Moving into a new era of technology convergence

Sam Lee explains how retailers can benefit from Bluebird's new handheld offering, the BM180

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By Guest on 07 May 2014
Moving into a new era of technology convergence

This article was first published in the Summer 2014 issue of Speak

Bluebird has a long history of serving the retail industry through our enterprise mobile devices, which includes data capture, payment and business tablet and handheld devices. These devices can help retailers better interact with their customers, capture data and manage their store operations, as well as take payments in a way that suits the customer.

As a manufacturer of mobile handheld solutions, we have often been first to the market with functionality for our devices. In 2002, Bluebird released the BIP-1000, which was the world’s first printer-integrated mobile POS that supports mobile communications. Then another important milestone came in 2009, when we released the BIP-6000, which was the world’s first rugged handheld computer with a built-in RFID reader.

As well as being first to market with new functionality, Bluebird also aims to proactively address the issues companies face in the changing retail environment. We recognise that retailers are attempting to manage their stores in the most efficient way through the integration of voice and data communications in one single device. In addition, the use of mobile POS terminals has significantly decreased the waiting time for customers at checkouts.

This is why, in 2004, Bluebird released the first device in its BM enterprise mobile computer series, the BM100. The BM range combines data capture, mobile computing and payments in one device. The BM150 followed in 2005 and then, in 2010, we released the BM170. Each of these devices, which run on the Windows operating system, came with a range of enhancements and new features.

Building on this success, we launched a new device built on the Microsoft Windows Embedded 8 Handheld platform at the National Retail Federation’s annual conference in January 2014. The BM180 (or the BM30, which is a ruggedised version of the BM180) aims to be the leader in the data capture and payment marketplace.

The BM180 comes in a bigger form factor – it has a five inch screen, compared to the 3.5 inch screen of its predecessor, the BM170. The BM180 has a 1.5GHz Dual Core Processor, a docking connector, Micro USB slot and extra-long battery life. With its gorilla glass, it can be dropped from a height of 1.2 metres. While the device may be ruggedised and MIL-STD 810G certified (a US military standard that tests equipment's environmental design), it retains a slim form factor. It can withstand harsh working environments with a good Ingress Protection rating (indicating the level of device protection), and blocks dust and water, as well as being scratch proof.

With its safe and secure outdoor connectivity and ultra-fast indoor connectivity, employees can easily stay connected, wherever they are. The business-ready device comes with a barcode reader that can scan 1D, 2D and even damaged barcodes as well as RFID, enabling retailers to better capture data and manage their inventory. It can also scan mobile coupons to strengthen customer loyalty.

The device improves employee productivity by allowing stores associates to talk to each other through the VoIP push-to-talk functionality, meaning stock replenishments happen faster and the right products are in the right place at the right time.

The device acts as a mobile POS terminal and allows customers to pay however they like, as it offers contactless payment functionality and a magnetic stripe reader so retailers can take payments from credit cards. Providing all the functionality of a mobile device with the added benefit of payment capabilities is a key differentiator in the market and we are the only device manufacturer to do this.

An added benefit for retailers is that this device can run on Windows Embedded 8 Handheld, which is the next generation of Microsoft’s platform for line-of-business handheld devices. The platform provides enterprise-grade security and manageability, along with full Windows Phone 8 application compatibility. It also allows businesses to use Microsoft’s enterprise-ready applications, such as Dynamics AX, Lync, SharePoint and Office.

Retailers can also save time when creating business apps, as they can use common application programming interfaces (APIs) to access integrated peripherals in handheld devices. The same APIs are available in Microsoft Windows Embedded 8 Standard and Windows Embedded 8 Industry platforms. This makes it easy to deliver an application on these industry-specific handheld devices and then bring that application to fixed POS terminals, digital signage, kiosks and other embedded devices.

The WLAN version of the BM180 will start shipping in early May. We will begin taking orders for the 3G version in mid-June before shipping it at the end of July. US department store chain Kohl’s is the first retailer to deploy the BM180; its pilot programme started in May 2014 and general deployment is slated to begin in June. One of the world’s biggest FMCG companies is also deploying the BM180 for its distribution network.

Of course, the BM180 is not the only Bluebird device that is being deployed at large retailers across the world. Coles – the second biggest retailer in Australia – is considering the Bluebird BP80 ten-inch tablet running on Windows 8 to enable consumers to easily collect goods they have ordered online in store.

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