Retail worker using tablet


Cooling Edge Computing in Retail Operations

The Digitalization of the Retail Industry

As boundaries between physical and digital commerce blur, retail stores are embracing innovative technologies to maintain their competitive edge. From deploying IoT sensors to track customer interactions to leveraging AI to personalize promotions in real-time, these connected technologies are providing tangible business benefits, including:

Personalized experiences

When customers enter stores, beacons interact with mobile devices and track movements to improve shopping experiences and create location-based offers. Automated systems like virtual fitting rooms and augmented reality apps increase customer engagement.

Empowered employees

Knowledgeable employees are big factors in earning customer loyalty. Cutting-edge retailers are equipping staff with mobile devices for actionable intelligence and mobile checkout. For customers who prefer self-service, apps, kiosks, and automated checkout maximize convenience.

Integrated commerce

Integrating customer and sales data across all touchpoints provides a comprehensive snapshot to enrich the shopping experience. Integration of physical locations, e-commerce, customer data, and logistics enables a more efficient and profitable demand chain. Innovations like smart shelves combined with AI and data mining keep demand forecasts current, reducing lead times and increasing agility.

Retailers Require Fast and Reliable Data Processing

Capturing, accessing, and analyzing diverse data to customize responses on the fly requires fast and reliable processing. Edge computing offers the robust processing and low latency needed to support modern retail technologies in stores, warehouses, and fulfillment centers. Edge computing relocates processing from the cloud, which is typically too distant to handle interactive applications well, to onsite servers.

Enabling Edge Computing

Edge locations like strip malls and fulfillment warehouses often don’t have dedicated IT spaces available. Reliable edge infrastructure, including components like backup power, remote management, racks and dedicated IT cooling, can keep retail locations running smoothly with minimal downtime.

Edge locations often have difficult power conditions. On-line uninterruptible power supplies (UPSs) provide a reliable battery backup, the most protection from power problems, and the best compatibility with sensitive equipment. For less critical applications, line-interactive UPSs provide excellent protection at lower cost. PDUs provide more outlets and power management for high-density racks.

Remote management allows IT managers to track systems from any distance and make changes through direct actions or automated responses. Remote management works through UPS network cards, networked power distribution units (PDUs), disaster-avoidance software, keyboard/video/mouse (KVM), and console servers.

Rack enclosures keep edge gear safe and secure. A variety of sizes, including wall‐mount cabinets, fit in tight spaces. Industrial-grade racks are ideal for harsh environments like warehouses.

Cooling Edge Computing

Cooling is often overlooked in edge locations, but edge gear generates lots of heat that can cause downtime and poor performance. Cooling starts with airflow management: keeping racks away from external heat sources, blocking hot air recirculation with blanking panels, and preventing airflow obstructions with cable managers and fitted cabling.

As equipment densities increase, precision IT cooling systems become mandatory. Cooling edge computing racks with the building HVAC might seem convenient, but comfort cooling has insufficient sizing, precision and predictability for IT applications.

Traditional computer room air conditioners (CRACs) improve precision, but are too large, costly and difficult to retrofit to edge locations. Close-coupled IT cooling systems provide an ideal balance. They deliver precise temperature control, yet provide better efficiency, predictability and ease of installation than CRACs.

There are four main types of close-coupled cooling systems available:

  1. Portable units - Roll into place with minimal disruption. They can cool a small room or focus on a hot spot through a flexible duct.
  2. Rack-mounted units - Do not require additional floor space.
  3. Top-of-rack units  - Cool higher wattages inside a rack. A bundled rack increases performance.
  4. In-row units - Install like 42U enclosures, providing sufficient capacity for multiple racks. They are compatible with containment systems to increase efficiency.

Whether cooling one wall-mount rack or a large pod of enclosures, close-coupled IT cooling helps ensure the reliability of edge computing in modern retail.

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This article was brought to you in partnership with Eaton.
Eaton manufactures energy-efficient products and services that help customers effectively manage electrical, hydraulic, and mechanical power. Capitalizing on the global growth trends of electrification and digitalization, Eaton has committed to helping customers manage power today and well into the future.


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