January 13, 2005

Retail Tech Growth Spurt Reflected at Retail Show

By Evan Schuman, eWEEK

As the retail tech industry prepares for it largest trade show next week, the cutting-edge nature of expected news announcements—with an emphasis on wireless, touch-screen, kiosk and PDA applications—suggests an industry that is exploring everything but committing to little.

A good example of an expected alliance is one involving IBM and some 40 companies—including Cuesol, Retek, Symbol Technologies and Triversity—that will pledge support for IBM's Store Integration Framework. That program specializes in helping retailers to target and cater to local sales and promotional preferences.

In the wireless arena, Retelligence will roll out a handheld device that the company will stress can be operated by one hand and delivers updated CRM and order data to store personnel, ostensibly to be reviewed in front of customers. The device can scan bar codes, place orders and check inventory, the firm said.

MarCole Interactive Systems had the same idea of empowering a PDA, but MarCole's introduction will be a palmtop intended to be used by customers to scan and add items to a store registry.

And what would a retail tech show be if it didn't have its share of POS (point of sale) rollouts? NCR will be showing its newest POS software and RFID hybrid scanner. That is being positioned for those who want to experiment with RFID before deciding on even limited deployment.

Another POS introduction is coming from a trio of vendors—Moneris, InfoTouch and Merchant Partners—who are layering their touch-screen approach atop a standard POS unit. One component is dubbed the Virtual POS, which allows retailers to process real-time credit card transactions using an existing computer with an Internet connection. A credit card swipe reader attaches to the computer so that no software installation is required and no dedicated credit card terminal needs to be installed.

Self-checkout will also have its share of show floor space. Wincor Nixdorf will be introducing its newest self-checkout package.

Company officials point to their favorite feature: The new units dispense cash and receipts at the top of the unit, unlike many units that send receipts at the customer's knee level.