Mobile POS Systems: The Value of Consumer Devices

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.

The History of Voice: From Audrey to Siri

Check Out Our Speech Infographic

Here at Wavelink, we’ve always had a special place in our hearts for speech recognition. It’s hardly surprising. We know first-hand the many benefits of voice recognition in the warehouse – improved productivity, efficiency and warehouse safety. Since the introduction of Speakeasy six years ago, we’ve watched the rise of applications like Siri and Google Voice, which bring voice recognition to the masses. We thought it would be interesting to take a look back in time at some of the history of voice recognition and how it’s evolved over time.

Check Out Our Speech Infographic

Check Out Our Speech Infographic

Audrey

Before Siri, there was Audrey. Audrey was a speech recognition system developed by Bell Laboratories in the early 1950s. It was a pretty basic system and could only recognize the numbers one through nine. It also forced the speaker to pause between words, making it a bit cumbersome to actually use.

In the early 1960s, IBM made some improvements with their “Shoebox” device, which could understand 16 entire words: 10 digits and 6 arithmetical commands. Both Audrey and Shoebox, needless to say, were not very portable, making them highly impractical by today’s standards. Considering the low levels of computing power at the time, these were pretty significant gains. (more…)

Voice: Because Talk is Cheap and Time is Money

Speakeasy in Action

It’s obvious that companies only implement technology when it will benefit the business in some way.  Most often, it is the hope that technology yields some financial benefit – perhaps in the form of increased productivity and efficiency.  However, every technology vendor also recognizes this and therefore makes their sales pitch around the promise of some great savings.  But talk is cheap – so how best to separate the promises made in words, and those that are based on factual evidence?Speakeasy in Action

Selling technology has been tied to an ROI for decades, and today, nearly every company has an ROI calculator with which they can show how your investment in their product will put your business in the green.  What’s more credible?  Consider reference companies that already use the solution and explain the return on investment in their own terms.  Just as the reasons a business will choose to invest in technology may vary, so do the primary components of their own ROI calculations. (more…)

Securing the Supply Chain: Is Your Supply Chain a Hack Waiting to Happen?

Packages being loaded

The supply chain of most companies is long and complex. It’s often difficult to get a complete picture of your company’s supply chain, which involves not only direct suppliers, but also the suppliers that supply your suppliers. And so on down the chain.Packages being loaded

But even though this lack of knowledge is common and, in many cases, unavoidable, it’s still cause for concern. Many companies share sensitive corporate data with those in the supply chain, such as intellectual property information, customer data or employee info. This information, some of it crucial for business to move forward, some of it not, is often shared without any regard for the information security practices of the company receiving the info.

It’s a risky move. On the one hand, the vendor you’re sharing info with and everyone they’re sharing info with might have great security in place. Their systems might be as tight as a drum. On the other hand, just because your systems are secure doesn’t mean those of the companies you work with are equally secure, and data might be leaking from your organization like a sieve. (more…)

Android in the Warehouse

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The Android platform is rapidly growing. According to recent estimates from analyst firm IDC, Android had 75 percent market share in Q1 of 2013, shipping more than 163 million smartphones during that time. While IDC doesn’t break down how many of those were shipped to consumers vs. enterprises, it wouldn’t surprise us to learn that a big portion of those devices are being used in ruggedized environments.

After all, the Android platform is a good fit for specialized environments like the warehouse. David Johnson of analyst firm Forrester recently told Network World that Android devices were now being considered for a whole host of non-consumer applications, “from movie ticket scanning at the theater front door, to electronic on-board recorders (EOBR) for truckers.”  The Android platform is flexible enough to support specialty devices and applications, unlike iOS devices, which only run on Apple products. It can also be difficult to create new applications for iOS, because of the closed nature of the system. Android, on the other hand, offers more flexibility in designing and publishing new applications and has worked hard to improve the security features of the platform to make it more suitable for business users.

There are also plenty of ruggedized devices that run Android, including devices made by Motorola, Panasonic, Samsung, Honeywell and more. In fact, just last week, Samsung announced their newest ruggedized Android: the Samsung Galaxy S4 Active. Samsung is the leading provider of Android devices, owning 41.1 percent of the market, according to IDC. Though much of the marketing for the ruggedized Galaxy S4 Active has targeted those who lead an active lifestyle (hence the name), its ruggedized features make it a good fit for the warehouse. The Galaxy S4 is sealed against both dust and water and can be operated while wearing gloves.

All this combines to make Android a great option for ruggedized environments – or even the not-so-rugged, such as the retail floor or mobile POS system. As it continues to grow in popularity among consumers, it might spur a stronger push for BYOD in the warehouse, which has not traditionally been a BYOD environment. However, according to Forrester, 37 percent of smartphones used in the enterprise run Android. Eventually, that may push into the warehouse as well.

Mobilizing the Warehouse – Where You Can Expect to Save

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Let’s say you work in a 500,000-square foot warehouse. You’re picking from one side of the four walls and replenishing in another, and you’re constantly moving about a building that might be 250 times the size of your home. It’s not hard to see where mobile can come in handy in terms of making your trips to opposite ends of the warehouse more worthwhile, but you’ll need a better business case than that if you’re hoping for handhelds instead of laptops.federatedphoto

First, the overall benefits:

  • Improved TCO – Adopting mobile can reduce the money spent on the device itself and its management. Those laptops will probably have life in your warehouse for a few years, tops, depending on the environment. While there is plenty of hardware out there to withstand harsh conditions, exposure to water, dust, harmful particles, etc., will play a factor in your systems’ life expectancy.  While mobile devices have similar life expectancies, they are usually much cheaper and in many cases, even easier and less costly to manage.
  • Productivity gains: While productivity might be harder to measure than device costs, thiscould save you hundreds of thousands. If your organization is able to save 30 minutes per shift with quicker access to important data, that could amount to a one-year productivity gain of half a million dollars (of course, this depends on the size of your organization).  Another productivity value add for deploying mobile rather than refreshing your current laptop supply is an easy, clean interface from which your employees can use custom-built applications and have quick access to important documents such as manuals, reports, equipment specs, etc.

The everyday tasks mobile will improve:

With these overall benefits in mind, there are specific tasks that mobile will help you streamline to get there, helping you realize the improved productivity and TCO. Using mobile in tandem with warehouse management software (especially voice-enabled) will earn you better accuracy, efficiency and even safety. A good management system will also give you better insight into your inventory and what you might need to refresh, put away or verify. With business-enabling applications and easy scanning capabilities, you can also capture new inventory as soon as you get it. This makes your products sellable, faster.

If you’re still using laptops in your warehouse, or you’re still looking to mobilize certain parts, a better knowledge of where your product is or even what the product is will give you more to work with – more time, more sellable product and ultimately, more money.

The World’s Foremost Mobile Application Management Company

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The following comes from Jason Mitchell, Director of Engineering at LANDesk.

This blog has an ambitious title, but I think it is accurate. Let me explain why. The recent definition of Mobile Application Management (MAM) focuses on delivering and securing native apps on mobile devices. These features typically include app wrapping and app distribution. While that’s as extensive as many smart device operation systems allow, Wavelink has a far more comprehensive and compelling feature set.

For more than 20 years, Wavelink has developed products and technologies that have enabled companies to deliver their operational applications to the ever-evolving set of mobile devices that are optimally designed for the task at hand. Let me give an example.

For high transaction processes like picking or sorting in a supply chain logistics operations, companies have host-based applications that need to be displayed on a variety of mobile devices. They do not want to have to add custom logic to the application to handle the different form factors or device drivers needed to access peripherals such as bar code scanners, radios, or printers. This is the market where Wavelink application management solutions exist. The solutions are built for telnet based applications, web applications, and native console applications executing on the server. They take these applications and expose them on any mobile device taking into account form factors, driver integration, security, session persistence, latency, unstable wireless networks, and a variety of others issues the application developer doesn’t want to know about and certainty doesn’t want to handle differently for each device. Wavelink solutions are designed to handle these problems without modifying the original application. This enabling of applications across the mobile devices is unique to the MAM solution Wavelink provides.

In summary, a comprehensive Mobile Application Management solution needs to deliver, secure, and enable applications across any mobile device platform or form factor without modifying the original application. This is why Wavelink is the world’s foremost Mobile Application Management Company.

Don’t Forget Our Old Friend The Wireless Printer

zebraprinter

We talk a lot about the needs for MDM around here, especially when it comes to smart devices and their proliferation into the enterprise. But one of the aspects of MDM which we don’t spend a lot of time on is managing the wireless printers common in warehouse environments. Sure, their hand held computer counterparts get all the love and attention, but remember that there is huge value in managing these printers. zebraprinter

As we’ve seen with smart devices, there are common features, or value propositions, that translate across the device form factors when it comes to MDM. Remote configuration, device health statistics, usage, and so on, are all things you want from your MDM solution. This is relevant whether we are talking wireless printers, smart devices, and/or hand held computers.

So next time you’re out looking at the latest and greatest MDM features, remember to think about our friend, the wireless printer. There is tremendous cost savings in bringing these assets into the fold of your MDM solution!

What Eric Schmidt Can Learn from Warehouse Employees – Get Used to Talking to A Device

Google GlassesSince 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!

Speakeasy in Action

Speakeasy in Action

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.

MDM from the Boardroom to the Back Office and Beyond

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When LANDesk and Wavelink came together in 2012, Steve Daly, the CEO of LANDesk Software, talked about the goals on the horizon for the newly unified team.  In the announcement he established the groundwork for the new endeavor. “Together, we will redefine mobility management and provide the market with unrivaled end-to-end mobile management solutions.  From the boardroom to the back office, we will enable mobility for people with a job to do.” This has been our directive since the day of the acquisition and we have been working together to provide our customers with MDM solutions that encompass both use cases.  As one can imagine, there are a few differences between the boardroom and the back office but when it comes to mobility there are not as many as you may think.  Let’s examine MDM from both perspectives.

Unique and Common Mobility Needs

  • Mobility Growth: Both the boardroom set and the line of business team are experiencing an explosion of mobile device demands.  On the boardroom side theses devices fall into both the BYOD device realm as well as assigned devices. They both share a need to keep up with the expanding wireless ecosystem with effective and powerful mobile device and wireless infrastructure management.  As the expectations of users begin to mirror their experiences as consumers, the pressure will be on IT to deliver a seamless user experience for both groups of users.stockxpertcom_id858210_jpg_09a185e593d94fa570c653bd96bdb622
  • Remote Service: “Allow me to take over your computer please.” This is something users are hearing more and more from the IT team on both sides of the enterprise.  While this used to be an in network exercise, it has expanded to include mobile devices wherever they may be. How do you compare the mobile service demands of an executive on a business trip to Germany with a delivery driver that needs service on a line of business device? In the end, you would not want either one to be without remote service. On the line of business side, Avalanche Remote Control, a mobile help desk solution, provides administrators with an exact replica of what end-users are experiencing. Remote Control allows administrators to support device users in the field remotely, without actually having to be in the field with the physical device. (more…)