The Internet of Things (IoT) and smart machines are incoming tsunamis of technology that will transform the way online grocery retailer Ocado does business, according to its IT boss.
"There are these tsunamis coming our way, one it the Internet of Things, the other one is smart machines," said Paul Clarke (pictured), director of technology at Ocado at the Re-Work Internet of Things summit.
Clarke said these technology trends are driving Ocado to create a technology-stuffed online retail platform, a version of which it provided to UK supermarket Morrisons in January 2014.
"We are in the process of re-platforming the complete business to create something we call the Ocado Smart Platform, and we're going to be using that to put grocery retailers around the world online," he said.
Clarke told V3 that this move was always the objective of the online grocery giant: "We've approached this from day one with the idea of building a platform."
The Ocado Smart Platform is essentially a re-packaged version of the system the company uses itself for the online grocery side of its business.
The platform is designed to be a true end-to-end e-commerce service for retailers, providing everything from the foundations for an online store, through to delivery services and fully automated warehouses.
Clarke said the latest version of the platform will be rolled out to two new warehouses Ocado is planning to open in Andover in 2015, and Erith, south London, by 2017.
Smart machines and the IoT already play a significant role in Ocado's day-to-day operations.
"There's a huge technology iceberg underneath the surface and we build almost all of it; we buy almost nothing," Clarke said.
He described Ocado's automated warehouses, known as customer fulfilment centres, as "an Internet of Things world in a building", where over 30 kilometres of conveyor belt smart systems pick and pack groceries with the goal of delivering them to customers during a one hour delivery slot.
Beyond the warehouses, Ocado's delivery vans contain telematics systems that transmit vehicle and location data back to Ocado's systems.
"All that data is fed back into our systems to make sure that the routes we drive tomorrow are better than the ones we drove today," Clarke explained.
Clarke said Ocado sees the IoT and smart machines playing an increasing role in cusitmer analytics at the company.
"The opportunities for us are in things like using all that data that we collect to build a holistic view of our customers - the Holy Grail is to know what they want before they have a clue themselves; we already do some of that but we can see ways to do a lot more," he said.
Part of Ocado's Smart Platform strategy will see the company hire 150 programmers to support the platform's further development.
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