handing over a credit card to a cashier has become unsettling to many shoppers. Even before the pandemic, IoT-enabled transactions in the U.S. were expected to see 125% CAGR over the next few years. The challenge across industries though is how to transition to an IoT world while still supporting older devices and non-digital formats.
IoT in action
Anybody that’s been to a food truck or small boutique is familiar with contactless payment systems that can process mobile payments with a swipe or scan of their phone. But for retailers whose customers still rely on cash and who need a scalable solution across thousands of stores, what does that IoT solution look like?
One major telecom with 5,300 stores across the U.S. needed a way to bridge the gap between a contactless check-out experience and cash payments. PK’s Edge Management solution helped the telecom achieve IoT capabilities while keeping development and maintenance costs down.
PK’s EdgeManager is an edge device management platform. We can use it to connect devices to any cloud platform through an abstraction layer that abstracts away cloud-specific commands, providing a standard interface into the management layer. That means we can enable remote control of devices, as well as remotely troubleshoot any issues.
EdgeManager also provides an abstraction layer on the edge (device side). This layer, and the corresponding hardware solution in the form of a gateway running on off-the-shelf hardware, such as Raspberry Pi, allows our clients to enable devices that are not internet-capable to be connected and managed on the cloud.
In the retail store example, beaconing technology can be used to automatically open the register closest to the store employee with a tablet running the point of sale system to speed up the cash tendering process. And when there’s an issue with the register, a technician can troubleshoot remotely by looking at the digital representation of the register (digital twin or device shadow) in the cloud IoT management platform. This reduces the number of costly truck rolls for onsite maintenance.
EdgeManager can facilitate a completely contactless transaction and customer experience. In the future, the telecom could use any POS system and connect it to a machine that automates cash acceptance and produces change for customers. A customer would enter the store, pick a product, scan it at a kiosk and leave the store all without any physical interaction.
Contactless and automated shopping experiences should be accessible to all consumers regardless of whether they’re using a mobile payment app, credit card or cash. Bridge solutions, like EdgeManager, that can transform any device into an IoT device will help consumers and businesses transition into the contactless economy.
Clients in any industry requiring an IoT management strategy and platform to be built quickly regardless of their IoT cloud management vendor or device vendor can use EdgeManager to create a reliable IoT ecosystem. Below are a couple of examples of how EdgeManager has helped companies looking for an edge in IoT.
One of our manufacturing clients with a global footprint needed a roadmap for achieving Industry 4.0. Because some of their plants had been in operation for decades, the manufacturing equipment was diverse in its age and technical sophistication. Some devices were “smart” and could be easily connected to the internet, and some were “dumb” (non-internet capable). EdgeManager provides the bridge for both types of devices to be connected and managed remotely.
For the older, “dumb” devices, connection to the cloud is achieved via a Raspberry PI acting as a gateway. EdgeManager’s device driver code provides the ability to translate the native commands of the dumb device to standard IoT commands, and eventually to the cloud management platforms.
There were many different devices employed at the respective factories, ranging from automated guided vehicles, assembly robots, torque tools, to paint booths and chillers. EdgeManager would not only bring all their devices online but would also consolidate the data from numerous devices in clouds maintained across different regions and countries.
A public utility client wanted to be able to automatically track inventory as it arrived and departed their warehouses. We built an RFID solution that connected to the cloud via EdgeManager, so when trucks carrying assets, such as individually tagged utility poles, transformers, and irrigation equipment passed under an RFID gate, the data was collected and transferred in real-time to an ERP system that would automatically populate work orders for the operations team. Our IoT inventory tracking solution took a manual and time-consuming process and made it instantaneous.
IoT will be essential to contactless and intelligent automation experiences. Whether it’s contactless shopping with automated cash registers or lights out manufacturing, as in Industry 4.0, companies are seeking solutions that help them bridge the gap to IoT. To do this, they’ll need a solution like EdgeManager that can help with connecting legacy, dumb devices to the internet and bringing together data across cloud platforms in a quick and efficient manner.
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About the Author
Joe Bond is a Principal Architect in Digital Edge (AI and IoT) at PK. He has over 25 years in software development and architecture with a background in telecom and consulting.Tags: Contactless, Edge, IoT