Digitizing The Physical World: Beacons To Refrigerators

The Internet of Things is partly about digitizing the physical world.

There were plenty of examples of this at CES in Las Vegas and, more recently, at the annual National Retail Federation extravaganza at New York’s Javits Center this week.

At the start of the show, I sat down with Gimbal CEO Jeff Russakow, who sees part of the beacon-company’s mission as just that.

The idea is that connected objects, such as beacons, can create location networks that can provide consumers with useful information as they go about their day. Key here is that the consumer doesn’t have to proactively or heavily interact with technology to receive that value.

For example, beacons at airports can identify a person as they near the counter and initiate the check-in process automatically. The 1,000 Gimbal beacons installed at the NRF show provided such a capability for registration.

Verifone, the well-known point-of-sale terminal maker, introduced another beaconing approach.

Going forward, Verifone terminals will have beacon technology from Footmarks built in. This means that a large retailer with payment terminals throughout the store could use those terminals as a base starting point for mass beacon in-store deployment.

But it’s not just beacons and other sensors that are part of digitizing the physical world, with numerous examples at NRF.

For example, appliances such as refrigerators can take a lot of physical space in a store while digital depictions of those objects can easily suffice.

A great example of this was at a display by OneShop, which showed a real refrigerator next to a digital – and interactive – version of the same appliance. With touch screen features, the digital appliance could be opened, rotated and stats shown.  That digital display is already at Lowe’s stores.

Intel had a similar display with a digital depiction of a refrigerator showing all the contents inside.

Those digital versions of physical objects can make a large store more efficient space-wise as well as provide new product sales capabilities for smaller stores.

In the Internet of Things, some of the things consumers see will actually be digital.

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