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IoT is already in retail and thriving!

Denver/Boulder IoT Meetup
Me talking about how we built our sign to the Denver/Boulder IoT Meetup group.

It started 3 years ago

Things weren't going well at one of my previous startups. It was stressful, very stressful. I remember it was on a Friday, probably, and I had called an all-hands meeting with the team. We did it at my house. There were only a handful of us. 

The gang were on the two couches in the living room, shaped kinda like an "L", all facing the TV above the fireplace. I had prepared a presentation.

I pulled it up.

The room fell silent.

I began.

The Internet of Things

If you haven't heard of IoT lemme illustrate it to you as I have best heard it:

There was once a time when people could count the amount of things they owned that had a motor. Things like a car or maybe a watch. But, after enough time, so many things got motors that it's no longer possible to count. 

Then, electronics hit the scene and for a period of time you could count the number of items you owned with a microchip. Maybe it was a calculator or family PC. But, after enough time, so many things got microchips that it's  no longer possible to count.

I bet you can count the number of items you own that connect to the internet. Xbox, Playstation, cellphone, laptop, maybe (still) the family PC.

One day, that will no longer be true. One day, it will no longer be able possible to count.

But why does everything need to be connected to the internet!?

Doesn't it just feel like technology companies are just shoving things down our throats? I mean, why the eff would anyone want a kitchen table connected to the internet? I understand how you feel and I'm hear to tell you that you're looking at innovation from the wrong angle. You see... 

Necessity is the mother of all invention.

You can't just invent new products as soon as I say "kitchen table" + "internet". At least, I can't. What will happen is some people will run smack into a problem that connecting their kitchen table to the internet will solve. Then, when they release it, we'll all say...

Oh damn, I wish I woulda thought of that!

You have to be faced with a problem and the invention is the solution. Bonus points if a lot of other people have the same problem because then you have the seeds of an idea for a new company!

All right... I get it, but I was told there would be "Retail" in this blog 

Oh, I'm sorry, is my 'trying to write an engaging post' getting in the way of your busy day?

Too bad!

The guys did the same thing some of you did when they were convinced this was a real thing coming. They started coming up with a million and one ideas on things you could connect to the internet. So many ideas in-fact, that one of them ended up being inspiration for our haunted house. But mostly they were terrible.

Stop! 

We're engineers, not inventors! "Instead of coming up with ideas," I suggested, "lets build the skill sets we need to be ready for when people come asking us to build IoT."

We spent the next few years learning what we could about the upcoming revolution and how to best become productive engineers in the space. 

Then, Becca came up with the idea of Spruce and well, lets just say I was ready.

Booooring, what did you build for the shop?

FINE. I'm going to list the "things" we have at the shop that are connected to the internet as of April 5, 2016: 

Connected Menu Board

Internet Connected Menu Board

This one of a kind, chalk style, digital menu board not only outlines each service, their price, and duration. It also shows the real time wait time! Go head and click the image to see it in action. Why? Because looking it up in a book or on a phone takes too long.

 

Internet connected shoe display

Internet Connected Shoe Display

Our shoe display shows our live inventory and allows clients to ping the team with the style+color+size of the pair they want to try on. Why? Really, I have to explain this one? You mean, you like getting constantly hounded by shoe salesmen? Or better yet, how about when you want to try a pair on and they're nowhere to be found? 

turn away button

Internet Connected Turn-Away Button

We push this anytime we have to turn a client away and it scatter plots in our reporting area by day of week and time of day. Why? Being able to tell exactly when we are understaffed is amazingly empowering. It takes a lot of guesswork out of schedule building. 

internet connected coffee table

Internet Connected Coffee Table

A retro game station that doubles as a coffee table. Or is it a coffee table that doubles as a retro game station? Why? We're Spruce, did you think you'd be stuck reading magazines while waiting for your appointment?

pedestrian tracker

Internet Connected Pedestrian Triplines

We can draw lines over a live video feed and count how many people cross them. Why? Knowing how busy our street is when we're closed is neat. Also, we plan on using this to track conversion rates on our signage. Click image to read blog post.

Internet connected dressing rooms

Internet Connected Dressing Rooms

Swiping through photos on the screen changes the lighting to match. Why? Seeing yourself in a different light is a good thing, trust us. Also, this is eventually going to do much more, this is just the step 1.

Internet Connected Sign

Internet Connected Sign

At 5pm it lights up wicked bright. Also, whenever someone books it does a little light show. Why? "I came in because I saw your sign." 

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