Special Focus: Retail--Wyless Powers Remote Wireless POS Network

July 12, 2013
Wireless solutions for retail point of sale

This article originally appeared in the July 2013 issue of SD&I magazine.

Wyless Inc., Lawrence, Mass., empowers a major supermarket chain in the New York City region with wireless backup for their Point-of-Sale (POS) systems. Everyone knows, if the POS system goes down, business comes to a halt. Most major retail companies use Internet providers for real-time data transmission to and from each store's POS machines and are highly reliant on Internet service. Even if the network is down for a few minutes, the economic consequences can be tremendous.

Wyless Inc., a multi-carrier provider of global machine-to-machine (M2M) managed services and enterprise connectivity solutions, partners with retail chains to install a system to ensure continuous data flow to store locations. The solution involves use of wireless routers to provide automatic failover to 3G/4G mobile broadband connectivity in the event of an interruption in Internet service. A critical system component used in the specification is an Altronix solution that allows the wireless routers to be installed in locations within each store that provide the best wireless signal strength.

Backing up critical data

The Wyless backup systems used in supermarkets and other major retailers link to the Verizon, Sprint or T-Mobile wireless networks to seamlessly re-establish a data connection if any interruption of Internet service occurs. If the main Internet connection goes down, the backup system senses the problem and fails-over automatically to ensure continuous transmission of POS data. Wyless manages the data over its private network infrastructure to secure private POS transactions.

The Wyless system uses Cradle Point IBR 600 series broadband routers that connect to the main Cisco router network and perform the automatic failover to the wireless services. The router receives the wireless signal from the cellular network just as a cell phone would. However, effective wireless network service, especially for monetary transactions, depends on good access to the signal—the equivalent of “how many bars” you might have on a cell phone. As any cell phone user can attest, the difference in signal from one location to another varies widely, even if the locations are only several feet apart. Thus, it matters exactly where the wireless router is positioned to ensure signal strength.

Even in the New York City area, there are many pockets without wireless network coverage. This is especially true if an auto-fail router is located in an interior location away from any windows. Ordinarily the Cradle Point IBR 600 series uses an AC converter that plugs into the wall to provide power, but the ideal locations to install the routers simply may not be near a power outlet. Power-over-Ethernet (PoE), which involves sending power to a device across the same structured cable that connect to the network, addresses the need to deliver power to the wireless routers which are connected to a PoE-enabled network switch. The problem is that the Cradle Point IBR 600 series router is not designed to accept PoE and requires a separate power supply.

To solve the problem, Wyless uses the Altronix NetWay1 PoE and Netway mid-span PoE adapter to deliver the power required to run non-PoE devices. This is accomplished by using one standard Ethernet cable to both power the wireless router and to connect it to the corporate network. The compact Altronix NetWay mid-span PoE adapter, which measures only 2-1/2 x 4 inches, enables Wyless to easily install the devices wherever the routers needed to be located in order to receive the best wireless signal. In many cases, the routers are located in the ceiling near the front of the stores where the wireless signals are the strongest.

“Ensuring the connectivity of POS systems is critical to business continuity for supermarkets and any other business that relies on critical network infrastructure,” said Bennett Alpert, vice president of Enterprise Solutions at Wyless. “In this recent implementation at a supermarket chain, this critical component from Altronix played an important role in allowing us to install the wireless routers where they could perform most effectively. This makes all the difference in providing the customer an effective system to keep the cash register ringing during a network outage.”