Mobile Solutions from Motorola Solutions
By Amit Arora
The Caped Crusader had so many gadgets for fighting crime. And he kept many of them on his utility belt, which was the coolest thing when we were kids playing superheroes. In those days, it was fun to have a bunch of toys on your belt as you ran around saving the neighborhood from bad guys. When you’re working in manufacturing, supply chain, and warehousing, however, it’s not quite so fun to have a lot of gadgets on you all the time. But devices like two-way radios and barcode scanners are vital for staying connected and keeping track of inventory, so the utility belt has been a mainstay for many workers.
Two-way radios are an indispensible tool for industries in which immediate communication is the key to increased productivity, and Push-to-Talk (PTT) has enabled instant and simple communication. Still, other devices are necessary, so the dreaded belt remains.
Thankfully, technology that enables PTT within the four walls is undergoing a transformation. Plant floor, manufacturing, and supply chain operations are looking for solutions that enable not just PTT and telephony, but also help manage staff and provide instant access to information via applications such as barcode scan and inventory look up. In order to meet this demand, technology companies now offer comprehensive solutions that include voice and data applications on multi-functional ruggedized mobile computers.
With the maturity of voice over IP and QoS-enabled wireless infrastructure, more and more enterprises are enabling PTT using multi-functional devices over their existing wireless network (WLAN). A simple deployment uses IP based multicast technology to offer up to 32 talk groups without the need for any specialized hardware in the store. A more sophisticated deployment can offer up to 255 talk groups with the help of a server in a data center. Each talk group can be assigned to a different department. Workers can send PTT notifications by selecting the desired talk group and can respond to PTT notifications by responding to all subscribers or to an individual subscriber of the group. Some solutions also allow private one to one calls or instant broadcasts to all talk groups simultaneously, which is especially useful in case of emergencies.
To help ease the transition to PTT over WLAN, vendors often offer solutions, such as a Radio Link Server (RLS), to bridge communication between IP based PTT and the traditional two way walkie-talkie radios. These solutions are especially useful in deployments where workers inside the warehouse need to communicate reliably with staff on the outside, where WLAN coverage may not be available.
PTT deployment over WLAN helps reduce cost of ownership and maintenance with minimal training required for end users. It enables workers to use multi-functional mobile computers for immediate communication and information lookup, thereby increasing productivity and improving ROI. In fact, the next time you’re in the warehouse, talking to a picker or a manager, look for the all–in-one mobile device for PTT and you’ll notice: no utility belt!
Amit Arora is Offer Manager, Staff Communications and Management Solutions, Motorola Solutions.
Motorola Solutions is at MODEX 2014. Please visit us in booth #3527 to experience our technology solutions for supply chain professionals, or online: http://www.motorolasolutions.com/promo/modex.
Read “Enjoy a Better Shopping Experience Thanks to VoWLAN,” also by Amit.
We’ve all had shopping trips that were terrible. Black Friday sales come to mind. Anytime you experience overcrowded aisles staffed by store associates that don’t have the answers to your questions or even the time to listen to you makes for a less than enjoyable shopping trip. Now imagine calling a department store to ask about strollers and within seconds an associate specializing in products for toddlers answers your call. Or, imagine walking from the toys section into clothing, where a store associate greets you with your toddler’s needs on her mind. Better still, imagine simply pushing a button on your mobile device to instantly talk to a store associate knowledgeable about books for growing children. All of this would certainly make shopping a lot more enjoyable, but is it fantasy?
Not anymore. Enter the world of VoWLAN – Voice over Wireless LAN. All of the above, and more, are made possible by enabling reliable voice communications over the store’s wireless infrastructure. VoWLAN uses Push-to-Talk (PTT) or VoIP (SIP/Skinny) technology over the store’s Wi-Fi network (IEEE 802.11), and empowers associates with mobile devices capable of running PTT or VoIP client software. A VoWLAN solution offers numerous benefits over wired and cellular services that directly impact a store’s revenue.
Mobilizing associates with voice-capable mobile devices ensures they are not tied to a wired station and are always available no matter their location in the store. VoWLAN is a means for immediate communication between store associates and managers. Quick responses and availability increase productivity help manage workflows better, and ensure that tasks are assigned as priorities are always changing on the dynamic retail floor.
By bringing customers directly in contact with knowledgeable store associates, retailers have the opportunity to personalize a customer’s experience, and to cross and up-sell new products. Moreover, by answering customer calls quickly, retailers can safeguard against potential losses due to call drop-offs. These enhancements to customer experience not only increase sales but also help build store loyalty.
With advances in technology, WLAN deployments have become more robust, secure and scalable. Support for roaming and multi-media Quality of Service (QoS) are now built into access points and Wireless Controllers. As a result, a converged deployment that provides data and voice traffic with toll quality audio is now a practical reality. Compared to wired or cellular technology, VoWLAN provides better in-store coverage to support services such as call park, transfer and conferencing that are necessary in a retail environment.
Retailers are now increasingly embracing VoWLAN to make the most of its benefits. To further optimize store operations, multi-functional mobile devices that run voice and data applications are being deployed on the store floor. The combination of voice with data applications such as product look-up, mobile point of sale, and task management on the same platform creates a powerful tool for enhancing the customer experience and optimizing in-store operations.
VoWLAN is therefore a must-have technology for retailers seeking to increase in-store productivity and sales while lowering communication costs. And of course, to provide a differentiated and enjoyable shopping experience for their customers.
Amit Arora is Offer Manager, Staff Communications and Management Solutions, Motorola Solutions
Please visit our website for information on VoWLAN from Motorola Solutions.