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How The Container Store uses wearable tech to think outside the box

Al Sacco | March 7, 2014
The Container Store is piloting a wearable device that it hopes will replace the thousands of walkie talkies it uses for in-store communication. The wearable also lets the company track employees when they're at work, among other things, and could potentially revolutionize the way it uses technology for retail.

As for pricing, Thrailkill wouldn't share specifics. He says the licensing fees, which increase as you add users, aren't cheap, but he feels like his company is getting good value. "It's very reasonable, I think, for the value it's providing, and that value equation is going to go up tremendously as Theatro continues to add features."

The Future of Wearable Tech at The Container Store
Today, Thrailkill and his team is focusing on the Theatro wearable rollout at its Dallas-area store. He does not plan to deploy the wearables at any other stores this year, though the ultimate goal is to use them in all of the company's stores.

The company is also using an in-store, hosted server in its Austin location for the voice component of the system, instead of relying solely on Theatro's cloud. Theatro says this allows it to run two development tracks with separate development teams — one focused on feature enhancements and another for creating the infrastructure to support large scalability. The Dallas-area store will operate in a similar environment.

"In the coming months, these two tracks will merge and The Container Store will be utilizing the entire solution as a cloud service," according to Todd.

Along with the Dallas store rollout, The Container Store plans to distribute wearables to its "resource center," or online help desk, which employees use for information on everything from IT questions to HR inquires, Thrailkill says. Wearable users will eventually be able to query the resources center for help with a system issue or HR question.

The ultimate goal is for the Theatro system to be deeply integrated with The Container Store's IT infrastructure and systems. That way, the CEO could, for example, record a voice message with a smartphone or other devices and then distribute it to all retail staffers via their wearables.

Theatro and The Container Store have also discussed how the devices and associated cloud system could replace the employee time-clock system and integrate with inventory data, customer information systems and much more.

Theatro's discussions with The Container Store began with personal communication. But they have evolved, Todd says. "A higher value opportunity might be the human-to-machine interface, connecting those people to the IT infrastructure versus just connecting the people to each other.

"People-to-people is important. But people-to-machine is going to be explosive."


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