Using Technology to Improve Customer Experience and Vision for Retail IoT – Futurum Tech Webcast Interview Series
by Daniel Newman | January 18, 2022

On this special episode of the Futurum Tech Webcast – Interview Series live from NRF 2022, I am joined by Art Miller, Senior Director Global Retail IoT Business Development at Qualcomm, for a conversation around NRF 2022, Qualcomm’s vision for IoT and the future of retail.

Using Technology to Improve Customer Experience and Vision for Retail IoT

In our conversation we discussed the following:

  • The expansion of IoT in the retail industry
  • How the blending of online and offline experiences is going to impact the future of retail
  • An overview of the partners Qualcomm is working with
  • How big the opportunity is for the retail industry and Qualcomm as a whole
  • Trends that we are seeing at NRF 2022

It was an excellent conversation with several insightful tidbits. If you are interested in learning more about Qualcomm’s IoT portfolio, be sure to check out their website.

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Daniel Newman: Hey, everybody. Welcome back to another addition of the Futurum Tech Webcast. I’m Daniel Newman, Principal Analyst and founding partner at Futurum Research. Excited for this interview series pod that we are doing, webcast video, with Art Miller from Qualcomm. We’re going to be talking IoT and NRF. We’re going to be talking a little bit about Qualcomm’s vision, and I’m super excited to have this conversation today. Art, welcome to the Futurum Tech Webcast. Excited to have you.

Art Miller: Hey, Dan. Thanks for having me.

Daniel Newman: It’s almost … God, it’s not February. It’s January. It just feels like the year’s already been long, but we’re heading into another year. It’s mid-January. We are off to NRF. I, by the way, just came back from CES, a little bit crazy. You and I are here, still doing these interviews by video because we are still in a world that’s a little bit abnormal, but I’m really excited to actually get in front of you and be face to face, because Qualcomm is back. I mean, CES, big presence. Considering so many weren’t in NRF, you guys are trucking through and making sure that the vision is being heard.

Art Miller: Yes. Yeah. We’re pretty excited about it. No, some people are nervous. We’re going. Unless they tell me I can’t, I’ll be there Saturday evening.

Daniel Newman: Hey, we may even cross planes in the air, because I’m heading out that way same time. Get in late Saturday night. Excited for Sunday. Monday’s a holiday, but in retail it’s not a holiday. In retail, the show goes on. Yeah, excited to be out there, and excited to have you join me here for this particular show.

Setting the stage a little bit, Qualcomm has been on a bit of a tear. I’ve had several chances to get out there as an analyst to comment on what’s going on with Qualcomm. Last earnings, you guys had a really great set of results. Not going to ask you to speak to that, but you had some great results where one of the big focuses really became some of the various business units outside of the traditional handset that are really big for Qualcomm right now. Fast-forward to investor day, the company made a big announcement. First of all, showed a total vision, everything from RF, IoT, automotive, also that it’s Apple-proof, which was big for the company, that so much business now sits outside of that part, giving more and more confidence to the market.

Last week, CES, got to hear and talk to Cristiano for quite a bit. Nobody was there. It was such a small turnout. I got a lot of face time. He continues to talk on about what’s the future of automotive, and of course over the last several years, IoT has been one of the topics that he’s constantly been talking about, now a multi-billion dollar annual business for the company, and you’re leading the vision. First and foremost, let’s just talk a little bit about this whole expansion into the IoT in the retail business and what you’re thinking about.

Art Miller: Sure, absolutely. You mentioned it. Cristiano’s outed us, so to speak, with respect to IoT, and we’ve been hiding, building businesses behind the scenes. We’ve built many successful businesses, as you mentioned, billion dollar-plus per quarter business, without much fanfare. Now, now we’re exposed. Now we need to talk about it. I specifically am responsible for our retail IoT vision, and as Cristiano’s stated, as we look into adjacencies to mobile, retail IoT actually is a big part of that expansion. We’re excited about it for sure.

Daniel Newman: Yeah. It’s got to be a big part. Like I said, I’m glad you pointed out that little bit of a demarcation, because IoT is a fairly significant market opportunity. Of course, Qualcomm plays in a number of different parts of IoT. You’ve got the wearables and hearable type business, you’ve got the industrial of course, sensors and technology that are being used, and Qualcomm’s playing in all those spaces. Then of course retail which is your baby, you lead that which is a huge thing.

As we’re moving into this next era of blended experience, right, and we’re moving into a world where, post-pandemic, crossing our fingers that we’re getting there, we’ve got this immersion of online and offline and what I like to call the experience economy, I wrote a book called Digital Transformation in the Experience Economy: Building Dragons, we called it, and this is five years ago, six years. The experience economy’s been rising for decades now, and more than ever now, hybrid, hybrid shopping, presence, digital connectivity, all these things. Talk a little bit about how you see this immersion taking place and the impact it’s going to have on retail. What kind of trends are we going to hear about at NRF and things like that that our new world is being shaped by?

Art Miller: Sure. Yeah. As you mentioned, we’ve been talking about it. People have been talking about experiential things for some time. I think online forced physical to start rethinking what they were doing. I don’t think it was ever enough motivation to really force them to do something. I think some of the pandemic things, the changes in behavior, our expectations of wanting to have things delivered to our home, or go in to a store if we’d like to but stay outside, go pick something up at curbside. A lot of things have changed from our expectations on experience versus what people were thinking that experience would be some time ago.

We see now technology, it’s ripe for technology to be deployed. There were some ROIs that didn’t make sense on their own before, and now with a lot of the pandemic headwinds of labor shortages and increase in wages, we see technology now being pushed in to make things more efficient, make employees more efficient, and then make the experience better for us as people who shop in retail environments.

I’m excited. We think it’s digitizing the edge, digitizing everything, will eventually allow us to have a physical online experience. They will be able to make relevant recommendations in real time. They’ll know what our basket is. They’ll know what we’re looking at. If you opt in, I think you’re going to have a great time, just like you do online with relevant recommendations.

Daniel Newman: Yeah. There’s going to be a really big movement towards finding balance, I believe, over the next few years, I think to your point, to create these in-store experiences that match in equal, because we still like to shop, Art. I mean, that’s one of the weird things. Like I said, I’m a guy and I still let my wife help me pick out my clothes and stuff, so I’m not the best shopper. Things I do love to shop for are electronics, vehicles. I understand that you can do a lot of the shopping online, but I want to go see. I want to touch. I want to feel. I want to experience. You hear about things like Purple mattresses now. The store, you don’t walk out with a mattress. They have an experience store. Tesla’s done kind of the same thing. You go in, you experience. You don’t walk out with the vehicle. There’s no inventory.

We’re seeing like, A, there’s all e-commerce. B, there’s the traditional going to Walmart or Target. You go to the store, you fill up your basket. Now you’re getting these blended experiences where you go into a store, you experience, you touch, you feel, you get sized, fitted, it could be for golf clubs, whatever, and then sometime later in the future, they optimize it. That could be optimized through using data, analytics, using sensors. Then of course, they want to connect and blend that whole thing, because you maybe started your journey in the store. Then you’ve got your product in your house, and then how do they keep data coming that has you buy more products and expand that relationship? I love that you’re sharing this.

I mean, I’m going to be candid, Art. I know a little more than most about Qualcomm, because as an analyst, we track, but I’m going to ask you a leading question, because I think most people don’t think of you guys in this space. It’s just not where they think of you. They think of you about handsets. Slowly but surely, maybe they’re starting to think about you for RF and where you’re not leading. In IoT, even retail IoT, you’ve got some importance. What’s the opportunity for Qualcomm, for your partners? Who are you working with on this stuff?

Art Miller: Sure. Okay. You know, it’s funny. In fact, when I meet with retailers, they’re not even aware sometimes who Qualcomm is. Oftentimes they’re not aware they’re already embracing some of our technology. If you start looking at the very basic industrial handhelds being used by associates, those are typically powered by Qualcomm. If you go to check a price in the aisle, the newer versions are powered by Qualcomm. If you’ve ever interacted in a small or medium business with a Clover or Square device, very likely powered by Qualcomm. We have partners that have changed their traditional devices to use Qualcomm. We’ve been behind the scenes, like I said, but when you look at enterprise access points, using augmented reality or virtual reality to train a fairly transient workforce in retail, we’ve been engaged there.

When you step back, we’re already there. We’re already relevant. Now we’re having conversations. Because of our broad portfolio and our one-technology roadmap that can enable multiple verticals, we’re having conversations with retailers themselves. Once they get past the, “Hey, you’re treating us as a vendor,” they start to treat us as a trusted advisor. You know, we can advise them. If they want to talk Bluetooth, we can do that. If they want to talk 5G, we can do that. We’re in a unique position to step in and maybe help them out where they may have some deficiencies from a knowledge-based perspective. We’re already there. We’re starting to talk use cases instead of just technology with them.

Daniel Newman: Well, first of all, thanks for validating. What I say sometimes about Qualcomm is it’s probably one of the world’s largest companies that people don’t know they’re using. It’s constantly in the handhelds, in the phones and stuff. It’s like they never had that inside concept that created the awareness, but it doesn’t matter if you’re using an iPhone or a Samsung device. There’s Qualcomm technology, whether it’s patents and innovation, licensing, or actual chipsets themselves. That’s where I see these businesses going.

Connectivity is the future. Of course, we’ve all agreed that these networks like 5G that have high availability, throughput, can keep people connected at high speeds, stadiums, stores, right? We’re talking about the retail store. How often do you go into a store and they historically, if you’re in the back of a Walmart, you’re like, “God, I can’t even connect. My signal got weak.” It’s because you’re in a giant metal building.

With the way 5G and small cells are being implemented into buildings now, you’re going to have really high-quality connectivity. That connectivity is going to allow you to be in an aisle, using computer vision to see who you are and what you’re putting in your basket, and how that should shape maybe what offer you would get next, or how you use wayfinding to get a more intelligent experience running through the store.

All these things are possible. You guys have all the technologies, all the subset of technologies that stores can do this, but they need to know you exist. When you’re talking to these people, how big is the opportunity? Are you guys starting to size this market at all and starting to understand how big, A, it is for the industry, and how big, B, it is, Art, for you and for Qualcomm?

Art Miller: Sure, yeah. We do, actually. The number, when you start talking about the industry with retail, if you start breaking down just food and grocery, that’s a trillion dollar-plus industry just in the U.S. Then let’s break it down in the grocery, one step further. Maybe that’s 70%. Now you look at the inefficiencies. They don’t know where their stuff is. Helping them keep product on the shelves. These are multibillion-dollar problems that these big retailers are trying to solve. If we can just put technology in there to save that, give them visibility, we can do fairly well at Qualcomm, or technologists or our partners can do very well helping to simplify the retailers’ lives.

It’s billions. The market’s trillions. It all depends on where you want to slice that pie, but it’s massive. From our perspective, we’re investing heavily across all modes. We’re looking at different checkout modalities. We’re looking at, again, focusing on experience, because people are going to have a great experience and not realize there’s amazing technology behind it, or that retailers are actually saving money or monetizing behavior. It’s going to be fun.

Daniel Newman: Wouldn’t you actually say that to some extent, the less we see the technology, actually the more the experience can be enabled? I mean, nobody’s walking into the store saying, “God, I want to see a bunch of sensors and I want a bunch more devices, and I want my cart to be connected. I want my basket to have little … I want the shelves.” I mean, no one wants that. All they want is the transparency.

That’s why the things like the Go stores that Amazon are building are so interesting to people, because it’s like how seamless can we build technology in my life? To be able to walk into a store, grab a few goods, walk out the store, pay for them, not have to add interactions I don’t need. Self-checkouts are cool, but it’s like I don’t remember taking this job as being a checkout person at the store. Yet somehow, the technology that has somewhat supposed to been convenient has actually added work to our lives. Potentially maybe the retailers make more money from it, but it’s actually not necessarily put less friction into the experience.

Now you’re talking about technologies that can reduce friction, increase delight, and actually make people more excited about those in-person experiences. Which like I said, I think people still want, and we’re going to get a little bit more of that this week when we’re at NRF and we’re seeing what’s coming out and what’s new, so let’s talk about that. Let’s pivot a little bit. By the way, Art, I think Cristiano put the TAM, the current TAM now with all the diversification of the business and segments, at like $700 billion, is what he said, over the next decade. I think it’s something like that. It was in a slide.

Art Miller: I like to use the official, “It’s massive,” number instead.

Daniel Newman: Right. To some people, massive is like 50 bucks. It just depends on the day.

Art Miller: It’s all relative.

Daniel Newman: Sure. Yeah. I think $700 billion was the number that flashed. I don’t remember the exact year. That’s across IoT, automotive, the whole thing, but to your point.

Art Miller: Yeah, we’ve shown them billions on just the retail side. We’ve certainly added into that 700. It’s just now we need to execute. Like I said, we’ve been hiding for a while. We’re out in the open, so now we’ll start giving you guys updates.

Daniel Newman: Absolutely. I can’t wait to hear more and share more. Speaking of sharing more and hearing more, as we get to NRF, what are some of the trends that you’re seeing that are going to be big this year, especially as with related to retail and IoT specifically?

Art Miller: Sure. It all goes back to experience. We’re focusing on experience and use cases using technology to improve experience, whether it’s the associate or the customer. Over the horizon, we’re looking at different payment paradigms, things that make it easier to pay, and by the way, pay as if it’s a card-present transaction. There’s a whole hidden ecosystem of payment. We think there’s some opportunity there. Reducing friction, you mentioned it many times. I think that’s a key aspect, things like smart carts and unattended retail. We see biometrics becoming a bigger deal, and obviously respecting people’s privacy, but we do. Whether it’s your face, your fingerprint, your voice, your palm, whatever it may be, I think that’s going to be your key.

Automation being another big thing, you may see some of these. I had someone challenge me recently, saying, “Retail is shrinking, why are you investing in retail?” The reality is retail’s not shrinking, it’s changing. You may see some of these physical assets turn into maybe half automated stores for delivery and the other half experience. I think we’re going to see some of that, automation, biometrics, different payment paradigms, different experiential things. It’s all about reducing friction and having a better experience.

Daniel Newman: Yeah. You know, an unrelated related topic, I think about, when I go through clear at the airport, how great the biometrics are and what that can actually offer in terms of security, streamlining your entire airport experience. Now, I know that’s not retail, but you think about how that could be carried over to shopping, just safely, securely making payments. The fact that we actually still pull out our credit cards to pay for stuff is pretty wild to me at times, that we haven’t gotten past that yet.

The proliferation of data of course is going to be massive, and I do agree with you. We spent the last year talking about the chip shortage, which makes me laugh, because we actually produced globally like 20% more chips year over year. We were short because the demand is ripping. The same thing here. The overall demand to shop is growing. The way we shop is changing. The fact is, when we’re measuring retail, we’re looking at it through the paradigm of what retail was 20 years ago.

When you look at blended experiences where we started, Art, retail is growing, and it’s just retail is now a combination of doing it on our phones, doing it on our computers, on our tablets, and then doing it in stores and in experience centers, in our vehicles, chatting to our smart speakers. I mean, there’s just a lot of different ways now, but it’s still retail.

Art Miller: Absolutely. Then one other thing you’ll probably see is potentially more use of augmented reality, whether it’s virtual reality for training or endless-aisle experiences sitting at home, or if it’s glasses that an associate’s wearing to make them more effective picking. Because remember, the job we used to do for free was the picking part. Now the retailers are stuck doing that. There’s a lot of retailers looking at how do they become more efficient on things they hadn’t planned for before the pandemic. It’s kind of a big deal.

Daniel Newman: Well, we’re paying for it. I mean, these companies are smart. They know. I do a lot of pickup now, grocery. I don’t have it delivered, but we do a lot of where you order from a store and you pull into the spot and they put it in the car. I mean, it’s the perfect blend of on and off. You pay a little bit more for that experience, but it is certainly convenient. Some people, like I said, get the grocery all the way to their door. Same with retail, right? There’s all kinds of these applications. By the way, I love the XR example. Your glasses, really cool glasses. At some point in the future, though, those may be producing some data and some insights right in front of your eyes.

Of course, you can’t say metaverse without Qualcomm. I know you’re not necessarily … that’s not the immediate focus, and metaverse is a little bit as much of a trend or theme or buzz as it is a thing right now. The key of being able to immerse ourselves one level deeper, that’s not new. I mean, being able to wear something and pick up a wine bottle. I’ve seen those. I forget which wine it was. I think it was Something Crimes, where you would have the augmented reality on the bottle.

Art Miller: Exactly.

Daniel Newman: I mean, in the future it could be giving you data about what you’re drinking and what you’re buying, so you can look at it through a glass and it gives you a little pop-up display, other wines you might like and flavors and tastes and recommendations, right?

Art Miller: Or allergy information, right? Everyone seems to have a gluten allergy. My daughter has a nut allergy, so we’re constantly checking labels. It’d be nice just to look at them and say, “Big X, this is not good for you,” or, “Yes, this meets your criteria.” It’s all about experience again, and what we expect as consumers is changing. You mentioned your car. I don’t think that’s the best experience today, pulling in, calling a number, waiting for someone to bring something out. When you look at our vast portfolio in the connected auto, there’s no reason your car couldn’t notify the store that you just arrived, and the robot assistant comes out of the back with your groceries. Now it truly is seamless. There’s still a lot of room. We’ve embraced technology. We’ve embraced certain modalities for shopping, but I think there’s a lot of room to still let technology take it even further.

Daniel Newman: Absolutely. Your C-V2X, could be the car. It could be the device in the car, the app. When I get to the gym, it knows I’m at the gym, and it actually gives me, because my pass to go into the gym is on the phone. It’ll prompt me, say, “Hey.” It’ll even tell me because of my behavior now. The phone tells me, “Hey, your gym is nine minutes away right now,” at noon, because I often go at lunch. Instead of eating lunch, I like to work out.

My point is that type of intelligence, there’s no reason that working with you guys, you couldn’t create a similar type of intelligence that says, “Hey, this person’s habits and behaviors.” There is an opt-in element. You need to opt in. That’s part of the privacy and the data of the future, but people that want great experiences should have the on-ramps to opt in to make sure those experiences can be as good as possible. With data, you guys are capable of doing all of that.

Let’s end on this question, Art, maybe just a thoughtful either prediction, or in your view about Qualcomm and the business you’re leading, what is next, and what is the biggest way you see Qualcomm really leading the innovation for these retailers into the future?

Art Miller: Yeah, I think the next is tying it all together. The technology exists today. It’s tying it all together and doing something meaningful with it. That’s the role, I think, that Qualcomm, the big role we can play, is how does the robot system interact with the associate? How do the AR glasses interact with the shelf edge? How does the shelf edge interact with the consumers they go through? I think the technology exists. We can make all of this work today. We can make every use case work today. It’s that seamless integration so that, as you said, you’re not seeing technology when you walk in a store, you’re experiencing technology. I think that’s the big thing for us. We’ve already proven we can do these use cases, using mobile assets or assets originally intended for mobile. I think now it’s tying them all together.

Daniel Newman: Yeah. I think that’s almost what we were just alluding to, right, when you start talking about all these technologies, your phones, your devices, your cars, the stores themselves, your online, your experience, your behaviors, all that data, putting it across, putting it in the cloud, making it immediately accessible, putting it on the network, giving people options, a continuum of options of privacy, and then really letting people set the experience that they want. It sounds like you guys are well on your way, working with a lot of key players and customers, and I’m excited.

I know at NRF this year, you’re going to be really sharing your full vision, which is a lot of what we covered here. Art, I want to thank you so much for taking the time to join me here in the Futurum Tech Webcast. NRF is always a great show. I do look forward to, another year from now, the show getting even bigger. Me, though, I mean, I was already in February when we started this show. I’m ahead of myself, but at the same time we’ve got a big week ahead, and I hope you have safe travels and appreciate it. Let’s get back on soon and let’s talk about this a few months, and keep this conversation going for all the customers, users and people across the tech industry that want to know.

Art Miller: Absolutely. Thanks for having me, Dan.

Daniel Newman: Yeah. Thanks, everybody for tuning in today. Really appreciate it. Art Miller, Qualcomm’s Vice President of Business Development for its retail IoT business. At NRF next week, so make sure that if you aren’t, that you’re following that hashtag, checking it out. Hit Subscribe for more of our shows, more executives and insiders and interviews here on the Futurum Tech Webcast. For this episode, I gotta go, say goodbye. We’ll see you later.

About the Author

Daniel Newman is the Principal Analyst of Futurum Research and the CEO of Broadsuite Media Group. Living his life at the intersection of people and technology, Daniel works with the world’s largest technology brands exploring Digital Transformation and how it is influencing the enterprise. Read Full Bio