QR Code Based Virtual Shopping is the Future of Shopping

QR Code Based Virtual Shopping is the Future of Shopping

 

If you can’t get customers, who are too busy to shop, to come to your store then take your store to them. With this mindset comes the future of shopping using QR Codes.

 

An increasing number of companies are creating virtual stores, that are made up of posters displaying the products with quick response (QR) codes, rather than having physical merchandise. Customers are able to scan the matrix barcodes with their smartphones, pay for the items in their virtual carts and then have the items delivered to their home within hours, depending on the items. For the person who doesn’t have time to shop, it is the advantage of window shopping without the hassle of waiting in a checkout line.

 

For the last four years, virtual stores have been popping up around the world, in countries which include South Korea, Canada, The United States, UK, Ireland, Sweden, Chile and Argentina. Walmart teamed up with Mattel to open a virtual toy store at Union Station in Toronto for a month of Christmas shopping. The virtual toy store is positioned so that 200,000 commuters a day pass by it. The hottest toys of the season are displayed to catch the commuters’ eye as they head to and from work.

 

Even though most companies offer online stores for shopping, the ability to browse is what is making these virtual stores more popular. Mobile devices limit the number of products that can be seen because of the size of their screen. The merchandise posters, however, allow the store to display dozens of products at a time.

 

These displays catch the consumer’s attention and help them find items quickly, which also allows them to avoid having to use keyword searches in an online store which isn’t as quick because they may have to figure out the correct keyword to find what they need. These virtual stores are also capitalizing on prior shopping experiences by including products on shelves, which encourages an immersive shopping experience that they can’t find from a mobile online store.

 

The concept of a virtual store began in 2009, when the British grocery chain Tesco launched its HomePlus service in South Korea. They installed posters that looked exactly like a grocery store aisle onto the walls of subway stations. When a commuter made a purchase, the items would be delivered to their door within hours. A similar type of service is now being offered in Chicago by Peapod, with several train stations having virtual stores in them.

 

QR codes have been around since the 1990s, however, the surge in smartphones has made them incredibly popular for gathering information, whether it’s for shopping, travel or anything in between. Besides Walmart, other major retailers have their own virtual stores in highly populated areas including Sears, JCPenney, Kmart and Staples.

 

This isn’t really a new concept, in fact, companies have been doing it for years in the form of mail order catalogues, dating back to when Montgomery Ward mailed out the first in 1872. Back then, item descriptions were combined with an item number that could be added to an order page and items were received through the mail weeks later. Today, images of products give a visual representation of the item, QR codes have replaced the item number and delivery times have been slashed to days, and in some cases even hours.

 

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Why Project Management is Important

Project management is a field which is increasingly growing among businesses of all sizes. With the daily responsibilities of managing an organization, entrepreneurs and company executives alike, are finding it important to use dedicated project managers to handle the management of individual projects from start to finish. When organizations command a sound understanding of effective project management techniques they can complete large projects on time, within budget and with less disruption to the balance of the business operations.

While the business as a whole is an ongoing operation, a project is a separate and temporary undertaking that is focused on creating a unique product, service or process. This type of venture usually means that it is unique to the company and there aren’t any plans in place that will guide the project to completion. Project managers possess the knowledge and experience to create a plan, organize the materials needed and manage the personnel required to bring the project to completion.

A lot of business projects involve large-scale planning that affects all the departments or areas of a business. Executing a major project could mean there is a need to deal with human resources, budgetary and supply constraints. Professional project managers are skilled in project management techniques which are capable of dealing with one-time projects. They can devise plans to manage and control interdependent activities and address resource conflict. Businesses that use project management to monitor and control the total process and schedules can more effectively complete their projects on time and on budget.

An invaluable tool for projects that deal with creating a product or even ones that require materials to complete is Automatic Identification and Data Capture (AIDC). AIDC is the process of automatically identifying objects and collecting the data about them so that the data can be entered into a computer system. The technologies involved in AIDC include barcodes and Radio Frequency Identification (RFID).

AIDC consists of gathering external data through analysis of images, sounds or videos. A transducer is used to capture the data and then converts it into a digital file. The file can then be stored for analyzation by a computer, or compared with other files in a database to verify identity or to provide authorization to enter a secured system. Materials used in a project can be tracked throughout the different phases of the project to ensure that everything is accounted for and data is recorded effectively. It can also ensure all materials needed are received from the supplier and implemented effectively.

Creating a project timeline requires coordinating activities in conjunction with ongoing business activities. A project manager will organize and detail activities which are required in each step of the project and oversee teams made up of the company personnel to carry out each step. Working within the boundaries of a project management plan, a schedule plans target dates for completion of tasks within each phase. The timeline is directly correlated to the scope of a project.

Project management is most important in businesses that consist of a wide range of projects all running simultaneously. The scope of the project refers to how much of the business the project will affect. The bigger the project, the more details and planning are required to successfully bring it to completion. Carrying out a wide-scale business venture requires careful coordination to ensure minimal impact for the ongoing sales and production.

A good project manager will help to keep projects on budget. A good project management plan will identify anticipated costs early in the development stage and create a realistic budget. With the use of resource conflict solutions, project managers can minimize the effect of funding a new project on operating capital by optimizing the allocation of workers. Coordinating tasks and clearly identifying goals or deliverables within phases reduces inefficiencies in time management that can result in the project being over budget.

Implementing project management across the organization helps create a strategic value chain that gives companies an edge on their competitors, particularly in high-risk sectors and markets. Being able to deliver projects on time and within budget often determines whether a company will get the next job or whether its new product hits the market.

Ninety percent of global senior executives ranked project management methods as either critical or somewhat important to their ability to deliver successful projects and remain competitive.

As the practice of project management evolves from individual projects to widespread large projects, the connections between organizational project management and business value become clearer. And the more involved the executive team is, the better the results.

Factors the Affect Printer Performance

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The physical condition of your printer and the environment in which it operates are key indicators of the reliability of its performance during periods of high print demand. Other indicators, known as wear factors, will also affect the reliability of your thermal transfer printer over time or during heavy printer use.

More common wear factors include:

Exterior Elements:

Enclosures that aren’t secured as they were intended or that are left open during the printer’s operation affect printer performance. Debris such as dust, lint, grease and oil get inside your printer and erode performance. The result can be dirt marks on your labels, marks in the rollers and broken print head pins. Interface cables that are loose and not connected properly can break away, causing damage to the connector pins and will interrupt printer communications. LCD panels that don’t work can lead to damage or print failure when operators miss warning indicators.

Interior Elements:

Debris, grease, oil or other harmful elements in your machine can cause label or ribbon sensors to misread. When this happens, labels won’t print or feed at the correct location. When worn parts aren’t serviced in a timely manner they can produce light print, ribbon wrinkle and printer failure. Using the wrong tools to clean up label jams or adhesive residue can cause damage to the machine and black spots on labels.

Overall Print Quality:

Printer settings including, print head, label/ribbon combinations and volume ratings or a printer all contribute to the quality of printed output. Scheduled preventative maintenance is important for reliable performance. It is important to use the right repair tools to maintain your printer’s ability to produce quality output and avoid accidental damage.

Age of the Printer:

The age of a printer can be the leading indicator for performance reliability. The older the printer, the greater the chance for worn parts and roller separation, it can also lead to sensors and print heads that are out of line. When the manufacturer’s warranty expires, repair costs go up and replacement parts can be expensive and even obsolete.

Usage:

Different printers are rated for different print production volumes. Running a printer at a higher rev or longer than its rated time can cause motors to burn out, printheads to fail and print quality to fade rapidly.

Media:

It is important to perform proper and frequent cleaning to avoid permanent damage from media fibers and ribbon residue that is part of the printing process. Some media have highly abrasive surface materials and require higher pressure and heat to print. This causes added pressure and stress on the print head. This type of wear over time can impact your printer’s output quality.

Print head

A thermal transfer print head is the most critical, and expensive, part of your thermal transfer printer and also the most delicate. It is considered a consumable, meaning it isn’t a lasting part of the printer, but one that will need to be replaced after a certain amount of time. The amount of wear that a print head can handle is relative to the environment, type of media, settings, usage and maintenance.

The improper use or care of a print head lead to many print quality problems. However, most problems can be avoided or easily corrected with proper installation and ongoing maintenance to maximize the life of the print head. Some factors to be aware of to protect the print head include:

  • Common reasons why print heads fail is because of insufficient cleaning or using the wrong cleaning solutions. A cleaning should be scheduled at regular intervals (inches printed, ribbon changes or by days/weeks) depending on machine use.

  • High heat, pressure and poor quality ribbons can cause pins to wear down or break, resulting in barcodes that don’t scan and low quality human-readable text. Your printed output on labels will lose that crisp, dark contrast, high-read rate.

  • Do not use sharp tools or allow debris build up, since this can permanently damage the print head and rollers. Also, care must be taken when removing a print head to avoid damage to the print head’s image line.

  • Always use thermal transfer ribbons that are slightly wider than the width of the print head to protect all print head elements from abrasion.

  • Electrostatic Discharge (ESD) can cause print head dots to fail. In more severe cases, it can cause the entire print head to fail. Use anti-static measures when handling the print head for cleaning or jam removal to prevent this damage.

The investment you make in caring for your printers will pay off over the life of a printer by reducing the total cost of ownership. You could save problems and costs with regular maintenance and timely repairs whether you choose to maintain your thermal transfer printers using your own staff or contracting with a professional service technician.

RFID Tags Used to Track Marijuana

Colorado requires that growers, processors and retailers of medical or recreational marijuana use EPC Gen 2 passive RFID tags to authenticate and identify each plant or product.

With hundreds of recreational marijuana shops planned to open in Colorado on January 1, 2014, the plan is to have every package of buds or processed products, including marijuana-laced brownies, have an RFID tag attached to it. This measure is intended to help the state regulate product and ensure that it comes from authorized sources.

In July 2011, Colorado’s Department of Revenue issued medical marijuana regulations requiring that the pot plants’ and products’ status and whereabouts be recorded throughout the supply chain. The agency also indicated that the state will eventually require the use of EPC Gen 2 ultrahigh-frequency (UHF) RFID tags to authenticate and identify each product or plant.

These regulations resulted in the creation of what the state calls Marijuana Inventory Tracking Solutions (MITS), a system that the Department of Revenue’s Marijuana Enforcement Division intends to use to track the pot from the greenhouse where it is grown, to the store where it is sold.

The MITS software is designed to track each plant or package, beginning with the moment a marijuana cutting is first planted. Marijuana growers need to purchase the tags, which are available in various forms, including as a hangtag or an adhesive label and attach them to the plants themselves, or to packages of processed marijuana.

The MITS solution, which will come with a cost of around $1.6 million for software and readers, is designed to help the state maintain control over an industry that has been historically illicit and illegal, states Julie Postlethwait, the Marijuana Enforcement Division’s public information officer. The states concerns focus on ensuring state-authorized retailer. In addition, the agency wants to know that what is being sold in the stores comes from an authorized grower. According to Ron Kammerzell, Colorado’s Marijuana Enforcement Division senior director, this provides accountability.

Colorado requires that growers of marijuana, whether for medical or recreational purposes, purchase RFID tags and log into the MITS system using the Internet to update a pot product’s status. Marijuana can be bought and sold in amounts of no more than one pound. Currently there are about 500 marijuana retailers registered in the state, as well as 126 “infused product” manufacturers (which also act as distributors) and 700 growers.

Marijuana plants are usually grown from stems rather than from seeds. When a stem is taken from a plant to create another plant, the new plant is given an RFID number which is printed on a tag. The grower reads the ID number printed on the tag and enters that information into the MITS system via the internet. When harvesting a plant, the grower will then discard the plant’s tag and issue another tag when the buds are packaged and shipped to the retailer.

The new tag that is attached to the product for sale will then include the text related to the plant’s origins and multiple other details. In the near future, the grower could choose to install fixed RFID readers at doorways between rooms within the facility, in order to help it and the state track the stage of the process that each plant has reached. Different rooms are used for immature plants, flowering plants and harvesting.

Finally, the processed goods are distributed to retailers that then place them on the shelf for sale. State inspectors equipped with a handheld reader can periodically visit each retail site, where they can read the tags on each product and view that item’s history. This ensures that it meets all necessary processing and inspection criteria.

The Benefits of Using Hosted Inventory Management Software

Accurate inventory and up-to-date sales tracking are both vital to operating and succeeding with your business. Choosing the right software is one of the most important business decisions you will make.

When broken down, inventory management software is a computer-based system for tracking inventory levels, orders, sales and deliveries. It can also be used in the manufacturing industry to create a work order, bill of materials and other production related documents. Companies use the system to avoid product overstock and outages. Companies also use inventory management software for organizing inventory data that was usually stored on hard-copy form or spreadsheets in the past.

Inventory management software includes several key components that all work together to create a combined inventory for several systems. These components include:

Order management

When a product reaches a certain predetermined level, the company’s inventory management system can be programmed to prompt managers to reorder that product. This greatly helps companies avoid running out of products or tying up too much capital in inventory.

Asset tracking

When a product is in a warehouse, enroute to a client or in a store, it can be tracked with its barcode or other tracking device. Inventory management currently utilizes barcode, RFID or wireless tracking technology.

Service management

Companies that are primarily service-orientated rather than product-oriented can use inventory management software to track the cost of the materials they use to provide the services they offer. This allows them to add prices to their services that reflect the total cost of performing them.

Product identification

Data on products and orders is usually inputted into inventory management software by using barcodes. A barcode reader is used to read the barcodes and look up information on the products they are attached to. RFID tags and wireless methods of product identification are also growing in popularity.

There are several advantages to using inventory management software in a business.

Cost savings

A company’s inventory, in most cases, represents one of their largest investments. Inventory management software helps companies cut expenses by minimizing the amount of unnecessary parts and products in their operation. It also helps companies avoid lost sales by having enough stock on hand to meet demand.

Increased efficiency

Inventory management software allows many inventory-related tasks to be automated. For example, software can automatically collect data, conduct calculations and create records. This not only results in time savings and cost savings, but also increases the efficiency of the business.

Warehouse organization

Inventory management software can help distributors, wholesalers, manufacturers and retailers optimize the use of their warehouses. For instance, if specific products are usually sold together or are more popular than others, those products can be grouped together or placed near the delivery area to speed up the process of selection and shipping.

Updated data

Another advantage to inventory management software is up-to-date, real-time data on inventory conditions and levels. Company executives can access the software through a mobile device, laptop or PC to check the current level of inventory, which is automatically updated and allows businesses to make informed decisions.

Data Security

With the help of restricted user rights, company managers can allow several employees to assist in inventory management. They can grant employees just enough information access to receive products, make orders, transfer products and do other tasks without compromising company security. This can speed up the inventory management process and save the managers’ time.

Information on trends

Inventory management software makes it possible to track where products are stocked, which suppliers they come from and the length of time they are stocked. By analysing this data, companies can control inventory levels and maximize the use of warehouse space. This also allows businesses to be more prepared for the supply and demand of the market, especially during special circumstances such as a peak season on a particular month.

Inventory management software is not necessarily simple to learn. A company’s management team must dedicate a certain amount of time to learning the new system, including both software and hardware, in order to use it effectively and efficiently. Despite the apparent complexity of inventory management software, it offers a large degree of stability to companies. For example if an IT employee in charge of the system leaves the company, a replacement can be comparatively inexpensive to train compared to if the company used several different programs to store inventory data.

This is proof that the advantages of having inventory management software in place far outweigh the complexity that may be involved in learning to use it and training your employees to use it.

What is Automatic Identification and Data Capture (AIDC)?

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Automatic Identification and Data Capture (AIDC) is a term used to group together several different technologies that are used to automatically identify items, collect data about them and provide the ability to enter that data electronically into computer systems.

Many businesses handle large amounts of paper-based data, and often descriptions are transferred from paper to electronic systems and back again many times in order to suit different situations.

Paper usage of this extent is extremely wasteful, not only in the time spent transferring data, but also in the mistakes and errors that can be introduced, both in keying in and reading the information. Which is why AIDC technologies have become such a benefit to companies of all sizes.

Most of the data can be carried electronically in a form that can be attached to the object such as Barcodes or RFID equipped access cards or Smart Cards which can be enhanced further with the use of Biometric data.

In most cases AIDC systems work without human involvement, when human involvement is required, it is usually limited to a user scanning an AIDC equipped item. This frees up a lot of resources that are needed elsewhere and the cost savings of this freed up manpower along with the savings from eliminating product loss and time savings have helped to propel AIDC into the forefront of business operations.

There has been a great advancement in AIDC over the years and it is now possible for users around the world to interact with millions of business processes and systems using AIDC devices.

Object tracking using Electronic Article Surveillance (EAS) systems which also uses RFID Tags prevents theft of store inventory. Locating objects through the uses of Real Time Locating Systems (RTLS) to name just a couple of the many opportunities which AIDC based technology has to offer.

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RFID

Radio Frequency Identification (RFID) is a technology that uses radio waves to transfer data between a reader and an electronic tag which is attached to a particular object. Asset tracking and object identification are the two main uses for RFID.

Uses for RFID technology is destined to increase as time goes on. One such use can be to give every product in a supermarket its own unique RFID Tag. When a shopper selects their items and puts them in their shopping cart, they can then go to the checkout, and instead of having to scan each individual item, the shopper could just push their cart through the RFID Reader Gateway. The Gateway will read all the tags contained in their shopping carts. All of the items can then be paid for and the shopper can leave the store.

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Barcodes

Barcodes make it possible for businesses to store and access large amounts of data in regards to the product they are placed on. They are widely used in the healthcare industry and hospitals for patient identification, to access data on medical history, drug allergies and other important information.

They are also used in several other industries to record important information including the tracking of rental cars, airline luggage, registered mail and even nuclear waste just to name a few of their wide range of uses.

Two-dimensional barcodes provide a means of embedding Web addresses, text or other data in a camera-readable format. This enables the users of smartphones to scan a 2D barcode and be automatically directed to a Web page or other data contained within the code. This simplifies having to remember or re-key URLs that are found on an item.

Even though RFID technology is relatively new when compared to the barcode, it is easy to see why popularity for it is growing at a much faster rate and it’s future possibilities are seemingly endless.

The future

The future plans for AIDC are as simple as the application is difficult. If all items are equipped with a minute identifying device, daily life on earth will go through a major transformation. Products running out of stock or being wasted will no longer exist because we will know exactly what is being consumed anywhere on the globe. Theft will be non-existent when we know where an item is at all times.

Counterfeiting of critical or expensive items such as drugs, repair parts or electronic components will be reduced or eliminated because manufacturers or other supply chain businesses will know where their products are at all times.

Product waste and spoilage will be greatly reduced because environmental sensors will alert suppliers or consumers when sensitive products are exposed to excessive heat, cold, vibration or other risks.

Supply chains will operate far more efficiently because suppliers will ship only the products needed when they are needed. This will also bring about a consumer and supplier price drop on most items.

Why Your Free Credit Report Is So Important

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It’s extremely important check your credit score from time to time. Your credit rating shouldn’t only be checked when you’re thinking of making a large purchase, like a vehicle or a house, it should be checked on a regular basis. This is why free credit score reports are invaluable.

 

Make sure there aren’t any errors

A free credit score report makes it possible to keep an eye out for errors to your credit reporting so you don’t have any surprises. No one is perfect, that is why there are so many stories about people who have had errors reported on their credit rating and they didn’t find out about them until the damage was already done.

 

If left unnoticed for too long an error in your credit rating can cause all sort of problems when you try to correct. If they can be corrected at all.

 

Identity theft

Another extremely important reason for receiving an annual credit score report is it allows you to watch for people stealing your identity. Identity thieves will open credit cards in your name and use them until they aren’t of use any longer. If not caught soon enough, this could mean you are now on the hook for thousands of dollars charged on cards that you didn’t open.

 

Receiving a free credit card report lets you catch situations like this and react quickly to have the matter cleared up so that you won’t be responsible for the bill.

 

Your credit is very important

Even signing a contract with a cell phone provider requires a credit check. Same with renting a home or apartment and, in some cases, applying for a job. Since having good credit is this important, don’t you think it’s something you should check on a regular basis?

 

Making a major purchase

Everyone is aware of how important good credit is when it comes time to make a major purchase like buying a car or a home. Keeping an eye on your credit score means that there won’t be any surprises when you decide to make a major purchase and you will also know just where you stand and what you’ll be able to afford.

 

There are several benefits to receiving a free credit report regularly, not just when you’re planning to make a major purchase. The importance of staying on top of your credit score can’t be stressed enough. Sign up for a credit report today, you won’t be sorry.