IoT Product of the Year: Nexo Discovery, the Nexo solution, from Elstat Limited 

Food and beverage companies, such as Coca-Cola, PepsiCo Beverages, AB InBev, and Danone, use branded refrigerators to maintain high margin, premium priced sales. Over US$5bn is invested annually in these key commercial assets, with approximately 30m refrigerators active globally. 

For years, global food and drinks brands have been using Elstat’s Energy Management Devices (EMDs) to intelligently manage the power consumed by their fridges (commonly termed ‘coolers’).

By adding sensing technology to the EMDs, coupled with a market leading analytics platform, Nexo’s IoT solution has revolutionised these coolers remit; enabling companies to gather key commercial and operational information from the point of sale. 

The Challenge 
The ecosystem within which food and drinks brands place their coolers is hugely fragmented. Some coolers are in large chains such as Walmart and Tesco; however, in many of the larger markets coolers are more likely to be in small, independent stores. Obtaining commercial insights and operational information as well as confirmation of the cooler’s location is incredibly difficult, yet each of these are business-critical revenue drivers.  

Carlos Arango, Commercial Capex Director of Quilmes (AB InBev’s Opco in Argentina) explains, “we have many, many refrigerators in the field, and it’s not easy to be sure that sales volumes in stores are good enough. We are also faced with the simple challenge of being certain where the refrigerators are”. 

An IoT solution can bring significant added value. Arturo Tapia, Director of Commercial Transformation at Sigma Alimentos, says: “there is a huge need for companies like us to engage properly with customers [store owners], wherever they are. Information from connected coolers helps us to understand what the best offering is for that customer”. 

Industry expertise and a focus on actionable datasets enables Nexo to deliver a complete solution for our clients – contributing to our status as a market leader in connected coolers.

The Solution – Building an Enterprise IoT Capability 
Almost 500,000 Nexo IoT devices are already in the field, collecting data. Nexo Discovery, our IoT solution has recently been enhanced by a modular hardware platform, the EMS3000 Series.

The hardware platform provides control, user interaction, data logging, and communications technologies; in turn driving the Nexo cloud data analytics platform. The hardware also gives us scope for edge processing, allowing complex failures and performance parameters to be monitored within the cooler itself; sensors in the device monitor the health of the cooler’s components, and trigger service alarms.

Commercial insights are provided by a variety of means including analysis of door openings and footfall. The solution can ascertain the temperature of any connected cooler and determine whether drinks are being sold at the correct, ‘brand promise‘, temperature. The reason for any change in cooler temperature can also be ascertained, be it due to a recent restock of the cooler or the store owner unplugging the cooler.

The Nexo Discovery solution provides end-to-end technology and support, including: 

– Connected hardware: devices and sensors that communicate key cooler performance data 
– Apps for mobile devices delivering key information to field-based sales reps and service teams
– Business Intelligence (BI) analytics portal for fleet management 
– Consultancy and tailored training programmes 
– Integration with customer IT systems 

The solution insights create a precise picture of each cooler’s performance, from both a commercial and operational perspective. The Nexo team worked with data iterations from early adopters of the technology to develop the BI that is used by its customers today. Specialised data analytics, combined with algorithms developed in-house, have enabled commercially scalable ‘Action Plans’ available for immediate use by customers. 

Enterprise customers’ ERP systems can integrate Nexo data using API’s. Nexo’s mobile SDK enables its customer’s sales and service teams to use Nexo functionality in their own in-field apps, ensuring user experience is simple and meets specific security requirements of individual customers. 

Business Impact 
Our customers are delighted with the results. Arturo Tapia says, “it’s going to help us to make better decisions.” While the solution is already enabling Sigma Alimentos and others to locate assets and minimise the annual Capex, he is excited that they will be able “to see the number of times the door is opened; how many SKUs should be placed; whether the purity is ok or not. You know that… it’s going to help you to address many other things that you can’t yet predict.” 

While the full extent of the business impact is yet to be realised, a Nexo customer in Central Europe estimates the impact to be around US$70, per cooler per year, in saved costs and increased sales. This represents a superb ROI for a solution that can last the lifetime of the cooler. 

Of the 30m coolers in the world, it is estimated that around 4-5% have been connected in the past 24 months, with this figure set to rise.

The Nexo’s solution is global, having been sold in across North and South America, Europe, and APAC.