Posted by Robert DeStefano
Drones, M&A activity, a crash in oil prices – these topics and more helped shape 2015 for all of us who work throughout the supply chain. There are always unexpected events that force change in our markets, and certainly the past year hasn’t disappointed. So, as we bid adieu to 2015, it’s time to set our sights on what we might expect in 2016.
- Device manufacturers set the stage for an Android/Windows decision: Several manufacturers of rugged mobile computers are introducing devices with some skus that run Windows and others that run Android. Android’s share has been growing in our space. The question is: whether a Windows 10 release will slow the momentum, and make some who have been waiting to upgrade, feel confident doing so.
- Wider deployment of mobility in consumer-facing use cases: It’s been discussed for years, but the choice of larger-screen mobile devices available for store associates to carry on the showroom floor has reached critical mass. Now is the time when retailers will be looking at apps like guided selling and mobile POS to provide an enhanced customer experience.
- The Internet of Things will get more vertical: Both literally and figuratively. We’ve seen a few examples of IoT in our world – things like robotic warehouse shelving, but as the hype continues, we’ll see some interesting concepts introduced in the coming year. Drones will be part of this. Whether or not you agree, they are part of the IoT. The concepts and use cases for these devices are getting attention.
There are also the numerous surprises that will come during 2016, and we’re looking forward to evaluating these alongside you! What predictions do you have for the mobile productivity space in 2016? Email me with your thoughts and/or wish list for the upcoming year.
Finally, all of us at Wavelink that you for trusting us as your partner for mobile productivity. We wish you all the best for a healthy, happy, and productive 2016!
Posted by Robert DeStefano
“Black Friday”, “Cyber Monday”, the “Holiday Shopping Season” is upon us. Starting just before the American Thanksgiving holiday last week, I began reflecting on all the wonderful tech that has made shopping much more enjoyable and an easier task to accomplish. I’m not talking about the online versus in-store experience, but the various experiences I’ve enjoyed, and make it a point to take advantage of as a consumer. Here are a few of my favorites and my personal suggestions to help you enjoy them, too:
- In-store pickup: Sometimes, being in a crowded mall during this time of year can suck all the good will out of a shopper. Sometimes, it’s so helpful (and often faster) to be able to pick out a few pre-determined gifts online, pay for them, and then go right to the pick-up area in their brick-and-mortar store. This will save you significant time on trips where you want to grab-and-go. Browsing the store on these same trips undermines the benefit.
- Digital loyalty cards: I carry one wallet, which provides limited space for loyalty cards. I carry one iPhone, but within a single app I can hold all my loyalty card info in digital form – including barcoded loyalty numbers. Bonus points for retailers whose employees use 2D imagers and can scan those loyalty barcodes right from my phone’s screen (faster still, compared to the retail associate having to key in my loyalty number). Bottom line: whether buying coffee, groceries, or you next electronic gadget, the savings and rewards these cards offer may be worth sharing some shopping habit data with these establishments, which I’ve written about on our LANDESK blog.
- Self-checkout: I’m like the legendary wild-west gunslinger Doc Holliday when it comes to scanning my own items at checkout. Give me a retail barcode scanner and I can capture every barcode on every ingredient of our Christmas dinner menu in a matter of seconds – including coupons. It’s not a contest against the other checkout lines. It’s a matter of continuous improvement of my own barcode scanning skills. (Full disclosure: I’ve worked for several years at firms that produce these devices, so testing scanner aggressiveness is kind of a habit). For the fastest scanner-slinging experience, make more frequent trips that include fewer items. Then, place items in your shopping cart with the UPC barcode facing up. You won’t have to touch the items – just point the scanner’s laser line across the barcodes.
- Personalized offers and coupons: I like coupons for stuff I typically buy. Getting an email, in-app offer, or (dare I say it) direct mail coupon offer that saves me money on something I buy frequently will likely get me into a store – especially during this busy time of year. The tech may not be the coupon itself, but the analytics that help the retailer recognize my buying habits. However, if you really want to impress me with the impulse buy technology – send me a digital offer (in-app or via email) that allows me to buy now and you’ll ship it free, fast. If the product is something you use regularly, or that has a reasonable shelf life (and you have space to store it), give in to the impulse buy!
- QR coded retail tags: Sometimes I want to know more about the product while I’m in the store, but at this time of year, no amount of retail staff can help everyone. And sometimes, I want to research on my own, anyway. QR codes on shelf tags that connect me to your online product page so I can look at product specifications, food ingredients, or even store inventory (where necessary)are a great resource. There are plenty of QR code reader apps out there, so if you have the opportunity to interact with these funky-looking barcodes, you’ll be surprised to find what information they can connect you to – even incentives if you buy immediately (read: personalized coupons).
Here’s to a great season of giving! I’m thankful to all the people working throughout the supply chain, from manufacturers through distribution and into the retail stores or delivering packages to my door: Thank you!
Posted by Robert DeStefano
There are some great technologies heading into mobile these days, and it’s always exciting to see what emerging trends will flourish into mainstream. Some will have long adoption curves, while others may see only limited adoption.
One trend that has become mainstream, and provided tremendous opportunity along the way, has been the proliferation of touch-enabled mobile devices. For those who remember the late 1990s in mobile computing, you’ll recall the early days of stylus-based, or “pen computing” – when Palm OS and then PocketPC reset the user experience in mobility. Touch-enabled devices, such as those running Android or iOS, have done the same thing and are following some of the same themes for market adoption.
If you’re thinking about deploying new devices, or upgrading your mobile computers to the latest generation, here are some reasons to consider a touch-enabled device:
- Speed: The operating systems on today’s touch-enabled mobile devices have made navigation incredibly fast. With the swipe of a single finger, I can navigate through pages of information. Consider the possibilities when your workforce can navigate through a task this way!
- Size: Think about the variety of display sizes you can choose from. By removing physical keys, even the smallest touch-enabled mobile devices saw screen size grow from 3.5-inches to 4-inches or more. And tablets offer an amazing experience starting at 7-inches, while remaining manageably mobile at as much as 11-inches. This size range has opened the door for new use cases for mobility (planograms, reading schematics, etc.)
- Familiarity: Choosing a touch-enabled mobile computer provides your workers with a device that works like their personal smartphones and tablets do – likely with the same operating system and navigation experience (tap, swipe, pinch, pan, etc.). This increases users’ comfort with the device – reducing the learning curve, and improving accuracy.
- Data entry: While physical keys may be minimal, the on-screen keyboards work well for data entry in many use cases. Like the operating system itself, the keyboard is something familiar to your workers. Productivity-oriented mobile apps – such as Wavelink Terminal Emulation, also allow you to create custom keyboards for your workers. This means that when your worker gets to a specific data entry field within the workflow, they’re presented with a keyboard that only offers the keys appropriate for entering in that field (who needs letters when the field is “Quantity”?).
- Image: Over the past five years, I’ve spoken with many companies that were considering touch-enabled mobile devices, and a number of them included among their reasons: Their brand image. These businesses saw a strong value in having touch-enabled mobile devices in the hands of workers who were in customer-facing roles. Consider retail store associates who are on the sales floor. They’re asked to help consumers find product, check stock, compare online prices, look up registry items, and more. In these roles, having a device that looks similar and works like the mobile device that the consumer is carrying makes the store associate more approachable, relatable, and gives the consumer a feeling that the store is trendy, modern, sophisticated, tech savvy, etc.
Touch-enabled devices are expanding in enterprise mobility because of these reasons, and surely others. While there are numerous use cases where key-based data entry (and devices that deliver that experience) remains an absolute, the growth of touch-enabled devices has been impressive. When deciding what mobile device will best deliver productivity gains in your business, consider all your options. I’m happy to report you have a great number of choices!
Posted by Robert DeStefano
In this post (which is loaded with American football references), I’ve taken a few notes from the playbook of our good friends and strategic partners over at Zebra Technologies and added a bit of additional color commentary to build a kind of “can’t lose” game plan for optimizing your warehouse productivity and operations. Taking a look at the recent post from Mr. Mark Wheeler at Zebra Productivity Does Not Increase by Voice Alone, several key points are brought to the forefront:
- “Voice picking technology can be significantly increased with complementary solutions that aren’t necessarily voice-driven…” this is, indeed, correct. For optimal worker productivity, add voice where voice makes sense. Voice should be one part of a multi-modal warehouse picking solution, alongside barcode data capture and keyboard/touchscreen data input, for example. These methods of data interaction team up to build the strongest solution – each contributing its strengths to the overall performance of your mobility deployment.
- “Reporting tools can access [individual worker productivity] data and provide insights to the current process, identifying ways to streamline and improve it.” Tracking is a key to optimizing productivity. Sure, there is the need to track for ROI purposes, but optimization includes continually measuring the performance of each worker and finding ways to get even more productivity by making small adjustments to the workflow. This is an ongoing pursuit of perfect productivity – scoring the most output and tackling inefficiencies.
Here’s another big play: For your multi-modal warehouse picking, consider the benefit of implementing this solution without having to make changes to your host application (your WMS, etc.). That’s a game-winner! With Wavelink Speakeasy, all the voice-processing is handled on the mobile device, so there is no need to touch the host system to accommodate voice. For more about this, you can check out my recent blog post “Hey Voice Vendor: Hands off my host system!” By keeping your existing host applications intact, you’ll realize significant cost savings, and score some extra points by easing the implementation. Now, go in there and score that productivity touchdown!
Posted by Robert DeStefano
What a wild ride 2014 has been in the mobile productivity space! We’ve seen sizeable mergers, watched the mobile OS roller coaster ride continue, and been thankful to see the economy continue to increase demand for business throughout the supply chain. I’ve recently taken a look back at my predictions for 2014 and found not too much was far off, though surely occurring in a different manner than I expected. Now, with 2014 about to come to a close, let’s have a little fun picking what’s to come in 2015:
- There will be more mergers and acquisitions among mobility vendors. In 2014, hardware vendors changed logos and several industry solution providers merged. 2015 will bring more consolidation as companies combine expertise to better serve specific markets and industries.
- Mobile productivity meets the millennials. As more Millennials start joining the workforce, enterprises are going to focus on equipping them with technology that is familiar to them – reducing the learning curve so they can be more productive, more quickly.
- As Android multiplies, Microsoft’s mobile strategy will be determined. The number of Android devices designed for mission-critical mobility has accelerated in 2014. While that trend is expected to continue in 2015, the market will influence Microsoft’s direction for mobility. We will find out if the market accepts 8.1 for mobile, waits for a Windows 10-based operating system, or shifts its confidence further toward Android.
Whether these or the numerous surprises 2015 will have in store for rugged mobility market, Wavelink will be here with you speaking the language of Mobile Productivity. Got predictions of your own? Email me at firstname.lastname@example.org with your expectations for mobile productivity.
Finally, on behalf of all of us at Wavelink, thank you for choosing us as your partner for mobile productivity. We wish you all the best for a happy, healthy, and productive 2015!
The Mix of Consumer and Rugged Mobile Devices in the Enterprise
Has your experience at retail stores been different lately? Or perhaps you’ve had a different experience at a medical facility? Maybe your own work has changed recently. A significant change across industries has been in the number and types of mobile devices being used by all sorts of workers. Whether you’ve completed a sales transaction by signing on a smartphone, or checked in at your doctor’s office using a tablet, there is no denying that mobile devices are proliferating in enterprise use cases.
In most mission-critical mobility deployments, enterprises have deployed rugged mobile computers. Consider the devices carried by parcel couriers, stockroom workers and others. There’s an obvious need for durability, so that these mobile computers can withstand frequent drops, extreme temperatures, and in some situations, hazardous environments (think oil rigs). Technologies that help these workers accomplish their tasks include advanced data capture capabilities, such as barcode scanning, RFID, and perhaps payment transaction capabilities.
As consumers, we don’t often interact with these workers as they complete their tasks. The use cases are not typically consumer-facing. However, there is an increasing contingent of enterprises that are placing more mobility into the hands of workers who are visible, and directly interacting with consumers. These workers are still performing mission-critical activities – particularly in revenue generating roles, for the enterprise.
Over the past few years, companies have explored the evolving smartphone and tablet options for these workers. In some cases, the benefits of these consumer-grade devices have proven not to be the best fit for the business, due to fragility, theft, or other limitations. These enterprises have generally opted to revert to the familiar – the rugged mobile computers that are likely being used in traditional task-based use cases. By contrast, there are enterprises across industries that have chosen and successfully deployed consumer smartphones and tablets into consumer-facing use cases.
There is no denying the selection of enterprise mobility hardware has expanded significantly over the last five years. Whether going with traditional, rugged mobile computers, or consumer-grade devices, it is exciting to see the accelerated adoption of mobility across enterprises – especially as it gets into the hands of the workers with whom we, as consumers, interact. However, this also creates a new IT challenge: Some workers are carrying rugged mobile computers, others have consumer devices. There is overlap in applications and content access as well. For all these users, there is a bottom line benefit to their mobile productivity. Fortunately, Wavelink Avalanche is there to be able to ensure all these users – task-oriented and customer-facing, are optimally productive.
Posted by Robert DeStefano
It’s a final nod to American football references from me (at least until the draft in May), but consider the requirements of an enterprise mobility policy: there are a lot of parts that need to be considered to make a deployment successful, similar to a championship winning team. When the strategy is thorough and the numerous “what-if” scenarios are played out, success is far more likely than for a team that doesn’t plan.
BYOD, like any other component of an enterprise IT strategy, needs to be strategically implemented for the best results. Just as no individual player on a team is greater than the team, BYOD should not be viewed individually; so as not to exclude other mobility initiatives across the enterprise.
To continue the “BYOD as an athlete” analogy, BYOD needs to be a versatile, balanced policy. This means that it needs to support all the leading mobile operating systems equally (or at least as equally as Google, Apple, and Microsoft allow). It needs to enable the mobile worker to be optimally productive – regardless of their hardware selection.
However, as a component of a larger enterprise mobility strategy, BYOD needs to be deployed in a manner that unifies it with the requirements of complementary mobility components – like teammates. For example, managing BYOD should be unified with the solution for managing other mobility hardware deployed within the company – such as rugged mobile devices used at the loading dock, in the warehouse, etc. Why would an enterprise want a different console for managing BYOD? A separate management system specific to BYOD creates the kind of friction synonymous with a self-interested player on the football team – disruption, confusion, and complexity, as IT administrators need to toggle screens and systems just for BYOD users.
The big play that scores points with IT administrators and mobile users is to deploy BYOD policies in a common enterprise mobility management solution like Wavelink Avalanche. Doing so enables enterprises to unify the management of all their mobile deployments. It enables BYOD support without compromising the support that mission critical mobility users need. Want to throw the winning touchdown? Using Wavelink Avalanche also allows for management of the entire enterprise deployment – all enterprise mobile devices (BYOD, rugged mobile computers, etc.), mobile applications and content access, network infrastructure, and printers. That’s a game plan that will enable maximum worker productivity, and maybe earn you a ride on the shoulders of your fellow IT administrators and mobility users.
Posted by Robert DeStefano
It’s always fun to look back at what the past year has meant to our industry, and (in a tip of the hat to William Shakespeare) if “what’s past is prologue”, then what is to come in the next year? Indeed, 2013 has seen a few significant themes take shape. Mobile device management has become significantly commoditized – as customers have begun to look past the common device-oriented features to larger, unified mobility solutions. A handful of new, mission-critical mobile devices have come to market – in some unique and interesting forms. Legacy voice vendors have struggled to get away from their Cold-war era technologies. Consumer smartphones and tablets have entered the enterprise through every door, window and loading dock available.
Yes, 2013 has met our expectations of continued evolution in enterprise mobility! 2014 has even more fun in store (and in the warehouse):
- The limits of the consumer device will become clear. Enterprises will see a more precise delineation between where BYOD or consumer smartphones/tablets can be used, and where rugged mobile computers will continue to be deployed.
- Voice-enablement will expand beyond stock picking. With full voice functionality, faster deployment, and at a lower cost, even companies that have deployed legacy voice for warehouse picking will be giving Speakeasy a fresh look for expending multi-modal data capture across supply chain tasks.
- There will be a reduction in point-product mobility providers. As more enterprises began doing in 2013, even more will seek out mobility solution providers that can offer more than just a single product. Unified mobility solutions – those that are designed together and, when deployed together, offer even greater value to the business, will be at the top of enterprise mobility wish-lists.
As these and other events unfold for IT in rugged environments, Wavelink is here to help you navigate. What are your enterprise mobility predictions for 2014? Please post your predictions in the comments section below.