Retail revolution Require Reliable Radios

Retail Revolution BW


Transformation to a fully networked retail concept requires a fundamental rethinking of the network needed to support new retail processes and consumer behaviors.

The retail industry is exploring new areas such as the store of the future, how smart shelves can improve the supply chain, and in transforming the buying experience. The main focus so far has been on achieving a tighter integration between mobile payment systems and consumer behaviors but what role will heterogeneous networks play in creating the networked retail experience of the future?

The first wave of networked stores has eliminated checkout cashiers, introduced product specialists in the back, and enabled staff to focus on helping consumers buy the right products. The backroom store of the internet already attracts knowledgeable customers and serves as a warehouse carrying the full product portfolio with all possible configurations and variations. The networks that support this are often based are leased lines to the store and traditional wireless LANs on the premises.

It is easy to pull this off with a couple of network wizards in the back of the store, but this is not always the case. Expansion into a fully networked retail concept requires a fundamental rethinking of the network needed to support this transformation. The network must support busy weekend hours and must work smoothly without support from on-site staff.

Reliability and the zero-support of a networked retail experience are driving the development of heterogeneous networks in shopping malls in a new direction – away from best effort wireless and legacy copper backhaul infrastructure to small, ultra-reliable WiFi/3G/4G cells with fiber backhaul.

This is only just the beginning so my predictions for the future are the following: * There will be a shift in focus, especially for shopping mall developers, from networks that primarily support the buying experience to networks that optimize the selling process as well as the buying experience. * Store owners and mobile network operators will form partnerships in order to realize their networked retail visions. * Mobile offload solutions for in-mall traffic will be replaced by in-store revenue securing mobile network environments for multiple radio technologies. * Paper-based retail tools such as in-store promotions, credit card slip management, etc., will lose traction to large digital promotional screens and more extensive use of tablets, phablets and smartphones by both sellers and buyers.

Smartphones Supporting Sandy Struggles

Smartphones supporting Sandy strugglers BW

Smartphones and mobile broadband networks can’t protect us against natural disasters – like Hurricane Sandy, which battered the East Coast of the US on Monday night – but it can help prepare us, making citizens as informed as possible before, during and after a crisis situation. Here are a few innovative examples of how these technologies are helping citizens on the East Coast get through one of the worst hurricanes in history.

The Federal Emergency Management Agency is among many city, state and national agencies providing continuous advice and alerts to citizens via their Twitter feed (@FEMA). Citizens, who have been asked to save valuable network capacity by limiting mobile voice calls and staying in contact with loved ones through social media and SMS messages, can also use FEMA’s smartphone app, which offers safety tips, emergency meeting location information, and a map with open shelters. The Red Cross has its own Hurricane App, which offers preparedness tips, updates citizens on conditions in their area and allows them to find help.

Other mobile sites are illustrating the simple ways in which mobile technology can help citizens by offering preparatory tips, like ensuring that mobile phones were fully charged before the hurricane hit, and using flashlight apps that would help users affected by power outages. Other sites recommended forwarding landlines to cell phones, downloading weather and news apps ahead of the storm, and backing up vital data in the cloud. All of this advice is valuable but perhaps the biggest benefit provided by these mobile technologies is that we are well prepared and informed before a natural disaster hits. The most dangerous situation is one in which citizens do not heed advice and mandates from government agencies.

In a hurricane as large as Sandy, mobile networks are vulnerable because of their dependence on outdoor antennas and a continuous power supply. Let us hope that the networks will be able to withstand the harsh conditions and continue to provide support to affected citizens.

Music Makers Manage Multiple Multimedia Models


© Peter Linder – All Rights Reserved
© Peter Linder – All Rights Reserved

Long gone are the days when a record label would set a launch date, have the video played nonstop on MTV, and enjoy a clear path to record sales. The world changed irrevocably with digital video distribution and the advent of MP3 stores. So let’s see what we can learn about the future of mobile music by looking at the launch of rock star Rick Springfield’s latest record this week.

The music industry has become very creative in combining different live and multimedia innovations to create buzz for their artist. The traditional website has been customized with content targeting three different devices types: tablets, laptops/desktops and smartphones.

They have also come up with savvy ways of enticing customers to purchase the physical CDs. Music retailers will get additional promotional support by selling a special version of Rick’s new record, with four bonus songs not for sale anywhere online. Rick’s new physical album cover is also connected through an interactive application. You just download the app to your phone or tablet, and then point it at the cover to get bonus digital content on your device. The album comes with four different album covers, all with different songs and bonus content.

Last but not least, the week-long record launch in New York was made more exciting with a variety of events. Rick sang his hit “Jessie’s Girl” to New Yorkers during their morning commute on October 10 at Penn Station. The aging rocker was surrounded by commuters holding not just their take away coffees, but also their video-recording smartphones to capture the moment.

My predictions about the future of mobile music in the Networked Society:

• Mobile devices shape how music is consumed

• Comprehensive multimedia approaches with multiple innovations fundamental to creating buzz

• Live element is and will remain key in driving music revenues because live experience is impossible to bring online

• Younger generations might not understand “record” concept, but launching a collection of songs will always be a key moment for music lovers


Phenomenal Photography – Picture & Publish

The first 10 years of mass-market digital photography have gone well thanks to innovations in mobile phones, single-lens reflex (SLR) and point-and-shoot cameras. The classic Kodachrome film has been discontinued. What can we expect from networked photography going forward?

Camera innovations have been phenomenal. Smartphones have made integrated photography and networking capabilities a great way of taking and sharing pictures –think Instagram. SLRs have managed the transition from film to memory with maintained or increased picture quality. Integrated HDTV (High-Definition TV) recording capabilities have turned SLRs into multi-purpose photography and filming devices. Point-and-shoot cameras have very high picture resolutions in combination with advanced optics at affordable prices.

The almost real-time publishing of our magic moments is a reality. It is an integrated part of the tools we use for sharing our lives. The darkroom and dark rooms are no longer required for viewing high-quality photos. Neither is the long wait for a roll of film to be processed. Our ability to share pictures, and share them instantly, is here to stay.

Post-production capabilities and their superior results are light-years ahead of the darkroom days. This is also the case for memory-storage innovations; the past decade has resulted in a 1,000-fold price-performance improvement and support for very high writing speeds. The revolution from 24 or 36 frame film rolls and the first 8-16MB memory cards feel very remote.

In the future, I expect to see the following trends:

  • High-resolution photographs and moving pictures will become key to the next wave of social-media innovations
  • Networking and camera capabilities will become more unified, and integrated WiFi and mobile access will become standard in SLRs and high-end point-and-shoot cameras
  • The camcorder will have a hard time surviving as a mass-market device, as cameras and smartphones come with integrated HDTV recording capabilities

Scalable, Smart, Superior and Simple: Soon Society Standards

Without a fully-fledged network, society and operators can’t reach their full potential. The network must be optimized to manage the enormous communications transformations taking place in society. And to achieve this, they will need to focus on four key attributes.

First, networks need to be scalable to support: traffic growth cost-efficiently; a growing amount of devices,  new types of them; and signaling to and from devices.

Second, networks need to be smart. Smartphones do not work well together with dumb pipes; and neither do other devices or services. Being smart allows networks to have differentiated connectivity options – and provides application programming interfaces with enhanced applications that have vital service attributes. A smart network is the foundation for delivering higher value to users and service providers. And business model innovation requires smart networks.

Third, networks need to deliver superior performance. As applications and services become more and more similar, superior network performance will be the key differentiator between operators, from a coverage and capacity perspective.

Finally, networks can be significantly simpler than they are today. In IP networks a lot of products are built with a single purpose. Tomorrow, a collection of single-purpose products will be consolidated into a more powerful, more capable multi-purpose product platform.

I believe that future networks  can be predicted as follows:
* Mobile applications will set the network evolution/architecture agenda.
* Triple-network integration will gain traction; in other words, 3G/4G/Wi-Fi will all become part of the same wireless access.
* Network transformation will take over from network transpiration as a primary network strategy. Sweating too many old network assets could be risky if and when the competition transforms its networks.
* With stronger network visions and business models, investment appetite will increase globally.

Nascar nights – Not Normal Network Needs

Major sports events are being networked to an ever greater extent. The National Association for Stock Car Auto Racing (NASCAR), for example, provides several tools for fans watching a live event.

Radios, called race scanners, are available so fans can follow the communication between drivers and their crews during a race. The leaderboard is available in your smartphone, so you can stay up-to-date on the drivers’ positions. And recently, Brad Keselowski made history by becoming the first driver to tweet while racing (during a stoppage).

At each race, mobile-network coverage is needed for up to 192,000 fans as well as the teams of the 100 participating cars. In addition to having coverage inside the venue, parking-lot coverage for pre-race tailgating is vital. The network demand at such events is far from normal and requires temporary reinforcement. This requires and add-on network, which is designed as a complement to the existing network.

Ericsson supports race sponsor and US operator Sprint with a managed-network solution for such events.Two teams and two complete equipment setups cover the 38 yearly events on a rotating scheme. For a venue like the Texas Motor Speedway, five Cells on Wheels (COW) are deployed. COWs are mobile cell sites containing antenna towers and electronic radio transceiver equipment on trucks or trailers. The temporary addition is designed with two COW inside the venue with six antenna elements and three outside with three antenna elements each.

I was given the opportunity to visit the Ericsson support team during the race in Texas on April 14, and I was truly amazed by several things:

  • It takes just three days to assemble the temporary network
  • More than 50 transmission links need to be connected
  • The mix of 3G, 4G and Wi-Fi represents a very “dirty” radio environment, calling for careful network design and optimization
  • The data capacity is three-and-a-half times larger than the current data capacity for voice
  • NASCAR does not allow teams to collect any telemetry data beyond fuel injection mapping, and the collected data is published for all to see.

The debate has begun on the role of networks in enhancing the fan experience in sport, and some feel that tweeting is distracting the drivers or athletes. But having gained more than 100,000 new Twitter followers in one day, @keselowski is clearly breaking new ground.

My predictions for the future of networked sports are that:

  1. All major sports arenas will upgrade mobile-data access within three years for capabilities to deliver seamless 3G/4G/Wi-Fi access to the devices of fans and the staff supporting the sport
  2. Online experience at the venue will be an integrated part of live events
  3. Innovations around social media, TV and mobile devices are key in attracting new generations of fans
  4. Spectators will use smartphones and soon bring tablets for replays and special statistics at the venue, as a complement to the jumbo TV screens already in place