Interview with Dr. Andreas Müller, Director of Research and Development at Skeye, Höft & Wessel AG
At the EuroShop we saw many applications for the new smartphones – including also some for store personnel use. Will MDE devices soon become obsolete? Not so, thinks Dr. Andreas Müller, because they are especially designed to withstand the harsh everyday life in retail and logistics. He also doesn’t believe that they will become smaller and smaller, because this would negatively impact their ease of handling. Retailers primarily use portable terminals with WLAN today. Höft & Wessel expects an increase in demand for equipment in tablet format.
Will smartphones become a threat to mobile data terminals?
The old term MDE (mobile data acquisition) device has possibly become obsolete, but the mobile terminal with smartphone functions will certainly continue to hold its ground. The reasons for this are obvious: mobile terminals are superior to smartphones in harsh everyday life. The very robust industrial-grade MDE devices can survive drops to the floor, are waterproof and can tolerate a large range of temperatures. Think about a cold storage house or retail warehouse logistics as examples. Only these types of devices offer commercial enterprises long-term investment protection. With our service, these devices can be used reliably for many years. Open systems make a quick integration into the company’s IT infrastructure possible. And finally with our Backoffice system, new program versions can simply be loaded by headquarters onto all devices. Smartphones cannot do all this and also don’t have to be able to do this by the way, since they are designed for individuals.
Ever smaller – ever unmanageable? Are retailers asking for smaller and smaller MDE devices?
In our opinion the trend actually goes somewhat in the opposite direction. What’s important are great handling and a long battery life. For this, the device gladly can be a little bigger. A great operable keyboard in retail – still – is an important requirement.
Looking at this the other way: ever bigger. Do you see a threat in tablet-PCs that perhaps are also able to scan?
If needed, retailers of course also use equipment in tablet format, like for instance for sales support during a customer meeting or also at the warehouse on forklifts. And here the same thing applies again just like with the mobile terminals, because here we also offer very robust, industrial-grade devices of course which are better for use in a forklift than equipment consumers use.
Many MDE devices have a panel display format. You also supply a device with landscape format. What is the individual number of units? Which one is best suited for whom?
More than half of our equipment is delivered in landscape format. The big advantage is that a landscape display mode is better suited for navigating through lists. Once people have chosen this format, they won’t choose any other. Due to the landscape display mode, the device’s center of gravity also improves. It has an even better and safer grip in your hand. Unfortunately, many software houses are still very limited to applications in portrait format. Custom porting does not pay off until a certain installation size. Otherwise even more customers would choose the beneficial landscape format.
What does retail want: storing scanned items or transmission in real-time? Online or mobile radio communication?
Retail today predominantly uses WLAN. Complex transactions in inventory management require an online connection. Mobile radio communication is still rather the exception, but by now for several retail formats it has become quite interesting due to low priced data packages. For heterogeneous store landscapes like for instance cooperatives, franchises and third-party order suppliers, mobile radio communication is their top choice, because they can avoid having their own complex IT infrastructure.
A WLAN connection isn’t always secure. What can be done?
If the conventional WLAN safety standards are being adhered to, WLAN does not present a particular security risk any more.
What were your top topics at the EuroShop?
One topic was the update of our successful product skeye.allegro, which we also supply in a landscape display format. You can purchase this successful model in many stores in Germany. The users appreciate its easy handling, which by the way can also be done using just one hand. In addition, our robust handheld in tablet format, the skeye.e-motion, was in the spotlight; it is especially well suited for use in the harsh environment of warehouses. Since a version with Android operating system was just introduced for our PDA skeye.dart at the Mobile in Barcelona, this surprisingly was also met with great interest by retailers.
Were you pleased with the trade fair and the visitors to your booth?
Yes we were, although on the weekend there were only very few visitors at the trade show, so it all really took off on Monday. As a market leader in mobile equipment for retail stores, the EuroCIS is simply a must for us.
Interview by René Schellbach, iXtenso.com