One of the best-known clothing retailers in the world has embraced edge computing technology and realized significant operational advantages as a consequence, one of its senior technical staff said in a presentation at the recent Edge Computing World conference.\nThe Gap operates more than 2,500 stores in North America and handles about $10 billion in transactions per year. The company has switched from traditional point-of-sale technology to a system based almost entirely on Apple\u2019s iOS products, as iPads replace cash registers and scanner guns across sales floors.\n\nThe operational advantage is all about flexibility, according to Shivkumar Krishnan, the Gap\u2019s global head of engineering for stores technology. It\u2019s easy to use the store\u2019s iPads for everything from inventory tracking to point-of-sale to loyalty programs to labor management (employees clock in and out and manage their schedules on the devices). The iPads being used for point-of-sale use a wired connection for transaction security, but others on the sales floor use secure Wi-Fi to connect to a private LTE router, which in turn connects to the store\u2019s main router and edge services.\n\u00a0\u201cWe were running a 15-year-old tech stack that we couldn\u2019t upgrade anymore,\u201d said Krishnan. \u201cIt\u2019s a much more seamless experience where you can go much faster in terms of the check-out process, and have the loyalty program integrated.\u201d\nThe iOS-based sales infrastructure adds new capabilities, as well, like the ability to order a product for a consumer if it\u2019s not physically present in the store. That ties into the Gap\u2019s inventory-management system, which has to track more than half a million SKUs and is clever enough to decide whether it would be quicker to have a product shipped from nearby retail store or directly from the warehouse.\nThe Gap also uses smart cameras, connected via the same Wi-Fi network, to track foot traffic in and out of each store. That service, like all of the others systems run in-store, runs on a dedicated edge server. Each service is a micro-version of the parent process running up the chain in the Gap\u2019s cloud \u2013 stores connect to the cloud via a dedicated telecom circuit \u2013 which means that a service outage somewhere between the store and the cloud won\u2019t stop those services from operating.\n\u201cThere are a lot of points of failure, any one of which could have put your store out of business,\u201d said Krishnan. \u201cBut with edge, even if your store gets hit with an outage, you can keep working.\u201d\nThe adoption process wasn\u2019t seamless, however. The initial version of the software used to manage all the different services at the edge tended to crash often, particularly when trying to connect to a lot of different peripherals like cameras, printers, and iOS devices. But the bigger problem was a lack of edge capability. The first iteration had all of the same services, but the core processes ran solely in the Gap\u2019s cloud, leaving it vulnerable to the service outages. Employees wanted the old technology back.\n\u201cInitially, we wanted to get everything out there as quickly as possible, but we should\u2019ve taken a more incremental approach,\u201d said Krishnan.\nThe project took longer than expected to finalize due in part to the advent of COVID-19. It\u2019s only recently been completed, despite expectations that it would have been done by March. Nevertheless, Krishnan said he was pleased to have replaced 15 years\u2019 worth of technology in a three-year project. He sees the future of the project as even more distributed than the current system \u2013 mini-data centers in stores, small and widely distributed fulfillment centers and customer storefronts, all powered by edge computing.