Wavelink Blog

Author: Robert DeStefano

NRF2017: Data Capture and More Productivity

The 2017 edition of the National Retail Federation convention and expo brought some familiar technology back to the forefront. Walking among a number of cool new experiences – virtual reality among them, NRF2017 showed some of the best of what has been and what can be for the retail industry! From a mobile productivity perspective, here are a few observations I found noteworthy:

RFID returns

NRF2017Not since the days of the 2004 mandate have I noticed so much buzz around this form of data capture. Unlike the industry chatter of last decade, RFID seemed to make a strong comeback driven by really compelling use cases. I’ve written about the consumer-side of retail productivity in the past, and some of the use cases leading RFID vendors were touting seemed to be experiences that boost customer satisfaction, accelerating the connection between shoppers and the products they want to buy – in the right sizes, colors, and more.

Screens of all sizes

From mobile devices and tablets to digital signage that can present shoppers with unique, targeted ads, to kiosks and more, there were a number of new ways to engage shoppers in the store! The touch-enabled interaction is really booming, and with more use cases for customers to interact with store info – from gift registries, to inventory checks and more, the user experience in these apps is so important for customer satisfaction.

Lots of IoT buzz

As expected, the talk around supply chain IoT amplified even more this year. Close to home, it was exciting to hear about Honeywell and Intel making announcements to further IoT throughout the supply chain. It will be exciting to see the creative solutions this technology continues to bring to the supply chain. We have been hearing some exciting ideas from customers and partners, and announcements like these will undoubtedly fuel more interest!

For our part, we had great conversations about Velocity app modernization across the growing number of Android mobile devices (and vendors) retailers are evaluating. Booth visitors liked the progression that Velocity offers – they can migrate to a new Android device, using Velocity in a green-screen/native mode, optimize their workflows on the Velocity platform, and then “flip the switch” to the modernized UI when they are ready. Several indicated this “step-by-step” approach further minimized risk to their business, while building confidence in their ability to upgrade their hardware without application re-writes.  Want to read more? Among the earliest, great NRF 2017 recaps was this from Retail Info Systems News.

Looking Ahead to NRF2017!

It’s just about here! For supply chain-oriented businesses, the new year really kicks off with the National Retail Federation’s annual convention and expo in New York City.  With the peak retail season just wrapped up (and most of the returns handled), NRF is a great opportunity to check out what’s new and exciting, while exploring solutions that will make next December even more successful.  As we get ready to exhibit, I’m also looking forward to having an opportunity to walk the floor to check out these evolving solutions:

IMG_3139Payment: Like many, I’ve been watching this one for the last while as EMV has been rolled out here in the US.  Though still not rolled out everywhere, I’m curious to see the latest systems, and also see how providers are continuously optimizing security.  Self-checkout is always interesting too, so it will be interesting to see some of the solutions that speed shoppers through the process.

Customer Experience: Here, I’m interested in the customer sat that comes with various purchasing experiences.  Even as Buy Online Pickup In Store (BOPIS) has been around for a good ten years, I’m still finding issues with this experience at some retailers – as recently as this holiday season (more on that in a future blog post).  Solutions that make this experience more perfected, seamless, and ultimately more satisfying as a consumer, are on my list.

Mobility (of course): What credibility would I have if I didn’t suggest I’m interested in what new devices are announced at this show? Our device manufacturer partners always have great new mobile technology to show at NRF, and it is exciting for us, because we have the productivity-powering software that runs on these devices and operating systems.

With over 500 exhibitors, there will undoubtedly be much to see. Stop by and see us. Wavelink is exhibiting in booth #1322. We love to hear what retail and supply chain challenges you’re looking to solve, and you’ll find our whole team is excited to chat mobile productivity, and more! You can also follow Wavelink (@Wavelink) and me (@rob_destefano) on Twitter, where we will be live tweeting from the show floor. See you on Sunday in New York City!

2017 Predictions: A World of Perfect Orders?

We could all use a year of perfect order after the unexpected happenings in 2016. “Surprises” don’t seem to describe 2016, and no one likely made all these predictions one year ago. Around the world: political upheaval has been rampant, global economies have been on a rollercoaster ride, Chicago, Cleveland, Leicester were among the unusual winners of sports championships. Closer to our industry, shipping saw a rising tide, though at least one major firm sank into bankruptcy. Supply chain technology continued its march forward, evidenced most recently with Amazon’s first commercial drone delivery.

Which way to the future?As we say farewell to what has been an exhausting year in so many ways, here are a few mobile productivity-related expectations for 2017:

Reset the productivity clock: Yes, it happens again. You achieved your operational productivity metrics this past year. Now, it’s time to set your sights on achieving this year’s target. But there is good news: 2016 brought a number of exciting advances in mobile productivity – both in the form of new mobile devices running “smart” operating systems, and the expansion of mobile app modernization (yes, that’s a shameless plug for our Velocity platform). As we roll into 2017, Velocity is available on a number of devices from Datalogic, Honeywell, Panasonic and Zebra, to name a few).

Plan now for future efficiency: Many economies are running hotter, especially now that some of 2016’s political questions have been answered. Now is the time to plan for the unknowns that lay ahead as these expectations meet with reality in 2017. Businesses should be preparing now for the potential of leaner times ahead by making sure their workers equipped to be as productive as possible.

Supply chain IoT becomes real: The Internet of Things has been explored throughout the supply chain. We’ve seen robotic shelving concepts and more over the past few years. This year, prepare for use cases to extend into areas of business not previously on your radar. This will be a fun and interesting area of innovation our markets, so stay tuned.

Every year is bound to bring us plenty of unexpected surprises, and 2017 delivers its share, we’re excited to explore them with you! What expectations do you have for mobile productivity in 2017? Email me with your predictions and we’ll track them throughout the year.

From all of us at Wavelink, we thank you for partnering with us for your mobile productivity needs. We wish you the best for perfect order during the holidays and many perfect orders fulfilled in the year ahead!

A Smart Solution to Minimize Downtime

Downtime is wasted time. No debate there, right? So, as you’re considering your next generation mobile deployments, one obvious expectation is to be able to ensure you can troubleshoot these new, smart devices, minimizing delays whenever possible. Whether caused by mobile device settings or software, the ability to remote in, check out the issue, and resolve it quickly, is powerful – and imperative to maximizing worker productivity.

Last week, we announced our partnership with Splashtop, and the release of our Smart Device Remote Control. It’s a big deal for us, and very timely for businesses throughout the supply chain. More and more firms are starting hardware refreshes to mobile computers running Smart OSes like Android or planning for Windows 10.

Warehouse UC1One of the most relatable benefits of remote control – from customer stories using our long-proven Remote Control for Windows CE and Windows Mobile, is the ability to avoid “No Fault Found” service responses. For these companies, Remote Control addressed the scenario of a device having a problem in the field, and being sent to a service depot somewhere, only to be returned without any resolution – because, at the service center, all appeared to be in good working order. “Good working order” is good news, but the pain for these customers was explained in a couple of points:

Workers leaving the point of activity

When the device started acting up, the worker had to leave their task, walk to the closest person on-site who can help them, then walk back to their task location. Productivity losses really begin to mount the moment that worker walks away from their task location, and continue bleeding until they are physically back at their task location and able to resume their task. It may not sound like much, but consider the worker at the far end of a 250,000 square-foot warehouse (or larger in many cases), who has to walk all the way across the floor to swap out their device.

Staging time

Once reaching an on-site contact, that worker is standing idle for whatever time it takes to stage a replacement device from the spares pool – more downtime. Are spares pool devices usually sitting charged, in a docking station, loaded with the latest versions of mission critical apps, ready to go? The answer should be “yes”, but many admit to a less-ready state for spare devices.

Shipping out the “broken” device

Consider the costs of sending a device out for service, unnecessarily. It’s all wasted time, and money. Even if you’re not paying shipping under a service agreement, you’re cost is built into your spares pool of devices. When that device comes back with a note reading “No Fault Found”, you haven’t really gotten any benefit for the downtime you have incurred.

Smart Device Remote Control is a powerful tool for preserving mobile productivity. Used in conjunction with Avalanche for enterprise mobility management, companies not only gain more control by keeping devices and apps up to date. They gain the ability to troubleshoot and resolve issues on the floor, as they happen, so workers can get back to work as quickly as possible.

From Chicago: Flying the “W” with Wavelink

By Joe Wilson, Wavelink Sales Director, Eastern US, Canada, and LATAM

Selfie: Joe Wilson celebrates the Chicago Cubs championship winning season at the victory parade.

Selfie: Joe Wilson celebrates the Chicago Cubs championship winning season at the victory parade.

Finally, I can say “I’m a Chicago Cubs fan” and not brace for the inevitable comment about 1908 – the last time my favorite Major League Baseball team won the World Series. It hasn’t been easy – so many times coming so close, only to have a supposed curse prevent the season from ending with the “W” flag flying and the accompanying fanfare worthy of winning a world championship. For those not familiar – when the Cubs win a game, a big flag with a letter ”W” flies at the stadium, so all of us in Chicago can know.

Watching the Cubs this season, and for every heart-pounding minute of this best-of-seven championship victory, one word kept coming to my mind: Productivity. Watching players produce – batters getting hits and homeruns, pitchers – the model of efficiency – getting strikeouts and keeping opponents from reaching base, I found it intriguing to find the word I use to describe what Wavelink does, to be the same as what makes a winning team successful: Productivity.  So, for all you out there who depend on Wavelink for productivity, here’s four ways we’re flying the “W” for you:

  • Workers: The backbone of your business, and the people Wavelink’s products are designed to empower. We aim to provide the tools that make your workers perform at their very best. Your company’s successful peak season depends on them.
  • Workflow Optimization: If your workers can perform tasks more quickly, they can accomplish more tasks per day. Wavelink works with you to understand your operations and task workflows – helping you find ways to optimize the flow, so more tasks get completed per shift.
  • Wherever: I thought about “Warehouse”, but you want to maximize productivity throughout the whole supply chain. From manufacturing plants, through warehouses and DC’s, to the retail store.
  • Winning together: As baseball is a team sport, so is our shared success. Whether you’re a Wavelink partner or a customer, we thank you for choosing Wavelink to be on your team. We celebrate your successes as our successes, as you can see among our customer case studies.

Wavelink WOne last “W” for all you readers: hopefully, you’ve read our recent news about the company name change. While the Wavelink “W” may be changing, our commitment to delivering the very best solutions for mobile productivity will continue – 25 years next year (that’s a winning streak)! More on that in the months to come. For now, as I celebrate the first championship for the Cubs in 108 years, I also celebrate you, and the productivity gains we deliver together.

Addressing Four Barriers to Android Adoption

Last month I wrote about some of the reasons driving warehouse modernization and two of the big motivations focused on the age of existing mobile computers, coupled with the end-of-support timetables for legacy mobile operating systems offered by Microsoft.  There are a significant number of good reasons to stay focused on Windows for your future mobile deployments (and some of those reasons are the exciting new devices we’ve seen recently from our device manufacturing partners). For this post, we’ll cover some barriers that you may be facing if you’re looking at Android for your next generation mobile deployment.  Among the selection criteria many businesses prioritize when looking at their next generation solution, here are four I hear about often, and how to make these successful on Android:

  • Velocity on TC8000Deploy without disruption: This has been a common requirement even without choosing a significantly different operating system. So, when faced with making a big leap such as from Windows CE to Android, the fear of disruption is understandable. This is where many get caught up in app migration, and the cost and effort that comes with it. Good news: you can move to Android and ensure business continuity by keeping the systems you already have in place.
  • “State of the Art” user experience: If you’re going to embrace a new generation of mobile hardware that offers a beautiful, bright screen and touch interface, you don’t want to give workers a text-heavy application to work with. Terminal Emulation or “green-screen” applications have been trusted for decades. To get the most out of their proven success in a new generation, modernize these existing telnet clients so your workers get an experience similar to what they get on their personal smartphones.
  • Deliver more than just “green-screen”: Terminal Emulation has certainly been the most common method for connecting mobile devices to host-based applications. But, what about all the web-based enterprise systems out there? If you’re running SAP, Oracle, Manhattan, or any of a variety of other browser apps, you’re equally in need of a solution to bring those apps to new touchscreen devices. With our Velocity platform, you can modernize the user experience for both – telnet and web apps – using a common mobile enablement solution.
  • Flexibility to make it our own: You already have established tasks that workers navigate. Now, you want to further optimize them with scripts so that workers can move through tasks faster. An example would be automating steps in the task workflow that perform a calculations. Further enhancement to your apps may include custom onscreen keyboards that present the user with only the keys appropriate for a specific data field (no need to show alphabetic characters for a quantity field, for example). Finally, modernized apps offer an opportunity to promote your brand. Whether these apps are seen only by warehouse workers, or in customer-facing environments (read: retail floor), you can add branding elements to really make your apps look your own.

Bottom line: choosing a new mobile hardware platform is a big consideration. Making that decision with a new operating system in the mix raises even more questions. Here’s an opportunity to learn more and eliminate some of the barriers to Android adoption. I’m shamelessly plugging our upcoming webinar, Mapping Mobile Solutions to Meet Warehouse Modernization Trends Presented by VDC Research. Hope to see you there, where you’ll be able to hear expert analysis on app modernization and more!

Five Reasons to Modernize your Warehouse

There is a lot of pressure on warehouse operators to improve productivity – no surprise there. With many reporting a push for annual productivity increases of 5% or more, modernization of mobile warehouse technologies is becoming more of a mandate than a wish. Common reasons to modernize come from various angles, so here are five that I’ve been hearing most often:

  • Aging mobile devices: The lifecycle of rugged mobile computers is significantly longer than consumer devices. Many companies have rugged devices in use for five, seven, even ten years, or more. However, technological advancements (everything from processing power to data capture options) in the mobile computers that have been introduced since their last hardware implementation are inspiring a new wave of device refreshes.
  • Improving mobile application experiences: With a huge push toward faster shipments, many companies are evaluating how to help workers more quickly and intuitively navigate task workflows. This means mobile applications have to be more intuitive and easy to learn – especially for businesses that employ a sizeable seasonal workforce.
  • Warehouse productivityChanging workforce demographics: A growing number of workers entering warehouse operations have never before seen a “green screen” terminal emulation client. But they grew up with tap-and-swipe user experiences on their smartphones and tablets. Giving them a familiar experience in their work applications essentially flattens their learning curve and speeds their productivity.
  • Fading support for legacy mobile operating systems: Several versions of Microsoft’s mobile operating systems will be unsupported by 2020. The choices among Android-based mobile computers are starting to reach deeper into supply chain use cases, while the first Windows 10 products are now joining this market.
  • Getting more from existing systems: Modernizing your mobile deployment should focus on exactly that: the mobile computers and mobility apps that your workers use to get their job done. You have already invested in and spent time optimizing your host application (whether your WMS, ERP, etc.). By modernizing your mobile technology, you can get more out of your existing host systems for years to come.

What forces are inspiring you to modernize supply chain mobility? Email me or share your story with me on Twitter.

The New Android World: Dealing With BIG Migration Expenses

illustration black and android phone on white background

Your business has most likely been running Windows Mobile or Windows CE for a device generation or two. From the introduction of PocketPC in the rugged device market in 2001, Microsoft delivered a stable platform that brought mobile productivity to manufacturers, retailers, and the entire supply chain in between.

However, the last five years have really forced a reevaluation of where to look next.

What’s next?

At first, there was the discussion of consumer devices moving into the hands of workers who traditionally carried rugged mobile computers. While the lines determining where consumer-grade fits and where it fails became clearer, the operating system landscape was significantly altered.

Since its first introduction to the rugged mobile computing market in late 2011, Android has grown in both the number of rugged devices shipped and the number of device form factors for which it’s available.

Since 2015, analyst firms such as VDC Research have pointed to statistics that prove Android is reaching “critical mass” in the market.

With industry experts recognizing Android as a viable candidate for your next mobility hardware refresh, your focus may be shifting to the remaining barriers to choosing this OS. That’s good.

A major area of concern: the expense of a migration.

App migration is expensive

When the first Android-based rugged devices entered the market, the most common objection concerned the mobile apps, with questions like, What am I supposed to do with my applications? Are there equivalent apps already available for Android? Will my application vendor build me an Android version? How much will all of this cost me?

It’s a huge jump—probably not seen since the days of moving your applications away from DOS around the turn of the century. And just like then, a big benefit of making the leap is an application experience that’s significantly more user-friendly.

That’s all nice, but at what cost?

Since the first rugged Android devices, many application providers, including Wavelink, have brought their apps to Android. Vendors have faced two choices:

1. Bring the existing application, in its current form, over to Android

2. Rewrite the whole application for this new operating system

The first option was a relatively quick solution, but wouldn’t fully take advantage of all that the Android OS offered. The second option—while it could allow developers to optimize the app for Android—was a much larger development effort (read: more expensive to create).

Terminal Emulation

Wavelink brought Terminal Emulation (TE) to the Android operating system in late 2011, just in time for the first rugged Android devices.

With TE, early adopters of Android devices could stay with their trusted mobility client and begin to roll out new devices. TE has been a proven platform for decades, and the ability to adopt new hardware without the risk of new software at the same time has been a relief for many customers. However, with its “green screen interface,” TE left something to be desired by those looking for a more Android experience.

Android—and fellow consumer operating system, iOS from Apple—really changed the mobile experience. Finger-tapping, swiping, pinching and panning are all new ways to navigate on a smartphone.

Aside from the way we interface with apps, the devices offer bright, beautiful screens. Display technology advanced with incredible clarity. How does one take advantage of all of this—the full Android experience?

In the same way that application vendors were reluctant to fully rewrite their apps for Android, companies around the globe discovered the same pains of cost, risk, and effort to migrate from their existing applications to new alternatives on Android.

To solve this, Wavelink created the Velocity platform.

Velocity

Velocity takes your existing telnet client or web application and modernizes it for a touchscreen experience. What does that mean? Your existing, trusted “green screen” client becomes an Android app—complete with screen-tapping navigation; a clean, intuitive user experience; and the ability to offer full color and graphics so workers can easily read and interpret task workflows.

You don’t need to migrate to a new application when you can modernize with Velocity. Underneath that elegant interface is the tried-and-trusted telnet client performance you’ve relied on for years. You can continue to depend on your Android application with confidence.

Only now, the user experience for your workers is much more intuitive and familiar, and it replaces multiple keypresses with single screen-taps.

Learn more by downloading our free white paper below!

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Voice Enablement Speaks to Problems Solved

Making an investment in technology isn’t about developing or buying a product, but a problem that the technology solves. Here at Wavelink, our investment in voice enablement has been focused on solving the problems our customers face: What problems with their current workflows can be addressed with voice? What problems with traditional voice applications can be solved with a fresh approach via voice enablement?

Infographic

Infographic: Top problems solved with voice technology

The answer varies by business, and you can see some of the more common challenges driving voice adoption in the accompanying infographic. It is always interesting to hear a personal story from a decision maker explaining why they chose Speakeasy.  Just as impressive are the metrics by which they measure the ROI on their voice enablement implementation – which can range from dollars and cents, to the less obvious employee morale, etc.  All these show why voice adoption is projected to grow significantly over the next several years.

The goals all yield some commonality in the problems solved: Improvements – whether measured by accuracy, safety, training, and others, all tie back to making sure the optimal amount of product moves to the next stage in the supply chain. That’s productivity!

Speaking of productivity, are you planning to attend Oracle OpenWorld next month?  Wavelink will be there to talk mobile productivity. Stop by and get a demo of Speakeasy in booth #3537.

How You Can Use Android Without Messing With Your Host Apps

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Perhaps the greatest concern when doing any sort of upgrade or tech refresh is summed up in this question: “What will this do to the systems I’ve already invested in and have optimized?”

Your supply chain management systems—whether your WMS, ERP, etc.—are serious investments, and the resources (dollars, man-hours, and more) spent perfecting them make you hesitant to touch them unless you absolutely must.

The problem with third-party vendors

It’s even worse when you must allow a third-party vendor to get in and touch those systems. You worry about what they’re touching, and then you worry about how much it will cost you in the long run.

A third party making changes to your system means multiple expenses (and risks).

The first concern is about what their initial changes will do. Next (and often a larger expense) is the cost to bring the vendor back in to retest its software every time you want to make a change to your system. Even if your changes are for a completely unrelated reason, you’re paying that vendor to come back and retest, just to be sure.

We’ve witnessed this type of business model from many vendors over the years. It can be painful.

Choose an Android device and modernize your telnet or web application with Velocity

Choosing an Android device—and modernizing your telnet or web application with Velocity—means you can make the leap to Android without having to touch your host apps. Velocity modernizes the mobility clients you already have installed and that are already working with your host.

Even if you choose to voice-enable your Velocity-based applications with the Wavelink Speakeasy solution, the same promise holds true.

Speakeasy runs completely on the mobile device, meaning that everything that takes the spoken phrases and turns them into text for fields within your application is handled within the mobile device. As far as your host application is concerned, there’s no difference between data entered via voice and data scanned from a barcode, or keyed in by the user.

You’ve made a significant investment in your host applications. There’s no need to compromise that investment to get the latest mobile tech for your workers.

The next generation platform

Palm OS, and PocketPC/WindowsCE/Windows Mobile—right through today’s leading operating systems. The touchscreen experience is bringing mobility into its next generation.

With the mass-market accessibility of smartphones, your workers are more ready than ever to willingly (and possibly, thankfully) adopt a new mobility platform. Best of all, when you choose Velocity as your platform for Android applications, you can make the transition easy while preserving the investments you’ve already made.

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