Innovation Research Committee

 Welcome to the Conexxus Innovation Research Committee!

 

IRC Field Trip Nov 2022 - 2
IRC Field Trip Nov 2022 - 1
IRC Field Trip Nov 2022 - 3

 

 

About the Innovation Research Committee (IRC):

The mission of this Conexxus committee is to identify, research, and bring forth new approaches in emerging technologies and related innovations that promise future impact on the convenience and energy retail industry.  The IRC serves as a Roundtable of the industry’s best technologists and innovators, is responsible for leading field trips to centers of innovation to engage with leading investors in new technologies relevant to the industry, and defining the ever-evolving technology “road map” that brings clarity to the fast-paced, and often confusing, changes in the industry’s technology ecosystem.

The membership of this Conexxus committee is comprised of engaged retailers, along with Conexxus staff and specific NACS staff members.  If your organization is not currently a Conexxus member, you may still join this committee for up to a full year with no membership fees.

Request to Join

NEXT MEETING: Monday, May 1st, in person during the Conexxus Annual Conference
(request meeting invite details by emailing [email protected])

 

Roadmap Presentations

The IRC is committed to actively working through the year to bring research, discussion, and new approaches forward for practical technology solutions for the convenience and energy industry.  

View recent presentations and discussions, and contact us to become a part of this work!

 

 

5+ Year Roadmap
Presented: Oct 2022

View Presentation

 

Retailer Insights
Presented: Aug 2022

View Presentation

 


Press Coverage

 

Innovation All Around Us | February 2, 2023

Conexxus’ Innovation Research Committee members took to the road once again, this time attending the National Retail Federation’s Big Show.  A full afternoon of touring the booths kept our core group engaged and on our feet; getting us ready for an evening recap of what we saw and heard.  We met other Conexxus members and friends along our way to each new booth, which reinforced that being at NRF was important to many in the industry. Our 20-minute visits with nine suppliers covered both innovative and practical solutions to today’s business challenges. Read More...

Read the Article

 

 

C-Store Artificial Intelligence is Alive  | NACS Daily | November 10, 2022

Innovation came to life for the Conexxus Innovation Research Committee (IRC) during a recent field trip that members made to multiple sites in Austin, Texas. One of the hallmarks of the IRC is to experience what’s new for the industry firsthand.

A visit to a new TXB Stores location in Georgetown, Texas, was on the list not only to taste its breakfast taco but also to see how an artificial intelligence pilot utilizing existing security camera system has progressed. Utilizing SparkCognition’s Visual AI Advisor solution, the insights from the location visit were intriguing and revealing.  Read More...

 

Read the Article

 


 

 

 

Innovation All Around Us

Conexxus’ Innovation Research Committee members took to the road once again, this time attending the National Retail Federation’s Big Show.

By Ed Collupy  - February 2, 2023

IRC Jan Field Trip #2
IRC Jan 2023 - 1
IRC Jan 2023 3

 

Conexxus’ Innovation Research Committee members took to the road once again, this time attending the National Retail Federation’s Big Show. It’s an annual event that years ago when I first attended still had vendors selling coat hangers and merchandising fixtures, along with a good size presence of technology solution providers! Today, it is all about technology; even those whose core product may not be tech-first certainly play up how technology is helping them get to market.

A full afternoon of touring the booths kept our core group engaged and on our feet; getting us ready for an evening recap of what we saw and heard.  We met other Conexxus members and friends along our way to each new booth, which reinforced that being at NRF was important to many in the industry. Our 20-minute visits with nine suppliers covered both innovative and practical solutions to today’s business challenges.

New possibilities for the c-store industry were seen at the HuLoop Automation and Ariadne Maps booths. HuLoop, along with RadiusAI showed us the power of Artificial Intelligence in areas such as automating manual and often repeatable work processes and how computer vision technology paired with AI can optimize in-store operational activities. On the other hand, Ariadne demonstrated their technology that is not dependent on computer vision, an app, or networking to provide data analytics and alerting in areas such as people counting and employee scheduling.

The Point of Sale evolution for convenience/energy retailers could begin to look quite different based on what we saw with GK Software, who is about to pilot their solution with a major industry player. Along with Toshiba and Diebold Nixdorf, GK Software recognizes the need to advance POS solutions that the rest of the retail industry has seen for many years – a more open architecture providing for easier integration and the ability to add features/functions faster. More to come in the near future from all of them. NCR, well known to our industry, took us through their Next Generation Self-Checkout and Software Defined Store that is a core part of their solutions moving forward.

We learned about an interesting IoT add-on to Logile’s core Workforce Management solution from their partner, BluLine Solutions, whose devices are currently used by some in our industry. Logile’s Food Safety module is supported by a former public health inspector and Giant Eagle/GetGo Food Safety leader who described how when all integrated, employee expertise and training certifications can be tied to the tasks for which associates will be scheduled and the IoT monitoring tied to task management.

IT team members from Lowe’s walked us through how Zebra Technologies’ "Modern Store" is coming to life for them in operating their home improvement stores to be better for associates, managing inventory, and delivering a great customer experience. To hear and see it in action from people making decisions based on in-store experiences and feedback they’ve lived through is always more powerful than listening to a sales pitch.

With an estimated 35,000 people in attendance at NRF, our small Conexxus IRC group received an insider’s view focused on the digital transformation of stores through in-store experiences dependent on both store employees and supporting technologies thanks to the solution providers we spent time with.

Ed Collupy is the innovation facilitator at Conexxus, which is a nonprofit, member-driven technology organization dedicated to the development and implementation of standards, technologies innovation and advocacy for the convenience store and retail fueling market.


 

C-Store Artificial Intelligence Is Alive

The Conexxus Innovation Research Committee visited TXB and an AI lab to see how store security is being enhanced.

As Originally Appeared in the NACS Daily - By Ed Collupy  - November 10, 2022

ALEXANDRIA, Va.—Innovation came to life for the Conexxus Innovation Research Committee (IRC) during a recent field trip that members made to multiple sites in Austin, Texas. One of the hallmarks of the IRC is to experience what’s new for the industry firsthand.

A visit to a new TXB Stores location in Georgetown, Texas, was on the list not only to taste its breakfast taco but also to see how an artificial intelligence pilot utilizing existing security camera system has progressed. Utilizing SparkCognition’s Visual AI Advisor solution, the insights from the location visit were intriguing and revealing.

To review the data, we visited with SparkCognition representatives at their offices and HyperWerx lab on a 50-acre site. The time together was educational and provided engaging discussion between an AI-solution provider and industry leaders who were ready to learn and participate. These leaders especially wanted to ensure that the needs of convenience and energy retailers were effectively being addressed using emerging technologies.

 

Computer Vision 

Professor Bruce Porter, SparkCognition’s chief science officer, provided a concise primer into neural networks and how utilizing public domain images are brought together to create AI solutions that are being used in many industries and are about to emerge in the retail convenience/energy market. He told us that the 2020s is the “decade of computer vision.”

IRC Chair Doug New, CIO at Nouria Energy, also provided a series of video clips from one of his stores, showing how utilizing existing cameras can become the basis for mapping out computer vision AI use cases and generating useful business insights with the SparkCognition solutions. The most exciting part of this discussion was members chiming in with additional use cases for the technology, which otherwise would be overlooked as potential opportunities or too time consuming with today’s camera and DVR technology.

Although TXB’s Georgetown store became a remote AI lab and learning center with its live-feed cameras, there was no visible disruption that stood out within the store itself, indicating that such advanced technology was being analyzed. The outstanding look and feel of the store—the great merchandising of private-label products, the drama of tacos being made from scratch, a checkout area with video signage to help both customers and cashiers with lottery ticket selection, a forecourt with large display fuel dispensers—all became useful elements from what the already-existing TXB cameras were watching.

These cameras were originally installed for security and safety, and the store video images are currently being used reactively, as is the case with most convenience stores.

 

AI Insights From TXB 

SparkCognition had been collecting video data from the TXB store for less than two weeks, and in that short time, the TXB team was able to learn:

  • The demographic mix of shoppers
  • Where and how people are traversing the store and spending time
  • Service-level measures at the foodservice and checkout counters
  • Movement of customers from forecourt to store

All of these discoveries have since led to new actionable insights for the TXB management team in order to improve business opportunities.

A real-time dashboard revealed the insights to the TXB team, and amazingly, they never needed to see the actual video images. SparkCognition’s solution “watched” the live feeds for them, utilized their AI capabilities and continued to report back against pre-defined scenarios TXB wanted to observe 24/7.

The store manager asked that in addition to mobile alerts, a task list be created that summarizes key things he needed to correct or pay further attention to, which was quickly added to the dashboard. The review of what had been done over a couple of weeks for TXB became a collaborative discussion among the IRC field trip attendees as to how computer vision AI could be further utilized.

Dozens of possible use cases emerged that could address real concerns of retailers in areas of safety, consumer insights, fraud detection, forecourt and store conditions, along with service levels and labor efficiencies.

 

IRC Welcomes Participation 

During Conexxus’ formation of the IRC earlier this year, committee members outlined a series of 12 challenges that were preventing them from innovating at their companies. During the course of the day and half at TXB and SparkCognition, we found there are solutions coming to the industry that will already address some of the “Dirty Dozen” list such as:

  • Speed to market (impressive and actionable data in less than one week)
  • Overcoming antiquated technology (can use legacy camera systems)
  • Overcoming complexity (low-code/no-code)
  • The need for disruptors (new industry player)

The Conexxus IRC will continue this vital work to advance the technology available and utilized within our industry to improve the organizations that are ready to join our journey.

Any retailer from any functional area in the industry is welcome to join this Innovation Research Committee. Marketing, finance and other business-focused colleagues who have participated so far have been outstanding contributors to the committee’s mission. Conexxus invites industry representatives interested in joining us to reach out to [email protected] to join our efforts in researching and solving for innovative solutions to the c-store and energy retailer industry.

Ed Collupy is the innovation facilitator at Conexxus, which is a nonprofit, member-driven technology organization dedicated to the development and implementation of standards, technologies innovation and advocacy for the convenience store and retail fueling market.