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The Green Sheet Online Edition

May 09, 2016 • Issue 16:05:01

The Mobile Buzz:
Mobile rules the roost

Mobile-connected consumers increasingly demand the same level of connectivity to manage home environments as they do navigating other aspects of daily living. This trend is now opening new channels for commerce in both retail and aftermarket services. To understand the scope of the automated smart home systems market, The NPD Group Inc. Retail Tracking Service followed sales in this category and found sales grew by 41 percent year-over-year in 2015. Metrics tracked not only encompassed systems controllers such as thermostats, but smart capabilities across a spectrum of technologies that included power, sensors, lighting, security/monitoring, locks and kits.

Schneider Electric Chief Technology Officer Prith Banerjee believes the acceleration of the Internet of Things (IoT), especially in the industrial world, will be the catalyst behind the convergence of information technology and operational technologies. "IoT is the fuel for innovation, new value and an open ecosystem of partnership," he said. "Ultimately we are leveraging IoT to deliver new value, transform our customer offer in a digital and connected way, both on premise and in the cloud."

According to Connected Intelligence's recent Connected Home Automation Report, 64 percent of the smart-home product owners it surveyed reported using smartphones to control or monitor home automation devices. Within that group, 73 percent had used voice commands to control home automation devices; 61 percent expressed interest in using voice to control more home systems in the future.

"This reliance on smartphones to control and monitor the smart home is due, in part, to app compatibility, as nearly all home automation devices have an iPhone or Android app," said John Buffone, Executive Director of Connected Intelligence, which is part of NPD. "As apps and devices become more intuitive, voice recognition – and thus, voice control – will begin to play a more prominent role in the further development of the smart home." Connected Intelligence also cited examples of voice technology being deployed in homes today. "Rising to meet consumer demand is a new product set that showcases the functionality of voice command technology, such as the Amazon Echo, which leverages voice controls to turn on a Phillips Hue bulb or change the temperature settings on an Ecobee thermostat," the company wrote in reference to research conducted.

Dialed-in stores

Dialing into mobile consumers is not just happening at home; retailers are seizing the opportunity to create connected shopping experiences. eMazzanti Technologies gleaned much information from consulting with retailers about the tribulations of using technology to convert sales, loyalty and reviews into positive outcomes.

Within its resource library, the company offers an excellent starting point for retailers in a web guide titled, How to Improve Customer Wi-Fi Performance. Here are four Wi-Fi tips for businesses outlined in the guide:

  1. Get sufficient bandwidth: Retailers must have adequate bandwidth to support customer Wi-Fi, mobile POS systems, wireless printers and high-bandwidth IoT devices such as video surveillance, beacons, digital signage and dressing room sensors.
  2. Use commercial-grade equipment: Routers, switches and wireless access points designed for home use are not sufficient for the throughput and security required in the retail environment.
  3. Locate access points properly: Locate access points away from steel-sheeted walls, pipes, electrical equipment or brick areas that create dead zones. Access points should be at least five feet above the floor in the open or on the ceiling, not in closets or cabinets.
  4. Eliminate channel interference: Interference from other devices operating on the same frequency causes a majority of performance problems, reducing throughput by 50 percent or more. Check for nearby networks and switch frequencies if necessary to reduce interference.

Proper installation of Wi-Fi in retail environments is imperative. "Customer Wi-Fi is now a necessity for retailers," said Jennifer Mazzanti, President of eMazzanti Technologies. "Having a wireless network that provides a fast and reliable connection improves the customer experience and will pay dividends in the form of customer loyalty and increased sales."

Since Wi-Fi networks are by nature complex and dynamic systems, multiple factors can degrade or improve performance. Therefore, eMazzanti recommends expert assistance to obtain the best results. end of article

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