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IBM Bluemix: evolution of the cloud in retail

jStart explores how the use of the cloud in retail can create real business value and how it might impact business.

As cloud technologies continue to evolve and mature, businesses are taking advantage of the new capabilities offed by cloud based applications to build immediate business value, solve existing challenges, and provide a level of efficiency and integration previously difficult, if not impossible. Take, for in-stance, the opportunities the cloud provides a major clothing retail-er: with warehouses throughout the country that deliver product in near just-in-time to their stores, the company has a pressing need to revamp their systems to solve a number of problems:

  • Deliveries: Drivers waste gas and take too long due to insufficient traffic tracking (use open source traffic data)
  • Reduce inventory holding & distribution costs: Products sit in the warehouse for too long, and stores run out of items (use internal systems to analyze purchasing data across stores)
  • Aid their suppliers forecast demand (make their internal data available to suppliers in order to facilitate forward positioning of products which are experiencing high demand in a specific locality)

A daunting challenge

The company knows that the cloud, theoretically, should be able to help them ad-dress these issues: by building applications that are available anywhere, spanning the desktop into mobile, all accessing shared data sources, cloud applications should be able to help the company tie together their distribution system with their logistics and inventory systems. However, new cloud technologies are opening doors to new opportunities:

  • Rapid cloud application development. Development of new technologies are allowing companies to compose cloud applications even faster—instead of weeks and months, in hours/days.
  • Dynamic service composition. Being able to dynamically tie together dis-parate data sources—for the retail company, this means tying together invento-ry, distribution, and social data services.
  • Development of an API economy/marketplaces. By leveraging the latest in cloud technologies, the retail company has an opportunity to monetize it’s own data, allowing third parties to create value-add services and applications.

The solution

With the introduction of IBM Bluemix, the jStart team is leading efforts to explore the evolution of the cloud, tying together the concepts of SaaS, IaaS, and PaaS to create a next generation cloud platform. Building and extending upon technologies pio-neered in the past three years (Big Data, sophisticated data analytics, predictive ana-lytics, real-time analytics, and social data analytics), the team has been exploring how to apply these technologies with the new platform to provide address business needs that exist today.

How might the retailer apply these solutions to solve its chal-lenges?

  • Deliveries: create an application that combines historical traffic patterns, real-time traffic data, and cloud-based analytics to create smarter delivery routes
  • Reduce inventory & distribution costs: create an inventory management system leveraging cloud analytics to discover and surface patterns in purchas-ing and client demographics (perhaps from a loyalty program) to optimize deliv-eries to each store—and optimize inventory logistics/holding costs.
  • Demand forecasting: allow third parties (partners, independent developers) to tap into the data feeds used to address the other challenges to forecast de-mand based on trends (including those exhibited by their customers via social media) and past sales successes.

For the retail company, these technolo-gies provide an opportunity to rapidly build relevant apps—relevant to their suppliers, to their own internal inventory and supply chain systems, and, perhaps most importantly, to their customers by providing a level of transparency into the retailer’s store inventories, enhanced brand perception for the retailer by ap-pearing more responsive, and potentially benefit the retailer’s reputation from a streamlined customer engagement model.

In the end, these cloud technologies offer opportunities to the retailer to differentiate and leap-frog itself from its competition, all in a low-risk, cost sensitive environment—using new capabilities and technologies geared towards the cloud using IBM Blue-Mix: the evolution of the cloud.

About the jStart Team

jStart is a highly skilled team focused on providing fast, smart, and valuable business solutions leveraging the latest technologies. The team typically focuses on emerging technologies which have commercial potential within 12-18 months. This allows the team to keep ahead of the adoption curve, while being prepared for client engage-ments and partnerships. The team’s focus includes: machine learning, text analytics, natural language processing, social data analytics and systems of engagement, and cloud technologies.

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