The smart home has seen impressive technological innovations designed to improve sustainability and reduced energy usage, leading to a drop in associated utility expenditures. But the same is not true for businesses: The “smart store” does not yet exist.
To make the smart store a reality, the same innovations found in the smart home must be applied to brick-and-mortar retail outlets to help them manage energy usage and reduce overhead expenses.
Whether or not a retailer operates in multiple locations, energy costs take up a large percentage of overhead expenses (think refrigeration units at a grocery store or AC units running at a coffee shop on a hot summer day). Without an energy management system in place, these HVAC systems often go unchecked, unnecessarily running through the day and night. Worse yet, their energy costs are assumed to be a necessary, unchangeable factor.
Retailers have an opportunity to save immensely on energy usage and overhead expenses if similar innovations from the smart home carry over to the store. For these businesses, connected devices are the next step in focusing on sustainability while cutting costs, increasing energy efficiency and easing the work of energy managers.
At any given retail location in the United States, it’s likely facility managers are struggling to accommodate employees, customers and their temperature preferences, affecting air conditioners, furnaces and thermostats that maintain pleasant work environments — which costs money. Another expense often overlooked is when employees leave a store at the end of the day. It’s not unusual for the HVAC system to work throughout the night, even when unneeded. There is a lack of communication between the stores and their environments.
To remedy this, some large retailers use expensive, complex energy management solutions to handle their usage and lower their bills; the same types of technology are simply inaccessible to small and medium-sized stores. A major roadblock for interested business owners is the complexity of current systems, which often requires massive infrastructure changes and store downtime. While smart thermostats for the home have been streamlined to simple, elegant devices, retailers have not been so lucky.