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Retail Technology

AI, analytics and the smart store

By BT | Thursday March 14 2024 | UPDATED 13.03.24

Andrew Quinton, Senior Manager at BT, 5G & IoT Solutions, outlines harnessing the power of AI and analytics to create a smart store

The UK retail sector is undergoing rapid transformation as it grapples with disruptions to supply chains, changesin consumer behaviour accelerated by the pandemic and the cost-of-living crisis, and pressures to deliver on sustainability.

Without full-scale digital transformation, harnessed through the power of Artificial Intelligence (AI) and real-time data analytics innovations that help create ‘smart stores’, retailers risk rapidly falling behind the competition.

There’s a growing demand from retailers for fast and secure data - and lots of it - to keep up with supply chain needs and shifts in customer behaviour - who expect personalised, seamless and secure shopping experiences.

It’s never been more important to keep up-to-date with the latest digital solutions on customer analytics, data transfers, inventory management, efficient energymanagement and enhanced in-store and cyber security.

Our recently published 'Buying into the future of retail'whitepaper explores how smart technology choices involving AI and analytics can transform operations, customer experiences and sustainability, helping retailers stay ahead of the competition.

As one of the UK’s leading telecoms companies, wehave an extensive network infrastructure and substantialexperience providing high-performance connectivity services, powered by innovative technology solutions to businesses of all sizes.

Our cutting-edge digital innovations, such as AI-powered Digital Vision, Active Intelligence (a world-leading data and analytics solution), 5G Private Networks and Internet of Things (IoT), are all underpinned by our future-ready infrastructure that can optimise operations, and drive growth for any retail business on its digital transformation journey.

Digital Vision

Digital Vision is our computer-aided vision solution. As a form of AI, it allows retail systems to process and ‘think’, and the Digital Vision allows them to ‘see’. It provides retailers with valuable customer data, enhanced store security, and staff and workplace safety solutions to create the ideal smart store environment.

It does so by enabling retailers to analyse live and recorded video footage from cameras and run data analytics in real-time. This data can then be used to generate live alarms for store security issues such as anti-social behaviour and theft, and provide in-depth custom reports.

Digital Vision also provides businesses with invaluable customer insights through rich data, which can provide statistics on passing trade conversion, the number of people in store, average customer time in-store, heat maps and dwell time etc.

Key benefits

Automatically converts video into metadata, improvingresponse times, and driving operational efficiencies and new business models.
Drives in-store revenue, leveraging CCTV footage to understand what drives conversions in-store.
Improves staff productivity and optimises store operations by identifying underutilised store space.
Enhances customer experience through identification of check-out queues and detection of vehicle overstay in retail shopping car parks.
Helps monitor storerooms and back-of-house areas to better understand staff performance, to avoid intrusion, or notify if a lone worker has an accident.
It doesn’t require installing new hardware and can be implemented using existing infrastructure.

Active Intelligence

Our Active Intelligence solution enables retailers toactively and continuously monitor, analyse and respond to real-time data and events, enabling them to make informed decisions based on up-to-date information.

Our partnership with EE, the UK’s biggest 4G and 5G mobile network, means that we have the biggest and the best mobile data set in the UK, and we know how to use it.


Cutting-edge data science combined with machine learning and data generated from 24 million mobile devices is a powerful resource for retailers to leverage. It means we can analyse the location, movement and web and app behaviours of retailcustomers.
We also have the UK’s largest shopper-behaviour datasets, which is perfect for retail companies to make better informed investment decisions.
We can help retailers analyse and quantify demand and catchment of existing stores, and the economic potential of new ones.
Security of personal data is paramount to every retailer. We go to great lengths to ensure the privacy of data without compromising on the value of the insights we provide.

5G Private Networks

5G was created to enable the industrialisation of many of our technological advances. Vertical examples include transport and logistics, where 5G enables real-time workflow and cloud data automation, and in manufacturing, where automated guided vehicles (AGVs) are now operating in industrial settings.

In the retail space, a 5G Private Network providesretailers with a totally ‘private’ network that’s managed alongside their wider connectivity retail estate.

Many retailers are investing in 5G Private Networks to build smarter warehouses and play a key role in maximising organisational efficiency and revenue.

They are also doing so to help transition to digitised inventory. An integrated 5G Private Network can deliver up-to-the-minute stock-taking, reduce shrinkage and waste and ensure each product is in the right place at the right time – through enhanced connectivity.


Faster connection speeds.

Ultra reliable and responsive network.

Ultra-low latency (data travel time) – important in automation and robotics.
More capacity – allows for more IoT (Internet of Things) tech devices, such as sensors, to connect to the network.
More secure – latest security protocols and standards, so less vulnerable to cyber attacks than Wi-Fi networks.
More flexible – can be optimised and fine-tuned.

We launched the UK’s first 5G network back in 2019. Since then, RootMetrics® has rated EE’s (subsidiary of BT Group) 5G network as the UK’s Number 1 every year. Its extensive network coverage also means it can help retailers operate at scale, which is hugely beneficial for businesses looking to expand their number of retail outlets.

We can deliver custom-built, optimised and future-proofed private networks tailored to the retailer’s needs, creating more opportunities for a business to grow, while adding an extra layer of security.

In the next year or two, we’ll be able to offer both 5G private (company) and public (customer) shared networks, without using on-premises equipment that can take up a lot of space, which means it’ll be more cost-effective for retailers.

Internet of Things (IoT)

IoT refers to the network of physical devices and other objects that are embedded with sensors, software and connectivity capabilities, allowing them to collect and exchange data over the internet.

The goal of IoT is to create a network of interconnected devices that can seamlessly communicate and interact with each other, enabling automation, real-time monitoring and intelligent decision-making.


Customer Analytics: With IoT devices, such as beacons and sensors, valuable data can be collected on customer behaviour, footfall patterns and product interactions. This data can be analysed to gain insights into customer preferences, improve store layout and personalise marketing campaigns.
Seamless Omnichannel Experience: IoT solutions enable seamless integration of online and offline retail channels. This allows retailers to offer personalised, location-based promotions, click-and-collect services and real-time inventory visibility across various touchpoints.
Smart Shelf Management: IoT solutions can be integrated with smart shelves that use sensors on connected devices like smart scales that can detect if an object is removed from a specific place and identify when an object needs to be replaced.
Enhanced Inventory Management: By utilising IoT sensors and connectivity, IoT solutions enable real-time tracking and monitoring of inventory levels. This ensures accurate stock management and improves overall supply chain efficiency.
Efficient Energy Management: With sustainability becoming an ever more important issue, IoT-enabled sensors can help retailers optimise energy usage in their stores. This includes monitoring and controlling lighting, heating and cooling systems. Effective use of IoT technology can optimise energy costs and carbon emissions, reducing consumption by up to 30%.
Enhanced Security: Advanced security features, including video surveillance, access control systems and alarm integration, can help retailers protect their premises, prevent theft and ensure a secure environment for both customers and employees.
Supply Chain Optimisation: IoT connectivity and data analytics enable end-to-end supply chain visibility. Retailers can track shipments, monitor product conditions and identify bottlenecks or inefficiencies, leading to improved logistics and faster delivery times.

Every IoT project needs rock-solid connectivity. Every organisation has different IoT requirements, but all have growing demands for data - and need it faster than ever before.

That's why many of the UK’s leading retailers partnerwith us to deliver the fastest and most reliable connectivity in the country. With low latency and high bandwidth, our 5G is perfect for applications such as video surveillance, AR and real-time environmental monitoring.

The pace of digital transformation and the need to implement the latest AI innovation solutions and data analytics systems seamlessly and securely – at scale - can be a daunting prospect for many retail businesses.

As a trusted telecoms partner and leader in the digitalinnovations and data analytics space, we can helpretailers create smart stores at scale and future-proof their businesses.

And as the third largest investor in research and development over the past 10 years, with a portfolio of over 4,700 patents, our commitment to innovation is so long-standing it’s become embedded in our DNA.

But perhaps most importantly, as the UK’s leader in network infrastructure and connectivity, we offer a suite of integrated solutions‚Äč for businesses looking to invest in the latest cutting-edge products, to help deliver seamless, secure and sustainable services for customers across their multiple channels.

For more information, visit our website.

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