TECHNOLOGY

How to Ensure Network Connectivity Across Stores

BY Mark Savage

Most stores utilize a vast amount of technologies to keep running smoothly. In order to remain competitive, retailers are embracing mobile, Internet of Things (IoT) technologies to deliver an in-store and customer experience that wasn’t possible before.

Whether used to connect modern point of sale (POS) systems, digital signs or kiosks, improving the quality of retail operations requires a deep reliance on network connectivity.

Indeed, a strong Internet connection is an essential lifeline for stores. The days of using a piece of paper to track inventory and mark sales are gone, and more technologies like ATMS and kiosks rely on WiFi to function.

Unfortunately, many occurrences, like damaged lines and system crashes, can instantly take a store or many stores offline if they’re all on the same network. These outages can ruin a retailer’s bottom line, as analysts calculate that for each minute a POS system is down, it costs retailer $4,700.

Aside from revenue loss, the long-term effect of outages is another concern. Customer wait times for service increase, causing dissatisfaction in service. This in turn can deter new customers from entering the store and old customers from returning. While waiting in line, customers may use social media to express their frustration, which quickly damages a store’s reputation.

Retailers have the opportunity to proactively prepare for interrupted network connectivity and avoid the side effects of disconnected connectivity. Retailers need dependable means to ensure the Internet is running across all their stores with uniform solutions, such as:

LTE router with failover cellular to maximize uptime
Retailers shouldn’t rely on their primary landline-based connection as their only source of connectivity. In order to avoid costly outages, they should implement a cellular failover solution. If the primary source goes out, the failover cellular network kicks in immediately, just like a generator for your house. When the power goes out, the generator kicks in.

When disconnection occurs, a wireless connection ensures connections are automatically switched to 3G or 4G LTE. Most wireless operations offer a “four-nines” connection, ensuring 99.99 percent reliability – meaning that when the fixed line goes down, a business has assured connectivity. On-premise wireless routers have the ability to connect with multiple carriers, which is advantageous if one network is down or if an area has spotty coverage from a certain carrier.

An LTE router allows for scalability across chain store locations and enables synergies with administration and implementation. Network technicians can monitor and make repairs remotely, which reduces the cost of repair times, network downtime and overall cost from the retailer when we consider the time needed for technicians to travel and complete network repairs and updates onsite.

Another bonus of using this technology is that cellular data plans are less expensive, more reliable and faster than a wireline. Purchasing a pooled data plan can greatly reduce annual costs.

Separate networks to secure data for consumers and retailers
Consumers expect to access high-speed Internet within stores, and with more devices connecting to a store’s WiFi than ever before, there is also an increased risk of security threats. Eighty-eight percent of retailer (according to 2017 Thales Data Threat Report, Retail Edition)
were vulnerable to data breaches in 2017, with 60% claiming they had been breached and 75% of consumers believe that keeping shopper information safe is the retailer’s responsibility.

By offering various networks that have separate connectivity routes for the main and other offered networks, retailers can leverage network diversity to guarantee continuity for themselves and their customers, while keeping information separate and secure. Investing in separate networks for consumer Internet use and the point-of-sale and asset management systems allows shoppers to register on the in-store WiFi, which provides them with the opportunity to link their identity with beacon data on the same networks. This enables shoppers to browse freely, while also allowing the marketing system to send shoppers personalized offers based on their browsing habits without putting the store’s sensitive data at risk.

BYON solution brings connectivity to locations with no fixed-line capability
To extend their brand presence in a cost-effective manner, retailers are introducing kiosks and digital signs, so they can remotely swap out content. These techniques can skyrocket business as 76% of consumers say they entered a store based off of seeing a digital sign, and 46% of retailers (according to a study by Technavio) rely on kiosks for sales. While these sales tactics allow retailers to deliver an omnichannel shopping experience and increase consumer touchpoints, they have also brought a new set of challenges given the lack of fixed-line connectivity.

Bring-your-own-network (BYON) is the simplest solution as it takes advantage of the benefits of cellular primary connectivity, can be quickly set up and reduces security risk. Digital signs and kiosks can use cellular modems as a single point of connection on each display or as an aggregation point when combined with secure WiFi, depending on the location and density of deployment, the possibility of WiFi being overloaded and the possibility of traffic interference. Each installation can be assessed based on cost, usage security and location.

The versatility of the solution means that signage and kiosks can be placed anywhere and repositioned easily as layouts change. Digital signs and kiosks use completely separate networks from corporate network and can be managed from a central point, making continuous availability of connectivity secure and convenient.

The bottom line: chain retailers are becoming more dependent on connectivity for simple, day-to-day operations and to offer enhanced service to shoppers. With the proactive connectivity solutions available, there’s no reason to miss out on sales due to downtime. Many solutions are now easy to setup and maintain and offer retailers peace-of-mind knowing that if their primary connection goes down, their business won’t have to go down with it.

Mark Savage is director of channel sales for Accelerated Concepts.

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Study: Growing IT complexity may make managing online performance impossible

BY Deena M. Amato-McCoy

Increasing IT complexity could soon make it impossible to manage digital performance efficiently — and that has CIOs worried.

IT complexity is growing so quickly that 76% of organizations believe that it could soon be impossible to manage digital performance efficiently, according to “Top Challenges Facing CIOs in a Cloud Native World,” a report from Dynatrace.

The complexity is being driven by the rapid adoption of new technol-ogies in recent years. For example, a single web or mobile transaction now crosses an average of 35 different technology systems or compo-nents, compared to 22 just five years ago.

This trend is also set to accelerate, with 53% of CIOs planning to de-ploy even more technologies in the next 12 months, with multi-cloud (95%), microservices (88%) and containers (86%) being the key tech-nologies that CIOs will adopt within the next 12 months.

IT teams spend an average of 29% of their time dealing with digital performance problems; costing their employers $2.5 million annually. As they search for a solution to these challenges, four in five (81%) CIOs said they think artificial intelligence (AI) will be critical to IT’s ability to master increasing IT complexity; with 83% either already, or planning to deploy AI in the next 12 months, data revealed.

“Today’s organizations are under huge pressure to keep-up with the always-on, always connected digital economy and its demand for constant innovation,” said Matthias Scharer, VP of business operations, Dynatrace.

“As a consequence, IT ecosystems are undergoing a constant transformation. The transition to virtualized infrastructure was followed by the migration to the cloud, which has since been supplanted by the trend towards multi-cloud,” said Scharer. “CIOs now realize their legacy apps weren’t built for today’s digital ecosystems and are rebuilding them in a cloud-native architecture.”

These rapid changes have given rise to hyper-scale, hyper-dynamic and hyper-complex IT ecosystems, which also make it difficult to monitor performance, and quickly find and fix problems.

For example, 76% of CIOs said multi-cloud architectures make it especially difficult and time-consuming to monitor and understand the impact that cloud services have on the user-experience. Meanwhile, 72% are frustrated that IT has to spend so much time setting-up monitoring for different cloud environments when deploying new services.

When it comes to monitoring the performance of microservices in real-time, 72% said this task is almost impossible, while 84% of CIOs said the dynamic nature of containers makes it difficult to understand their impact on application performance.

CIOs also struggle with maintaining and configuring performance monitoring (56%), and identifying service dependencies and interactions (54%), the study reported.

Meanwhile, 74% of CIOs said that IT is under too much pressure to keep up with unrealistic demands from the business and end users, while 78% said it is getting harder to find time and resources to answer the range of questions the business asks and still deliver everything else that is expected of IT. Eighty percent of CIOs said it is difficult to map the technical metrics of digital performance to the impact they have on the business.

“Today, one environment can have billions of dependencies. While modern ecosystems are critical to fast innovation, the legacy approach to monitoring and managing performance falls short,” said Scharer.

“You can’t rely on humans to synthesize and analyze data anymore, nor a bag of independent tools,” he added. “You need to be able to auto detect and instrument these environments in real time, and most importantly use AI to pinpoint problems with precision and set your environment on a path of auto-remediation to ensure optimal performance and experience from an end users’ perspective.”

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Amazon’s new patents could improve warehouse accuracy

BY Deena M. Amato-McCoy

Amazon’s newest patents bank on the power of touch to drive more efficiency in warehouse operations.

The online giant has been granted two patents, both supporting a wristband that can pinpoint the location of warehouse employees and track their hand movements in real time. The solutions are based on haptic technology, which relates to manipulating objects using the sense of touch.

The patent is described as an RF-based solution comprised of sensors that are distributed throughout the warehouse, a user-wearable unit that includes an RF transceiver, and a management module. Sensors transmit RF signals in response to RF interrogation signals. The management module processes signals to track the location of the user wearing the unit, then identifies a bin based on the user’s proximity to it.

Then the device monitors the performance of the user. The haptic technology identifies whether a user is working from the correct bin associated with the inventory task system. If workers’ hands are moving to the wrong location, the bracelet will buzz, and direct the user to the correct area, according to the patent filing.

The technology is designed to solve “the significant challenges in responding to requests for inventory items … especially as inventory systems grow,” the filing said.

Amazon also compares the value of this technology to a computerized system. “To keep track of where the inventory item is stored, it is important to efficiently and accurately identify the inventory bin where it is placed. While a computer vision system is used to track the placement of inventory, this system can be computationally inefficient and expensive. These [technologies] improve approaches for keeping track of where an inventory item is stored,” the filing added.

Amazon, which received the patent on January 30, did not reveal specific plans to use the technology.

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