The ng Connect Program is hoping to change the face of retail with 4G, digital signage, telepresence and a host of other technologies.
ng Connect is a multi-industry organization, founded in 2009 at the Mobile Congress, which partners non-traditional telecom companies with telecom providers to find alternative revenue streams based on Long Term Evolution (LTE). The organization is the baby of Alcatel-Lucent. At this year's Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas, ng Connect announced new retail concepts ranging from a virtual stylist to a global virtual concierge.
With the arrival of powerful new 4G/LTE networks, a wide range of new business and service opportunities are possible for retailers, brand manufacturers and network operators. The ng Connect Program's new solution concepts at CES 2011 serve as examples of innovative retail service concepts developed by our members to create compelling and convenient customer retail experiences which have great potential to drive new revenue, improve advertising effectiveness and increase customer loyalty, said Steve West, vice president, Emerging Technology and Media at Alcatel-Lucent.
The ng Connect retail concept which opened the most eyes at the CES was the personal stylist, which Alcatel-Lucent worked on with HFMUS, Samsung, TelePresence Tech, TC2, Vidyo, and VisionMax. Based on 3D telepresence, video conferencing, cloud computing and augmented reality, the personal stylist takes a clothing shopper and creates their own avatar, which resembles them. This shopper is then able to visualize themselves by changing the clothes on the avatar. It also uses telepresence to conference in a stylist, who can give recommendations.
Our Virtual Personal Stylist offers retailers an easy to deploy in-store or online solution that provides shoppers with professional styling assistance based on their online profile. The system offers improved convenience, and higher accuracy in sizing and color choices, all of which will increase purchasing confidence in online purchases and customer loyalty, West said.
Along with the virtual stylist, ng Connect also unveiled a prototype for a global virtual storefront. The storefront, which appears on a kiosk touchpad, shows items from across the globe, even small manufactured items from developing countries, in 3-D form. Consumers can learn more about them through video interaction and purchase them with either their cell phones using near field communication or a debit swipe.
ng Connect also showed off a virtual concierge prototype. For travelers abroad looking to talk with someone who speaks the same language, this touchpad kiosk can connect via two-way video to a concierge that does just that. Another prototype retail product was the virtual venue, which allows a sports fan at a ballpark to order food or drinks from a vendor and have it delivered all from their seat.
Laureen Cook, a member of Alacatel-Lucent's emerging technology and media team, said the benefit to the ng Connect partnership is a thinking outside the box mentality.
By collaborating, these companies are reducing their time to market and increasing revenue streams. With all these partners, they are also touching on all aspects of a product, and some things they probably would not have thought have had it just been them and one other partner, Cook said.
Prior to the CES, ng Connect's most notable creation had been the connected car. Led by Toyota and Alcatel Lucent, the project put four mobile touch screens in front of each person in a Prius with various gaming, entertainment and GPS services available. It is designed with safety in mind, as the driver can't use the entertainment, gaming or calling features while the car is in motion. It also has a maintenance and mechanical application, which tells what is wrong with the car.