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Industry News - June 27th 2014



HITEC 2014: Bittel's UNO Media 4 with Bluetooth Adds Convenience, Security for Guests

Today guests can wirelessly stream music from their mobile devices to the Bittel Americas. UNOMedia 4 rapid charging station now that it is equipped with Bluetooth. The popular all-in-one UNOMedia 4 unit, which serves as a multi-source audio player with alarm/clock/radio/telephone, enables guests to wirelessly connect their Bluetooth-enabled devices or use its patented EasyCharge multi function cable to connect their mobile devices for easy charging and playing. Supported devices include Apple lightning (iPhone 5 and new iPad), Micro USB (Android, Blackberry and Windows), Apple legacy (iPhone 4s and older), and audio 3.5mm(for music).
Bittel's UNOMedia 4 provides enhanced security for the hotel environment to prevent unauthorized pairing to the device. Some in-room devices, if designed and intended for the residential market, will assign the same ID to groups or entire lines of in-room entertainment devices. If the hotel installs these residential units in its hotel rooms, multiple Bluetooth stations with the same ID can be very confusing for guests and present a security risk whereby guests connect to a Bluetooth station in a wrong room, whether intentionally or unintentionally.  
Bittel has solved this problem by equipping each UNOMedia 4 with a Bluetooth module featuring a unique ID to ensure that data and music can't be streamed or accessed between guestrooms. Because each UNOMedia 4 unit is different, only one device can connect via Bluetooth at a time, making it impossible for accidental reconnecting in the future by using the same ID.
Bluetooth-enabled devices are fast becoming the solutions of choice for hoteliers in 2014. Just as Bluetooth is simplifying the process of connecting products within the home, it has impressive guest-service applications in the hotel.
Guests can use their Bluetooth-enabled phones to unlock hotel room doors and access kiosks, printers, fax machines and so on, but now, with UNOMedia 4 with Bluetooth, they can also carry on crystal clear phone conversations via the speakerphone, retrieve messages from anywhere in the room and play their favorite music without fear that their content is being enjoyed by someone else in a room next door or across the hall.

HITEC 2014: UniKey and MIWA Team to Offer Keyless Entry Solution

UniKey has announced integration of its keyless entry technology with hospitality door locks from MIWA Lock Company. The Smartphone based touch-to-open technology will be integrated with MIWA's flagship ALV2 System and was showcased to the hotel industry visitors at HITEC 2014.
By uniquely combining existing technologies, UniKey has developed a proprietary Touch-to-Open™ Passive Keyless Entry system that will be integrated into MIWA's existing radio frequency identification (RFID) hospitality lock solutions, providing unparalleled convenience for hotel guests. This solution transforms the hotel check-in experience enabling hotel guests to gain quick and easy access to their hotel room with just a touch of the finger, eliminating the hassle of front desk check-in or the fumbling of locating a hotel card key at their room.
UniKey developed a background mobile application and lock hardware electronics that enables an electronic key on a compatible smartphone to control access to the hotel locks using Bluetooth technology.  Hotel properties and chains will be able to integrate this functionality into their own app and PMS. Like passive key technology now available in many cars, the joint solution from MIWA and UniKey identifies hotel guests as they approach the door, allowing them to gain access to the hotel room with just a simple touch of the lock, without removing the smartphone from their pocket or bag.

Today, UniKey powers the only keyless Bluetooth residential door lock on the market, Kevo, in partnership with Kwikset.


Mobile Devices: The Multi-Million Dollar Problem and the Fix

The introduction of new technologies is essential for efficiency in business today, but these technologies often impact the bottom line in ways that aren't expected. The retail industry's complete dependence on mobile devices is a prime example. Today's large chains have an average of 60 wireless devices per store, ranging from barcode scanners and portable printers to handheld computers and mobile POS systems, all of which are critical for daily operations.
While these devices have reaped big dividends in worker efficiency and mobility, they also require constant maintenance, which in turn requires businesses to spend huge amounts of money on service contracts. These contracts are certainly necessary to protect the investments that have been made in mobility, but many retailers don't have a handle on the underlying factors that drive the price. For example, when a device is sent to the depot, but a problem can't be identified, the device is returned No Trouble Found or "NTF". When this happens – which it often does – the retailer is responsible for paying the shipping each way, call desk fees, diagnostic fees and more. NTFs are viewed by most as an unavoidable price that must be paid for mobility, but what is the actual cause?
Small Batteries, Big Problems
More often than not, the cause is ultimately the battery. Mobile devices rely on battery power, but many retailers fail to connect the dots between unhealthy batteries, lost productivity and sky rocketing maintenance fees. When a device fails in the middle of a worker's shift, a significant amount of time and productivity is wasted going to get a new battery to swap in for the old one, but more often than not, the new battery doesn't last long either.
Batteries with diminished capacities will show that they are fully charged more quickly than a battery that is actually healthy. Logically the worker chooses the battery showing a full charge, but then the device continues to fail, wasting their time, until they send it into the depot. Due to the fact that service contracts typically either don't include batteries or woefully mismanage them, the device will be returned "NTF", when all along a new battery was the answer.
Transforming Batteries to a Managed Asset
One top five retailer decided to finally do something about the out of control maintenance costs that it was paying. This retailer realized that across its 2,000 stores, there was no system in place for disposing of batteries. This meant that the batteries stayed in service far longer than they should, driving work stoppages and service costs. They reached out to the market place for an innovative solution. The result was 500 auditors visiting every store equipped with cutting edge battery testing equipment. Every battery was tested and either left in service or replaced. All the bad batteries were recycled, and perhaps most impressively the whole chain was completed in a month, so the stores were running smoothly as they headed into peak.
The results were staggering. Over 130,000 batteries were tested, about 60% were replaced, and NTFs immediately dropped by 94%, service calls fell 64%, and ultimately the savings came out to $9M annually, far exceeding the cost of the program.
Mobile devices are a necessity to almost every worker in retail today, and they are only as good as the batteries that power them. Unhealthy batteries are a money draining problem that most retailers don't even realize they have. Most would be shocked to realize the underlying costs associated with batteries, but the potential for savings is huge. Field service coupled with reliable technology has proven to reap significant ROI, from a problem that has gone unnoticed too long.

6 Digital Initiatives Shaping Retail

When it comes to evaluating a company's innovative initiatives it is best to examine the source and not get caught up in the hype. At the Retail Executive Summit, Forrester Research's Sucharita Mulpuru encouraged the retail executives in attendance to consider the source, expect the goods, and know the history of "the next big thing."

The VP and principal analyst highlighted her "Understanding the Innovate or Die" session with examples of organizations and/or innovations that were hyped up by those with a vested financial interest in their success. When her talk turned to Amazon's drones for example Mulpuru quipped "the biggest challenge that the Amazon drone has is gravity," referring to the impracticality of unmanned aircraft delivering online purchases anytime soon.

Mulpuru ended her presentation with six digital topics she sees as the biggest themes in retail today:

Big data. Retail is a business sector that can gleam large swaths of data from the general population. Mulpuru acknowledged that the collection of big data is not new — retailers have been doing it for decades and some of the smartest have been acting on the info for years.

Same day delivery. Mulpuru points to investors as the evangelists. Only companies with huge revenue streams can afford to invest in the service at this point — Amazon and eBay for example. The high costs of the service make it difficult to provide at low cost and still remain profitable.

Digital wallets. There are case studies for success — Starbucks and Dunkin Donuts —and customer interest in strong. Biggest challenge is that CIOs have a lot of other things on their plate right now with security in POS and EMV mandate.

Content driving commerce. The idea of supporting a commerce experience by leveraging editorial content is a case of diminishing returns according to Mulpuru. The only way to successfully generate revenue through content is with advertising.

Wearables. The numbers and statistics show a modest opportunity. The market it young and uncertain but industries such as hospitality are showing promise, due to the limited time use and specific purpose — i.e., the Disney Band.

Omnichannel. When there is demand there are results. Despite the overwhelming success of cross-channel initiatives there are still challenges. Endless aisle, in-store pickup, shop from store, inventory visibility, mobile POS all take time and significant investment to do right — if you are going to do it, it must be done right.

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