LPWAN Sensor Devices and Solutions for the Grocery Retail Industry

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2Q 2019 | IN-5522

Retail businesses are faced with the challenge of not only growing consumer demand, but also meeting this demand quickly, at low costs, and with limited impact on their operation overall Leading supermarket chains aiming to meet customer and regulatory demands have undertaken several ambitious initiatives.

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Addressing the Retrofit and Greenfield Opportunities


Retail businesses are faced with the challenge of not only growing consumer demand, but also meeting this demand quickly, at low costs, and with limited impact on their operation overall Leading supermarket chains aiming to meet customer and regulatory demands have undertaken several ambitious intiatives, such as:

  • Working with suppliers to reduce waste in the supply chain
  • Continuously replenishing stock to give better availability to customers
  • Reducing food waste to drive down costs and reduce impact on the environment

This ABI Insight provides a snapshot of the various non-cellular Low-Power Wide Area (LPWA)-enabled devices and solutions that are available today for the retail industry to achieve the above initiatives.

Snapshot of the Device and Solution Ecosystem


As the retail supply chain delivery model is increasingly defined by consumer demand, retailers are moving from traditional, forecast-driven to demand-driven supplychains. Using the data captured throughout the supplychain, Internet of Things (IoT) platforms are enabling a more collaborative network that allows retailers to source and deliver the right products to customers through their desired channels of distribution. As the geographical footprint of LPWA networks continues to expand, we are starting to witness a growing numbers of IoT asset tracking solutions that are enabling retailers develop more agile supplychains.

Resuable Retail Container and Pallet Tracking Solutions

  • Polymer logistics is a multinational retail-ready packaging and pooling services solutions provider with operations in Europe, North America, and Israel. In early 2019, Polymer logistics commercially introduced a connected pallet solution for retailers. The solution uses multiple connectivity technologies and currently uses LTE-M for the U.S. market and is trialling LoRa and Narrowband (NB)-IoT for the European market.
  • Stockare, a Spanish solution provider, has developed a range of smart Returnable Transport Packaging (RTP) solutions. The RTPs use Sigfox connectivity to track location and monitor temperature every hour and send it to its Stocloud platform. Stockare’s battery-operated tracker devices can work autonomously for up to 7 years.
  • Brambles Digital, an offshoot of Brambles, was established in 2016 to bring innovative solutions to the supply chain using digital intelligence. Brambles Digital, after years in stealth mode, is currently beta testing a multi-sensor device to retrofit Brambles assets using its own BRIX platform. The solution is connectivity technology agnostic and uses a combination of BLE, cellular, and LPWA network technology.
  • In the last two years, IoT solution startup, Metiora has developed End-to-End Solutions (E2ES) for large distributors and retailers. Metiora has developed a range of Sigfox-and Bluetooth-based devices such as smart buttons, smart pallets, and smart trackers that send data to its analytics platform MINEO to provide actionable insights to its customers.
  • Roambee is an asset tracking solutions provider based in the United States that specializes in digital logistics and supply chain management solutions. Roambee has developed a pay-as-you-go tracking and condition monitoring solution using BeeAware tags that can be fixed to goods or pallets. The tags use NB-IoT and Sigfox to transmit data or alternatively Bluetooth where the LPWA networks are not available.

Retrofit Asset Tracking Solutions

  • In January 2019, Philip Morris, in collaboration with Sigfox and Follower Product (FP), announced the launch of smart tag solutions to combat cigarette theft in France. The solution commercially launched after a succesful six-month pilot and approval from the French Ministry of Interior. The solution is currently deployed in 600 retailers in the Bouches-du-Rhône area, with plans for a larger nationwide roll-out.
  • AT&T offers E2ES for supplychain tracking using the Micron Prime Bolt Mini tracker device and its Asset Management Operations Centre (AMOC) platform to track the location and condition of packages. The LTE-M based asset tracking solution is commercially available in a bundle of 10 devices for US$975 with a recurring charge of $75/month. Although the solution is currently available only in North America, with AT&T, KPN, Swisscom, and Orange activating LTE-M roaming across their respective IoT networks, the solution will be available in central Europe soon.  
  • In 2018 Carrefour, one of the largest grocery retailers in France, announced its collaboration with Objenious and Capgemini to implement 10,000 LoRaWAN tracker devices to track the location of trolleys in its warehouses. The sensor devices retrofitted to the trolleys are used to track their locations for easy recovery and optimizing utilization in warehouses. 

Logicall, a U.K.-based startup, has developed an end-to-end condition monitoring solution, Logicall Icecube, which uses Wi-fi, Bluetooth and LoRa. Its SensorPoint device is a LoRa device that can monitor temperature, humidity, light and CO2.

LPWA Fosters Frugal Innovation in Grocery Retail Market


The food and grocery retail industry has often been an early adopter of technological innovations driven by the nature of its business, working in high volumes and low margins in a strictly regulated market. Furthermore, with multi-channel retailing, especially growth in online retail, retailers are turning to IoT and data analytics to deliver a uniform customer experience (front-end) and improve operational efficiencies (back-end) across different channels to stay competitive and profitable. The recent growth in multi-channel retailing has also put significant strain on traditional supply chains, with inefficiencies on the upstream side including channel-specific inventory pools, increasing out-of-stock situations, high return rates, and long lead times. One of the key challenges is the lack of visibility in the supply chain due to siloed systems, lack of collaboration among suppliers and retailers, and lack of unified data sharing platforms to provide end-to-end visibility. The above mentioned IoT solutions help grocery retailers address the following:

Availbility: Traditional grocery store retail demand is based on long-term forecast estimates from data derived through multiple sources such as store replenishment systems, surveys, and data purchased from third parties. IoT solutions that use LPWA sensor devices can help gather near real-time data on stock availability, making inventory management more scalable and reducing excess inventory.

Traceability: There is greater demand for transperancy in the supply chain for consumers who want to make informed purchase decisions based on products’ source of origin and for producers who want to identify vulnerabilities in the supply chain to make them more efficient. Traceability also helps grocery retailers quickly identify, isolate, and act on food safety issues and improves security against theft of regulated products such as cigarettes and alcohol.  

Sustainability: Key themes include focusing on supply chain sustainability in unit load equipment such as pallets, crates, dollies, and other devices and the opportunity in sharing and reuseability of resources. The Commonwealth Handling Equipment Pool (CHEP), a subsidiary of Brambles, manages over 500 million pooled assets that include pallets, trays, trolleys, and containers. In 2013, CHEP introduced the transport collaboration program in Europe, which, over the last 6 years, has amassed over 200 customers collaborating to find common transport flows to share truck space and save 4 million in empty miles and 8.7 million euros.

Recent developments in IoT and the availability of LPWA network solutions are adressing critical supply chain inefficiencies in the grocery retail industry. The convergence of LPWAN devices, cloud-based platforms, and data analytics are not only helping retailers gain valuable insights, but are also evolving from siloed systems to unified platforms, providing visibility to all the ecosystem partners within the retailer supply chain.


Companies Mentioned