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Retail/Hospitality Industries Digitally Transformed: The Next Mobile Carrier Killer App


Mobile carriers have the opportunity to reshape industries, such as the hospitality and retail industries, through 5G networking combined with edge computing as the IoT transformation is permeating through the US economy.

Historically, retail, hospitality and restaurants were powered and connected by fixed operators with little involvement from the mobile carriers.

Times are changing with newer 4.5G/5G technologies, IoT, mobile video, smartphone payments, tablet-based point of sales, cellular-powered digital signage, and wireless broadband connectivity, including newer combo-tablet-TV tables, and combo video gaming point of sale devices.

Now hotels can have a mobile strategy beyond an app for faster, more convenient check-in where your phone becomes the key to your room as well as payment device for on-premise services ranging from the restaurant to the spa to the retail shops inside. Leveraging mobile device applications, and beacons, concierge personnel can greet customers personally as they arrive with rooms already prepared.

Wireless Kiosks and greeters with tablets or on robots are occurring for a more personalized experience depending on the class of hotel you are in. Hotels aiming at a superior experience can leapfrog to the cutting edge of entertainment and let guests experience mobile AR/VR augmenting the existing video and gaming in the hotel rooms, while restaurants can provide fixed gaming tablets, point of sales, and food ordering with tablets connected to the tables.

Newer modalities of services will occur in businesses as well as the homes via AI-powered robots that are mobile, and often have tablets on their chests for providing a wide range of services like:

  • Retail/Restaurant/Concierge Greeters
  • Customer identification with recommendations,
    • Electronic Kiosks for order management with tablet operation on robot greeters like Sanbot or Softbank’s Pepper,
    • Open AI interfaces to IBM Watson or other AI engines with recommendations based on past selections, and what is on sale,
    • Facial recognition to not only identify customers but to also identify eye-contact and customer facial expressions to identify mood and recommend newer products and services.

Restaurant 2.0

Restaurant 2.0.png
Source: Burger King

In the retail world, customers can visualize the new fashion on them in a virtualized setting.  They can travel virtually or try real life scenarios of the product or service being considered.

Here too, the mobile carrier can play a significant role by partnering with local data center providers or the local fixed operator and offer a holistic service of managed AR/VR services.

It’s well known that augmented reality (AR) and virtual reality (VR) technologies will require localized CPU processing and caching of shared or repeated content like ads or common background scenes to minimize latency, to save on bandwidth and to deliver on the promise of a great user experience. Here, the legacy wireline operator may partner with mobile operators by re-using their central office locations often located on main street locations in all cities, by turning these from legacy voice switching centers to newer nano-data centers. These nano-data centers or local data centers from managed services providers in turn can offer newer VoIP/Unified Communications services like AI-powered chat, IVR-based collaborations, mobile services including seamless roaming to WiFi, as well as local hosted services like Security as a Service, video services like AR/VR, as well enterprise services such as CDN, local e-commerce services requiring localized proximity, in addition to 5G mobile edge computing services.

Retail 2.0

AR VR and Retail 2.0
Source: Burger King

According Ericsson, 5G is expected to be a critical enabler of AR/VR technology in surveys they conducted. From the Ericsson report, “thirty-six percent have expectations on 5G to provide VR mobility through a stable, fast and high-bandwidth network,” while “thirty percent of early adopters also expect 5G to enable tethered headsets to become wireless.” This is phenomenal as most people don’t know what 5G exactly is and if roughly 1/3 already believe it’s a critical enabler for AR/VR.  Imagine when 5G actually arrives with trials expected in 2020 at NTT Docomo and the 2018 Winter Olympics in South Korea with KT.

While Telecom service providers are investing in Content and CDNs (Content Distribution Networks) as evidenced by AT&T buying DirecTV and soon Time Warner, Bell Canada with CTV, Comcast with NBC, Verizon with CDN provider Edgecast, etc.), the next wave will be in AR/VR content combining interactive video gaming with video content leveraging newer 5G architectures, such as mobile edge computing.

Here, the two worlds of lean-forward video gaming and lean-backwards movie watching will likely converge.  Either both are offered as lean forward in an interactive movie on a tablet/kiosk or gaming console, or both as lean backwards with newer AR/VR glasses or bigger screens with interactive controls. Perhaps we lean back in the restaurant and movie theater but lean forward in the meeting room and retail shop.

Newer managed service offerings can include:

  • Policy-based control and charging: Turbo HD, Video AR/VR for bandwidth and latency on demand, as Net Neutrality is relaxed,
  • Cloud based managed Video/Gaming, and hosted services like CRM services, and Unified Communications as a Service,
  • Newer monetization techniques (Targeted Ads, Social Networking, Turbo buttons, Video on Demand including Games)…
  • Point of Sales, IoT: offering connectivity (LTE, WiFi and fixed networks) with resiliency and security as a service,
  • Encryption and key management: POS, and DRM and subscriber authentication.

As these services proliferate, mobile edge computing requirements will be a more pronounced offering:

  • Localized caching of content, localized targeted ads insertion, with transcoding of content for UltraHD in WiFi settings, to compressed offerings in LTE/3G settings, to session continuity requirements as people roam, across WiFi hotspots, to small cell locations to macro cell locations outdoors, in addition to newer VoIP/Chat services.

As ad-fatigue sets in, different monetization techniques will occur, beyond subscription, beyond ads, to revenue share approaches with venues, and upselling with newer content:

AR VR and Real Time
Source: Ericsson

However, to achieve this, newer distributed architectures are occurring where processing may occur within consumer appliances, Small Cells, Mobile Edge Computing nano-data centers, bringing a new telecom carrier managed platform providing newer Cloud-based infrastructure as well as maintaining localized services as needed locally.

Source: Open Linux Foundation

M-CORD (Mobile Central Office Re-architected as a Data Center) promises a new telco-managed architecture (using Mobile Edge Computing) which in turn should deliver multi tenancy and network resource slicing models on-demand where users can share content and network/CPU/GPU resources as needed.

Implications For Business Leaders

Mobile carriers will need to continue to expand their partnerships to include technology solution providers within the AR/VR community beyond their existing network vendor partnerships.

Video Gaming, AI, Robotics, AR/VR platform CIOs and CTOs looking to embrace newer Digital Transformation solutions should look holistically within the mobile infrastructure ecosystems and have the mobile operator as a strategic partner.

You can listen to the audio replay of our Retail 2.0: The Future of Retail webcast by playing the media below or downloading the Podcast available on iTunes.  Subscribe to our Podcast channel and keep up to date on the latest insights from neXt Curve.

Audio replay of the Retail 2.0: The Future of Retail webcast

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