Verizon, Deloitte pursue 5G edge compute for retail

Verizon Business and the professional services company Deloitte unveiled a 5G and mobile edge computing (MEC) platform for retail. 

The partners are working on a variety of use cases such as improving inventory stocking, engaging with customers digitally and providing cashier-less checkout. The system will also help retailers to optimally display their merchandise to maximize sales, based on data and analytics.

Verizon’s 5G network will collect data from video cameras and sensors, and its MEC platform will analyze and process the data with the help of artificial intelligence (AI). 

Deloitte and Verizon are also collaborating with SAP to integrate SAP’s customer software suite into the platform.

The companies say they are co-developing many use cases for retail. One example is near real-time inventory management for out-of-stock items. The platform will generate automated replenishment notifications to in-store associates and also alert distribution centers to send more inventory.

Verizon’s CEO Hans Vestberg has explained that the carrier has two different kinds of 5G MEC. It has a public 5G MEC, and it’s working with Amazon Web Services (AWS) to bring this public MEC to cities across the United States. Currently, it’s deployed in 10 cities, and Verizon and AWS have a revenue sharing arrangement for that.

RELATED: Verizon’s Vestberg makes private vs. public 5G MEC distinction

Verizon also offers a private 5G MEC solution. 

Arleen Cauchi, director of partnership, business development and co-innovation at Verizon Business, said the 5G MEC solutions that the carrier is developing with Deloitte will cross both Verizon’s private and public offerings, depending on what the customer needs.

Verizon isn’t naming any customers yet for its 5G MEC solution with Deloitte.

“We have customers that we’re in the design stage around the solution for them,” said Cauchi. “There are verticals within retail, and we’re covering the gamut. I think we’re going to find certain verticals are early adopters.”

Verizon Business and Deloitte first announced that they were working together in December 2020. They said they were collaborating to create 5G MEC solutions for retail and manufacturing.

RELATED: Verizon Business and Deloitte create smart factory system

Their first collaboration was the development of a smart factory system at Verizon’s Customer Technology Center in Richardson, Texas. The system will use sensor-based detection coupled with MEC to identify and predict quality defects on the assembly line.

Microsoft also does retail MEC

Microsoft is also working on edge compute for retail. Microsoft’s EVP of Worldwide Commercial Business Judson Althoff talked a little bit about the cloud giant’s edge aspirations late last year at the UBS Global TMT Virtual Conference.

RELATED: A glimpse into Microsoft’s edge compute ambitions

Althoff gave the example of Kroger grocery stores, which is connecting advertisers with customers, digitally, in a personalized way by using Kroger’s proprietary data. He said Kroger is working on “serving up ads at the shelf edge” and “engaging with customers with on-the-spot promotions as they're walking through the store.”