Taking the App Initiative
Nevertheless, retailers that are caught up in the hot-spot craze are missing the bigger picture. Truly savvy retailers are transforming their core applicationsincluding receiving, price markdowns, inventory counts, mobile point of sale, manager paging and streaming videointo Wi-Fi applications, said Marty Trull, mobile solutions project manager at Agilysys Inc., of Cleveland.
At Wawa Inc.s Wawa Food Markets, for instance, employees use wireless 802.11b handheld scanners within the companys 550 convenience stores located throughout Pennsylvania, Delaware, New Jersey, Maryland and Virginia. The handhelds, which communicate with RoamAbout access points from Enterasys Networks Inc., in Andover, Mass., allow store clerks to more easily manage incoming stock and inventory control, according to Marty Maglio, director of IT architecture at Wawa, based in Wawa, Pa.
Similarly, Dollar Tree Stores Inc., of Chesapeake, Va., a discount retailer with more than 2,000 locations, has deployed Symbols PDT 6846 rugged handheld to ease inventory management and stock replenishment. A spokeswoman for Dollar confirmed the project, although Ray Hamilton, senior vice president and CIO, declined further comment.
Locking up the store
Six tips for securing Wi-Fi networks in retail
Set wireless policies and communicate them to your staff
Use proper access control and authentication tools for users
Properly configure and activate encryption software
Embrace wireless network management tools such as activity reporting
and wireless client tracking
Practice ongoing rogue access point detection
Educate employees on IT security issues
Source: NeTeam Corp. and other wireless solutions providers
Among the most advanced wireless retail systems are those found at BJs Wholesale Club Inc. The Natick, Mass., retailerfacing stiff competition from Costco Wholesale Corp. and Wal-Mart Stores Inc.s Sams Clubhas pushed its Wi-Fi systems beyond basic inventory management.
For example, wireless scales connected to BJs pricing database are easily deployed in deli and bakery areas. Moreover, employees use voice-over-IP phones to speak over the Wi-Fi network. The NetVision phones, from Symbol, convert analog voice conversations into compressed digital packets that are sent over BJs Wi-Fi infrastructure, according to a spokesperson for BJs IT team.
Without such Wi-Fi systems in place, many stores typically suffer from poor customer service. Consider the case of a store clerk who gathers inventory information using stand-alone handhelds oreven worsepaper and pen. After gathering the data, the clerk has to leave the store floor and somehow synchronize data with the businesss back-office systems. Each minute spent in the back office risks alienating customers who cant find timely help in the aisles. Joseph C. Panettieri is editorial director at the New York Institute of Technology as well as a columnist for the Ziff Davis Channel Zone. He has covered Silicon Valley since 1992.