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Vertical Applications
(Page updated in December 2001)

Retail Industry

  • Wireless POS terminals
  • Wireless devices to perform on-the-spot markdowns and inventory counts
  • Wireless credit card authorization service
  • Service vehicles with ruggedized notebooks w/printers for real-time work-order and repair receipt printing and the uploading of data
  • Inventory price verification
  • Returned goods processing
  • Real-time access to customer (purchasing) profiles
  • Quick-Erect check-out facilities

The following are examples of mobile computing applications in the retail-industry:

  • As sales trends change, retailers reconfigure sales departments and move POS terminals without rewiring or re-cabling.

  • During high-volume sales, seasonal periods, or special sales events, retailers increase check-stands using wireless POS terminals connected to store controllers.

  • Sales staff use wireless devices to perform on-the-spot markdowns and inventory counts.

  • In large home-improvement stores, wireless terminals are used to improve customer service by answering questions anywhere on the floor.

A number of retailers are considering implementation of wireless POS terminals and wireless LANs.  However, the price of these specialized devices is still relatively high and margin-conscious retail industry is hoping that these prices will come down.

The Food Fair supermarket chain in Winston-Salem, North Carolina, was one of the first chains to use a wireless credit card authorization service. The system, based on the RAM Mobile Data Network, offers customers faster service and the option of paying for groceries with credit or debit card. Food Fair started accepting credit cards without the trouble and expense of installing telephone lines. According to market researchers, customers prefer stores that accept credit cards and spend almost 30 percent more per visit than they do if they have to pay by cash or write a check. The faster checkouts that have resulted from the system have also improved customer service. The RAM solution consists of a credit card processing terminal and printer, a protocol converter and an Ericsson Mobidem M6090 radio modem. Food Fair interfaces with Master Card’s Automated POS Program called MAPP. This application shows that a wireless-network-based credit card authorization system can be justified even in a fixed location if it is more convenient to install than a wired solution.

Large retail store chains such as Sears are equipping their service vehicles with ruggedized notebooks with printers for real-time work-order and repair receipt printing and the uploading of data.

Automated Vending Machines Becoming Wireless Electronic Merchandisers

  • Wireless modems, microprocessors and connections to sensory logic for credit card authorization.
  • Wireless electronic merchandiser

There is a huge market for mobile computing developing as the cost of outfitting automated vending machines with wireless modems, microprocessors and connections to sensory logic for credit card authorization capability decrease to levels where a business case can be made.

As reported in Ericsson’s Mobile Data News, Data Wave, a company based in Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada pioneered a wireless electronic merchandiser using the Mobitex network during late 1996. Based on an Ericsson Mobidem M2090 radio modem, DataWave’s electronic merchandiser built for Kodak dispenses single-use cameras, sunglasses, CDs and films and accepts credit cards for payment . It registers and verifies each credit card transaction, while supporting real-time supervision and maintenance. Regular sales and inventory information can be retrieved by a central computer for replenishment of the stock. Equipment malfunctions are reported to the central site. Kodak is planning to install 700 units.

Encouraged by the success of the Kodak electronic merchandiser, DataWave has developed the DTM 2001 wireless electronic merchandiser for dispensing telephone calling cards that are activated at the time of sale. One major U.S. reseller had ordered of 5,000 units.

Greatly increased implementation of this application will doubtless occur as more and more retailers turn to the automated concept for a host of merchandising items.

Recently (1999), network management software from Computer Associates can control these devices from a central management console.

2001 Update - Wireless ending Machines Becoming Vehicles for M-Commerce

As wireless Internet takes form and substance with m-commerce applications, sophisticated vending machines become self-operated kiosks for selling a variety of merchandise. Interface with smartphones and bank-managed payment systems allow retailers to reduce the cost of selling these items. Wirca Inc,. was beta testing soft drink vending machines during late 2001. Wirca was partnering with PepsiCo and several bottlers. The test started in Kansas City, Sioux Falls, South Dakota and in the Bay area of California.  


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