Top Six Handheld Computing Trends for Distribution & Retail

The stats on mobility are staggering: more than three billion people are using more than six billion handheld devices, and smartphone sales alone this year will add another one billion to those numbers.

Handheld devices used in commercial applications include smartphones, tablets, scanners, two way radios and more, with industries of all kinds experiencing the benefits that increased connectivity provides their businesses. In particular, handheld devices are transforming the way people work in the distribution and retail industries, helping them boost productivity and gain efficiencies unlike ever before.

To help you stay ahead of the curve and take advantage of an ever-evolving landscape, we’ve identified the top six trends in handheld computing that spell both impact and opportunity for retail and distribution organizations:

Networks & Bandwidth

Handheld devices are becoming more clever when it comes to choosing the best network for a given location and task, driving lots of new demand for bandwidth – especially for video. The fast growth of video, combined with growth in peer-to-peer file sharing, web browsing and powerful applications – is adding up. In fact, according to industry-watcher IDC, mobile broadband traffic will increase by another 200% in 2014.

Sensors & Automation

From freezers to forklifts, machines are connecting in real-time to drive efficiency and cost-effectiveness. The rise of wireless M2M is enhancing remote management capabilities, monitoring, optimized processes and notification capabilities – producing huge collective data streams as a result. Common applications of wireless M2M in the retail sector include point-of-sale devices and digital content signage.

Anticipatory Computing

Wireless applications are becoming more dynamic, automatically tailoring themselves to the specific user and context. The rise of anticipatory computing helps people productively use and manage the data and complexity that comes with being perpetually connected. Algorithms take user data and anticipate individual needs and tailor content accordingly, making it easier to automate tasks across apps, adding a new layer of functionality to handheld devices.

Total-Cost-of-Ownership (TCO)

TCO is back in fashion, encouraging the widespread adoption of industrial-grade devices. Organizations in retail and distribution are becoming savvier to the fact that consumer-grade devices often cost twice as much in commercial environments that are more demanding – for example, the average consumer-grade device typically lasts only 18 months, which means businesses must frequently replace and repair equipment and endure the losses to productivity that ensue.

2D Barcoding

The move from 1D barcodes to 2D barcodes is accelerating, and driving the move to devices with 2D digital imaging technology. 2D barcodes (also known as matrix codes) are capable of holding tens and even hundreds of times as much information as their 1D counterparts because they carry information both vertically and horizontally. This enables them to hold up to 4000 characters of text; in contrast, the most complex 1D codes are capable of holding only 20 characters.

RFID Becomes Mainstream

After years of expectation, radio frequency identification (RFID) is happening as a supplement to (rather than a replacement of) barcode technology, especially in retail and distribution settings. Unlike barcode-based tracking systems, RFID systems can read the information on one or more tags concurrently without the need for a particular orientation or line of sight, enabling automation and reducing the need for manual scanning. RFID tags are also capable of holding more data – such as an item’s serial number, colour, size, manufacturer date and current price, in addition to all of the distribution points the item touched before arriving at its final destination. Used in conjunction with a barcode system or for stand-alone inventory tracking, RFID allows retailers and distributors to gather more data throughout the supply chain while complementing existing systems.

Get Advice from Wireless Solutions Experts at Nova Communications

Nova Communications has been deploying wireless solutions that sit at the intersection of voice, data and video technologies for over 30 years. For customized advice on handheld computing for your transportation, distribution or retail operation, or if you have questions on how we can help your business, please contact us today and we’d be pleased to help!

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