Author: Gemma Randazzo
Retailers, breathe a sigh of relief. Black Friday is over and Cyber Monday orders have all been placed. The initial rush is over. But the holiday shopping season is just beginning. There’s another three weeks’ worth of time for shopping (or procrastination of shopping) before the season ends. During those three weeks, more shoppers than ever will make their purchases on non-traditional POS systems. These systems will range from self-checkout kiosks to “scan as you go” services to mobile-based systems carried throughout the store by employees for a “check out anywhere” experience. There are pros and cons to each of these systems (and to traditional POS systems as well), but let’s start with a look at self-checkout services.
Self-checkout services are becoming increasingly common. Hardware retailer (and popular store for Dad gifts) Home Depot was one of the first stores to implement self-service checkout kiosks, but other retailers have followed, including grocery store giants Wal-Mart and Sam’s Club. Others have implemented self-checkout and then scraped it, including Costco, Albertsons and Ikea. It’s definitely not right for every retailer, but can have big benefits.
One of the major arguments for self-checkout is that it reduces overhead costs. Instead of having four cashiers manning four checkout lanes, one cashier can monitor four checkout lanes. Alternatively, the cashier can be cut out entirely. Either way, costs are reduced.
However, there’s a pretty big “but” with this. Self-checkout can cut down costs, but can also increase theft. Earlier this year, a Florida woman was caught trying to leave the store with $350 worth of products, for which she had paid $40. There’s no denying that self-checkout can create opportunities for thieves, but with careful monitoring by employees, the threat can be reduced. The benefit in costs savings may not be enough for some retailers, so it’s important to weigh the pros and cons of cutting down overhead vs. preventing theft.
People Like It. Some of Them, Anyway
A recent Cisco survey found that 52 percent of people prefer self-checkout. That also means that 48 percent of people don’t like self-checkout. While some shoppers prefer the DIY aspect of self-checkout, combined with the appeal of avoiding talking to other people, other shoppers enjoy the interpersonal interaction that comes with a traditional POS system or find the kiosks frustrating or difficult to use. Before implementing a self-checkout system, it’s important to determine where your customer base falls. If you determine that your customers are primarily in the “pro” camp, it’s equally important to ensure that the system you choose is easy to use, practical for your business model and won’t frustrate your customers. Even the staunchest of pro-self-checkout consumers will avoid a bad system.
It’s a “Gateway” Change
Still other retailers see self-checkout as the gateway to further change – a precursor of sorts to the days when you’ll be able to scan objects with your phone as you shop and then pay using a mobile wallet. The change to self-checkout could get consumers acclimated to the self-service idea quickly and easily.
Of course, it’s also an expensive proposition to install self-service kiosks at check out. And it’s even more expensive to move away from the system in favor of another one after just a few years. Before implementing this sort of system, consider carefully what you think is the future of checkout for retailers. Cutting edge is good, but cutting unnecessary changes is better.
Posted by Gemma Randazzo
If you’ve gone shopping anywhere in the last year or so, you may have noticed the iPads, iPhones and even a few Androids that are increasingly being used as cash registers. While the trend is perhaps most noticeable in mom-and-pop stores (if you’ve been any non-Starbucks coffee shop in the last six months, you know what I mean), it’s certainly not limited to that. Department stores and major retailers are making the switch as well.
In fact, research group IHL recently released a study examining the projected growth of mobile POS systems. The firm found that by 2017, over 3.6 million tablets will have been shipped to retail and hospitality companies in North America alone, projecting that these shipments will result in some fundamental changes in many of these companies. The group also projects that shipments of non-rugged small format handhelds for mobile POS systems will increase 380% from 2013 to 2017. At the same time, overall POS shipments will be reduced by 12% in 2016, and in some segments, may be reduced by as much as 20% from previously forecast volumes. Those are some pretty striking numbers and it’s easy to see that mobile POS systems will have a large and far-reaching impact on the service industry.
For a start-up company, the appeal is easy to see. They can skip the investment of a traditional cash register and POS system and can instead purchase or repurpose an iPhone or iPad and use a cost-effective system like Square.
But what about for an established company? They’ve already invested in cash registers, credit card machines, and all the other bells and whistles that come with a traditional POS system. What’s the appeal?
Well, for one thing, it means your workforce is more mobile. Workers are no longer tied to the cash register. They are free to move around the store helping customers, restocking inventory and tidying the store floor. And while they do these things, each employee is a walking sales opportunity. Since each employee working effectively becomes a cash register, check out times are no longer limited by the number of cash registers available, but by the number of employees. This can speed up check out times for customers. And of course, it does give your company a bit of sleek modernity to be able to check out customers from anywhere in the store at the drop of a hat.
One cautionary note, however, is security. Most of these systems have security features built into them to ensure consumer PII and credit card information isn’t stored locally. Be sure you’re careful reviewing those features. It also wouldn’t go amiss to look into MDM software. Chances are, if you use ruggedized mobile devices in your back room or warehouse, your organization is already using MDM. While we tend to think of it as closely related to BYOD, mobile device management policies and technology protect corporate-owned devices as well.
Since the introduction of Siri on the iPhone4 in 2011, voice recognition technology has become more mainstream than ever. However, that doesn’t mean that people have become any more accustomed to speaking to their technology. The process can be somewhat unsettling and even technologists themselves think so. According to Reuters, Google CEO Eric Schmidt recently stated that talking to Google Glass was “the weirdest thing.” In fact, Saturday Night Live recently poked fun at Google Glass and how awkward it can be to talk to a device on your face.
Voice recognition can be a bit strange at first but warehouse workers have been doing it for years. Voice in the warehouse can dramatically improve safety by allowing workers to work in a hands and eyes-free environment. It also delivers 99 percent accuracy and at least a 10 percent improvement in productivity to warehouse applications such as data-entry, picking and processing. Though voice applications in today’s warehouse resemble an operator headset, it would make sense for future devices to resemble (or actually be) Google Glass.
Though at a $1,500 price point, Google’s first-to-market product isn’t exactly price friendly to many businesses. That said one of the first voice recognition products for the consumer market, Dragon Dictate, originally retailed for $9,000!
While prices for wearable’s like Google Glass are sure to drop as the technology becomes more mainstream, will talking to a device ever feel completely normal? In the late 20th century, being tethered to a phone all day every day never seemed plausible either, but with the rise of smartphones, that is our new reality. Only time will tell as to whether or not voice recognition devices will become the new norm. In the meantime, just ask any warehouse employee – they’ll tell you it’s all in a day’s work.
Posted by Gemma Randazzo
In the most recent edition of Inbound Logistics, writer Marty Weil takes a closer look at how mobile communication tools are keeping supply chains on the go connected. “Mobile solutions are at work in every part of the supply chain. They are a key part of many warehouse environments, especially in directed picking applications. In transportation, mobile technology has been particularly significant for expedited parcel carriers that use it to improve customer service and continually optimize operations. Private fleets and motor carriers also use mobile devices for tracking shipments and collecting driver performance data.”
In our line of business we see a lot of enterprises who need to manage their operations in real time without impacting their bottom line from an efficiency and cost perspective. Through mobile technology solutions like Mobile Device Management (MDM) and Mobile Productivity Platforms (MPP) it really is easy to take advantage of technology that starts streamlining your supply chain operations immediately. As part of the article, Marty spoke with Wavelink customer Goya Foods, who are using Wavelink’s MDM solution, Avalanche and Wavelink’s MPP voice-directed solution, Speakeasy along with ruggedized mobile devices to improve efficiency in and outside the four-walls. Through mobile solutions they keep the goods moving without worrying about making adjustments on the fly.
For supply chain agility, Marty recommends that enterprises look towards four goals as outlined by consulting firm PwC –
1. Integrating the supply chain with other business functions. Companies that acknowledge the supply chain as a strategic asset achieve 70 percent higher performance. Taking steps to connect supply chain operations to functions such as marketing and sales can help strengthen the entire business.
2. Facilitating supplier partnerships and collaboration. Potential supply chain disruptions make it more critical than ever for companies to share data
and strengthen relationships with key suppliers.
3. Enabling companies to adjust quickly to changes. The better the information companies have at hand, the more responsive their supply chains can be. Without mobile devices, supply chain information can be slow to reach managers.
4. Measuring and managing supply chain data. Companies can use mobile tools to collect supply chain data that informs strategic decisions.
Through the use of mobile solutions supply chain operations can be agile, resulting in increased productivity, visibility and efficiency in moving product, saving money and meeting the growing demands of the customer. To read Marty’s article in its entirety click here. Want to take a closer look at how MDM and MPP tools like Wavelink Avalanche and Wavelink Speakeasy can add agility to your supply chain operations? Contact the Wavelink Sales Team.
Today Mobile Enterprise reminded us that on April 3, 2013, the cell phone celebrated its 40th birthday. It’s gone through many cosmetic facelifts since the first day the Vice President of Communications Systems at Motorola walked “down the streets of New York City, talking on a large, clunky yet portable phone,” that weighed almost three pounds, operated on radio frequencies and had about twenty minutes before the battery died.
It would be another ten years before the Motorola DynaTAC was commercially available and would bring with it a new era of the way we define business and success. If you saw someone back in the late 80s or early 90s on the street with a cell phone you knew they had to be someone important just because of the level of status the cell phone had achieved at that point. The Motorola DynaTAC was a game changer and as other manufacturers entered the mix, organizations began to see the potential cell phones would have in the business world. With a cell phone you could be anywhere in the country assisting a customer or meeting a potential customer and immediately report back to headquarters with an update. That single ability to call as soon as you walked out of building changed the course of business.
Back in 1973 Motorola knew that cell phones would change the way we lived and did business. Whether they could have predicted the exact way in which they have changed our lives is anyone’s guess (we also thought we would be driving cars in the sky by now). Through the addition of the Internet it further created a new generation of cell phone technology. This later addition cemented cell phones (smart phones) as critical components of our daily life. You think about all the ways you use your cell phone from staying on top of work, to checking in on friends and loved ones, to ordering pizza. Even how we are able to relay information in an emergency has changed just in 15-years. They are not just convenient tools in our daily lives but they changed the way we respond to emergency even as something as relatively minor as your car breaking down. 20 to 15-years ago unless you were fortunate enough to have one of the first generation car phones, you would have to hike to the nearest house, hope someone was home and call a tow service.
Cell phones changed and continue to change the course of business. By our growing consumer need to use cell phones/smart devices we are single-handedly dictating how we then do business. BYOD isn’t a phenomenon. It has become very much a real business changer. Consumers want to be able to use their cell phones at work in multiple ways, dictating then that an Enterprise really has to take a closer look at how they secure and manage these devices. Given the potential productivity gains from consumer devices it makes sense to consider integrating them in a DC, in government, transportation, healthcare and on the retail floor. According to the Yankee Group “half of all companies find it very difficult to manage software upgrades on mobile handsets and to manage the costs associated with mobile devices. Almost the same proportion finds distributing mobile applications to devices very difficult.” In just 40-years cell phones have become business changers, strategy changers and productivity changers. Happy 40th birthday to the cell phone.
Securing the First Responders: With today’s critical infrastructure threats, how can you ensure your city’s response team’s rugged devices are secure?
Posted by Gemma Randazzo
In an emergency first responders need to be focused on their number one priority – be it saving lives, protecting citizens and preventing crimes. Worrying about the security of the technology they have with them shouldn’t be of concern. In fact keeping onboard laptops and smartdevices that are the make-up of numerous fleet vehicles, such as police and fire vehicles secure shouldn’t even be a secondary thought. It should be simple and should just run in the background. With technology changing rapidly it is vital to ensure information that is sent to public servants, law enforcement officials and military personnel is secure. But while technology is changing rapidly it doesn’t mean that budgets are increasing to account for all these new devices or the changing climate of new threats.
Simple to use, simple to manage device management that protects the infrastructure of every city’s government is possible and in most cases requires very little in way of investment.
What should a city or government entity look for in a mobile device solution?
- 802.11 provisioning with industry standard encryption and authentication protocols
- Access Point (AP) detection and reporting with various IDS-oriented enhancements to assist with identification, alerting, monitoring and reporting of potential threats and a holistic view into the state of the agency’s security
- Ability to remotely manage configurations and updates of all Access Points across a city from one location
- Encryption of all communication channels and database encryption
- Device location mapping; enabling the lock down and wiping of devices when needed
- Push down all device software updates over the air without the need to physically bring in critical devices that are needed 24/7. Industrial laptops are powerful tools but they can be rendered virtually useless in an emergency if they are not kept up-to-date. Push down a security patch from a central location and save critical time and money
- Device management that doesn’t take up valuable bandwidth. Send out a software package in seconds without it hindering GPRS that is being used not only to update software applications but basic data communications with officers and firefighters out in the field
- Security for all wireless data transmissions that includes a seamless handoff between the various wireless network infrastructures in operation
Remember you don’t need to buy the latest and greatest device with the pretense that because it’s newer it’s going to be more secure. By making simple IT infrastructure changes using existing devices it is more than possible to stick to the budget without sacrificing security. A simple to use centralized mobile device management solution that plans, deploys, secures, monitors and maintains enhances the reliability and security of the tools first responders need to use.
The Cofares Group supply products ranging from medicine to health and beauty products to 13,000 pharmacies in Spain from nearly 30 distribution centers. Often they deliver orders that range from one to 20 items to each pharmacy three or four times a day. They need to be able to make these deliveries quickly and accurately.
“Our customers evaluate us based on our ability to deliver complete and accurate orders,” said Abelardo Vaquerizo, duty manager of Cofares Group. “It is a hectic environment where we need to fill orders quickly, but it doesn’t matter how fast we are if we get an order wrong.”
Distribution centers process a large number of orders on a daily basis and Cofares is no different. Most of the medicines are filled by automated machines, but health and beauty items are picked by hand from the warehouse and loaded into delivery trucks. It is a logistical challenge to ensure that the right items get in the right order on the right trucks every time in the most accurate and efficient way possible.
With the number of orders being processed every day, it is a logistical challenge to ensure the right items get in the right order on the right trucks every time. Cofares, through its technology partner, Felguera TI, an affiliate company of Duro Felguera, selected the Speakeasy voice solution from Wavelink to add text-to-speech and speech-to-text functionality to their warehouse applications. The ability for Speakeasy to combine voice with other types of data entry, such as bar code scanning, provides a further crosscheck to ensure that tasks are accurately completed.
“We have initially implemented Speakeasy in two of our larger distribution centers in Madrid,” says Vaquerizo. “Workers are able to speak into their device the item they need to pick and have it speak back to them with a bin location. Once there, they can scan the barcode on the bin, select the items and verbally confirm the item and quantity. This gives us even greater accuracy while also helping them complete the task faster.”
In locations where Speakeasy is being used, Cofares handles approximately 1,200 orders per day. Prior to Speakeasy, there was an average of 20 to 30 errors in those orders, which was still a 97.5 percent accuracy rate. However, with each incorrect order, there was the cost of returning the product and a loss of the sale as well as the negative impression it left with the customer. With Speakeasy, Cofares has virtually eliminated errors with an average of zero to two errors per 1,200 orders.
Cofares were also able to benefit from an intuitive user interface, which allows any employee to pick up a device and use it immediately without needing to create a voice profile. Vaquerizo adds, “Our employees have been very happy with the ease with which they can use Speakeasy. We have experienced very short training times, where we have been able to quickly get a new worker using the system. This was a big cost benefit in terms of our ability to be immediately productive.”
Since Speakeasy is a client-side solution that does not require the addition of voice servers or modification to the host applications, the implementation of the voice solution went smoothly and was completed in just a matter of days. Adding voice to streamline your operations should be simple, straightforward and effective, in today’s non-stop supply chain environment it just has to be.
It started with a simple $5 wristband in November 2011; Let’s Create Jobs for USA was founded with a $5 million contribution from Starbucks and a promise to create jobs for the American people. I vividly remember purchasing my wristband when they went on sale (ironically I was in the company’s hometown of Seattle). As someone who lives in a state that’s seen substantial unemployment, I was eager to play a small part in launching the movement.
As part of my weekly Starbucks visits (I won’t admit to a daily addiction), I recently noticed that they’ve taken this movement one step further by assisting small businesses on the technology payment front through a payment processing option called Square Mobile Card Readers.
Available in every company operated Starbucks store in the United States, “Square’s Mobile Card Reader with the free app, Square Register, enables anyone to easily accept credit cards so individuals and business can connect with customers anywhere their business takes them.” This simple tech attaches to an iOS or Android device and enables any size business to accept credit and debit cards. According to Starbucks roughly two-thirds of the 27 million small businesses in the United States do not currently accept credit or debit payment due to expensive processing fees and extensive applications. Think of the potential this small mobile card reader can bring to a small business and talk about a low investment – these card readers cost only $10 and come with a $10 rebate!
Say what you will about fancy and expensive coffees, but this is a highly effective tool that allows small businesses to generate new ways for income. Having said that, I won’t lie that my second thought was PCI compliance and keeping those devices secure. Any mobile device, be it rugged or consumer, has the capability to suffer a security breach. Add additional devices to your network and you further increase the importance of keeping them not only secure but maintaining peak performance. A Mobile Device Management (MDM) solution therefore still provides substantial value to any business whether you have two or three devices or two or three thousand devices.
For small business owners, a MDM solution that you manage in the Cloud is a perfect way to ensure devices are not only secure, but configured and managed from an easy-to-use console and without the need to purchase servers or an entire IT department. With MDM you also get the capability to lock down these consumer devices if they go missing and immediately protect them by securing and wiping confidential data. You even have the power to detect foreign devices entering your network and define specific parameters that your device(s) can be utilized in.
In closing, while we look at new ways to add jobs let’s not forget the critical nature of protecting the devices that come with them.