Alcatel Lucent, Partners Show Apps Aimed at Driving Retail Sales

Cover Story Article

Alcatel Lucent, Partners Show Apps Aimed at Driving Retail Sales

By Paula Bernier, Executive Editor, IP Communications Magazines  |  February 01, 2011

This article originally appeared in the Feb. 2011 issue of INTERNET TELEPHONY Magazine.

Question: What do Americans like to do during their leisure time when they’re not at home watching TV, playing an online game, texting, or cruising the Internet?

Answer: It’s a trick question, because there are at least three correct answers: shopping, driving, or eating and drinking.

With all this in mind, Alcatel Lucent (News - Alert) and its ng connect program partners, have come up with a handful of revenue-generating applications for services providers that address the above-mentioned activities and tend to focus on LTE (News - Alert) technology. Laureen R. Cook, vice president of 4G/LTE strategy-emerging technology at Alcatel Lucent, explains that while the applications have yet to be commercially deployed, they could be ready to launch very quickly if an interested party stepped forward. What’s more, she adds, the group has worked with BellLabs’ revenue group to offer cost modeling for each of these applications.

Among the ng connect applications demonstrated at last month’s Consumer Electronics Show was The Connected Car, which Alcatel Lucent put together with partner QNX Software Systems, which offers a real-time embedded OS.

This includes in-vehicle infotainment and advanced safety features, but while the car is in drive the driver has no access to the entertainment, notes Cook. Each seat in the vehicle (in this case it was a Toyota) has its own screen, through which passengers can make a phone call, and have their own unique views into their own selections of games, widgets, movies and other content. They also have the ability to pull content from their home-based devices and to purchase content from online portals. Each passenger has a Bluetooth headset, so as to reduce driver distraction, Cook says. The Connected Car includes its own Wi-Fi hotspot. And the vehicle’s interface is ties into the user’s home gateway so driver and passengers can do home energy monitoring and control remotely. Of course, a GPS system is also part of the mix, and the related application not only provides directions, but offers quick links and maps to nearby banks, coffee spots, gas stations, hospitals and malls.

Once uptake of LTE, which companies like Verizon (News - Alert) just started rolling out late last year, hits 60 percent nationwide, Cook says she expects car manufacturers to support this application set.

A second application demonstrated by the ng connect program in Alcatel Lucent’s CES (News - Alert) booth was the Virtual Venue.

The venue in this case could be any public venue, like a museum, a theater or a sports arena. In the case of demo, the venue was a baseball park. LTE connectivity within this park, explains Cook, could allow fans to easy be pushed or actively tap into data and video related to the location, the team, the game and/or the players. Visitors could also use their wireless connectivity to order food from the concession and have it delivered to their seats. And if they didn’t want to wait in a long line at the gift shop, fans could use their wireless connections and the venue app (which could show products in 3D) to make a purchase and have the product(s) delivered to their homes. Cook emphasizes that this and all the applications discussed here are all about generating new content for retail locations and their partners.

Virtual Stylist was perhaps the most interesting and multi-faceted apps of the bunch. It bring together a lengthy list of partners, which includes Samsung (News - Alert) and Vidyo, among others.

The idea here is that it allows a person to walk into a dressing room in which there’s high-tech equipment that creates a look-alike avatar of the shopper and can display various clothing and makeup on that avatar, which can then be saved by the shopper in a “virtual wallet” for later viewing and sharing. This demo also showed the shopper interacting with a stylist via an HD teleconference.

This can enable a retail outlet to expand its revenues both by enabling shoppers to consider and make a purchase even after they’ve left the store. It also makes reordering simple, says Cook.

The Virtual Concierge, meanwhile, leverages digital signage from MediaTile and LTE connectivity enabled by Alcatel Lucent gear to provide what Cook calls a “human kiosk”. The idea is to offer folks access to a remote expert so they can get more information on products, help with troubleshooting a product, and/or communications in their native tongue.

In a separate area in its CES booth, Alcatel Lucent showed a digital sign in table format. Two people were using their cellular phones as controllers to play a game on the digital sign.

Other applications demonstrated included Global Bazaar, a mall-based kiosk that lets shoppers view, order and pay for products from around the world, and the Media Hotspot. The former app’s interface includes a 3D map of the world that drills down to what products are available from that geography, and a link to allow shoppers to initiate a telepresence conference call with a representative to talk in real time. The Media Hotspot, meanwhile, is a media jukebox that could allow retailers to bump up their sales by offering customers the ability to buy music while they’re in line to buy a coffee, for example, says Cook.

Edited by Stefania Viscusi


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