Edge Computing in the Retail Sector

The edge data centre is an area that has gained an increasing amount of interest lately, given how it offers enterprises the ability to expand and kick off new digital transformation initiatives. It turns out that businesses in the retail sector can also benefit from edge computing, according to a blog post by Patrick Donovan of APC by Schneider Electric.

What are some implications of edge computing that retailers should consider?

Barista in retail sector

IT Resilience More Important Than Ever

Despite the distributed nature of edge computing, IT resilience is even more important than it used to be, argues Donovan. His logic is simple and draws from the fact that just about everything in a typical retail shop today relies on IT. This ranges from the POS terminals to store displays to inventory tracking. Problems with the network, or edge servers or storage appliances will adversely impact the customer experience of a busy store at a minimum, or even stop customers from making purchases.

That being the case, retailers should also consider incorporating some redundancy to the most important systems in individual stores. Also, is the store protected against power trips and outages? This may entail getting UPS such as those from APC by Schneider Electric here – do consider lithium-ion models for their low maintenance and long lifespan, too.

Critical Systems Are Now Spread Out

In the past, every corporate office used to have a server room in a back room somewhere, or a rack of IT equipment humming quietly in a corner. This is no longer the case, and critical systems such as IP cameras, digital displays, smart mirrors, IoT sensors and signages are now littered throughout the retail store. Then there are the digital DVR (Digital Video Recording), networking switch, Internet router and Wi-Fi access points tucked away in their respective nooks. It is arguable that the breakdown of just one or two of them would disrupt retail operations.

Woman paying in retail sector

The distributed nature of the technology deployed in retail stores also makes using a Transient Voltage Surge Suppressor (TVSS) a good idea, says Donovan. Strategically installed at the electrical service entrance of the store, a TVSS can offer long-term protection against power surges caused either by lightning strikes or damaging transient current. You can read more about the importance of protecting against power surges here.

The Challenge of Multiple Locations

Finally, how can retailers effectively deploy and maintain their edge computing hardware that they deploy at each outlet? How about servicing and replacing equipment when they break down, a necessary task for POS terminals and receipt printers. Just as importantly, how does one keep unauthorized outsiders or even employees from tampering with these critical systems?

There is no simple solution, though the need for a standardized infrastructure with well-documented deployments is irrefutable. Because no retailer can possibly manage and service the many IT systems in their store by themselves, they must work with others. This means they must build a collaborative ecosystem that includes vendors, system integrators (SI), managed service providers, and of course, the in-house IT team. With the awareness and some effort, retailers can ensure the smooth running of their retail outlets, rain or shine.