The 2012 Innovative Solution Awards

By  Lisa Terry — August 06, 2012

Innovation is alive and well and happening at a VAR near you. A wealth of invigorating entries into the annual Innovative Solution Awards confirm that while technology is evolving fast, creative ways to apply it to real-world challenges are more than keeping up with the pace.

The Retail Solutions Providers Association (RSPA) (www.gorspa.org) and  Vertical Systems Reseller launched these awards in 2008. This past spring, we invited the channel community to submit a multi-vendor retail technology solution that fell within one of the following categories: Shopper-Facing Solution, POS Solution, Software Application, Payment Processing, Mobility and ISV/VAR Collaboration. All of the entries gave the winners a run for their money, but the judging panel ultimately selected one winner per category. On behalf of our panel of judges, and everyone at both VSR and the RSPA, we’d like to congratulate the recipients of this year’s awards, which were presented at the RSPA’s RetailNOW Summer Convention and Expo during the show’s awards banquet in July.

Shopper-Facing Solution
Draft Tables
by Ellickson USA
Declan Duggan, CEO/CMO, Ellickson USA


The secret to developing a great mobile beer dispensing table is legal expertise. Ellickson International is an Irish company that manufactures draft beer management systems—walls or tables where customers can dispense their own beer in a measured, controlled way. When they decided to start marketing to the U.S. in late 2009, Ellickson first had to learn about all the idiosyncrasies of individual state alcohol laws.

Since then, Ellickson USA (www.ellicksonusa.com) has managed to win the approval of about 90 percent of jurisdictions—except those with language such as “no customer shall touch the handle of a beer tap.” They got there through the creative use of technology that exceeds some state ABC requirements while making self-service beer a smooth and easy experience for patron and bar alike.
 
Outside the U.S., companies such as Diageo can give bars beer dispensing systems for free. Here that’s not legal. So Ellickson needed a mobile version it could easily install and remove it from bars. Previous draft tables were available only to groups running a single tab; Ellickson USA wanted to enable individual dispensing while obeying legal limits on purchase volume.

The solution: an RFID-enabled iButton. Each customer turns over their credit card data in exchange for an iButton, and a staff member wirelessly activates the dispenser at their draft table. The patron attaches his iButton magnetically to a reader and pours the desired quantity of any of four beers, which is limited to 32 oz.—a message displays on the screen that the patron needs to be checked by a staffer to be authorized for more. A centralized controller tracks all consumption, and an Epson (pos.epson.com) receipt printer generates a receipt when they’re finished. The company is working on POS integration.

In addition to the fun factor, precise pours mean restaurants sell 100% of each keg, while bartender-dispensing typically incurs a 15 percent loss. Beer limits are half the 64 oz. pitchers bartenders can sell, so owners get better monitoring of patrons’ conditions. And customer satisfaction increases. “It keeps customers happy when the bar is busy, so it’s a business driver,” says Declan Duggan, CEO/CMO of Ellickson USA.

Software Application
LightSpeed for iPad
by LightSpeed
Dax Dasilva, CEO, LightSpeed


LightSpeed (www.lightspeedretail.com) has always been all about the world of Apple (www.apple.com); the developer has offered a family of Apple-based retail tools aimed at inventory-centric specialty retail environments for some time. So when the iPad came out, creating an iPad POS system was an obvious next step. “We definitely didn’t want to create yet another iPad register,” says Dax Dasilva, CEO. The result, LightSpeed for iPad, is an extension of a fully integrated retail system backed by the company’s middleware and PostgreSQL database that moves seamlessly from the front counter, to online, to wherever customers are, including pop-ups location, trade shows, conferences or special events.

Brick and mortar retailers are feeling the heat from e-commerce, particularly among younger customers. So LightSpeed needed to come up with a way to get that customer off the couch and make the in-store experience memorable, one that would keep them coming back. Given its target market of inventory-centric retail, “we wanted to make it so it could be used as an interactive sales tool, almost a way to do a show for the customer,” Dasilva says. This “Show and Tell” feature allows retailers to expand product details and up to five zoomed images such as available accessories before a curtained backdrop. Associates can drill down to get product specs—just like online shopping—and future versions will access social media and customer ratings as well. “It all adds up to a longer, deeper conversation about products,” Dasilva says.

Because it’s portable, associates can pick up the iPad to bring it to the customer. The application can also perform inventory lookups and process returns and gift cards, as well as print or email receipts automatically.
LightSpeed for iPad development took many months to complete. A user experience designer crafted the onscreen workflows to mimic the ways that existing clientele used LightSpeed for Mac, easing training. Among the biggest challenges, says Dasilva, was integrating POS peripherals, particularly scanning and payment. “The iGeneration expects a certain user experience and polish.”

POS Solution

The Revel POS
by Revel Systems
Lisa Falzone, CEO, Revel Systems


A funny thing happened when Lisa Falzone and her partner Chris Ciabarra set out to build an iPhone-based customer menu ordering system: they ended up with a full-blown POS for the then-new iPad.

While working to integrate the ordering app with existing POS systems, the duo got a deeper look into the systems themselves and found them wanting. So they decided to write their own. “If we had known how hard it was beforehand we might not have done it,” says Falzone, CEO of Revel Systems (revelsystems.com). Along the way they forged some new ground, she says, as the first to integrate a receipt printer and credit card processing directly to an iPad, as well as scales, flatbed scanners and coin dispensers.

The result is a fixed or mobile POS solution that offers standard enterprise POS, inventory management and reporting functionality and peripherals, but uses an iPad as the computer and touchscreen. It requires no back-end store server; the back end is hosted in the cloud. Falzone says it “offers the speed of a local system but the benefits of a web-based system.” Revel’s new Atlas version includes deeper analytics to regulate staffing, as well as kiosk and auto offline modes, multi-location support and card payments at two percent per swipe, through its partnership with QR code-based payment company LevelUp. Revel also works with Magtek (www.magtek.com), Epson (www.epson.com) and APG Cash Drawer (www.cashdrawer.com), and has contracted with The Geek Squad (www.geeksquad.com) to handle installations.

“We’re taking what Apple spent billions creating and putting our software on it,” Falzone says. “Apple forces you to design software in a very user-friendly way,” she says, and that engineering diligence extends to all of its hardware—she witnessed her partner’s AirBook fall off a car at 30 MPH and still work. “I think iPad POS is going to take over the POS market” within five to ten years, Falzone predicts.


ISV/VAR Collaboration
IPTran ePay Stadium App for Notre Dame Stadium
by Comprehensive Retail Solutionsand Datacap Systems
Les Farrance, President, Comprehensive Retail Solutions (top)
Justin Zeigler, Marketing Director, Datacap (bottom)


Simply installing 270 electronic cash registers at 45 concession stands throughout Notre Dame Stadium is no easy task, but factor in a two week timeframe and some security issues and it becomes a much bigger challenge.
 Datacap (www.datacapsystems.com) had originally asked Comprehensive Retail Solutions (www.crsgroup.com) to install the Samsung (www.samsung.com) Sam4s SPS 500 cash registers, 50 Datacap IPTran ePay Stadium App devices and Datacap’s NETePay integrated payments software. One to two IP Trans in each concession stand location would forward encrypted card data to a copy of NETePay installed on campus. The NETePay software would process all transactions through Heartland Payment Systems via a single merchant account, allowing for consolidated reporting/payments for all of Notre Dame Stadium concessions.

The big hurdle to clear was how to differentiate to the back end which terminal from which concession was sending data. “Our solution was to effectively isolate the concession stands but still allow all transactions through to the corporate Net ePay solution and poll the registers,” says Les Farrance, president of CRS. The team got the job done, and on opening day—despite a massive storm—the system had proven itself. The success of the solution also won CRS the installation work for Notre Dame’s hockey arena, and should help open doors for large-scale ECR deployment with centralized payment processing.


Mobility
iWavePOS Software Development Kit
Installed by POS King
Mofee Kong, Owner, POS King



Demand is increasing rapidly for mobile restaurant applications that bring ordering and payment to right to the table or out to the waiting line. But the technical challenges of delivering a robust subset of POS functions to mobile devices are not insignificant—especially if the mobile device runs iOS and the fixed POS does not.

While web-based technologies may reduce software development costs for mobile applications, WaveSoft (www.wavesoft.com) noted that issues such as true iOS user interface compliancy, native hardware peripheral support, offline data redundancy and battery consumption were not sufficiently addressed by thin-client based applications.

They used open system protocols to develop iWavePOS SDK, a universal mobile iOS app with a customizable grid and graphic driven menu ordering system to mimic the POS interface which can be easily integrated with any third-party POS solution. The iWavePOS SDK consists of PC -based software utilities, middleware and native iOS software apps running on Apple devices.

POS King (www.posking.ca) implemented iWavePOS SDK at Well Tea, a high-volume casual dining chain. The solution enabled Well Tea to enhance customer service, reduce customer wait times, institute up-selling and lower training costs, as well as institute up-sale, respond to ingredient inquiries and track customer preferences and sales trends.

One of the best features of the SDK is its ability to ensure wireless connectivity between the mobile device and the server, so orders are never dropped, says Mofee Kong, owner of POS King. “The PDA sends the order and keeps tracking the signal, and if it’s not good, it keeps the order,” so the order-taker is aware of the problem. Another is the tremendous savings the customer makes on hardware and software, he says. An iWavePOS app can be downloaded from the App Store for free and activated online for a minimum monthly fee.


Payment Processing
iPad Self-Service Ordering Kiosk
by Granbury Restaurant Solutions
Tom Bronson, President
Granbury Restaurant Solutions


POS used to be all about maintaining the human interaction and hiding the technology. Now, “technology is front and center to restaurant marketing,” says Duessa Holscher, director of marketing at Granbury Restaurant Solutions (www.granburyrs.com). “So much of the interaction with consumers is technology driven.”

Consumers like that because it gives them more control over their orders and more options for how to place them. Restaurants like it because average transaction size increases when customers can see all those choices and suggested add-ons, sometimes by more than 25 percent. They also reduce labor and increase order accuracy.

That’s what prompted Granbury Restaurant Solutions to develop Apple-based customer-facing front ends to their own POS system (Android is likely next). One customer in particular, Aladino’s Pizza, is attached to a roller skating rink, making it challenging for customers to move around the facility to order food.

Granbury used html5 to develop an iPad-based self ordering kiosk with encrypted Magtek (www.magtek.com) MSRs, as well as mobile ordering and online ordering applications, that seamlessly integrate with Aladino’s existing stationary point of sale systems. Seamless integration was a key goal and differentiator, to make the user experience easy for both customer and restaurant. The solution also includes an integrated web-based loyalty program with personalized outbound marketing.

While developing for mobile platforms and getting them to talk to traditional POS systems is a significant task in itself, the biggest challenge was incorporating secure, PCI compliant payment processing, says Holscher. Granbury worked closely with PayPros (www.paypros.com) to enable kiosk, phone and online orders to flow into the fixed POS system to allow a single end-of-day payment batch.

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