Seattle Seahawks score with line-busting mobile POS systems

Pre-game and halftime at any NFL stadium are largely spent doing one thing: standing in line. There's the line to get in. The line for hot dogs and beer. The line for the restroom.

So if there's another line at the souvenir shop, chances are the typical pro football fan will skip it.

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That's lost revenue that the Seattle Seahawks' retail director wanted to win back by deploying a mobile point-of-sale system. "Nobody wants to stand in line," says Nick Johnson, IT specialist for the Seahawks. "They want to be in their seats enjoying the game." That's especially true this season, as the team is one of the best in the NFL.

"It was a risk not knowing what could go wrong with all of the key pieces,but it went off without a hitch." -- Nick Johnson, IT specialist, Seattle Seahawks

Johnson was looking for a mobile system that the sales associates in the Seahawks Pro Shop within CenturyLink Field could use to facilitate checkouts and also check inventory, verify pricing or otherwise help to answer customer questions. However, the retail system in use in the shops -- Microsoft Dynamics -- didn't have a handheld point-of-sale (POS) option. So Johnson diagrammed a new play.

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Johnson says that sust one company -- POSitive Technology -- made a system ( OpSuite) that could integrate a mobile tool with the Seahawk's retail system. POSitive Technology, in turn, pointed Johnson to Emobile POS, which runs on the Apple iPod touch and can tie back in OpSuite. Johnson also purchased Honeywell's Captuvo SL22 enterprise sled, which transforms the iPod touch into a bar code scanner and credit card reader.

Mobile POS Takes the Field

In August, the Seahawks deployed 30 of the mobile POS systems in the newly renovated and expanded Pro Shop, which also serves the Major League Soccer Seattle Sounders fan base. One syste, in a cart that can serve as a temporary extra register and the rest given to employees who can wander around the 7,400-square-foot store with it or pluck customers out of line and ring them up.

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Johnson and his team tested the handheld checkout tools extensively since the Seahawks were the first organization to pull all the technologies together in this way to make sure they worked properly when the new Pro Shop was open for business.

Most of the bugs uncovered were related to the integration of OpSuite and Emobile. "It was a risk not knowing what could go wrong with all of the key pieces," Johnson says. "But it went off without a hitch." Almost.

The Honeywell sleds were a brand new product and they didn't ship in time for the grand opening, so the vendor sent 30 test models to Seattle in the meantime.

Pro Shop employees received training in how to use the handhelds. But "It's all iOS. It's not a hard system to learn and everyone is so savvy," says Johnson. "Two or three clicks and you're done."

The Seahawks opted to use the mobile devices for credit card sales only. "IT could take cash, but as a line-buster it's quicker to run a credit card. And the staff doesn't have to carry cash on them."

Mobile POS Wins Away From Home Field

Pro Shop employees can also take the handheld devices to man gear kiosks at offsite Seahawks events, like a charity function or a fan appreciation gathering. If there's Wi-Fi or My-Fi, they work just as they do at the stadium. And it's a simpler setup than lugging around a laptop, cash drawer and printer. They can take the handheld and a Bluetooth receipt printer that clips on to a pocket or belt, and they're in business.

Johnson says he is considering expanding the mobile POS systems to the Seahawks Pro Shop downtown as well.

There are no plans for a mobile POS options for food and drink vendors, since they operate independently and have their own systems. And the team is yet to find an app that will help with those long restroom lines.

Stephanie Overby is regular contributor to CIO.com's IT Outsourcing section. Follow everything from CIO.com on Twitter @CIOonline, Facebook, Google + and LinkedIn.

Read more about mobile/wireless in CIO's Mobile/Wireless Drilldown.

This story, "Seattle Seahawks score with line-busting mobile POS systems" was originally published by CIO.

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