The annual Conexxus conference was just held in Chicago, and ADD Systems was there to contribute, learn and participate. Conexxus describes itself as a “member-driven technology organization dedicated to the development and implementation of standards, technologies innovation and advocacy for the convenience store and petroleum market.” Its work sets the stage for technology development in the industry.
This year’s theme was the “Industrial Revolution 4.0”. What does that mean? Essentially, it refers to the fourth industrial revolution that we are part of right now – a heightened level of interconnectedness, including digital, physical and biological. The Internet of Things (IoT), automation and artificial intelligence (AI) are just a few of the pieces pulling the world together. At the conference, Conexxus explained where we are, what we can expect right down the road, and what the future may hold. It was both highly technical and fascinating.
One of the main topics at the show was Artificial Intelligence (AI). AI is defined by Merriam-Webster as “…the simulation of intelligent behavior in computers,” or “the capability of a machine to imitate intelligent human behavior.” Its use in the convenience store industry is expected to take off in the coming years to help in areas including fraud prevention, product management, inventory and marketing. Rather than you having to look at every report and make decisions, it will be able to do some of that decision-making for you. You’ll be looking at fast reactions, predictive behaviors and a huge time-savings.
A frequent buzzword at the conference was “frictionless.” In other words, making a customer’s experience as simple as possible – no hassle, less clicks, less “friction.” The easier something is to buy, the more likely you are to buy it, and we have all heard the buzz about the new Amazon Go cashierless convenience store. Low friction customer contact is a key area for growth in the industry right now.
A second topic was blockchain. Essentially, rather than the current central server structure, where that server is responsible for all security, blockchain technology is a distributed database where records are written and shared with multiple nodes for verification. Once a transaction is written, it is linked in a chain to the previous transaction and cannot be altered. This means the possibilities for fraud are virtually eliminated. It also means that the entire history of the transaction is saved permanently. This technology is relevant to the c-store industry for many applications, but most notably, it could address fraud surrounding loyalty, age-restricted sales, and digital offers and coupons.
Chris Kiernan, Director of Retail Applications at ADD Systems described the event as, “The Conexxus annual conference is a great networking event for vendors and retailers to exchange ideas and experiences and discuss the latest technology trends. Good progress was made with the POS/Back Office committee as we continue to refine and enhance the interface standard.”
The conference was full of information and exciting predictions for the future. We’re only at the beginning of “Industrial Revolution 4.0,” and we see an amazing ride ahead of us.