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May 30, 2007 With computerisation now an integral part of most retail store infrastructures and the general tech-savviness of the population underpinned by a new generation raised on computer games and the internet, it will be interesting to see how quickly very sophisticated systems come to market. A glimpse at what’s possible in the very near future came this week when HP showed off its Retail Store Assistant, an experimental system designed to enhance the consumer shopping experience and improve efficiency for retailers by bringing the power of online access to brick-and-mortar stores. The idea is that the customer swipes their loyalty card on entering the store, receiving a printout that includes a personalized shopping list, relevant coupons, notice of associated store discounts or sales, and even a map to where the items can be found in the store. Read More
May 8, 2007 Retail tracking solutions provider Paxar has been thinking slightly outside the square in coming up with its consumer-facing item-level RFID solution, magicmirror. For brands and retailers, magicmirror means the ability to touch customers on an emotional level and positively influence their purchasing decisions. When a customer or sales associate brings an RFID-tagged piece of clothing in front of the magicmirror, it automatically displays rich personalized information including brand messaging, garment description, size and color availability, as well as mix-and-match guides that suggest other items for accessorizing a wardrobe. When installed in the fitting room, customers can request immediate assistance from a salesperson by simply touching the magicmirror, without ever having to leave the room. Read More
April 4, 2007 An interesting development in the health system in the U.S. of recent times has been a new type of health facility that is beginning to pop-up at local drug stores, discount stores and various supermarkets. In the store's local pharmacy, many establishments have set up mini-clinics. Operating specifically in high-traffic retail outlets with accessible pharmacy services, these clinics provide routine, non-emergency services to walk-in patients at affordable prices seven days a week. These mini-clinics cost half of what patients typically pay for a regular doctor's visit and are roughly one-sixth the cost of an emergency room visit. Patients who visit these mini-clinics are treated by a family nurse practitioner or a physician's assistant – both of whom can write prescriptions and perform a full exam. Although mini-clinics do not handle chronic illnesses, they are ideal for ailments like strep throat, sinus infections or common colds and with no appointment necessary, extended hours, and seven days a week, the approach is more in keeping with modern business practices than the unyielding, inefficient and expensive traditional health system. As Charles Darwin said: “It is not the strongest of the species that survive, nor the most intelligent, but the one most responsive to change.” Read More
March 5, 2007 While some people just adore trying on shoes, for most of us, it’s a drag, but the application of new technologies by adidas looks set to free us from this tedium and save considerable time for everybody. This entertaining new form of shopping can be found on the Avenue des Champs Elysees, where adidas has opened its latest and most modern shop anywhere in the world. Customers can now try on a variety of models in front of a virtual mirror without changing their shoes. They can navigate through the collection by simply pointing at products on a computer screen. Read More
March 4, 2007 Three years ago we wrote of the potential being displayed by a new form of interactive name badge for conferences and social events that significantly improved the quality of people-to-people connectivity. The nTAG system automates several social technologies and takes them into the business event arena where both host and attendee derive numerous benefits compared to the paper badges of the past. While stimulating conversation between attendees, nTAGs also help organisers to deliver event information, track attendance, manage security, send messages, and evaluate surveys and polls in real time – think about that for a moment – that’s real-time audience response. Worn like regular paper badges, nTAGs exchange data with one another using infrared sensors. As attendees approach each other, information is automatically transferred from tag to tag, requiring no action from the wearer. Then the tags' LCD screens illuminate and display information on shared interests - "Hi Karen, we both work in the fashion apparel industry." The nTAG system can now be purchased through nTAG or nTAG certified resellers, international distributor enquiries should be directed here and the system can be hired for as little as US$15,000. Great Flash demo here. Read More
The most expensive parking is the parking we don’t have. Not that long ago, when cars were less plentiful and inner city space was moreso, the major expenses of driving were depreciation and running costs. Now as space becomes more valuable and competition for that space is also at a high, parking space is fast becoming a major expense with mid-town Manhattan, London and Tokyo all commanding up to US$500 a month for a parking space and a permanent parking space was recently sold in London for UKP300,000. The solution to the world’s Parking Crisis is obvious: state-of-the-art automated parking robotic technologies will deliver the most space-efficient and hence cost-efficient parking. The current generation of parking garages has space-consuming access ramps and lots of access lanes that never get parked on, and also needs enough height for a very tall human being to comfortably walk upright – rather than the space-efficient compact box into which your car is slipped in an automated system. The ramps aren’t needed when you have a car lift and a computerized racking system. Whatsmore, a custom-built automated car parking facility of the same size as a conventional carpark can hold at least twice as many cars, offering double or more the income after a safe refurbishing investment. It’s more efficient for the customer (less than 2.5 minutes to get your car), costs less to run (no human attendants are required), there are no accidents, dents or scratches (because computers move the cars, not humans), and as the cars cannot be reached by other car park users, there’s no chance of theft or vandalism. Though this article is primarily about Automotion, there are now many manufacturers of automated carpark solutions, such as Stolzer Parkhaus, Robopark, Westfalia, Klausparking, LTW, Trevipark, Urban Parking Concepts, Eltodo, Space Saver Parking and the massive Chinese Tianchen Group – if you have a space that could use a carpark, this solution will make your money work at least twice as hard. Read More
August 8, 2006 If camping is not your go, but from time to time there’s an outdoor music festival or some other gotta-be-there outdoor event, take heart – help is on the way. British budget hotel brand Travelodge is exploring the concept of mobile hotel rooms. Each Travelpod is sealed in a 6 x 2.4 x 2.6 metre clear polycarbonate box but inside has features that you will find in any Travelodge hotel across the country. The room comes complete with a luxury double bed, bedside tables, lights, duvet, pillows, fully carpeted floor, dressing table with light, mirror, chair and even its own WC. The concept is being evaluated in a series of soft trials and trials will be opened to customers next summer, targeting festivals and other major outdoor events. It is envisioned that the mobile room will be transported on the back of a lorry to each location and positioned by crane as required. The trial price will match the company’s leading room rate of UKP26 per night which makes it an entirely new class of accommodation – wonder if they’ll offer a luxury suite? Read More
March 20, 2006 Computer Mediated Communication significantly increases the size of your usual social or business contact universe and can give you a far greater choice of prospects to mine. On the other hand, there’s no substitute for being there, so you can assess them in person. Computers hold great promise in matching us with particularly suitable partners and we’ve written up several such concepts over the last few years, from proximity-based Bluetooth introduction via cell phones, through Xenofreaks PIX interactive visual display device through to nTAG’s interactive name badge for conferences and social events and even real-world gaming using GPS-capable mobile phones. All of these concepts offer communication both in a virtual world level and in a physical environment. Now there’s another viable idea IOHO - Priscilla Bernikowicz’s interactive glasses are designed to help us pick the right person in a room full of people. Read More
March 12, 2006 If there was a list of professions least likely to see humans replaced by machines, the barkeeper would logically be on that list. But students in the final year of a computational linguistics and phonetics course at the University of Saarland in Germany have created a robotic bartender to demonstrate how digital language technologies can be combined with robotics. The robotic Barkeeper understands natural language and hence takes orders in exactly the same way as a normal bartender. It has a database of cocktail recipes, and will propose drinks to the customer at the beginning of the conversation. The user can then choose any cocktail by spoken commands, or create their own cocktail by choosing the ingredients. Then while it is making the drinks, it keeps the customers entertained by telling jokes. The Barkeeper has an extensive jokes database, with additional specific jokes about each cocktail and each ingredient.When it serves the drink, it also explains to the customer exactly what the alcoholic content is. Read More
As the world’s wine consumption increases, the supply of staff capable of offering knowledgeable advice on wine matters at the point of sale has fallen well behind demand. That was what inspired the creation of the wine expert – kiosk-based sommelier software with a simple interface that assists customers in choosing the most suitable wine for an occassion. Customers can search the stock of the store by characteristic (sweetness, dryness, etc), country and region of origin, price category, grape variety or by specifying the type of food you intend to consume with it and having the wine expert suggest the most complementary vino. Developed through extensive field trials, the service can be implemented painlessly by the sales outlet as it requires no maintenance and monitors the store’s ordering of wine and electronically updates the kiosk each night with tasting notes, food matches and recipe ideas – even awards and recommendations – for every wine in stock. Now if you think that’s clever, there’s also a version that runs on a wireless tablet and functions as a winelist for restaurants – so instead of looking at a list of wine names, the customer can make intelligent decisions about wine choice with all the information. Read More
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