The fast-moving world of retail distribution is looking increa-singly to open, standards-based systems, participants suggested at the Retail Solutions conference held at London’s Olympia. The Electronic Point of Sale Standards Group, ESOG, is now launching a joint European and American membership drive to attract hardware manufacturers, software vendors, system inte-grators, value added resellers and retailers. […]
The fast-moving world of retail distribution is looking increa-singly to open, standards-based systems, participants suggested at the Retail Solutions conference held at London’s Olympia. The Electronic Point of Sale Standards Group, ESOG, is now launching a joint European and American membership drive to attract hardware manufacturers, software vendors, system inte-grators, value added resellers and retailers. Among its 15 current members are ICL Retail Systems; Matsushita Industrial Equipment Co Ltd; Mitsubishi Electric Corp; NEC Corp; and Novell Inc’s Digital Research. Potential US members are to be courted at the Retail Information Systems Conference in New Orleans next week. The Group formally announced its existence, after six months of negotiation, at the National Retail Federation show held in New York City last January.
Since then it has formed two technical committees to develop a sta-ndard Application Program Interface for retail devices. Its Peripheral Management Committee, due to publish its first report at the end of the year, is developing an application program interface for input-output devices. This will identify devices like printers or scales, outline their functions, define interfaces and develop the appropriate specifications. Issues like power/ fail recovery and sequencing of input from asynchronous input devices also will be addressed. The Basic Open System Application Program Interface Committee is defining the basic supervisor calls for operating systems. It has adopted the IEEE Posix specification as its model, to which it will add functions from other environments. A report will be given at the National Retail Federation show next January. Group president Chris Belk is managing director of London, SW6-based Datafit Ltd, which develops proprietary electronic point-of-sale systems. He says the Group is keen to establish links with other retail standards organisations and to integrate their specifications. The Group intends to test products for compliance with those that pass then allowed to carry a special ESOG-approved logo. Areas for future consideration include local and wide area network communications; database management systems and access; graphics input-output models; and character sets.
By Lynn Stratton
Meantime, prototypes for European-wide ‘customer friendly’ shopping environments both in-store or home-based, are being developed by the partners in the EuroShop project. EuroShop falls under the auspices of the European Strategic Programme for Research in Inf-ormation Technology, Esprit, and has received half of its UKP3.6m funding from the Commission of European Communities. The rest has has come from the participants: Siemens Nixdorf Information Systems Ltd, the co-ordinator and evaluator: El Corte Ingles SA of Spain; Galeries Lafayette and Sligos SA of France; and the UK’s Littlewoods Organisation. Work began back in October 1990 when the partners formed the EuroShop Special Interest Group and Euroshop Retail Application Platform Group. The first is a user group, addresing areas of interest such as electronic shopping, home retailing and point of sale environments. Along with the Retail Application Group it is also respons-ible for forging links with computer manufacturers and with European standards groups, in order to formulate pan-European applications standards. The Retail Application Platform’s objectives are to co-develop systems with hardware and software manufacturers and network operators with which they share costs. El Corte Ingles has concentrated its efforts on electronic fund transfers at sales points and has also developed a computer-aided design-based electronic furniture catalogue that recently won the Retail Innovation Technology Award. This system shows customers how their choice of furniture will look in their homes. An operator – likely to be an interior designer – feeds in the dimensions of the customer’s room, together with details such as the colour scheme. The system which then creates a three-dimensional colour impression onto which images of
the furniture can be superimposed.
It can also provide a photorealistic print. Offerings from the other participants are as follows: Galeries Lafayette has been working on in-store navigation and gift systems; Littlewoods has been developing a fast check out terminal for trial installation in its new Russian outlets; Sligos has integrated electronic data interchange using the Integrated Services Digital Network on a back office server; and Siemens has configured a wireless Point of Sale Server based on the Motorola Inc Altair system, which is available now. Work is continuing on producing the server more cheaply. It is intended that all projects will eventually become commercially available. The precise details of each system should be available by the end of the year when evaluation is completed. All models are to undergo tests in real shops using a modified version of the M4-Eval evaluation method applied to former Esprit office computer interaction project work. The M4-Eval results will form part of a continuing research project by Siemens, called Euroshop 2000. This is intended as a reference point for computer systems manufacturers and dealers, providing an ongoing assessment of the retail sector’s information technology needs and suggesting solutions. It will be updated and produced annually until the year 2000.