June 25, 2013, 4:30 PM

Motorola seeks to transform the store with mobile technology

It is building a suite of devices and systems under the Next Generation Enterprise banner.

Bill Siwicki

Managing Editor, Mobile Commerce

Lead Photo

Motorola Solutions today has introduced Mobility Lifecycle Management, a service that maintains the performance and availability of mobile devices for retailers and other businesses that have deployed mobile devices to staff members, such as tablets for store associates. The new service can handle Apple Inc. iOS, Android, Windows Mobile and Motorola mobile devices.

“It ensures the successful introduction of mobile devices across an enterprise by speeding rollout and providing operational support for mobile device and application planning,” the vendor says. “Mobility Lifecycle Management also supports deployment, management, service desk, repairs, and reporting and analysis.”

Mobility Lifecycle Management is just one piece of a broader mobile vision Motorola Solutions has for retailers and other businesses. The vision is called Next Generation Enterprise, and includes the company’s Connected Shopper portfolio of mobile technologies. Motorola Solutions recently conducted a demonstration for Internet Retailer of the numerous technologies that make up its Next Generation Enterprise. Some of the technologies demonstrated are commercially available while others are concepts still being vetted.

The starting point is what a Motorola client, such as a retailer, is trying to do, and how the addition of technology might impact the client’s customer, such as a shopper, Paul Steinberg, senior vice president and chief technology officer at Motorola Solutions, tells Internet Retailer. “Then we think how does it make sense to implant technology into a retail environment, what are the applications you want to surface and what are the workflows and use cases you want to realize. Then we invent the technology to make that happen.”

One system available now is Mobile Workforce Management, which Motorola Solutions describes as an intelligent task management system. The system provides store associates outfitted with a Motorola mobile device an up-to-the-minute, prioritized task list that is designed to help managers ensure a productive shift. Tasks are automatically delivered to the mobile device of the associate best suited for the job, monitored until they’re completed and automatically escalated when needed, the vendor says.

Supervisors can view on a mobile device a task management mobile dashboard to monitor progress, view sales data, see a count of customers and associates, and even watch video of a truck dropping off products in the loading dock. And customers with smartphones and a retailer’s mobile app can request help when they are in the store, and the system will immediately send the nearest associate.

Indoor Locationing is part of Motorola Solutions’ Connected Shopper technology; it is in development and would work with Mobile Workforce Management and retailers’ mobile apps. It can track any mobile device that enters a store and pinpoint its location within inches, which Motorola Solutions demonstrated with precision to Internet Retailer. The company will not reveal the nature of the proprietary networking and location technology it is using to track devices. It says the location technology could be used to send associates to customers in need of help, guide customers through a store to find a product, rearrange a shopping list based on products’ locations, and send extremely precise location-based offers to customers in-store. To protect privacy, customers would have to OK the use of location technology when they open a retailer’s app.

Connected Shopper technology, which the company says is designed to personalize in-store shopping and increase average orders, includes a software development kit that retailers will be able to build into their apps. In addition to the Indoor Locationing functions, a retailer can enable self-checkout. An in-store shopper uses a retailer’s app to scan bar codes of products she adds to her cart. When she’s ready, the shopper touches a checkout button and the system generates a unique bar code that is scanned at self-checkout stations, where she pays for her purchases.

Also on the app front, Motorola Solutions can enable a retailer’s app to automatically sign on a consumer’s smartphone to a store’s Wi-Fi network. The consumer would need to OK that configuration in the app. Once the app can connect to Wi-Fi, the Connected Shopper system can detect web activity and, if a retailer desires, take action based on that activity. For example, if a shopper with a retailer’s app on her phone is searching a product on Amazon.com to compare prices, the app, whether opened or closed, can send a push notification-style message to the top of the screen with a price match based on the consumer’s search terms and results.

Coming soon to Connected Shopper is Customer Concierge, a giant-screen smart TV that is connected to the Internet as well as store systems and features a magnetic swipe reader on the side for credit cards. A customer approaches the TV in a store and holds her smartphone up to the screen, as is explained on the screen. The concierge recognizes her because she has the retailer’s app on her device. She then can shop via an e-commerce interface for items that are out of stock in-store or not carried in-store and have them delivered, paying for them with a swipe of her credit card. A shopper also can page an associate on the concierge screen or request a videoconference with an expert. Customer Concierge has a voice recognition interface.

Motorola Solutions demonstrated for Internet Retailer some technologies that it has dreamed up and is exploring; these technologies have not yet been given the green light. They include a 3-D infrared camera that can scan a box and generate the exact dimensions; video analytics that use myriad tiny, low-cost cameras snapped onto store shelves that provide data at the shelf level; and wireless charging by generating a magnetic resonance field that charges the batteries of mobile devices within its range.

“We’re enabling our customers to create the experience they need to create for their customers,” Steinberg says. “To bring together the click and the brick, and ultimately create a rewarding experience that is personalized and unique to each consumer.”

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