Category Archives: Reviews

NRF 2019: 3 Takeaways from Retail’s ‘Big Show’

Experts gathered to share successes and aspirations around data, intelligent automation, security and more.

 

Retail isn’t dead — far from it. But that doesn’t mean times aren’t changing for stores everywhere. Perhaps the most popular sentiment during The National Retail Federation’s Big Show this year was that customer demands are skyrocketing. With more choices than ever, shoppers expect retail stores to fire on all cylinders — online, in-store, mobile, across channels — and retailers are digging in to seek ways to deliver across all platforms.

“Twenty, even 10 years ago, retail interactions were so focused on the store. They still are today, but you then need to think about all the other places you need to meet your customer across every single touchpoint, whether that be on Instagram, on social media, whether that be on their mobile phone, whether that be in a marketing campaign,” Oracle’s Senior Director of Product Strategy Katrina Gosek tells BizTech.

Several retailers and experts at the conference shared stories that offer valuable insights into how they are tackling this new landscape. Here are three takeaways from the show:

1. Big Data and Analytics Take Retail to the Next Level

For retailers right now, no resource is more precious than data.

This is particularly true as brands seek to personalize customer experiences online. Gosek notes that collecting data across all touchpoints and bringing it together is key to crafting a personalized customer journey.

But in-store operations can also see a boost from data. Chick-fil-A and Home Depot are using the data visualization tool Tableau to obtain insights into operations and solve problems they previously didn’t even know existed.

Almost anything can become data. George Bentinck, product manager at Cisco Meraki, explained in a panel with CDW at the show how brands can tap data from surveillance footage to extrapolate insights about how to improve the in-store experience.

“Knowing where people are, where they go, and doing that in real time can be applied to a whole host of business problems,” said Bentinck.

2. The Big Data Boom Prompts the Need for Data Privacy

But with this data influx comes a number of concerns around how to use and secure it. For this reason, Sucharita Kodali, vice president and principal analyst at Forrester Research, told attendees during a keynote presentation that data security is one of the most critical challenges facing retailers at the moment.

“Data security is hugely important, not just because of the compliance needs of retailers and brands, but also because of the legislation and the requirements of everything from the California Consumer Privacy Act to GDPR, and probably a lot more coming down the pike,” said Kodali.

She also points to a study in which 17 percent of consumers note they don’t want brands collecting or tracking any personal information.

“It’s important to recognize that and to make sure you’re not personalizing to those people,” said Kodali. “Often, as marketers, as retailers, we forget that consumers belong to different segments, and you have to adjust. That is the very heart of personalization.”

MORE FROM BIZTECH: How retailers can deal with the new reality of GDPR.

3. Artificial Intelligence Takes Hold in Retail

Artificial intelligence has begun infiltrating. In fact, 51 percent of retailers have already begun to use AI for customer intelligence, while 48 percent are using it for demand forecasting, and 38 percent are using the tech for pricing and promotion, according to a joint survey of 1,900 retail executives by NRF and IBM released at the show.

“We’re really at a transformation point where AI is fusing with machine learning capabilities so that people can really process all the data and information they have on customers, on their supply chain, and it’s really ready to sort of take off,” Katherine Cullen, director of retail and consumer insights for NRF tells BizTech.

Online retailer zulily has already started to tap intelligent automation in order to better craft personalized customer journeys and engage the customer “where she lives,” explained zulily Vice President of Engineering Bindu Thota at the show.

“Every place where we touch them, we personalize it for them. We are literally talking to them, and we leverage automation and machine learning to do that,” she said. “What you see when you come to the zulily site is very different from what I see, and that is part of our business model and in our DNA from day one.”

Keep this page bookmarked for articles from the event. Follow us on Twitter at @BizTechMagazine, or the official conference Twitter account, @NRFBigShow, and join the conversation using the hashtag #NRF2019.

MORE FROM BIZTECH: Check out all of our stories and video from NRF 2019.

PeopleImages/Getty Images

Logitech’s New Tap Solves Videoconferencing Control Woes

As corporate videoconferencing systems get more affordable and customizable, Logitech leads the way with Tap, a low-profile, software-agnostic, touch-screen console.

 

Michael Muchmore Icon

By Michael Muchmore
Lead analyst for software and web applications – PC Magazine
February 4, 2019 10:49AM EST

Forget searching for remote controls or trying to decipher their various buttons. Logitech’s Tap, its new touch-screen control unit is always at the ready in the conference room.

More than any other vendor, Logitech is leading the transformation of corporate videoconferencing systems from massive five-figure installations with software lock-ins to more affordable BYOD setups that let companies choose service and software. Its Group, Meetup, and SmartDock were earlier videoconferencing entries, and the Logitech Tap, coming this spring, is a similar but refined device in the tradition of the SmartDock, but with some important, basic differences.

The Tap ($999 standalone), introduced today at the AV-focused ISE trade show, can be considered a refinement of the Logitech SmartDock $2,399.00 at Dell, which used a Microsoft Surface Pro to control Skype Room Systems conferencing. It was sturdy and locked down so it wouldn’t be swiped by coworkers who wanted to use it as a standard tablet. Feedback to Logitech, however, noted that the SmartDock was a bit bulky, taking up valuable tabletop space, and was tied to a single conferencing software system.

Tap Mounting Options

In contrast, the Tap is low-slung and compact, at 2.3 by 9.6 by 7.0 inches (HWD), and works with multiple conferencing service providers. The device doesn’t have its own brains; it must be connected to a small-form-factor computer like an Intel NUC ($499.99 at Amazon) that runs software from (to start with) Google, Microsoft, or Zoom. Load that up via USB.

The table-top (or wall-mounted) device itself has just a single connector and a power cable. Other A/V components—microphones, cameras, displays—will instead connect to the controlling computer. Wireless connection between the Tap and the computer unfortunately isn’t yet an option, despite this being the age of everything going wireless.

Tap Topology

SmartDock users also informed Logitech that cabling needed to longer and sturdier, so the company offers a 25m Strong USB cable for $499, which doesn’t require an extender or repeater. The cable is rated for 300 pounds of pull force, and is reinforced with Aramid. You can pick up the Tap by the cables and shake it with no harmful effects, since it’s so well secured, Logitech’s head of marketing, Joan Vandermate, told PCMag.

Logitech Tap Cabling

The Tap will be available in several packages. For $999 you can get the device alone, but it’s more useful in a bundle that includes the computer ($1,999). For $4,999, you get a full system including Tap, Rally Plus (which includes a hi-res camera, two speaker bars, and two mic units), Rally mounts, the computer, and a PC mount. Initial distributors include include Ingram, Tech Data, and Synnex.

What CES Announcements Mean for Enterprise IT

Lisa has made some good points in these sections and we need to be mindful of them from both a business and consumer standpoint…

1/14/2019  09:30 AM

IT Leadership – InformationWeek

Commentary

1/14/2019
09:30 AM

Lisa Morgan
Lisa Morgan
Commentary

Connect Directly

CES exhibitors continue their tradition of zany tech announcements, almost all of which are cool. However, some of the innovations signal trends IT should consider.

Intelligent automation

“Convenience” has been the operative word in the consumer sector at least since the introduction of TV dinners back in the 1950’s. Time savers like bread machines now have fully automated industrial equivalents such as the Wilkinson Baking Company’s BreadBot. The persistent question, which has an evolving answer for every business, is why should humans have to do [fill in the blank]? If the task is boring, repetitive, time-consuming or hard to scale using humans, automation is the key. What might be automated next in your industry that will impact cost, productivity, efficiency and profitability? How could you translate that into a competitive advantage?

Cybersecurity and privacy

Bring-your-own technology has impacted enterprise IT and cybersecurity. Since wearables connect via Bluetooth, Near-Field Communications (NFC) and Wi-Fi, they provide yet more opportunities for brute force attacks. In addition, wearables tend to store Personally Identifiable Information (PII) unencrypted, which, if exploited, could result in political moves or other misdeeds that expose the organization to reputational damage, lawsuits and regulatory fines. Take the Withings Move ECG activity tracker, for example. It monitors a user’s heart health, which is great in some regards, but what if a device like this were compromised by a competitor, industrial spy or corporate politician and used to show that a key employee driving the popularity or market cap of a company was a liability? (Note: it is not our intention to imply that the Withings Move ECG is or any Withings products are less secure than any other IoT device because frankly we don’t know. It is just one of the CES announcements that made us consider the impact of such devices on IT.)

Voice interfaces

Voice interfaces are being integrated with all kinds of devices, including as the Lenovo Smart Clock, which leverages Google Assistant like its sibling the Smart Display which was introduced last year. The consumer electronics space is fueling the growth of voice interfaces, so your company should be at least piloting and testing them. Employees and customers will expect it. Figure out what they want and map your company’s interface strategy accordingly. Voice interfaces aren’t a complete replacement for more traditional interfaces just yet, but the mix is going to change rapidly. Are you ready?

Virtual reality

The HTC Vive Pro provides a commercial option for training, design and simulating impossible scenarios. It tracks eye movement, which enables it to make efficient use of resources, aligning those resources with the user’s point of attention. It isn’t cheap, though. The pro version costs $1,399 and the cheaper Vive Focus is $599. Then again, the products are aimed at enterprises, not consumers.

Frankly, VR and AR are still struggling to take off generally speaking because the headsets can be uncomfortable. In addition, the virtual elements can impact perception which can cause dizziness, nausea and spatial-related risks.

Configurability

The Samsung MicroLED modular TV allows users to configure screen components into any shape. It could be used artfully in lobbies and conference settings where a “wow factor” is desired. The two base screens are bolted together, whereas the other screens attach via magnets. Since the screens are modular, they’re also portable which is great news for creative minds, but potentially not-so-great news for asset management.

Lisa Morgan is a freelance writer who covers big data and BI for InformationWeek. She has contributed articles, reports, and other types of content to various publications and sites ranging from SD Times to the Economist Intelligent Unit. Frequent areas of coverage include … View Full Bio

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The best waterproof phones of 2019

Posted on 01.29.19 – 1:00AM PST

Simon Hill
Simon Hill
@iamsimonhill
Posted on 01.29.19 1:00AM PST

Whether by the pool or the sea, make a splash with the best waterproof phones

Who says electronics and water don’t mix? Smartphones that can handle the rain, a dunk in the bath, or a tumble into a puddle aren’t the rarity they once were, and we’re not only talking about underpowered, basic phones covered in chunky rubber either. Today, some of the very best smartphones you can buy aren’t afraid of the wet stuff.

Maybe you work outdoors, are tired of being afraid of having something spilled on your precious phone, or you just want to tweet while you shower in the morning. Whatever the reason, a water-resistant smartphone is at the top of your shopping list. The question is, which one is the best for you?

Here are our top four picks for waterproof phones, plus some cases if you don’t want to change your existing device.

At a glance

Product Category Rating
Samsung Galaxy S9 Best waterproof phone overall 4 out of 5
iPhone XS Best waterproof iPhone 4.5 out of 5
Caterpillar Cat S61 Best rugged waterproof phone 3.5 out of 5
Lifeproof Fre Best waterproof case for your phone N/A

Samsung Galaxy S9

The best

galaxy s9 Plus hands-on review lilac back
Julian Chokkattu/Digital Trends

Why should you buy this: It’s a curved beauty with plenty of power and an unbeatable display.

Samsung Galaxy S9

For sheer style, the Galaxy S9 is the water resistant phone for you. $563 from Amazon

Who’s it for: Anyone who wants a high-powered flagship phone that’s waterproof.

How much will it cost: $720.

Why we picked the Samsung Galaxy S9 :

Do you want a gorgeous smartphone with the latest tech inside, plus a super-curvy screen? Then pick up the Galaxy S9. It’s a simply stunning smartphone with IP68 certification, which means it’s capable of surviving in up to 1.5 meters of water for around 30 minutes.

The S9 boasts a Qualcomm Snapdragon 845 processor, with 4GB of RAM, and an excellent 12-megapixel camera on the rear and 8-megapixel camera on the front. On the software side, it runs Android 8.0 Oreo, with Samsung’s own user interface over the top, making it look a little different than Android on other phones. If you’re looking for an even larger phablet or you’ve taken a fancy to the S Pen stylus, then Samsung’s Galaxy Note 9 is also a great waterproof phone. Like the S9, the Note 9 has an IP68 water-resistant rating protecting a powerful processor, and the latest high-tech developments.

Check out our full Note 9 review.

That 5.8-inch Super AMOLED screen is the star of the show, with a 2,960 x 1,440-pixel resolution and unbeatable vibrancy and brightness. There’s a 3,000mAh battery inside, which should be enough to see you through the day. While the IP68 rating indicates an ability to deal with liquids, the S9 has curved glass front and back, so there’s a serious risk of damage if you drop it.

If you’re willing to spend a little extra, you can get the S9 Plus, which sports a 6.2-inch screen, a bigger 3,500mAh battery, 6GB of RAM, and the same IP68 certification. If your budget won’t stretch, then consider last year’s Samsung duo, the Galaxy S8 and S8 Plus, or its trio from the year before, the Galaxy S7, the S7 Edge, and the S7 Active. All are IP68-rated and available at lower prices.

Read our full Samsung Galaxy S9 review

iPhone XS

The best waterproof iPhone

iPhone XS review
Julian Chokkattu/Digital Trends

Why should you buy this: Apple’s latest iPhone is simply the best iPhone that money can buy.

iPhone XS

An outstanding camera, a sleek and futuristic design, and the most intuitive, regularly updated software around makes the iPhone XS a superb buy. $999 from Apple

Who’s it for: Anyone who wants a water-resistant iPhone.

How much will it cost: $999-plus.

Why we picked the iPhone XS:

Apple jumped on board a bezel-free smartphone future when it released the iPhone X. The iPhone XS features the same gorgeous design, but with a little more power under the hood.

The OLED screen’s deep inky blacks and vibrant colors make it hard to pull your eyes away from it, and Apple’s True Tone tech changes the color warmth of the screen to account for the ambient lighting around you. While they might not have the Face ID and the super futuristic design of the iPhone XS, last year’s iPhone 8 and 8 Plus still have plenty of processing power,  and the same super-smart iOS and IP67 rating of their newer kin. If you can’t justify the $999 for the iPhone XS, then the iPhone 8 and 8 Plus are also great choices.

But it’s not all about the 5.8-inch screen. Apple’s outstanding record on smartphone photography continues unblemished. The iPhone XS boasts two 12-megapixel lenses, with one wide-angle and one zoom lens. It sounds the same as last year’s iPhone X on paper, but the image sensor is larger, which means the iPhone XS is even stronger with low-light photography. You also get Apple’s Portrait Mode, which selectively blurs the background around your subject, giving your images a DSLR-style “bokeh” effect that lends your photography a professional look. Then there’s Portrait Lighting, which gives you the option of different lighting effects to really make your images pop.

Apple’s newest A12 Bionic chip is fast and efficient, beating out all the competition, and though Touch ID is not coming back, Face ID has been improved, so it’s a touch faster. There’s no headphone jack, but the iPhone XS is rocking Bluetooth 5.0 for a strong and stable connection to your Bluetooth headphones.

The iPhone X is IP67 rated, which makes it less water-resistant than the Samsung Galaxy S9, but it’s still capable of surviving dips of up to 30 minutes in “stable” water. So it will survive the toilet and the bath, but don’t take it into the sea or across any rivers. Viking raiders looking for an upgrade might do better to look elsewhere, but the IP67 rating should suffice for most.

Read our full iPhone XS review

Caterpillar Cat S61

The best rugged waterproof phone

CAT S61 front full
Andy Boxall/Digital Trends

Why should you buy this: It’s the most rugged phone you can buy, with solid drop protection and water resistance.

Cat S61

If you have a tough job, or a challenging hobby, the Cat S61 is the phone that will keep up, almost regardless of what’s thrown at it. $899 from Amazon

Who’s it for: Climbers, hikers, construction workers, and clumsy people who love the outdoors.

How much will it cost: $1,000.

Why we picked the Caterpillar Cat S61 :

If all you care about is a phone that will still work after it gets dropped, bashed about a bit, or dropped in quite a lot of water, then the Cat S61 is definitely the phone for you. It’s extremely chunky, but the IP68 rating is good for 60 minutes in water down to a depth of 5 meters (16 feet), plus the MIL-STD-810G rating keeps it safe from dust, radiation, and shocks. The tough body will treat a fall from 1.8 meters (6 feet) onto concrete like it was nothing.

By chance, if during all this abuse, the need for thermal imaging arises, the S61 will step up to this task as well. In a partnership with sensor company Flir, the S61 has an unusual thermal camera alongside its standard 16-megapixel shooter. It works with a special app to show heat palettes, temperature, and hot spots, which can come in handy for all sorts of professions, from vets to car mechanics.

The rest of the phone isn’t quite so high spec as the others on our list. A Qualcomm Snapdragon 630 processor and 4GB of RAM provide the power, while the 5.2-inch screen has a 1,920 x 1,080-pixel resolution. However, no one will be buying the S61 for top specs or outstanding style. It’s all about survival, and the S61 is built to survive anything.

Read our full Caterpillar Cat S61 review

Lifeproof Fre

The best waterproof case for your phone

lifeproof_bestof waterproof phones

Why should you buy this: Cheaper than getting a new phone, it’s a fast and convenient way to add protection.

LifeProof FRE SERIES Waterproof Case

Buy a waterproof case for your phone to avoid changing it, or to add even more protection. $33 from Amazon

Who is it for: Anyone who doesn’t want to change their phone, but wants to protect it from the elements.

How much will it cost: $30 to $90.

Instead of hunting around for a cheap phone that provides water resistance, why not just buy the phone you want, and put it in a waterproof case? There are various options out there, but we like the following three choices.

The Lifeproof Fre promises to protect against water, dirt, snow, and sharp impacts. It covers the whole of your phone, including the screen and all the ports, so be prepared for an increase in overall size and weight. It’s a small price to pay for such a high level of protection. LifeProof Fre cases are available for most of Samsung’s Galaxy range, along with all iPhone models from the iPhone 5 on, plus the Google Pixel phones and a few other models.

Catalyst cases are a great alternative to LifeProof, and come in versions suitable for all iPhone models since the iPhone 4. There are even cases for the Apple Watch and the iPad range. Tested to IP68 levels and a depth of 10 meters (33 feet), the cases protect against water, snow, dust, and dirt. Catalyst has paid attention to the little things, like ensuring Touch ID still works as you want it to, and the camera lens cover is of high enough quality to not ruin any pictures.

If a custom waterproof case isn’t available for your phone, or you want a really cheap, reliable system, then get a universal “dry bag” type case, which seals your phone inside a pouch and keeps all the elements out. There are plenty of choices out there, in various colors, such as this one from Joto. It has an IPX8 rating and fits phones with screens smaller than 6 inches.

IP What? What those IP ratings actually mean

When we talk about waterproof hardware, we often refer to an IP rating. This stands for Ingress Protection, and is usually followed by a number, which refers to its ability to withstand water and dust. The first digit relates to solid particle protection and the second digit to liquid.

All the phones on our list meet IP67 or IP68 standards. IP numbers that start with a six mean the device features complete protection from dust, and will ward off particles to the extent where none can find its way in. It’s the highest rating currently available, and is considered “dust tight.”

To meet the IPx8 standard, the device must continue to function normally after being left in water “continuously,” although the exact details are usually down to the manufacturer. For example, Samsung says the Galaxy S9 “can be immersed in 1.5 meters of water for up to 30 minutes.” Drop that down to an IP67 rating, and the depth changes to a meter, and protection is only for a short time.

Here’s a complete breakdown of what all the IP codes mean, if you want to check out other ratings. It’s worth pointing out that while we call these phones waterproof, they remain so for a limited amount of time at best, and are technically water resistant. In other words, we don’t advise you to deliberately submerge any of them, especially not for very long, but it’s still nice not to have to worry if an accident happens.

How we test

Keys, wallet, smartphone. That’s how the mantra goes when most of us leave the house, ensuring nothing essential has been left behind. Because our phones are now such an important part of our everyday life, choosing the right one requires the same degree of research as a new car, or a new computer. We know this, which is why each phone we review becomes part of our everyday life. We want to tell you what it’s like to live with, before you put down your money.

We check our emails, play games, take photos (lots of photos), browse social media, watch video, and much more to see how the phone performs in the situations you will most often encounter. On the technical side, we’ll check the benchmark results and dive more deeply into the software, but it’s regular use that tells us what we want to know.

From this, and similar experience with other devices on the market, we can advise you on which model to buy. If it’s not worth it, we’ll say, and let you know the reason. You’ll know if we love it too, because we’ll sing its praises repeatedly. We use our phones all the time, and form quite an attachment to them, so the decision on which one to buy isn’t to be taken lightly. It makes sense for us not to treat reviewing them lightly either.

Editors’ Recommendations