January 26, 2001, 2:34 PM — RETAILERS WILL GET a potential glimpse of the IT future next Sunday at a conference in New York, when the National Retail Federation (NRF) and a group of software vendors demonstrate XML-based technology for use in updating store inventories and running price checks.
Point-of-sale terminals, Web applications, and handheld devices will be shown communicating with back-office servers for real-time price checks and inventory updates that will be sent via XML messages, said Richard Mader, executive director of the Association for Retail Technology Standards (ARTS) division at the Washington-based NRF.
In cooperation with Microsoft's ActiveStore standards group, the ARTS unit has created a set of XML schemas designed to help information flow between point-of-sale devices and various back-end systems. So far, their joint initiative, called IXRetail, has concentrated on schema for pricing and inventory that Mader said should be ready for actual use in the second quarter.
For next weekend's upcoming demonstration, Microsoft has also built a price server to show how XML could be used to send pricing changes to point-of-sale devices on the fly, Mader said. The demo is scheduled to take place as part of the NRF annual conference, which starts Sunday in New York.
Another key contributor cited by Mader is Austin, Texas-based 360Commerce, which developed a "line-buster" application that would let retail store workers armed with handheld devices walk up to customers and take their payments by credit card rather than making them wait in line for a cash register transaction. Several other vendors are also due to participate in the demo.
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