The Narrowbanding Mandate Forces Retailers To Take A New Look At Communications
By Bob Johns, associate editor
As we near the FCC narrowbanding mandate of January 1, 2013, companies are struggling to convert their current 25kHz radios to 12.5kHz to allow for greater spectrum use. Combine this with advances in wireless local area networks (WLAN) that most retailers are incorporating into their stores, and we are seeing a migration to VoWLAN, voice over wireless area networks. Add this to the recent influx of tablets and other mobile devices onto the retail sales floor, and retailers need to make a choice in how many devices associates will carry, and how they will communicate. I recently got a chance to talk with Russ Knister, senior director of product development with Motorola Solutions, to discuss the advantages retailers can gain with VoWLAN and mobile devices.
Knister noted that "retailers have a unique opportunity to bridge technologies and devices as they upgrade and add systems." Many retailers have existing radios that they invested in years ago. Replacing all of these radios chain-wide could be cost prohibitive. Additionally, many retailers are beginning to incorporate rugged tablets into their inventory, POS, and workforce management systems in the store. Being able to communicate voice and data over a single network with radios, phones, radio-phone combinations, and mobile computer devices can save retailers money as they add newer technologies.
WLAN offers high bandwidth and can carry both voice and data to accommodate multiple device types. Companies that already have radios can bridge these devices into the WLAN without a large capital expenditure. Phones can utilize Voice over Internet Protocol, VOIP, over the WLAN and utilize push-to-talk technology to bring radio onto the same device. "Newer tablets and other rugged devices can add VOIP and push-to-talk technologies to create one device that associates and management alike can use for in-store communications, phone communications, inventory management, customer service, pos, workforce management, and nearly every other in-store application," Knister said. These devices can maintain all communications, voice and data, through the WLAN and access all of the cloud-based SaaS applications.
As retailers are considering the multitude of communication and application devices hitting the market today, they must consider the possibility of using a single device for both communications and applications. The more pieces of equipment that associates have on their "utility belt," the more retailers risk lost or damaged devices. A single device can offer the ability to maintain communications with customers and associates and perform tasks without having to change devices or waste customers' time while associates go to get the appropriate device.
The new mandates will hopefully inspire retailers to look at their in-store and out-of-store communication capabilities as they also work to bring mobile devices into the stores. This will help to facilitate better customer service, increase productivity, and increase sales.
See how mobility is changing the in-store experience by checking this out!