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Retail transformations – the verdict

Group image from Retail Transformations – The Role of AI event speakers & Leena Vuotovesi and Jussi Leponiemi

After our joint effort event last week in Oulu on retail transformations, our heartbeat rate has calmed down, and now it’s a good moment to reflect on what actually happened and draw conclusions.

We, at BusinessOulu, are thrilled that this initiative was undertaken, and the initial feedback on the event has been overwhelmingly positive.

At first glance, it may not seem like new digital innovations and applications are a perfect match for the retail industry. However, as we delved deeper into the topic during the event, we realized that the retail sector is actually a logical first adopter of these new digital and AI-based features, as they offer tangible business benefits and enhance customer experience.

The event was launched by a highly insightful presentation by Mr. Arhi Kivilahti, which set the tone for the rest of the event.

Arhi provided excellent insights on the integration of sales channels in the retail industry, and he painted a comprehensive picture of the development of digital assets and their implementation in both international and national contexts. Based on Arhi’s presentation, it is evident that the retail sector is a natural context for piloting and testing new innovations due to its straightforward business logic and well-established supply chain system. However, it was also highlighted that Finland has not been at the forefront of adopting new solutions, and more can and should be done in this regard.

The first company presentation was given by BlockStore, and their solution was truly inspiring. BlockStore’s CEO, Mr. Juha Maijala, delivered a compelling pitch on their automated store solution and the underlying technologies powering the system.

BlockStore has achieved success in developing an automated store, and they currently have one in operation in Helsinki. Despite the complexity of the technology, the user experience appears to be seamless. It raises the question of when we might see a similar solution in Oulu.

The third presentation was delivered by Baltic Amadeus, a software development company based in Lithuania. They have an impressive track record of providing significant solutions in various sectors, including retail and banking. During the event, their Chief Product Officer, Mrs. Gintarė Milkevičiūtė, showcased their FinCell, a white-label mobile banking app that offers innovative functionalities for the banking industry.

FinCell indeed appears to be a high-quality solution, boasting seamless integration and adherence to open banking principles. Baltic Amadeus utilizes open APIs to facilitate integrations with customer’s core systems, ensuring a high level of security that aligns with industry standards. It is definitely worth taking a closer look at this innovative solution!

The morning session of the seminar was concluded by Mr. Pasi Vuorio, a renowned software developer who has recently been focusing on generative AI aspects. His expertise in this area added valuable insights to the event and further enriched the discussions.

Indeed, generative AI is currently revolutionizing various industries, and its impact on our lives is expected to be profound and rapid. Mr. Vuorio explained how this new technology has already accelerated the evolution of the software development industry, surpassing the pace of any other advancement in the past two decades. However, it is important to note that there are also potential dangers associated with the widespread deployment of generative AI, and authorities around the world are actively working on establishing limits to mitigate these risks. It is crucial to stay vigilant, learn, adopt, and be aware of the implications of this game-changing technology.

During the event, there were also workshop sessions specifically designed for developers and users of new digital solutions in the retail industry, led by Jukka Ahola from Nordea and Valtteri Kujala from Valfi. The insights provided by the attendees were impressive, highlighting the need for more interaction and collaboration between developers and industry experts to better understand the requirements of the retail sector.

Mr. Markku Mäenpää initiated the afternoon seminar session with a focus on B-to-B product segment management in the context of AI, further demonstrating the diverse range of topics covered during the event.

Putting things into perspective, it’s true that we have experienced changes and revolutions in the past, such as the hype around big data. However, with generative AI, the potential impact seems to be different due to its wide-ranging applications and ability to penetrate multiple industries. Mr. Mäenpää pointed out that generative AI is a highly versatile technology that is likely to have a profound and pervasive influence on various sectors.

The second presentation was delivered by Mr. Cheenttan Voraa from Tata Consulting Services, who spoke about TCS’s Algo Retail platform. This presentation added an international perspective to the event, showcasing the global reach and significance of the advancements in the field of retail powered by AI technology.

As the seminar progressed, it seems that TCS’s Algo Retail platform garnered attention for its ability to consolidate and interpret data from various retail processes, making it accessible and useful for decision-making at both larger retail chains and smaller units. Mrs. Jenny Heikkinen from TCS was also present, offering further information on how their platform could benefit businesses. Those interested in learning more were likely encouraged to connect with Mrs. Heikkinen for further details.

The presentation by Mr. Jukka Ahola from Nordea focused on the significance of strong identification in the current context. This highlighted the importance of robust and secure identification methods in the digital age, where data privacy and security are critical concerns. The presentation shed light on the latest developments and best practices in strong identification, providing valuable insights for the attendees.

The presentation by Aava Mobile Oy on their front-facing NFC Point-of-Sales solution was intriguing and inspiring for the attendees. The duo of Martin Aster and Toni Honkanen showcased how their innovation simplifies the payment process at the point of sale, making it more convenient and user-friendly for shoppers. It was highlighted how people often get used to certain payment processes, even if they are cumbersome or complicated, and how Aava’s solution offers a more intuitive and seamless approach.

Additionally, Aava Mobile Oy’s solution was emphasized as being versatile and integratable into existing platforms, offering potential for widespread adoption across various retail environments. This innovation aligns with the evolving trends in the retail industry towards providing enhanced user experiences and streamlining payment processes, ultimately improving customer satisfaction and loyalty.

The presentation by Sensei Tech and their innovation manager, Mr. Jose Varatojo, showcased their autonomous store solutions, which offer a seamless and fluent experience for customers visiting unmanned stores. These stores come in various sizes to cater to different needs in the retail industry. Sensei Tech highlighted their use of state-of-the-art machine vision technology to address challenges that conventional solutions may face.

The demonstration of Sensei Tech’s autonomous store solutions was impressive, showcasing the capabilities and benefits of their innovative approach. The use of machine vision technology enables efficient and convenient shopping experiences for customers, eliminating the need for traditional checkout processes and offering a new level of automation in retail.

The concept of autonomous stores was intriguing for the attendees, as it represents a potential future trend in the retail industry, offering convenience, efficiency, and enhanced customer experiences. Sensei Tech’s presentation provided valuable insights into the possibilities and advantages of their autonomous store solutions.

The event’s host, Mrs. Leena Vuotovesi from Oulu Business Center, played a pivotal role in ensuring the smooth and successful execution of the event. Her efforts in hosting the event and overseeing its proceedings were and are greatly appreciated by the organizers and attendees alike.

Acknowledging and expressing gratitude towards Mrs. Leena Vuotovesi and the Oulu Business Center for their contributions to the event also highlight the importance of collaboration and cooperation in the business and technology communities. The event provided a valuable opportunity for professionals to come together, learn from each other, and drive innovation in the retail industry.

The presence of companies such as Creoir (picture below) and Alif Semiconductor with their innovative solutions at the event added value to the overall experience for attendees. Creoir’s voice-based user interface integrated into a kiosk application showcased the potential of natural language processing and voice recognition technologies in improving customer interactions and experiences in retail settings. Alif Semiconductor’s low power AI solution demonstrated the potential for energy-efficient AI applications in the retail industry.

The opportunity to interact with these companies and see their demos on-site provided insights into the latest advancements in technology and how they can be applied to retail scenarios. It was indeed a nice and valuable opportunity for attendees to learn about new products, services, and solutions that could potentially enhance their business operations or customer experiences. Hosting companies with small stands and demos at the event all in all created a dynamic and interactive environment, fostering discussions, and encouraging exploration of cutting-edge technologies in the retail industry.

The event offered a unique platform for industry professionals to connect, collaborate, and cultivate lasting relationships that will fuel positive change in the retail industry for years to come. Networking was undoubtedly the highlight of the event, as it brought together diverse perspectives, fostered innovation, and created a vibrant community of like-minded individuals committed to shaping the future of retail through AI. The power of networking was evident as attendees engaged in meaningful discussions, shared insights, and exchanged best practices. The diverse backgrounds and expertise of the participants sparked new ideas and perspectives, driving innovation and creativity.

We warmly welcome anyone interested in the companies or their contact details that were showcased during the event to reach out to us. Let’s work together to make Finnish stores smarter, leveraging the cutting-edge technologies and innovations presented at the event. Feel free to contact us for more information, collaborations, or any inquiries. We look forward to hearing from you and driving positive transformations in the retail industry with your participation!

Best Regards and a big thank you!

ICTOulu team