Retail stores seek to improve profitability while simultaneously improving their customers’ shopping experiences. They must respond to the influence of online channels, compliance to trade regulations, and the ever-changing marketing plans of the brands they sell.
By combining new technologies for the sales floor with real-time management tools available in the cloud, store operators can meet their goals while simultaneously reducing costs, increasing turns, and managing all operations more effectively. They can use combinations of interactive devices, such as digital signage, electronic shelf labels, portable scanners, smart tags, smart lighting, and cameras, to implement these new systems.
To connect these new devices to the cloud services that manage them, stores need secure and scalable communications networks which do not interfere with current infrastructure. Wi-Fi HaLow provides such networks using the world-wide industry standard IEEE 802.11ah. Read on to learn more.
IEEE 802.11ah (Wi-Fi HaLow) supports the unique needs of a variety of IoT devices. Wi-Fi HaLow uses the lower license-free radio frequency bands below 1 GHz, compared to traditional Wi-Fi at 2.4GHz. HaLow also uses narrower channels (down to 1MHz) than traditional Wi-Fi (20MHz) and incorporates new sleep modes and a higher number of addressable devices.
What are the benefits?
Lower RF frequencies travel farther and penetrate through objects and materials better than higher frequencies at a similar amount of power. Narrower channels also improve connection distance and tolerance to noise. The new sleep modes make it possible to operate devices with coin cell batteries and improve their shelf time. The higher number of addressable devices (over 8,000 per Access Point) improves total capacity for store systems which could include over 100,000 devices. HaLow offers the high bandwidth, bi-directional encrypted communications needed for normal device operations, and for securely upgrading to future functions using over-the-air (OTA) firmware updates.
A small number of Wi-Fi HaLow Access Points can be added to existing stores without impacting the current Wi-Fi floor coverage plan. Since HaLow operates in the frequencies below 1GHz, it is impervious to the unpredictable 2.4GHz RF noise of Bluetooth, Wi-Fi and Zigbee brought into the store by customers’ smartphones. Due to HaLow’s longer reach and higher capacity, it can be implemented in a star-configured architecture which does not suffer from the congestion and latency problems of complex mesh-based solutions like Zigbee. By avoiding these constraints, HaLow devices can be routed directly to either on-premise servers or cloud-based hosts.
Let us look at some of the device technologies that Wi-Fi HaLow can enable in the modern store:
High-resolution digital display technology can be used to provide helpful information to a customer. They can be updated to conform to changes in the merchandising floor plans. They can be portable and reconfigurable, without power cords or big batteries. Using bi-directional communications, they can interact with customers to answer their unique questions. They can also support affinity programs by tailoring content to the customers’ unique profile. Morse Micro’s Wi-Fi HaLow SOCs will ensure adequate bandwidth for fast, secure links for these signs across long distances and through various building layouts that would otherwise block signals. Signs which use low-power static electronic ink films can operate for years on a single set of batteries.
Curious how Wi-Fi HaLow by Morse Micro compares to other technologies in terms of power consumption? reach out to the Morse Micro team here.
Electronic Shelf Labels (“ESL”):
Electronic labels mounted on display shelves can replace paper tags with updatable pricing information. Automated updates can be pushed over the airwaves to these labels from a remote location, saving the significant time and labor costs of manual changes. ESLs can be updated multiple times per day as needed. Real-time competitive responses and compliance to local product pricing laws can be ensured.
Morse Micro’s Wi-Fi HaLow ICs include support for ESLs which must operate for many years powered by small coin cell batteries. Decades of low-power circuit designs techniques combined with the low-power nature of HaLow will bring average power consumption rates into the tens of micro Watts, depending on sleep and update cycles. Combined with high-quality, low-power electronic paper technologies, we can help manufacturers meet their battery life goals.
HaLow offers enough low-latency bandwidth to create solutions which interact with customers and employees searching for products on display. This can reduce the time it takes a customer to find the product they want to buy, as well as reduce the time for a stocking clerk to find the location to replenish inventory.
Wi-Fi HaLow allows for devices to be placed in any location throughout a store – regardless of absorbing materials or reflective merchandise. The properties of sub-1GHz narrow band RF channels are well suited to reaching the nooks and crannies of a store, car lot or warehouse. With better coverage, HaLow deployment costs are reduced by eliminating proprietary hubs, repeaters or gateways found in Zigbee or optical networks. HaLow offers higher bi-directional bandwidth to support faster data transfers. Longer reach, lower power, better penetration, higher bandwidth and increased security of the IEEE 802.11ah open international standard will help HaLow replace older proprietary RF and optical solutions.
The price scanner is no longer bound under the glass plate at a check-out counter at the front of the store. A shopper can pick up a scanner and pre-scan items they place in the cart as they shop. This enables the customer to skip the cashier and reduces their wait time at checkout. These interactive devices must connect to the store network and operate from battery power. They must operate in all corners of the store. Employees can use these same devices to fill orders for home delivery services or for restocking new merchandise, saving labor costs. HaLow can increase the reliability of the RF signal and reduce total power consumed by these devices. They can spend more time in use and less time in the battery-charging cradle.
HVAC, Lighting, Access Controls, Cameras. Large stores managing HVAC, refrigeration and access controls can use Wi-Fi HaLow systems to aggregate these functions onto a network with more total device capacity, better reach and penetration through the building. For stores which manage their own equipment, such as refrigerators or freezers, HaLow is a superb technology for connecting sensors and controllers. Combining lighting controls with proximity and motion sensors can yield useful information about customer traffic patterns. This can yield insight for more effective floor-planning to optimize sales.
Inventory Control and Logistics:
RFID has provided an excellent technology for loss prevention and tracking in the store for decades. Typical placement of an RFID reader is at Front-of-Store, and is usually tethered to a power supply and network connection. Using Wi-Fi HaLow as a back-haul data path, an RFID reader can be placed in more flexible locations on the floor, and can communicate wirelessly. Although it may still need a mains power source, the reader no longer requires the data cable and associated installation cost to connect to the wiring closet. HaLow’s low power dissipation also enables battery-powered tracking and surveillance cameras. Loss prevention plans can incorporate more creative placement of such cameras in inconspicuous locations.
Within the supply chain, low-cost Wi-Fi HaLow sensors can be imbedded in pallets and boxes. As part of a complete logistics system, they can be used to track goods shipped from the suppliers, through the various transportation media and distribution warehouses to the receiving dock. Such sensors can provide valuable information about environmental conditions on the journey. When compliance to cold-chain profiles are needed to ensure the safety and quality of goods, HaLow offers a new RF connection that reaches farther and penetrates shipping materials better than proprietary solutions. Improvements in supply chain tracking and inventory controls reduce missed sales, waste and shrinkage.
Online shopping and mobile connectivity has blurred the boundary lines of where a retail store begins and ends. Many buyers use multichannel shopping to find and chose their products. Stores which embrace a multichannel model must have integrated pricing and inventory systems to present uniform experience to their customers. Stores using systems built upon standard network solutions will be best-positioned to join forces as the retail industry continues to evolve.
Wi-Fi HaLow is the wireless networking solution that will truly enable all devices of a modern retail store. From handheld scanners, to ESLs to building automation – HaLow connects devices cost efficiently and securely throughout a large area creating a superior customer experience and a competitive advantage.
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