As I sit here thinking about what to write for this month’s article, I thought I’d take a look at what’s new in technology for our industry.

There are many new versions of the same old things available. But that’s not surprising given the state of play in the market. There is a lot of new technology available to general mainstream retail, but we do not work in a leading-edge environment.

In terms of new technology relevant to the fuel and convenience retailing sector, last month’s Forecourt and Fuel Equipment Show and National Convenience Show proved fruitful. CBE was showing off its cash-less self checkout unit. It’s perfect for convenience operators, and could fit well into a combined fuel and convenience offer. One cashier could operate up to three pay positions. Wayne also demonstrated its new site controller, Fusion. Torex was demonstrating Prism 2.

There are several things that are technologically bubbling under so to speak such as NFC. This stands for ’near field communications’, a technology largely related to the mobile in your pocket. If enabled with NFC this would allow you to be recognised as you enter a store. It is also a means whereby you can pay for goods using the phone as a prepaid device. NFC could enable marketers to bombard you with offers, ads etc. The one saving grace is that any responsible body should get you to sign up to the offers first.

Then there’s tablet computing. The iPad is everywhere. What a great device. I visited the Motor Show recently in Geneva. It could have been an iPad convention. Used as a display tool and a reference document, all of the sales staff on the stands had one. Is the iPad suitable for our industry? Probably not. I am not sure of its resilience on the shopfloor. There are many commercial variants of pad computing available. It’s only a matter of time. Bought anything in an Apple store recently? If so you would have seen cradles attached to iPhones to turn them into a rudimentary POS, including card swipe.

Finally, the need for multi-channel systems is emerging within the business for where a site or store operates other retail outlets within its own stores such as Starbucks or Subway. One system could operate across all disciplines. The main benefit would be that the software is common across all of the retail channels employed. There’s some way to go but initial pilots are very encouraging.