Wavelink Blog

Category: Voice

Crucial Questions With VP of Worldwide Sales: What You Need to Know

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Steve Bemis has extensive experience in hardware and software sales and management with a focus on mobile environments.

Since 2008, he has been an integral part of Wavelink with his role as vice president of worldwide sales. He is responsible for driving over 30 million in sales annually.

With this kind of experience in the industry, we wanted to pick his brain regarding current topics facing today’s industry. Here are his responses:

  • Tell us a little bit about the typical Wavelink customer. What problems does Wavelink solve for them?

The typical Wavelink customer is someone from a company you might deal with regularly—Amazon, FedEx, UPS, Bed Bath & Beyond, IKEA, and Sysco Foods, just to name a few.

Some of our oldest customers are food retailers, such as Safeway and Kroger, who use our software to help their local grocer order the food that the wholesaler delivers every day.

We are all about driving efficiency. This efficiency can occur in a retail space by perhaps allowing the associate real-time access to stock status and pricing, or it can occur in the distribution facility by making sure the product is shipped on time and as efficiently as possible.

Wavelink is all about mission critical applications.

  • Android migration is a trending topic right now. What are the biggest hurdles for companies with Android?

The biggest hurdle is deciding how to move your legacy systems forward. Everyone can agree that the compelling feature Android brings is a fresh look and feel; the challenge is how to bring that while still preserving the investment in Back Office systems.

Wavelink has been an industry leader doing exactly that for years. We have seen companies looking to upgrade their systems realize this to be a 500+ million dollar undertaking. Not only is this expensive, but it carries huge risks as we are talking about touching the very systems that are deemed mission critical.

Wavelink has products that can allow for this shift in technology while still mitigating the risks and costs.

  • How are companies using Velocity and what is it?

Velocity is a revolutionary product.

As with all of our products, Velocity aligns with our strategy of evolution vs. revolution. We can leverage it to provide everyone the user experience that our customers are looking for while maintaining their back-end systems with no changes to their host applications.

This allows them to recognize huge ROI with little risk. On top of that, we can leverage our Speakeasy product and add voice as simply as another modality, without all the legacy issues that came with adding voice in the past.

Download our free white paper and find out how you can make your Android migration as painless as possible.

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The New Android World: Dealing With BIG Migration Expenses

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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.

Terminal Emulation — the ‘Zip Code’ for Task Workers

I’m old enough to remember when the U.S. Postal Service introduced the “Zoning Improvement Plan” or ZIP codes in 1963. And a memorable slogan from an early ad campaign introducing this new process-efficiency plan has stuck with me ever since: “Mail moves the country. ZIP codes move the mail.”

In the areas of warehouse and distribution center modernization, there’s an ever-increasing need for process efficiencies to boost both productivity and accuracy. The margin for error is being scrutinized and warehouse operations present opportunities for competitive differentiation.

Achieving the “perfect order” (encompassing picking accuracy, on-time delivery rate, shipping without damage, and order entry accuracy) is increasingly the goal.

Terminal Emulation—an enterprise mobility staple since the 1990s

Though not nearly as old as the first ZIP codes, Terminal Emulation (TE) has been a staple for enterprise mobility solutions since the 1990s when wireless mobility gained traction. TE made it easy to see and capture the data from the server-based supply chain management systems.

Wavelink TE has a proven 20-year track record of meeting business needs. Without question, it’s a task worker “productivity catalyst” for enterprises across industries.

And as product marketing manager Rob DeStefano explains in “The Android Expectation” white paper that you can download below, Wavelink brought TE to the Android operating system in late 2011—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,” DeStefano says. “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’”.

DeStefano explains that 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?”

According to DeStefano, 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 takes your existing telnet client or web application and modernizes it for a touchscreen experience,” DeStefano says. “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.”

DeStefano says 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.”

Here are some additional key points about Wavelink TE:

Modernize the host application automatically

Velocity handles the conversion of your host application’s text interface automatically, so you can devote your software-development resources to other projects. Your workers gain a mobile application that is contemporary and familiar, while your business avoids the costs of having to develop one.

Skip the middleware

The Velocity platform consists of the mobile app/browser and administrative console. Complexity doesn’t get between your mobile devices and your host application.

Customize keyboards

Many of today’s touchscreen devices have few, if any, physical keys for data entry. Velocity lets you create customized onscreen keypads, so you can present workers with the data entry keys appropriate for the task at hand.

Raise productivity with an optimized mobile experience

Powerful scripting and reformatting capabilities let you automate data parsing and customize your workers’ mobile experience like never before.

Get the white paper now!

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Speakeasy Makes It Easy to Improve Picking Accuracy and Productivity

Picture warehouse worker Peter Piper picking a peck of pickled peppers.

Let’s say Peter works for Goya Foods, America’s largest Hispanic-owned food company that distributes more than 2,000 Latin American products worldwide.

Did Peter perfectly pick the proper SKU of Goya pickled peppers? Were they the green Jalapeño? The Aji Picante? Were they sliced or whole? Did he pick them quickly? And what the heck is a peck, anyway?

Here’s the dill… I mean deal.

Warehouse operations are under pressure from customers who demand orders faster, and from high-error costs and labor costs. More SKUs drive the need for increased inventory visibility, accuracy, and efficiency.

As Kathryn Nassberg and David Krebs of VDC Research explain, ensuring greater speed and accuracy in warehousing, especially where individual picking is concerned, can reduce the cost of errors and boost worker productivity.

“As long as the human element continues to play a central role in warehousing,” say Nassberg and Krebs, “any technology that optimizes workflows and improves accuracy will add tremendous value.”

Voice-based technology improves picking accuracy and worker productivity

Research conducted by VDC revealed that organizations employing voice-based technology have consistently cited gains of more than 20 percent in both picking accuracy and worker productivity.

Around 87 percent of organizations surveyed experienced at least a ten percent improvement in picking accuracy, and 89 percent of organizations experienced at least a ten percent increase in worker productivity.

The pressure for warehousing to boost productivity and cut costs will only continue to grow.

VDC Research says 40 percent of warehouse labor costs are related to order preparation.

“This heightens the need to reduce warehousing errors, and picking errors in particular, as organizations strive to optimize the perfect order. The cost of freight, labor, and lost customers are the three factors that have the greatest financial impact when errors are made.”

And as product marketing manager Rob DeStefano explains in “The Android Expectation” white paper that you can download below, the Android rugged mobile computing platform is reaching critical mass in the market. Industry experts recognize Android as a viable candidate for your next mobility hardware refresh. But such a refresh brings with it three areas of concern:

  1. Implications for your mobile apps
  2. Workers and the Android user experience
  3. Android and your Supply Chain Management (SCM) systems

Specifically addressing the first area of concern, the implications for your mobile apps, choosing an Android device—and modernizing your telnet or web application with Wavelink Velocity—means you can make the leap to Android without having to touch your host apps.

Velocity modernizes the mobility clients you’ve installed that are already working with your host.

And 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.

Speakeasy redefines voice enablement

As Rob DeStefano explains, Speakeasy isn’t a traditional voice application.

“It’s a whole lot easier—enabling voice on an app you’ve already have deployed. But it’s fully operational and fully functional. Don’t mistake easier for less than full function. It’s full-featured voice, without the complexity. It’s not the legacy voice application of old.”

And what about Peter Piper and that peck of pickled peppers at Goya Foods? The company implemented Manhattan Associates’ Warehouse Management System (WMS) and Speakeasy concurrently.

With support from a Wavelink engineer for implementation, Goya developed the pick flow, supporting screens, and error messages for Speakeasy. With just an hour or two of training, and with quick-reference guides in hand, pickers began pulling items.

With voice commands, pickers and forklift operators move from point to point more safely. The Prince George, Virginia plant, which is the testing site for the system that is being rolled out to other Goya sites, hasn’t logged a single accident since implementing Speakeasy.

Additionally, the Prince George site notes big boosts in picking accuracy. For any errors caught at bay doors, someone would manually have to go re-pick and pack those items. “We would have from 40 to 60 mis-picks a night,” said Luis Ramos, General Manager. “Now that has gone down considerably to be almost non-existent, which translates to efficiency.”

Learn more about Speakeasy and Velocity from Wavelink. Download the white paper.

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Andy Android speaks Mobile Productivity

We’re really excited by the news that Speakeasy is coming to the Android platform! That’s right! Later this summer, mobile computers running the Android platform can add voice to Velocity-based applications.  Voice adds yet another boost to worker productivity, complementing the touch-driven user experience Velocity offers.

Speakeasy Android

Businesses throughout the supply chain have already been recognizing the benefits of voice enablement – from fast implementation to efficiency gains of 50% and more.  As device manufacturers are bringing Android devices to market in a variety of form factors, companies now have a good selection of devices for workers driving forklifts, performing warehouse tasks, and all the way to the retail floor.  Now, as organizations consider these devices, they can bring their apps to Android via Velocity, and also add the power of voice!

If you’re considering devices running Android for your next generation mobile deployment, or to simply expand your use of mobility, here are some considerations for making the leap.  There is significant opportunity to help your workers be more productive with these new devices and the familiarity that this operating system offers them.  From Android’s first rugged embodiment as a tablet, the expansion into more scanning-intensive form factors opens a number of new use cases.  Who thought Andy would find his way onto the manufacturing floor, or into the aisles of your warehouse?  With our announcement, Wavelink is excited to be here, ready when you are, to put the power of voice into your Android mobile deployment!

Four Implementation Costs Traditional Voice Application Providers Don’t Want You to Think About

This column was originally posted in March 2015 and has been updated.

We talk about voice enablement with enterprises throughout the supply chain a lot, and here a lot of stories about their prior experiences with traditional voice applications. Their stories are maddening.  Their stories are horrifying.  Their stories are the kind that make anyone with P&L responsibility want to scream.  Too often, these recounted experiences are stories of large up-front investments and then a bunch of unforeseen expenses post-deployment.  The problem is the traditional voice application model, which adds costs in these four common areas:

Speakeasy eliminates these for costs when adding voice to your warehouse mobility solution.

Speakeasy eliminates these four costs when adding voice to your warehouse mobility solution.

Voice-dedicated hardware: Traditional voice apps require a separate, proprietary computer (typically worn on the belt or shoulder of the worker), that houses the speech-to-text and text-to-speech processing.  However, if the barcode scanning mobile computers you’re deploying are fairly current (introduced to market in 2008 or later)), they already have the audio capabilities and computing horsepower to handle the voice processing, so you don’t need to buy proprietary voice hardware.

Middleware or “System Interfaces”: In most warehouse applications, you’re workers are already interfacing to a host system – your WMS, ERP or other supply chain management system.  And, in most of these cases, your workers are using Terminal Emulation on their mobile computers to interact with this host system.  There is no need to wedge additional middleware in between your host system and mobile device client in order to enable voice.  You’re interest is to recognize productivity gains by adding voice to your existing mobile application, so there is no need to buy middleware to enable voice.

Host System Modifications: Recently, I wrote about the problems that can arise when your voice vendor wants to make changes to your host system.  You’ve invested a significant amount of money in your host system, and you don’t need another vendor putting their hands in there (and changing you consulting services fees to do it).  Adding voice to the mobile application should simply pass data back to the host system in the same way that barcode scanned or key-entered data is communicated.  Your host system shouldn’t even need to know which method of data capture was used for a given data field, so adding voice shouldn’t require changes to your host systems.

Post-Deployment Host Modifications: Once your workers are voice-enabled and you’re realizing the productivity gains of voice-enablement, should you discover a process change that will further optimize your workflow, many traditional voice vendors will require that you contract them to contribute to the changes you want to make to your host system. They want to be included because they’ve already made changes to your host system to make their voice application work, so if you want to make any changes, they’ll need to ensure their application isn’t adversely affected.  Deploying voice-enablement shouldn’t require host system modifications, so you shouldn’t have to pay professional services fees to your voice vendor every time you want to make a change to your host system.

If you’ve encountered any of these issues when considering adding voice to your picking or other warehouse workflows, it’s time to look at Speakeasy.  It’s 100% mobile device driven (no proprietary voice hardware or middleware required), and does not require any modifications to your host system (which also eliminates the associated post-deployment costs).  You get the productivity benefits of full-featured voice-enablement, but without all these additional costs that often make traditional voice applications cost prohibitive.  Plus, you can deploy in as little as 30 days, so the productivity gains and cost savings can start adding up quickly.

Wearables, Voice and Warehouse Productivity

Productivity is a global language, and the challenge to continuously realize gains year-after-year is universal. Over time, I’ve covered several of the myths about voice applications, hidden costs to watch out for, and also how to add voice to mobile solutions you already have in place. Another topic to consider is how to realize the productivity gains you’re targeting – even with all the dynamics in warehouse technology. For this, I’ll share an excerpt from an article published by MHD Supply Chain Solutions in Australia, authored by Wavelink’s own Simon Storey, country manager for Australia and New Zealand:

From the article: Wearables and Voice, MHD Supply Chain Solutions, January/February 2016

“Significant productivity gains

Equipped with a wearable computer and voice capabilities, the productivity improvements for warehouse and DC staff can be seen instantly. Rather than having to pause to refer to a mhd
screen for a pick list and enter commands, details can be communicated to them as they move about the facility.

Termed “motion flow”, such an advance can have a large impact on staff productivity.

For example, staff at 3M Australia’s warehouse in Sydney have been using voice capabilities for more than 12 months. In that time, the staff have embraced the technology and find it helps them improve accuracy and efficiency.

Distribution centre manager for 3M Australia, Daniel La Greca said the high pick rate within his warehouse is extremely complex and labour intensive.

‘Our people love the fact that they can now keep their eyes on the ball by speeding-up the scanning stage,’ he said. ‘I’m confident that the ability for us to do all of our picking functions without setting down and picking up devices will save a significant amount of time, resulting in significant savings and new efficiencies.’”

Check out the full article (registration required), including perspectives on the “perfect storm” of change that warehouse operators are facing, as well as suggestions for how to incorporate these technologies with a layered approach.  How are advances in mobile technology influencing your future plans for maximizing productivity? Email me or contact me on Twitter at @Rob_DeStefano

NRF 2016: Modernization and More!

NRF2016The 2016 edition of the National Retail Federation show was my 17th consecutive, and like the previous experiences, this year’s exhibits showcased a number of exciting trends in the retail market! We were really excited about the response to the mobility modernization theme, as evidenced by the string of new mobile devices introduced by our device manufacturing partners. Zebra’s TC8000 was especially close to home here, as modernization was echoed in the device’s software – All-Touch TE, powered by Wavelink.

There seemed to be a significant number of attendees who were entering the mobile technology refresh cycle. Interestingly, some admitted they were waiting for the market to settle on which operating systems would be safe bets. It seems more evident this year that Android is gaining trust, and similarly, new Windows-based devices were proving there is a credible future for Microsoft’s platform in the enterprise mobility arena.

Among the many great show recaps I’ve read, a couple of great recaps came from industry journal Consumer Goods Technology, and research firm VDC Research. These, along with many others, offer great perspectives on the trends noted across the show. For Wavelink, we’re looking forward to further conversations with the great folks we had the opportunity to meet in New York, and will be watching how this year’s trends play out over the course of the year.

What were your thoughts on NRF 2016? Email me or tweet @rob_destefano

What will Mobile Productivity Deliver in 2016?

Drone(own)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!