What comes in mind when you think of a mobile POS device? A smart phone with a card reader attachment stuck on it? A bulky handheld with keypad, printer and a small screen? A tablet? The truth is, mobile POS is a device category that is wide open and the definitive form factors have yet to surface. That’s what makes mobile POS exciting from a developer perspective. Equally intriguing are the possibilities available to make more intelligent, graphically rich, low-power mobile POS devices by leveraging the many innovations of the 4th generation Intel® Core™ processor product family.
Form Factors and Use Cases for Mobile POS
Leading retailers are increasingly looking at mobile device POS devices as a way to put store associates on the floor and enable shoppers to make purchases anywhere. This can be a big advantage in situations where a store associate is helping a customer and the customer has just made the decision to buy. It might be shoes, a refrigerator, or a laptop PC. Processing the sale right then, at the moment of the buying decision, helps ensure the sale is made in the store and not later home online. It also helps reduce the number of sales lost as the shopper walks to a distant checkout station and experiences second thoughts.
Mobile POS devices come in handy in other use cases as well. They’re great for outdoor sales, such as at a gardening shop or lumber yard. In small shops, mobile POS devices can eliminate a stationary POS checkout station entirely, allowing store employees to freely interact with customers and help close sales. For stores that frequently do demonstrations of items such as a juicer, mobile POS devices enable store associates to make the sale when a customer reaches peak excitement about the product.
Mobile POS devices can also be invaluable in situations where a store associate is with a customer and an item is out of stock on the shelves. The store associate can check stock at other nearby stores or the warehouse, and even complete the sale, having the item shipped to the store for pickup or the customer’s home.
Store associates can also take advantage of upsell opportunities by showing a customer additional models of an item that might not be available in the store, but offer features a customer wants. To close a sale, a store associate might also show a customer product videos, reviews and recommendations, and even companion products to consider. Imagine, for example, the effect of showing to a customer a third-party video review that highly rates a camera, and then being able to show popular options such as extra lenses and filters.
For these last cases where a store associate wants to share information, a smart phone-sized device doesn’t offer a big enough screen to comfortably share information with a customer. That’s where they fall short. What works better is a tablet-sized device with a screen large enough that store associates can easily show a customer product features, alternative models, literature, and everything else available to help close a sale. A larger screen also makes it easier to capture a signature when making a credit card sale.
Advantages of 4th Generation Intel® Core™ Processors for Mobile POS Devices
Fourth generation Intel® Core™ processors provide the perfect balance of performance and battery life for Mobile POS devices of all sizes. With 25 percent lower design power versus the previous generation, 4th generation Intel Core processors enable developers to design thinner, lighter and sleeker form factors for mobile POS devices.
The combination of a fully integrated voltage regulator and new low-power processor states enables dramatic reductions on power consumption, yielding one of the biggest improvements in battery life compared to previous generations in Intel company history. Intel states battery life in an Ultrabook™ equipped with these processors is up to 10.3 hours when used in productivity tasks.
This processor family also includes Intel® Rapid Start Technology. This feature enables a device to wake up in just 3 seconds. Such fast startup is important when it comes time to complete a sale or show a customer information or other options.
Powerful Graphics That Help Make the Sale
One feature that helps ensure successful customer interactions on the sales floor is a mobile POS with excellent graphics capabilities. Whether an associate is showing a product review, a different model, or a video demonstrating the product in use, the better the graphics and video performance, the more likely customers will become engrossed by what they’re seeing on the screen. Here the latest Intel Core processors shine. New hardware-based media accelerators and added graphics execution units deliver stunning HD video and 3D graphics performance, offering an even more engaging visual experience than previous Intel® microarchitectures (see Figure 1). In fact, Intel® HD Graphics, the highest volume graphics solution for PCs sold today, now offers 4K x 2K UltraHD 4KD display resolution support (3840 x 2160) for eye-popping visual clarity.
Secure Near Field Communication
One particular hardware-based technology that makes 4th generation Intel Core processors ideal for mobile POS applications is Intel® Identity Protection Technology (Intel® IPT) with Near Field Communication (NFC). NFC enables “Tap-and-Pay” sales—the latest payment trend. NFC-enabled mobile POS devices enable customers carrying NFC-enabled smartphones or smartcards (i.e., digital wallets) to complete secure transactions in an instant.
Intel IPT is a suite of four technologies—One Time Password, Protected Transaction Display, Embedded PKI, and NFC—that introduces a “Tap and Interact” function that makes interactions more secure by isolating the data received by NFC from the operating system. Keeping the transaction data from the operating system prevents many forms of malware from gaining access to a customer’s identity information. (I provide an in-depth look at the security and manageability features that these processors bring to retail in an earlier blog: “Enhancing Retail Security and Manageability with 4th Generation Intel® Core™ Processors.”)
Solutions from the Intel® Intelligent Systems Alliance
An example of a tablet that’s ready to go as a mobile POS solution is the Arbor Technology G1010 Tablet PC (see Figure 2). Equipped with a 4th generation Intel® Core™ processor ULT dual-core platform with 15W TDP with Intel® vPro™ and Intel® Active Management Technology (Intel® AMT), this unit can be ordered with a smart card reader and configured for NFC and bar code scanning. It’s designed for a battery life up to eight hours and features a swappable battery design so retailers can keep it on the floor as long as they’re open each day. The G1010 even has a sunlight-readable display for outdoor usage. For a developer looking to go to market fast, all this unit requires is the software.
For developers looking to design their own mobile POS unit, Portwell offers the PCOM-B630VG Type IV COM Express module available with either 17W or 25W TDP (see Figure 3). A particular advantage of this board and similar ones is that since the PCI-Express slot is not needed for a graphics card, it’s open for other expansion options.
Many more board solutions for tablet and handheld form factors and designed for long battery life will be coming out soon as new, even lower voltage versions of 4th generation Intel Core processors reach board manufacturers. As every device in the modern store, from digital signage to interactive kiosk to electronic shelf display, gets more intelligent, mobile POS systems with rich graphics will continue to grow in importance as a way to market to customers and process sales at any location. Connected to the back office or cloud, these systems will help provide the data for real-time business intelligence to manage inventory, and track sales and profitability, as well as give store associates the latest information they need to close a sale.
Keep your eyes on this space. I’m sure that either I or one of my Roving Reporter colleagues will provide an update on new solutions for mobile POS products and POS trends in the near future.
Solutions in this blog:
· Retail - Top Picks (blogs, white papers, and more)
· Performance - Top Picks (blogs, white papers, and more)
· Energy Efficiency - Top Picks (blogs, white papers, and more)
· Security - Top Picks (blogs, white papers, and more)
Roving Reporter (Intel Contractor), Intel® Intelligent Systems Alliance
Associate Editor, Embedded Innovator magazine