The National Retail Foundation's (NRF) annual convention in New York is the best way to get the pulse of the retail sector. This is where the who's who of the retail industry gather to share their thoughts on the business. Listening to top CEOs, analysts, industry veterans, and new startups provides a unique insight into the retail sector's undercurrents. Retail has taken a beating amid supply chain shortages, inflation, shifting demands and pandemic anxieties. However, it has survived everything thrown at it, including the chilly New York City weather. Optimism was in the air at NRF 2023 as 35,000 industry professionals from 6,000 retailers representing nearly 2,500 unique brands descended at the Javits Center in Manhattan last month.
Technology, especially 5G, seemed omnipresent in every conversation, handshake, panel, speaking session, and vendor booth. Whether it was elevating in-store experiences, retailers owning the entire customer journey end-to-end, improved omnichannel security and visibility, or Lowe's Chairman and CEO Marvin Ellison receiving the Visionary Award, technology was part of the conversation. OK, maybe not the last one, but 5G was part of the solution in every nook and corner of the retail world.
Amazon Web Services showcased Just Walk Out, Amazon Dash Cart, Immersive Retail, and other nifty enhancements. Achieving personalization and frictionless shopping through augmented and virtual reality, metaverse, virtual try-on, contactless payments, and instant checkouts requires high-speed connectivity. Stores are adopting 5G as a backup to wired or a primary connection. Verizon Business displayed its Hologram Experience, 5G Edge Cashierless Checkout, and 5G Edge Quality Assurance for Warehouse solutions.
Most retailers are looking into using computer vision and artificial intelligence to streamline processes. Vendors like Intel, Microsoft, and Google demonstrated how analytics could improve inventory management. These solutions require 5G, MEC, and the underlying network to deliver a seamless experience. Walmart announced the expansion of its drone delivery service. The company wants to use drones to meet customers' immediate delivery needs and create a more sustainable alternative to having more vehicles on the road. These drones require 5G connectivity to navigate, operate and make decisions.
Retailers, including Macy's, Walgreens, Kroger, and others, are transforming their stores to provide improved customer and employee experiences. Most of these experiences require uninterrupted connectivity, a solid use case for 5G. For example, children's apparel retailer Carter's partnered with AWS to develop a custom solution with a spanking new point-of-sale system and put tablets in the hands of its store associates. Guess what? These devices need connectivity that 5G could provide.
We could go on and on about every vendor and panel which introduced a solution and how 5G is required to make it work. There's an underlying theme that IT and technology departments at these retailers have figured out — 5G can do that.
There's no doubt that retail is still feeling the aftereffects of the pandemic. Industry experts and retail honchos preached a common theme at NRF: dazzle customers and manage costs. Investments in 5G can help dazzle customers with in-store experiences, shorten the buyer journey, enable improved decision making with AI, shrink operating costs, create supply chain efficiencies, put the power of the cloud into every employee's handheld device, and much more. Now, if you want to monitor the ripeness of avocados or prevent shopping cart theft — 5G can do that!
Dr. Ritesh Mukherjee is senior vice president/general manager at Inseego Corp., a pioneer in smart device-to-cloud solutions that extend the 5G network edge.
Ritesh Mukherjee is an accomplished leader focusing on global communications and technology. Ritesh leads product design, solutions engineering, and technical marketing as Senior Vice President and General Manager at Inseego. He is responsible for transforming digital networks with 5G, MEC, SDN/NFV, SDWAN, SASE, and Cloud solutions.
Before joining Inseego, Ritesh was Vice President at Reliance Jio, managing a global portfolio of market-leading innovative enterprise solutions. He was Vice President, Product Management at 128 Technology (acquired by Juniper Networks), leading SD-WAN and cloud development, and Product Management Leader at Cisco, leading the software operating systems group. Ritesh has engineered some of the largest deployments of enterprise networks for leading businesses globally. He is a sought-after speaker and thought leader.
Ritesh teaches Computer Networks and Security courses as an Adjunct Faculty Member at the Benjamin Franklin Cummins Institute of Technology, Boston.
Ritesh holds a Ph.D. in Computer Science from Concordia University, Montreal.