No Jitter Interviews Larry Levenberg at Enterprise Connect 2015

In this interview, Larry Levenberg discusses NEC’s presence at Enterprise Connect, the impact of Big Data on companies and NEC’s expertise in Big Data and Analytics as well as where NEC is headed.


Collaborative Education Empowers Young Minds

Few things are more emotional than debate regarding our educational system. Parents want the best for their children, teachers want to provide creativity for their students, and students want to be empowered to be a part of their own learning process, while also having access to the latest tools, technology and information. All this must be wrapped up in a system that ensures learning objectives are met, and students are absorbing information that will prepare them for their next steps in life.

Recently we caught up with Gregory Alvarez, senior manager, Education Vertical Market, for NEC Corporation of America, to learn more about the changing landscape of education and how NEC’s Collaborative Content Management Solution (CCMS) creates solutions to solve challenges in the collaborative education model. Here’s what Gregg had to say:

Q: What are some of the shifts you see in education that are driving the need for new learning solutions?

A: Education is moving more toward a “creator” versus consumption environment. In the past, students were given textbooks. Now, they often consume their assignments on a tablet or laptop, which allows for more elements such as video, presentations, and audio files to be included.

Social interaction is also becoming a large part of the educational experience, particularly since students are so accustomed to using social media to interact with friends. Educational environments are working to provide that same level of interaction via blogs and discussion feeds to keep students more engaged. Furthermore, students can now have access to virtual learning environments, allowing for more progressive learning environments such as flipped classrooms while also supporting learning at home. If students are out of school due to weather, injury or extended illness, they can continue studies with minimal interruption, ensuring they stay abreast of their studies while also keeping them engaged.

Higher education, while ahead of the curve with student technology use (the average college student has three-to-five networked devices), is looking to redesign the classroom and improve students’ interaction. Now these institutions are moving towards work group, project-based learning where students create workgroups and collaborate on class assignments. The goal is to prepare students for today’s work environment where collaboration and teaming are the new norm.

These schools see a need to get students more engaged, as well as provide professors the flexibility to go beyond the core curriculum and expand teaching elements. By providing the flexibility for educators and students to collaborate on learning objectives, everyone has an improved educational experience.

For example, if a teacher is providing a history lesson and students can collaborate on the curriculum by uploading videos from current day events that tie-in with the lesson, then not only are students more engaged, but teachers are able to help them draw conclusions in a real-life manner that was not available before.

Q: What is NEC’s Collaborative Content Management System (CCMS) and how does it support this new educational shift?

A: It is a learning management system (LMS) solution for higher education and K-12 that is powered by the cloud software platform PassTheNotes (PTN).  As a technology leader, NEC takes pride in anticipating market changes and the impact that technology will have on society. NEC recognized that educators were looking for a solution that provided a tool to help faculty expand on course curriculums through the addition of content. This helps engage students in their educational experience with a service and methodology they are most comfortable with (the Internet and social media), giving students the ability to be a part of their educational experience.

Our collaborationwith PTN enables NEC to offer a cloud-based learning management solution that leverages the best of the PTN content management/educational solution with NEC collaboration and communication solutions. PTN is a dynamic, innovative company of veteran educators who understand and process customer feedback to continually improve the offering. We view our working together as a way to improve education for students, thus better serving the community.

The NEC CCMS provides benefits to educators and students they cannot find in other learning management systems today, including:

  • Immediate access via a non-proprietary platform providing technology-agnostic solutions.
  • Single sign-on access with popular applications such as Dropbox or Drive.
  • Collaboration within the platform so students can invite students to create modules for enhanced learning opportunities.
  • Built-in application for taking and hosting notes.
  • Social interaction leveraged via discussion feeds and peer reviews and grading.
  • Seamless integration of additional technology such as unified communications or biometric facial recognition.

Q: What other educational trends are on the horizon?

A: We see a number of trends that are quite interesting, including:

Biometrics and Facial Recognition –While traditionally seen in law enforcement or security, biometrics is making its way into schools and campuses to address specific use cases. The most obvious use case is for security, where facial recognition can capture an image match against a database to determine if the individual belongs on campus.

We’re also seeing more interest is using facial recognition for verification of course completion for accreditation. Facial recognition is being considered as a tool to address attendance taking as well. This becomes a time saving solution in K-12 and for higher ed use to support class attendance requirement for course credit.

Learning analytics is an educational application of “big data,”a method used by business to analyze individual activity. In education, learning analytics is being used with the aim of improving student retention and providing learners with a superior personal experience. Learning analytics uses student data to build better pedagogies, identify at-risk students, and assess whether programs aimed at student retention are successful.

In the future, we see the introduction of other technologies and teaching methodologies that could take hold, such as.

  • 3D printing
  • Gaming and gamification
  • Making online learning more natural

Thanks to Gregg for providing a fascinating overview of current and future educational trends, while explaining how technology provides #SolutionsforSociety in education. You can learn more about NEC’s educational solutions, as well as see demonstrations of other innovative solutions such as unified communications, cloud contact center and SDN by visiting booth 1121 at Enterprise Connect 2015.

 

Photo by NEC Corporation of America on Flickr and used here with Creative Commons license.

What is The Big Picture for Retail? Customer Faces!

Brick-and-mortar retail establishments have fought hard to recover from the consumer transition to online buying. Even standing in the middle of a store aisle, a customer is likely to participate in “show-rooming,” which is to research online and purchase the very item you have right there on your shelf for less money from an online retailer. Fortunately, there are ways retailers can fight back, such as “web-rooming,” where you can enable the customer to find the item online, and then pick it up in your store. But that is barely scratching the surface to what is possible today.

In order to be more effective, as well as improve the customer experience, retailers have moved well beyond the basic point-of-sale into a full ecosystem. In this environment, a retailer can deploy end-to-end solutions that increase revenue while lowering operating costs and improving the customer in-store event. At NEC, we have devised a state-of-the-art retail ecosystem that ensures retailers can complete in today’s online purchasing world. So what is the ecosystem, exactly?

Point of Sale

Of course, point of sale (POS) systems are a given in today’s retail stores, but they don’t have to be the cashier, front-of-store type that we’ve used in the past. Today’s POS embraces the mobile environment, allowing payment via mobile wallets and purchasing applications. In addition, you can run on multi-purpose, smaller devices that are eco-friendly and have a smaller footprint (leaving more room for product merchandising). The smaller all-in-one compact POS terminals, such as the new NEC TWINPOS G5, are so easy to use and feature high-resolution displays and better processing power.

Mobility / Cloud

As we have already discussed in previous posts, customers will engage in show-rooming to look up reviews, price points and shop for better deals. In addition, consumers have become less patient, not willing to wait in line to purchase when they know they can order a comparable or even that exact product online at the click of a button. Ideally, your sales team has the ability to provide check-out services from the floor with mobile devices, ensuring that lines aren’t a hindrance and that the customer is served immediately. NEC’s Stanchion® integrated retail solution combines software, hardware and services to effectively improve the POS system and provide mobility solutions.

Back Office

It would not be an ecosystem if the store operations were not included. That is why NEC’s solution includes back office in the mix. By adding the ability for sales teams to access inventory information on the fly, customers are served more efficiently. Data integration is critical to giving the best information to the customer and keeping the sale. Using NEC retail software, you can now optimize data management so you gain access to information from warehouse to shelf. This level of data management improves loyalty programs as well as retains sales, all at the touch of a button.

Life-Cycle Management

Consumers live in real-time, and expect that information they receive from your own online channels is up-to-date and true. If a customer enters your store expecting to find a product listed on your website, but instead learns that product is out-of-stock, then that customer is frustrated and may not give you a second chance. The reality is that customers expect a fully-integrated online and offline experience, and if you do not provide one, they will find a retailer that does. They are looking for seamless experiences, which require you to have seamless integration for full life-cycle management.
NEC has a fully integrated solution that improves shopping experiences so you can get more satisfied customers and improve your bottom line.

The Big Picture

The NEC Retail Ecosystem puts you on the right road to great customer experience, and improved bottom line. That’s powerful, but can’t be the end. After all, technology consistently changes and as a partner to retail chains, we believe in supporting you through the next wave of technology. So what is that next piece to put you in front of the competition?

Biometrics!

We recognize the power of face recognition in loyalty programs, security, and overall improved shopping experiences. That is why NEC has developed solutions that integrate biometrics into the retail experience. With the NeoFace® Watch system, which uses proprietary face recognition technology, retailers can identify individuals such as VIP shoppers or loyalty club members, as well as track buyer activities at retail displays and capture demographic data on shoppers – the next game changer.

Come visit us at the NRF Big Show at Booth #3653. You can see the ecosystem first hand, and experience the power of facial recognition and take a peek at new retail solutions.  Make plans to also stop by booth 2803 to learn about NEC’s collaboration with Microsoft on an exciting new retail signage solution that combines NEC face recognition technology with Microsoft’s Kinect camera system to create a next-generation shopping experience. The solution serves up digital retail signage based upon an individual’s age and gender, and archives in-store demographic and engagement data in the cloud for later analysis by the retailer. This solution will be demonstrated in Microsoft’s booth during the NRF event.

And while you’re at NRF 15, we invite you to take part in our #BigPicture Twitter contest. Simply take a selfie in front of the NEC signage at the expo entrance and Tweet “I was @NEC#Big Picture” for a chance to win up to $500. Full contest rules available here.

The Big Picture puts a face on your customer. See how you can make that happen by visiting us at Booth #3653!

TechKnowledge: The Best of 2014

As we look back at 2014 to prepare for 2015, we thought it would be great to provide you with some of the best tips from our NEC Today series. So sit back, relax and prepare to be informed!

MOBILITY – COMMUNICATION

Creating a strong mobile platform provides flexibility for your workforce, but must remain secure in order to protect company assets. Take a look at these posts on the subject:

  1. Get the Best of All Worlds with In-Store Mobile
  2. How to Stay ‘Mobile’ during a severe Weather Event
  3. Healthcare Innovation for Improved Patient Experience
  4. Under the Sea…with Internet?

SDN

Software-defined networking supports business agility through architecture that is dynamic, manageable, and adaptable. Are your ready for some transformative technology?

  1. Is Your Company Seeking Business Agility? Uncovering the Business Value of SDN
  2. NEC Teams with Microsoft for flexible, open, standards-based SDN for the cloud

BIG DATA

A critical component and potential differentiator for businesses going forward, big data and analytics are showing up in every industry and business type, as you can see in the posts referenced below:

  1. Big Data to the Rescue!
  2. Armchair Quarterbacks Rejoice! Big Data is in the Game!

IERS

Our guest blogger, Matt Sarrel, provided us with many good posts on InfoFrame Elastic Relational Store, so if you are in need of information on high-performance databases building for high availability and flexible scalability, look no further! Here is a sampling:

  1. An Introduction to IERS and NoSQL/NewSQL
  2. An Interview with Atsushi Kitazawa of NEC Japan, the “Father” of IERS
  3. IERS is Built for Elasticity

We hope you enjoyed some of our best posts from 2014. We look forward to providing more compelling information in 2015, so check back regularly to see what’s going on with NECToday!

Black Friday Sales Tanked?

According to this business reporter, Walmart is the reason Black Friday sales were down this year. While that is probably not the case, or at least not the whole picture, the results from Black Friday have proven interesting. The in-store sales numbers were down, while the online numbers were up 14.3 percent over 2013. Many retailers, including Walmart, chose to mark down items in the weeks leading up to Black Friday, giving consumers an opportunity to bargain shop in advance. Plus, the convenience of online shopping is difficult to overcome. It’s easy to grab a tablet and shop while lounging in your favorite chair.

So how does a retail brick and mortar establishment compete with this type of convenience? Create an amazing in-store experience!

Did Your Customers Have the Best Experience?

Customers have opinions about how you do business, and if you don’t succeed in fulfilling their expectations, they will shop somewhere else. A big part of what they want is an innovative, personalized experience that enables them to utilize online technology and access inside a brick-and-mortar store. That is a tall order!

Making reasonable and strategic efforts to fulfill customer expectations is important for 2015, particularly for those retailers who spent time this year analyzing the customer journey. To truly appreciate the importance of having a point-of-sale (POS) system that empowers customer expectations, consider who is actually doing the shopping over this holiday season.

According to a new report by Bankrate.com, a majority of Americans did not plan to shop on Black Friday or Cyber Monday.  They expect to find deals throughout the holiday season. The report also stated that Millennials were expected to be visiting stores on Black Friday in higher numbers than older Americans, and we are very aware of the tech-savvy, mobility centric ways of this generation.

As reported by the U.K. publication Retail Systems, a study by 1010data shows many Americans prefer to shop in stores because they do not want to wait on shipping. Additionally, 97 percent of study participants claimed they would purchase gifts early this year, with half of those starting before Thanksgiving and one in five participating in Black Friday. The reason? They want to ensure product availability.

Fully Connect with Your Shoppers

Whether catering to Millennials, bargain shoppers or early-birds who want to make sure they get that perfect gift, there are ways to improve the experience by embracing technology that your customers really want.  First, let’s discuss what that actually is:

Going Mobile

Shoppers are price and comparison shopping from the floor of your store. They are constantly connected now, and want to have that experience enabled in their brick-and-mortar store experience. This constant connectivity also changes the behavior of a shopper. They are no longer willing to wait in line to make a purchase. They believe they can find what is needed online and will simply exit your store if they are made to wait.

In addition, shoppers have significantly more information at their fingertips, so they are able to not only price shop, but feature compare as well. If the item you have in stock is not what they want, they will go find it somewhere else.
Fortunately, you can update your current POS to include mobility solutions that allow you to achieve the following:

  • Real-time access to data on the selling floor – Now you know what merchandise is in-stock, so you can serve customers more effectively.
  • Better up-selling and cross-selling – Get that key data to sales associates to help them to make better recommendations to customers.
  • Improved communication – Your team can collaborate from the sales floor, again better serving customers without sending them all over the store.

Dynamic Advertising

The ability to deliver real-time information and highly targeted messages is available now. Customers really want to feel like you care about them and are appreciative they shop in your store. Adding digital signage to a POS system provides you the opportunity to:

  • Reach customers where they shop
  • Increase sales volumes of higher margin merchandise
  • Suggest add-on merchandise to increase average purchase volume
  • Incorporate real-time data to present timely and relevant offers to customers at the point they make the buying decision
  • Customize messages for local storefronts easily

Now you can easily get that “wow” factor in your store and enhance the customer shopping experience.

Time to Go High Tech

Retailers who are able to cater to the connected nature of their shoppers will win the in-store experience, and have the ability to better compete with online retailers. However, to do so requires adding a strategy to improve mobility, interactivity and information by empowering the sales staff to access data and sell from the floor. Fortunately, NEC has retail solutions available now and can support you in implementation so you can stay focused on your business.

This is just the beginning. There are many more exciting technology trends coming that improve the customer experience, support better data analytics and increase security. Retail is in for some exciting innovation!