IoT Blog
IoT Blog

How the IoT Will Transform Your Future Holiday Shopping Experience

by Benoit Tournier, Director of Marketing, Transportation

Your Office, Christmas Eve, 2025

You check the clock at work, knowing you need to leave around 5 p.m. to run some last-minute holiday errands before heading home to welcome Grandma, Grandpa, Aunt Matilda and Uncle Joe as they arrive to celebrate Christmas with your husband and daughter. You have already completed most of your holiday shopping, purchasing presents online via your new 5G New Radio (NR) wireless broadband service. This service provides much faster Internet connectivity, lower latency and better reliability than your old 4G LTE or cable Internet service, while also letting your family connect the laptops, tablets, smart speakers and other IoT devices in your home to the Internet without using a modem or Wi-Fi router. However, as always there are still a few last-minute to-dos on your list that need to be taken care before you can sit back, relax, and enjoy a mug of Uncle Joe’s famous eggnog. 

Avoiding Lines at the Grocery Store

First are the ingredients you need for tomorrow night’s Christmas Day dinner – including pound cake, raspberries and whipping cream for your famous Scotch whiskey Christmas trifle. Of course, the lines at the local grocery store are crazy on Christmas Eve – but you are avoiding the rush by using an online grocery service to deliver your groceries to one of Neopost’s new Packcity refrigerated intelligent parcel lockers. The locker features low-power, high coverage Low Power Wide Area (LPWA) connectivity technology and data orchestration, which enable data generated by the sensors in the lockers to be processed either at the edge by the locker’s embedded IoT device or in the cloud, depending on rules set up by Neopost and the type of data. In this case, the locker’s IoT edge device uses sensor data to determine that your groceries have been delivered, the locker's door closed, and then uses an LPWA network and the Octave™ edge-to-cloud solution to efficiently transmit this information to Packcity’s Customer Relationship Management (CRM) system, which sends you an SMS alert that your package is ready for pick-up. No need to hurry though, as Octave has also configured the sensors in your refrigerated locker to adapt the locker’s environmental conditions to your groceries – ensuring your whipping cream will not go bad before you find your way through traffic and park at the shopping center where the Packcity locker is located. While other networking technologies might have made installing sophisticated sensors in the locker cost-prohibitive or inflexible, LPWA’s ability to provide coverage deep inside the buildings where Packcity lockers are located, and data orchestration’s flexibility to adapt to sensors’ management rules and alerts from the device to the cloud will make IoT locker monitoring a reality. 

Finding Just the Right Gift

Next, you still need to pick up a gift for Aunt Matilda. She is so hard to buy for! Fortunately, Uncle Joe mentioned on the phone over the weekend that their cat, Pickles, had jumped on a shelf and broken the Red Rainbow Unicorn from her Seven Unicorns of the Rainbow hand-blown glass figurine collection, imported from Switzerland. You head into the local Tchotchkes R Us, next door to the Packcity locker, where you remember seeing Seven Unicorns of the Rainbow figurines before.

There it is, a Red Rainbow Unicorn on the same shelf as you remembered! As you pick it up and head to the cashier, the store’s smart shelf uses Bluetooth Low Energy (BLE) networking technology to update its inventory system, so store employees know to reshelf the display before they leave for the night. In addition, unbeknownst to you, the same BLE technology and IoT-enabled inventory system alerted the retailer’s headquarters that this store was low on Rainbow Unicorns two weeks ago. The retailer then added a delivery of Rainbow Unicorns to the pallet scheduled for shipment from Switzerland to the United States. 

However, the Red Rainbow Unicorn might still have not been on the shelf if a low-cost LPWA pallet sensor had not notified headquarters that the pallet was stuck in a warehouse going through customs. Without the alert, accomplished using Sierra Wireless’s global Smart Connectivity Services and recently updated by the Sierra Wireless data orchestration platform to alert headquarters of any shipment delays longer than 24 hours, headquarters would not have resolved the delay and expedited the shipment through customs. You would have been faced with an empty shelf and found yourself having to buy Aunt Matilda a Barnum and Bailey Circus Clown porcelain figurine instead. Yes, she might have liked it, but with Aunt Matilda, it is usually better to be safe than sorry.

Picking Up Dinner at the Pop-Up Store

Next on the list – Christmas Eve dinner. To avoid the hassle of making dinner as relatives arrive from out of town, and save time for last-minute gift wrapping, your family has made a tradition of picking up a ham, side dishes and dessert from the Honey Baked Ham Company for dinner on Christmas Eve, reserving your own culinary efforts for Christmas Day dinner. So you head over to the Honey Baked Ham Company pop-up store in the shopping center, which was set-up and opened in October just for the holiday season. The company was able to quickly and affordably connect the temporary store’s Point of Sale (POS) systems, cloud-based order and inventory applications, and Voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP) phones to the Internet with Sierra Wireless’s Managed Connectivity Services. In addition, because the Sierra Wireless gateway used to provide connectivity to the pop-up store uses a Smart SIM, if the primary provider of cellular wireless service to the store goes down, the gateway can automatically switch to an alternative wireless provider. This helps ensure you are not stuck in line as cashiers find themselves unable to use their POS systems to process customers’ credit card purchases. 

IoT-Enabled Predictive Maintenance Ensures Delivery of a Special Gift

One final stop before you can head home – picking up the new engraved watch you are going to give your husband to celebrate your Christmas engagement 10 years ago. You step into the jeweler at the shopping center, and the jeweler hands you the watch. 

As you pay and walk out the door smiling, the jeweler breathes a sigh of relief. He was able to do the work for you in the first place because his engraving machine includes a Sierra Wireless LPWA module, which enables various equipment-as-a-service capabilities, including a new IoT predictive maintenance application. This application—recently configured on the machine by the equipment provider using Sierra Wireless’ Octave—alerted the equipment provider of a potential problem with the engraving machine’s laser two days earlier. The equipment provider fixed the laser remotely the day before the problem would have become an issue, allowing the jeweler, overwhelmed with other holiday work, to complete the engraving just in time to provide it to you.

An Automated Drone Delivers the Season’s Hottest Toy

You arrive home, having completed your errands quicker than expected by avoiding a traffic jam on the highway thanks to your new 5G connected car’s dashboard navigation service. Now just one more task remains—getting the season’s hottest toy for your daughter—the build-your-own tablet kit. It was out of stock until a few days ago, but you were able to order it just in time for it to be delivered today. In the past, getting it to you in time might have been impossible during the holidays, especially with online retailers finding themselves delivering more packages than ever before. However, recently shippers have been meeting the increased demand for fast delivery of online purchases with new automated drone delivery systems. After confirming you are home via an app on your smart phone, the drone leaves the online retailer’s local warehouse and finds its way to your house using real-time video acquisition and AI-powered automated flight—capabilities enabled by high speed 5G’s wireless data networks. The drone softly lands on your front lawn and you remove the package from the drone. You now pull out your phone and check off the last item on today’s holiday errand list. Your shopping for Christmas 2025 is completed. Time to dig out the tin mugs for Uncle Joe’s eggnog. 

Start with Sierra to learn more about how Sierra Wireless’ LPWA, 5G and other modules, Managed Connectivity Services, Octave, and other solutions to connect your assets to your cloud will enable you to re-imagine how we celebrate the holidays.

Editor’s Note: This post was originally published in November 2018 and has been updated for accuracy and comprehensiveness.