We've been to the shopping mall. We've seen the technology all around us. Retailers are relying on Internet of Things (IoT) sensors to enhance the customer experience.
IoT sensors are tracking customer preferences and behavior, gathering data to better target assistance or incentives. Sensors are also managing energy and detecting equipment issues, especially in supermarkets and warehouses.
In direct contact with customers, sensors are also tracking inventory with radio frequency identification (RFID) and smart shelves before customers wrap up their shopping with self-checkout or payment point-of-sale (POS) platforms.
To stay in step, designers must increasingly develop secure solutions in working with this proliferation of IoT sensor use. The number of businesses that use IoT technologies has increased from 13 percent in 2014 to about 25 percent today1, according to McKinsey & Company. There's no going back to the analog days.
In this week's New Tech Tuesday, we'll look at modules and development boards from u-blox, Microchip Technology, and Silicon Labs that enable IoT-based retail solutions.
The u-blox SARA-R5 Series LTE-M/NB-IoT Modules provide satellite positioning with data connectivity and secure cloud functionality. The modules come in a compact SARA form factor (26mm x 16mm and 96-pin), allowing better integration into compact designs and more seamless drop-in migration from other cellular module families. The modules are 5G-ready with u-blox's UBX-R5 cellular chipset, meaning users will be able to (software) upgrade their deployed devices, once 5G LTE has been rolled out by mobile operators. The SARA-R5 series also includes three Secure Cloud variants that support u-blox IoT-Security-as-a-Service, making these the ideal choice for devices that transmit critical and confidential information.
Professionals and makers can prototype secure cellular IoT applications quickly with Microchip Technology's EV70N78A Development Board. The fully Arduino-compatible board features an AVR128DB48 microcontroller (MCU) and an ATECC608B CryptoAuthentication™ device. The board also fits the Adafruit Feather form factor and features a Qwiic/Stemma I2C connector to easily add better functionality. The board includes an 824-2170MHz cellular flexible antenna and a prepaid SIM card with 150MB from Truphone.
Silicon Labs' BT122 Dual Mode Bluetooth Modules target applications that require Bluetooth® Low Energy and Classic connectivity. The BT122 can connect to legacy devices that support Bluetooth SPP or Apple® iAP2 profiles. The module integrates Bluetooth® radio, a low-power arm® Cortex® microcontroller, and Silicon Labs Dual Mode stack software. BT122 can be used as a modem together with a separate host MCU. The modules can also connect to devices that support Bluetooth® Low Energy. Applications can be embedded into the MCU with the BGScript™ scripting language.
As retailers embrace the innovation of IoT devices, they also must have a robust process for maintaining control and security as these connected devices proliferate. At the same time, designers must stay ahead with the development of secure solutions for devices that are tasked with communicating back financial information to network data centers.
Tommy Cummings is a freelance writer/editor based in Texas. He's had a journalism career that has spanned more than 40 years. He contributes to Texas Monthly and Oklahoma Today magazines. He's also worked at The Dallas Morning News, Fort Worth Star-Telegram, San Francisco Chronicle, and others. Tommy covered the dot-com boom in Silicon Valley and has been a digital content and audience engagement editor at news outlets. Tommy worked at Mouser Electronics from 2018 to 2021 as a technical content and product content specialist.
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