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How Ayla’s Cloud IoT Platform Helps Businesses Transform

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Foodservice is an asset-heavy industry with unpredictable failure rates that could benefit from digitization. (iStock/izikMd)
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A major regional chain of c-store/gas stations was facing a couple of serious but not untypical challenges for a fast-growing company with foodservice operations.

One concerned how to roll out menu changes and seasonal product introductions more efficiently at its more than 800 stores. Its legacy process was slow and inefficient, and involved rolling a service truck and manually uploading data.

Its other challenge was to find a better way to keep on top of the maintenance of the literally thousands of pieces of kitchen equipment it owned. Each asset was monitored individually, and the company lacked a single pane-of-glass view of its kitchen and overall facilities’ operations.

With the use of its cloud-based Internet of Things (IoT) platform, Ayla Networks helped this client improve efficiencies and profitability. The retailer today can introduce new products faster, contributing to a projected revenue boost that approaches 10%. Plus, by getting on top of preventive maintenance, the company can avoid expensive unscheduled downtime and lost revenue.

“IoT technology is all about connecting physical assets and digitizing them and connecting them to the cloud,” explains Prashanth Shetty, chief marketing officer for Ayla Networks. “And the point of doing that is to start generating data coming from those devices and doing meaningful things with that data to either improve operations, create new growth opportunities or manage risk better.”

We spoke with Shetty recently to learn more about the use of IoT and its benefits to foodservice companies.

Supply Chain Best Practices: First of all, why does IoT make sense for restaurants?

Prashanth Shetty: The foodservice industry in particular has a lot of physical assets: HVAC systems, kitchen equipment, etc. Any asset-heavy industry with unpredictable failure rates like that could benefit from digitization because your cost of managing these assets in general is very high.

There’s a terrific opportunity to use technology like this to just lower the overall cost of asset management, become more efficient and agile and innovate faster. IoT centers on not just connecting the device, but actually using the data effectively to drive decision-making.

The use cases can range from the simple to the very advanced and sophisticated. Where it starts to get more interesting is if you have sensors in your refrigerators and coolers. Now you’re able to see how long this fridge door has been open with the perishable food products sitting inside, and whether it poses a food safety risk to your consumers.

SCBP: What sets Ayla apart in the IoT arena?

Shetty: We are an IoT platform and solutions company that enables manufacturers and service organizations to realize digital transformation.

We are going beyond simply putting a hardware module into a piece of equipment and having it get “connected.” The reason we want to help organizations is that once you have a connected enterprise, you can think about transforming business models.

We have a platform that has nine years of technology investment in it, that is basically turnkey and ready to go. And, we have spent years optimizing our cloud operation’s costs, and we’re able to pass those savings to the customer.

Foodservice organizations also can rest easy knowing that they don’t have to deal with 20 different vendors from a technology standpoint. We call ourselves the “IoT Sherpa” because we will show you the way [to minimize your touchpoints] and lead you to success.

SCBP: How would you advise a foodservice company that is tempted to go it alone with IoT implementation?

Shetty: Customers often have built something and managed to connect a device in some rudimentary form. They’re starting to transmit the data and build some basic cloud capabilities and they think, “OK, we’re done. We’ve now built a connected device.”

What they don’t realize is what they built is not done. The building [of the platform] is just one part. Then, there’s the ongoing cost of managing and running that piece of software [known as “DevOps”], protecting against hacks and securing the device and the cloud and the communication in between, and the cost of adding platform enhancements.

When we do the analysis with all of our customers, we tell them, “Look, not only are we providing you a platform that works out of the box that you don’t have to build from scratch.” In addition, the security, the DevOps, the ongoing enhancements, any new integrations — it’s all run as a fully managed service for one low annual cost.

SCBP: How do your foodservice clients hope to benefit from IoT integration?

Shetty: The needs in foodservice come down to four key areas. The first one is remote equipment monitoring and management. Assets fail unpredictably, and they come from different vendors. And when something fails, the foodservice client has to call the vendor and it costs money and downtime.

That’s the highest pain point that most of these customers are facing. Our point to them is we are a completely agnostic and flexible platform, unlike some of the other solutions in the marketplace that are very specific to a vendor. Not us — It’s all managed under a single platform that works with any device, any application on any cloud.

The second business need is innovation and menu management. If a foodservice chain wants to introduce a new soft drink or sandwich, it typically sends somebody from corporate, who has to drive around and upload new recipes or product menus into the store systems across however many restaurants the chain has.

That’s another big use case for IoT because if you have more visibility into your energy consumption, you can generally lower your water and power bills.

What we can do is we can perform those updates “over the air” from the cloud using IoT. That means you can respond to market needs faster if you want to introduce a new sandwich or a new seasonal drink.

Third is risk management: How do you know you’re adhering to safety standards, compliance issues, etc., so that you don’t have a reputational risk to the company?

The last piece is energy and water management. These restaurants have HVAC systems, they’ve got water sprinklers on the outside. They’ve got big digital signage on the top of the store and all of that consumes a lot of power. That’s another big use case for IoT because if you have more visibility into your energy consumption, you can generally lower your water and power bills.

SCBP: What are Ayla’s plans for the future in foodservice?

Shetty: We’re looking to extend our reach into the foodservice marketplace, both to service organizations and kitchen equipment manufacturers, and we think this is a sector that is ripe for technology transformation, specifically IoT-led transformation. Our goal is to try to extend into as many foodservice companies as possible — and that includes, by the way, quick-service restaurants, fast-casual restaurants and even commercial kitchens and coffee chain stores like Starbucks and Peet’s — by continuing to invest in the product and developing vertical-specific capabilities such as dashboards, workflows and integration points. 

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