Magazine Article | August 1, 2000

Retail Goes Wireless

Source: Innovative Retail Technologies

Overwhelming consumer acceptance of wireless devices, such as personal digital assistants (PDAs) and cellular phones, is transforming the business world. The retail industry is next in line to capitalize on wireless technology.

Integrated Solutions For Retailers, August 2000
To use a PDA, or not to use a PDA: That is the question. I've reached a pivotal point in my career. Do I continue to use my overstuffed, beat-up daytimer? Or do I progress, like many members of the technology industry, to a personal digital assistant (PDA)?

This isn't the first time I've debated this question. A few years ago, I used a proprietary palmtop computer for my daily scheduling and contacts. The device looked impressive and techy at business meetings. But, the lack of integration between that device and the home office forced me to return to my trusty daytimer.

Wireless Technology Is Horizontal
Wireless technology has been available to businesses for years. Remember all of the discussions years ago about wireless ordering from the table at restaurants? However, only a select number of industries adopted the technology. Industries such as manufacturing and warehousing had specific applications that could easily cost-justify a wireless investment. The rest of the business world remained hardwired — until now.

Evidence Of Wireless' Acceptance
Recent evidence of wireless acceptance is overwhelming. Just take a look at how many cellular phones, smart phones, pagers, wireless PDAs, and wireless laptops are used today. Here are just a few of the statistics supporting this trend:
  • IDC (Framingham, MA) predicts the number of U.S. wireless device users with access to inbound and outbound information services and Internet messaging will increase dramatically. This number will grow from 7.4 million in 1999 to 61.5 million in 2003 — an increase of 728%.
  • The Gartner Group (Stamford, CT) predicts that 70% of personal digital assistants will be free or subsidized in 2003. By the end of 2003, a $500 PDA will offer a color screen, integrated short-range and long-range wireless communications, location services, and speech recognition.
  • With 3Com's Palm controlling 60% to 70% of the market for PDAs, Microsoft is attempting to increase its market share with the new PocketPC version of its Windows CE device.
Wireless Technology At Work In Retail
A number of retail technology vendors have introduced affordable wireless solutions that provide a real return on investment. Two examples come to mind. Kyrus' line-busting solution continues to be installed at retail sites like Electronics Boutique, a 500-store chain selling computer games, software, and related items. The line-busting solution includes Symbol's Spectrum24 wireless network and the SPT 1740 Palm O/S handheld terminal, as well as Comtec's Cameo 2 portable receipt printer. The combined products allow retailers to provide mobile point of sale (POS) checkout and perform inventory functions. Another example is the Hewlett-Packard/Verifone Omni3200 terminal. This handheld computer boasts integrated receipt printing and a magnetic stripe reader. Hewlett-Packard/Verifone has partnered with Mobitex/Bell South to provide cellular communication of the Omni3200's POS transactions. Traveling retailers use the Omni3200 to provide real-time credit card authorization of POS transactions.

Jumping On The Wireless Bandwagon
With a growing number of wireless technology vendors entering the retail industry, Integrated Solutions For Retailers wants to provide you with information to choose products wisely. Look for magazine articles and sidebars on wireless throughout the remainder of 2000. And, starting in 2001, entire sections of the magazine will be dedicated to covering wireless technology.

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