The retail industry continues to be a hotbed of innovation, with activity driven by sustainability, convenience, and the growing importance of technologies such as Internet of Things (IoT), smart recycling, and contactless kiosks. In the last three years alone, there have been over 133,000 patents filed and granted in the retail industry, according to GlobalData’s report on Internet of Things in Retail: Smart recycling kiosks.

However, not all innovations are equal and nor do they follow a constant upward trend. Instead, their evolution takes the form of an S-shaped curve that reflects their typical lifecycle from early emergence to accelerating adoption, before finally stabilising and reaching maturity.

Identifying where a particular innovation is on this journey, especially those that are in the emerging and accelerating stages, is essential for understanding their current level of adoption and the likely future trajectory and impact they will have.

70+ innovations will shape the retail industry

According to GlobalData’s Technology Foresights, which plots the S-curve for the retail industry using innovation intensity models built on over 128,000 patents, there are 70+ innovation areas that will shape the future of the industry.

Within the emerging innovation stage, contactless kiosks and delivery drones are disruptive technologies that are in the early stages of application and should be tracked closely. RFID for inventory tracking, autonomous delivery vehicle navigation system, and contactless card payments are some of the accelerating innovation areas, where adoption has been steadily increasing. Among maturing innovation areas are M2M payment interfaces and e-commerce robotic process automation, which are now well established in the industry.

Innovation S-curve for Internet of Things in the retail industry

Smart recycling kiosk is a key innovation area in Internet of Things

Smart waste management includes measuring, collecting, and recycling waste using IoT sensors for efficiency, sustainability, and transparency. Smart recycling kiosks use artificial intelligence and Internet of Things, robotics, computer vision, RFID tags, and near-field communication.

GlobalData’s analysis also uncovers the companies at the forefront of each innovation area and assesses the potential reach and impact of their patenting activity across different applications and geographies. According to GlobalData, there are 20 companies, spanning technology vendors, established retail companies, and up-and-coming start-ups engaged in the development and application of smart recycling kiosks.

Key players in smart recycling kiosks – a disruptive innovation in the retail industry

‘Application diversity’ measures the number of different applications identified for each relevant patent and broadly splits companies into either ‘niche’ or ‘diversified’ innovators.

‘Geographic reach’ refers to the number of different countries each relevant patent is registered in and reflects the breadth of geographic application intended, ranging from ‘global’ to ‘local’.

Patent volumes related to smart recycling kiosks

Company Total patents (2010 - 2021) Premium intelligence on the world's largest companies
Walmart 108 Unlock company profile
ecoATM 97 Unlock company profile
Outerwall 75 Unlock company profile
SoftBank Group 20 Unlock company profile
Itron 17 Unlock company profile
Tricopian 12 Unlock company profile
Rubicon Holdings 11 Unlock company profile
Winnow Solutions 9 Unlock company profile
Coca-Cola Enterprises Great Britain 9 Unlock company profile
Divert 8 Unlock company profile
Schnitzer Steel Industries 8 Unlock company profile
NIKE 8 Unlock company profile
TAAS 7 Unlock company profile
Fedex Supply Chain Logistics & Electronics 7 Unlock company profile
Sugi Group 6 Unlock company profile
Toshiba 6 Unlock company profile
Circularise 5 Unlock company profile
Berry Global Group 5 Unlock company profile
Honeywell International 5 Unlock company profile
Bridgestone 5 Unlock company profile

Source: GlobalData Patent Analytics

Leading companies in the IoT-enabled smart recycling kiosks space in terms of patents filed are Walmart, ecoATM, Outerwall, and SoftBank Group. In April 2022, Kameoka City introduced its zero-litter project, as part of which the city administration installed IoT-enabled smart recycling kiosks known as SmaGO. In October 2022, the city, in co-operation with SoftBank, launched a solution that employes IoT sensors to compress garbage in bins that are outdoor and track the accumulated waste.

Leading players in the space in terms of application diversity are Walmart, Circularise, Berry Global Group, and Winnow Solutions.

Leading players in terms of geographic reach are Itron, Berry Global Group, Coca-Cola Enterprises Great Britain, and Winnow Solutions.

A smart recycling kiosk is a joint mechanism of processors, sensors, and communication modules. It works with the help of real-time data, which is transferred to cloud via Wi-Fi. The technology is helpful in dealing with the increasing waste in cities. To further understand the key themes and technologies disrupting the retail industry, access GlobalData’s latest thematic research report on Internet of Things (IoT) in Retail and Apparel.


GlobalData, the leading provider of industry intelligence, provided the underlying data, research, and analysis used to produce this article.

GlobalData’s Patent Analytics tracks patent filings and grants from official offices around the world. Textual analysis and official patent classifications are used to group patents into key thematic areas and link them to specific companies across the world’s largest industries.