Addressing Retail’s Black Hole with IoT

Via IoTscorecard

Is it retailers’ destiny to live with losses in the billions because they cannot solve for one big gap?

In spite of more than a decade of innovation in retail technology, from inventory management in the cloud to beacons on the floor, there remains a “black hole” for retailers, brands and distributors – and that is understanding what’s happening on the floor between the stockroom and the consumers’ shopping cart – or pockets.

Here’s a photo taken in Target today, of a Cover Girl display, featuring the ultra hot Star Wars brand. It’s an awesome display, taking up some pretty valuable real estate. Notice anything missing?


Intel, WestRock and T+ink think there’s a better way – and have created a very practical IoT system that uses – get this – “printed electronics” to turn pegs and shelves into sensors connected to “the cloud” that then alert whomever cares how much inventory is on the floor and where.

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So counting up this one display (which is likely mimicked in the thousands of Target stores) I’m estimating, given the pricing of these Cover Girl cosmos cosmetics, that it holds $3-4K worth of goods. Granted, Star Wars products have been blowing out of stores but even if this display couldn’t be replenished, shouldn’t it be replaced? That’s the seasonal angle.

Right next to this sadly empty display, we find Katy Perry, pitching “Clump Crusher” mascara and more.


As the mother of a teenage daughter who cannot get enough eyeliner in her diet, I assure you Delaney would move towards this display (she LOVES Target) and want not just the Clump Crusher but the matching eyeliner and shadow.

How happy is she that it’s all in stock?

Enough of the Target run.

My crush is on Amazon, and when I extend my thinking about this IoT system in retail stores, it kind of starts to remind me of why I do love Amazon, because this platform also includes integration with dynamic pricing and beacon technology. Meaning, when this organically inclined Mom picks up a bottle of Mrs. Meyer’s Clean Day Honeysuckle Dish Soap and Counter Cleaner, this “sensitive” store (like a giant 3D Amazon Pantry) lets me know that on an end-cap in the Spring Cleaning section at Target, there is a new fragrance available.

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I completely missed out on Mrs. Meyers amazing and coveted Pine scent for Christmas last year (which my neighbor snagged before it literally flew off Target’s end-cap) and I don’t want to miss out on that again.

Shopping can be really boring without this creativity, and the consumer experience can be really annoying when there’s nothing in stock when we do make the effort to make it to a real, 3D store these days.

Maybe there is something to this IoT application for all of us.


Michael Voellinger

I’ve spent my entire career immersed in technology, consulting and marketing. Currently, as Managing Director at ClearBlade, I help companies connect their infrastructure, enterprise applications and data to mobile and IoT. I also connect people with the resources they need to accelerate their success. Sometimes I connect them with other great people, a potential investor or much needed talent. Other times I help create or identify innovative technology, ideas or business models. Over the years I’ve worked with hundreds of CIOs and CTOs on meaningful IT and mobility projects. I’ve been quoted in major publications, and I’ve been a blogger on IT leadership for InfoWorld and a few other media sites. I launched a successful mobile management company before it was hip, and founded a successful marketing strategy firm. I've been a contributing author (ISBN-10: 1562862944 | ISBN-13: 978-1562862947) and I’m currently writing a book about how technology will alter the human experience. I enjoy making new professional acquaintances, so feel free to connect with me here on LinkedIn or send me an email at Specialties: Sourcing, negotiations and procurement of telecom and technology in large enterprises, global policy development and risk mitigation, mobility management, telecom and technology asset management, wireless industry / events speaker. Business intelligence, BI tools, strategy and implementations.

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