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Future of retail today: 2014 National Retail Federation Show and Expo

For the last couple of years, Intergen has worked with Microsoft helping to showcase its retail vision at the USA’s National Retail Federations Annual Retail Show and Expo. Held in New York last week, the event is the largest of its kind in the world (if you take a look at this Photosynth panorama taken by Jay Templeton, our US Regional Manager, you’ll get an idea of the scope of the expo, then times it by 10) and the preeminent event for retail – where industry experts provide insight on trends and topics, and companies like Microsoft demonstrate the future of retail today.

My role at the show was to assist the Windows Embedded product team, talking to attendees, introducing them to the new hardware by the original equipment manufacturers (OEMs) and explaining and demonstrating the benefits of the Windows Embedded Operation Systems. Most of the hardware was being shown for the first time at NRF, some of it only announced a few days ago at CES in Vegas. Very exciting stuff!

In the build up to NRF I worked in Seattle with Microsoft’s Product Management and Engineers in the Windows Embedded product team to configure devices, deploy the demo apps and harden the Operating System with Windows Embedded Lockdown features. It was also fun working with OEMs like Bluebird to identify and resolve last minute issues.

During the show Microsoft account managers would regularly bring their client around to introduce them to new Windows Embedded Devices. This included multinational companies such as McDonalds, Starbucks, Macy's and several large European retail chains. I also had the opportunity to talk to The Warehouse (NZ) about the Windows Embedded offering, including the fact that Intergen built many of the demos on show.

Giving demos at the Microsoft booth to New Zealand's The Warehouse Group

There were also two OEMs from Taiwan and Korea that I talked to who were very interested in the demo apps that Intergen has built, and asked whether it's possible for us to make individual demo apps for their new hardware – pretty cool stuff!

I didn't get much time to walk around the show floor, but from what I've seen, Windows Embedded also had a presence in many other Partner booths around the show floor. There were the usual partners showing a range of devices, like HP showing of their cool retail ready ElitePad and other hardware partners like Bluebird showing a wide range of devices.

Of interest to me there were also several M2M vendors providing products that connect POS devices to cloud servers to ease device provisioning and analytics.

For anyone who didn’t make it to the NRF, to get a taste of the retail future Microsoft is offering (available today), I recommend watching this short video. And to see what sorts of topics and themes were discussed by the experts at this year’s event – and to get an overview of the main issues facing retailers today – here are some insightful online wrap-ups:  CNBC and Forbes.

On the personal side I was lucky that I didn’t have to travel half way around the world and only do work. After the show was over I was able to take a few days to look around New York City before heading back to New Zealand. The best memory of New York was going to the Metropolitan Museum of Art to see paintings that I’ve longed to see since I was a kid. Seeing works by Van Gogh, Renoir, Monet, Picasso and countless other artists, right in front of me. It was definitely a dream come true.  Ice skating in Central Park was amazing too!

It was an absolutely awesome experience, and to quote Alicia Keys: “New York, Concrete jungle where dreams are made of, there's nothing you can't do.”

Posted by: Jonny Lin, Developer, Seattle | 31 January 2014

Tags: Rich Internet Application, Retail trends, Retail

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