The 2011 Innovative Solutions Awards Winners
By George L. Koroneos
Deciding what makes one technology more innovative than another is never an easy process. You have to look beyond the bells, whistles, and wow factor to determine if a solution is truly groundbreaking and will change the way VARs do business.
This year, VSR and the Retail Solutions Providers Association (RSPA) along with judges from Hospitality Technology magazine and RIS News pored over close to a hundred nominations in seven categories to find an elite few solutions worthy of our 4th Annual Innovative Solution Awards. Those that made a cut are revolutionizing the Channel with cutting edge technology while also making their clients’ businesses stronger and more efficient. VSR and RSPA present the innovation solutions of the year and the solution providers that made them possible.
Credit Card Processing
Back before cloud computing was a household term, e-Nabler Corporation created a service-based solution for its customers. “Our solution was provided wirelessly to mobile devices and we built a synchronization program that tied the mobile devices to whatever back-end accounting or ERP system the client had,” eMobilePOS President Joel Vazquez explains. “We can provide our solution to almost any company, regardless of their back-end.”
Today, e-Nabler is riding high with a mobile POS/payment processing solution that is designed for almost any vertical market, including field service, retail, healthcare, and foodservice. Available through Apple’s app store (the app is free, but the software is sold as a subscription), eMobilePOS allows seamless integration with Quickbook, generates invoices, tallies tax, runs credit cards, and prints receipts.
Cosmetic giant Revlon installed eMobilePOS on all of the mobile devices used by its sales reps. The rep can then place orders for clients directly from the store floor, which are sent directly to the main system and dispatched to the store immediately. The solution provides any retailer (even small and medium ones) the same level of technology found in million dollar mobile POS deployments for just $30 per month per mobile user.
Agilysys Hospitality Solutions Group
PAR Sure Check
Food safety is paramount to providing an exceptional dining experience, and customer satisfaction is a top priority for the 24 distinct dining venues on the Royal Caribbean Oasis of the Seas cruise ship. The challenge facing the crew of the massive vessel was how to ensure accurate and timely food inspection reporting across the restaurants on the largest cruise ship in the world to make certain compliance with federal food inspection regulations set out by the CDC. Ensuring food is stored, prepared and served at the proper temperature is key to ensuring not only an outstanding guest experience at the upscale 150 Central Park restaurant, but it is required by the CDC Vessel Sanitation Guide and HACCP guidelines.
During the maiden voyage of the Oasis of Seas from a shipyard in Finland to Florida, Agilysys with the assistance of PAR field engineers, deployed 19 wireless handheld PAR EverServ Sure Check units equipped with a RFID tag reader and temperature probe, and numerous RFID tags placed throughout the ship in freezers and kitchens. The kitchen staff used Sure Check to monitor and record the temperature of freezers and fridges by reading RFID tags. They measured cooking temperatures and prepared food temperatures using the probes, ensuring that all measurements were time stamped, recorded and wirelessly transmitted to a central repository for reporting.
The Sure Check software is programmed with several checklists to ensure compliance with various regulations and is also used to track corrective actions should an item be found to be outside of the norm. Action prompts ensure that all steps are completed, and if an unsafe condition or out-of-limit temperature is detected, employees are provided with recommended corrective actions. All data is centralized and available in real-time through Web-based reporting, audit trails, and checklist-management tools; this optimizes efficiency and ensures that each inspection is completed on-time, and that all new inspection policies, updates and alerts are quickly communicated and deployed.
IN-STORE CUSTOMER TOUCH POINT
Food for thought—Ninety-one percent of beauty salons are still independently owner operated, and every one of them needs a POS solution to handle the backend. Enter MIKAL, a solution provider that focuses on the niche salon and day spa market. The company making a name for itself with CyberPreceptionist, a software program designed to let clients and employees easily book appointments and manage customers using a tablet device.
Van Michaels Salons, located in Buckhead, Georgia, was one of the first clients to run CyberPreceptionist in a cloud environment.
“They had acquired iPads and wanted to figure out how to run MIKAL’s traditional SaaS program on the tablets,” MIKAL, CEO Fred Dengler says. “We went back to basics with them and asked them how to interact with their customers in order to determine what must be included as part of a tablet app.”
With that info in hand, MIKAL created a tablet app that allows the front desk receptionist in a salon or day spa to become mobile, handling client check-in, check-out, updates to client tech and personal information, and checking on real-time activity in the front of the salon, like number of clients waiting, bookings to date or cancellations. It increases client service exponentially. CyberPreceptionist was conceived to reduce bottlenecks, eliminate wait times, personalize service, and upsell.
The tablet acts like a control center, allowing the employee to shoot silent pages to stylists to let them know that new clients have arrive, send a message to the front desk to let the cashier know when a customer is ready to pay and leave, and book future appointments.
“People can spend four hours at a salon getting massaged, but if they can’t leave in 30 seconds, they are out of their mind,” Dengler says.
POS Solution with FuturePOS
Dakota Retail Technologies & FuturePOS
According to Kory Lindersmith, co-owner of Dakota Retail Technologies, the POS installation at The Sioux Falls Arena in South Dakota was one of its largest installs and the first ever in a Sports Arena setting, which means that the VAR pulled out all the stops.
The nineteen-terminal install is built around Future POS’s Fusion technology, which runs on a Microsoft SQL database. In addition to using eight 42-in. monitors for digital signage, the Sioux Falls Arena is using Widefly handhelds throughout the stadium to allow the “Hawkers” (the guys that sell beer in the stands) take credit card payments from patrons right at their seats. For premium ticketholders, waitresses can use the handhelds to send orders directly to the kitchen for faster food delivery.
“[The arena] used to have old fashioned menu boards to display food items,” Dakota Retail Technologies owner Kory Lindersmith says. “With the addition of Future POS’s digital signage, the arena will now feature real-time menu updates on 42-in. television screens. The HTML-based screens are easy for the customer to use and to create customized layouts. With the scheduled content feature, the arena can also display advertisements, specials, and much more.”
This project definitely involved teamwork. On the Future POS side, it has
taken years of software development and hard work to get to the level needed to support this large install. Dakota Retail Technologies put blood, sweat, and tears into this install in order to make things happen in such a short deadline.
QUICK SERVICE/FAST CASUAL
Memorial Tournament Concession Point of Sale
BCR Point of Sale
How do you get 65 cash registers to process credit cards and poll to a central computer on a 220-acre golf course for a six-day event? You call BCR Point of Sale. Previously, The Memorial Tournament had rented registers, and had only recently started accepting credit cards through external terminals. Each day they were spending hours upon hours reconciling credit card receipts and reading through z-tapes. There had to be a better way.
BCR installed Verizon Air Cards, integrated credit card payment with Mercury Payment System and Datatcap IP Trans, Sam4s SPS 530 cash registers and polling software, and Lava Computers’ HQ/ST configuration to provide the solution. Now Memorial Tournament staff can sit at a computer at the end of each day, poll each tent location, and have all their sales information at their fingertips in a matter of minutes. “While the concession program was simple, the infrastructure to accomplish this was complex,” explains BCR Owner Jamie Bliss. “We implemented a solution with a lot of moving parts all working together to provide the solution that our client needed.”
This is an innovative solution because it combines many different available technologies from various vendors into a single solution from a single VAR. “Because of the technology used we are able to offer this solution down the road to any mobile food or retail,” Bliss says.
SPECIALTY RETAIL AND BEST OF THE BEST
Register for Apple iPad
ShopKeep’s first iteration began three years ago when Jason Richelson, the owner of three wine and food stores, was on vacation and the computer servers in two of his stores went down. Frustrated at the cost and hassle of having to manage technology in-house as a small retailer, he looked for a web-based solution that would allow him to inexpensively outsource his POS. Finding none, he decided to use his background in technology and Internet companies to create his own. After researching his idea, Richelson hired a developer and built the ShopKeep Web-based POS within about two months.
In January 2011, ShopKeep announced the release of the iPad version of its POS. Originally designed to work on the Mac and PC, the advent of the iPad, an inexpensive touch screen device with Web access, created a unique opportunity to provide quick-serve restaurants, coffee shops and other small retailers with an inexpensive Web-based POS. The iPad POS links up to ShopKeep’s back-office software to allow store owners to track sales, manage inventory and prices, and run reports from any computer via the Web.
The patent-pending architecture of ShopKeep includes a locally installed register. This allows a retailer to process transactions even when the Internet is down, so that they never miss a sale. Shopkeep offers its merchant users a secure card data solution with an optional Mercury Payment Systems-specific Magtek iDynamo card reader. E2E keeps card data safe from theft by encrypting it at the moment a card is swiped or keyed.
“The ideal solution is where your register is an actual thin-client application, but all non-mission critical functions are on the Web,” Richelson explains. “The registers are local for cashier ringing, and they run quickly because everything is stored locally.”
NCR SelfServ Checkout with Polish Language Option
North Country Business Products
Tony’s Fine Foods, located in the heart of Chicago’s Polish district, was set to open up a new supermarket sporting a self-checkout, but the supermarket ran into a snag. Without the ability to offer consumers a choice of English or Polish, it would not have worked. The company turned to its VAR, North Country Business Products, to help shoppers verify products and prices in their own language while checking out.
Working closely with technology vendor NCR Corporation, North Country Business Products custom-developed a Polish language interface for the NCR SelfServ Checkout product and the grocer’s POS software, the NCR Advanced Checkout Solution for Independent Retailers. Once the engineering and custom programming was complete on the software, North Country Business Products handled the design, installation and testing of the custom self-checkout solution. North Country Business Products worked in a very tight timeframe (three months) to build the application with NCR, and get it done in time for the store’s grand opening on Thanksgiving 2010. North Country Business Products also now provides ongoing support for the solution for Tony’s Fine Foods and is actively marketing this solution to other grocers in the Chicago area.
This solution further expands the number of bi-lingual options available to shoppers through self-checkout. It is also a pioneering example of an independent retailer using self-service technology to offer consumers more choice and greater convenience, and it will help independent retailers better compete with larger grocers.