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Retailers building their own iPod touch, iPad POS systems

post #1 of 15
Thread Starter 
Apple's open, third party iOS ecosystem is enabling retailers to build mobile point of sale devices based on the iPod touch independently of the EasyPay solution used in its own retail stores, with new retail applications of the iPad also in progress.Â*

Yesterday, a report published by the 9 to 5 blog claiming that Gap "was piloting Apple's iPod-based POS system at a few of our Old Navy stores" erroneously concluded that Apple was marketing the custom mobile software it had developed internally for its own retail stores in a test pilot with other retailers.Â*

Other retailers are indeed using the same hardware sled Apple uses, a third party product built by Infinite Peripherals and called the "Linea Pro," which adds a barcode scanner, credit card magnetic strip reader and a rechargeable battery pack to Apple's iPod touch.Â* Â*

However, the software Apple uses to drive its EasyPay device is an iOS app custom-designed to work with the company's Oracle 360Commerce backend retail software. This highly custom bit of mobile software is of limited value to other retailers, but the retail experience exemplified in Apple's retail stores and delivered by the iPod touch is very attractive to other merchants, who are now working to build their own retail solutions using Apple's iOS devices.

According to Global Bay CEO Sandeep Bhanote, other major retailers are not only commissioning their own POS solutions based on the iPod touch, but are also looking at Apple's iPad as both a retail kiosk and as a tool for delivering personalized shopping services for high-end clients. Global Bay has worked closely with Apple's enterprise team to implement an iOS-based mobile retail system for Guess Jeans, using the same hardware Apple uses in its own retail stores.

There's an app for thatÂ*

In an interview with AppleInsider, Bhanote described two classes of products aimed at bringing mobile payment systems to businesses. On the low end, the San Jose, Calif. based VeriFone has introduced PAYware Mobile, a service that combines an iOS app, a custom credit card swipe peripheral for the iPhone and the backend support required to bring simple credit card transactions to small businesses.Â*

In September, Xsilva began offering a solution for small businesses called LightSpeed Mobile, which ties mobile terminals using the iPod touch and a Linea Pro sled to a Mac OS X desktop appellation. Similarly, PayPal also delivers a direct payment app for iOS that doesn't require a physical credit card, and Apple is rumored to be working to bring contact-free payments to iOS devices using NFC technology.

For large, established retailers however, mobile point of sale devices must do more than simply ring up transactions; they also need to tie into their existing backend software. Bhanote said major retailers are facing the issue of "how do i take this old dinosaur technology and make it relevant to my store?" Global Bay's solution interfaces the iPod touch with whatever backend system a retailer might be using, preventing them from needing to embark upon a major upgrade of their backend point of sale infrastructure just to make use of new mobile terminals.Â*



The origins of Apple's EasyPay appÂ*

It's no surprise that Apple would pioneer the use of its own hardware to modernize retail transactions in its own stores. According to a posting by Oracle's "Insight-Driven Retailing Blog," development of Apple's EasyPay app was originally led by David Francis, a consultant with a decade of experience in building enterprise software for the Mac OS X Cocoa platform.Â*

Apple approached Francis in the spring of 2008, just as the company was releasing its initial software development kit for the new iPhone and iPod touch. "No one had ever built anything like it on an Apple mobile device," Francis stated in an interview about the project.Â*

"Armed with our knowledge of the Apple platform," Francis explained, "we set out to build something that was world class. It had to be fast, it had to be secure, and it had to be sexy. We went through many iterations of the technology and the user interface to give it that Apple look and feel and superior ease of use. Our efforts were rewarded when the system was rolled out. As sales associates started adopting it, they indicated that it was very intuitive and light years ahead of their old system."

The hardware behind Apple's EasyPay iPod touchÂ*

The development of Apple's EasyPay software began just after Apple was approached by Infinite Peripherals, which was already in the business of building magnetic strip readers for Palm Treo, Windows Mobile, and RIM BlackBerry devices.Â*

According to a report by ifoAppleStore, Infinite Peripherals' chief executive Jeffrey Scott approached Apple's retail team in January 2008 at the National Retail Federation conference, saying, "I noticed you are using a competitors product in your stores."

Since 2005, Apple had been using hardware devices built by Symbol (now a subsidiary of Motorola) and running Microsoft's Windows CE, but that hardware was fraught with problems, including frequent crashes and flakey WiFi support that required regular reboots.Â*

Following its first contact with Apple, Infinite Peripherals began development of the iPod touch hardware sled that would later be sold as the Linea Pro. By early 2009, the design of the new hardware peripheral was nearly complete but it was running into a limitation of iOS that was fortuitously shattered by Apple's release of 3.0, which debuted new support allowing hardware peripherals to communicate with iOS devices via their 30-pin Dock connector.Â*

Production of the new hardware began mid-2009, with about 10,000 devices reaching stores for training and and inaugural launch that occurred last November. The combination of the iPod touch, Francis' custom internal app, and the Infinite Peripherals sled greatly enhanced the experience of Apple's retail store employees. "ItÂs like going from a tricycle to a Lamborghini," Scott said of Apple's response to the EasyPay upgrade.

Opportunities for expansionÂ*

Francis, Apple's original EasyPay development consultant, has since started his own venture, named Touch2Systems. It offers iOS mobile point of sale systems for retailers, restaurants, hotels and inventory management.

Beyond retail applications, the Linea Pro sled for the iPod touch is already designed to read "all three of the industry-standard magnetic stripe tracks used by financial, transit, telecom and driverÂs license agencies," according to the ifoAppleStore report, enabling third parties to expand the applications of the iPod touch-paired unit in a variety of new directions. Apple's own EasyPay system, as well as products from Global Bay and Touch2Systems, tap into a software development kit Infinite Peripherals created for the Linea Pro to enable iOS developers to read bar codes and magnetic stripes across a wide variety of applications.Â*

Third parties are also looking at the iPad for a variety of enterprise applications, with retailers particularly interested in its ability to captivate shoppers' attention as an informational kiosk they can directly interact with, but also as a handheld tool sales staff can use to deliver personalized experiences.Â*

Developers also note that Apple is listening to their needs and feedback concerning its enterprise deployment tools, used to roll out, update and manage custom software across a company's fleet of iOS devices. Bhanote said Apple's support for enterprise deployment was good, particularly when considering "the short time they've been doing it."
post #2 of 15
I just want a bar code reader for ipod and iphone. iSight recognition is too slow.
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post #3 of 15
Quote:
Originally Posted by aplnub View Post

I just want a bar code reader for ipod and iphone. iSight recognition is too slow.

The barcode reader on the linea pro works exceptionally well with standard bar codes. We use the Xsilva Lightspeed solution in our store, and love what the linea pro hardware offers. It's just the right size, and Lighspeed makes a great POS software for small or medium sized retail shops.

One thing that surprised me with the Linea pro, however, is that the barcode scanner is not a hi-res scanner. The reason this surprised me is that on some of Apple's products, they use a very small barcode, such as on the Airport Express. Normal res scanners can't read this. You'd think this is a problem Apple has in their own stores as well.
post #4 of 15
Quote:
retailers building their own pos systems

lol !!
post #5 of 15
Those are still swipe cards... The US really is trailing behind. While the rest of the world is all ready and using chip & PIN debit/credit cards, the US still not.

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post #6 of 15
I'm a big fan of Square for my small business. It's quick, accurate, secure, and free. I take it with me wherever I go. I think PayPal is missing out a bit on the mobile credit card processing, but that's just me.
post #7 of 15
I thought Google was focussed on POS systems with Android...

...oh, point of sale, THAT POS
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post #8 of 15
Having worked at a Gap store I can't say that this free form style of checkout makes much sense. The clothes have security tags etc and it defeats the purpose to have folks walking around with the key units to remove them.

Now what I can see which would be crazy useful is a handheld for stock room uses like opening boxes without having to be at a desk with huge stack all around you. And then perhaps the sales people have handhelds for accessing stock counts, requesting a size be brought from the back, and so on. Card readers could be useful if the store was out of a size and the customer would rather just order from online.

A non tech's thoughts on Apple stuff 

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A non tech's thoughts on Apple stuff 

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post #9 of 15
Quote:
Originally Posted by einsteinbqat View Post

Those are still swipe cards... The US really is trailing behind. While the rest of the world is all ready and using chip & PIN debit/credit cards, the US still not.

Not true, my credit card already uses a chip, and I can just put a wallet on the scanner and it will grab the card (I only have 1 credit card). It's just most people still don't know about this and continue to use their cards in the swiping fashion they are used to.
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post #10 of 15
Quote:
Originally Posted by AppleInsider View Post

Francis, Apple's original EasyPay development consultant, has since started his own venture, named Touch2Systems. It offers iOS mobile point of sale systems for retailers, restaurants, hotels and inventory management.


I'm pushing my partners very hard to use it in our hotel/restaurant/club/spa complex in NYC. Hopefully we can integrate it with iPads as well.
post #11 of 15
Those devices are awesome! It was quick and easy when they used it in the Apple Store.
post #12 of 15
Quote:
Originally Posted by macnyc View Post

I'm pushing my partners very hard to use it in our hotel/restaurant/club/spa complex in NYC. Hopefully we can integrate it with iPads as well.

Just curious!

How do you see the iPad being used?

As a POST similar to the iPod Touch with a CC reader and BarCode reader?

Back office, e.g. Inventory, Purchasing, etc.?

Front Office, e.g. registration, check in, checkout, etc.?

Direct customer input:
-- menu replacement
-- kiosk?
-- Personal Mobile Assistant/Valet
----- iPad in every hotel room
----- iPad for every Spa customer

.
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post #13 of 15
This is not all that surprising. If you peek behind the counter at most retail stores, their "cash register" is a Windows PC. So this is just a change of computing platform, not a whole new thing.

But overall I think they are right, for this application iOS does seem a better choice of platform than PC.
post #14 of 15
Quote:
Originally Posted by einsteinbqat View Post

Those are still swipe cards... The US really is trailing behind. While the rest of the world is all ready and using chip & PIN debit/credit cards, the US still not.

So...

...what great experiences/bennies are we great unwashed missing out on? And we certainly have Debit cards with PIN#'s for checkout. Are you talking about something else?

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post #15 of 15
How do you tell which generation your ipod is?
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