30 Years of the Digest ... founded August 21, 1981
The Telecom Digest for February 22, 2012
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Date: Tue, 21 Feb 2012 10:20:47 -0800 (PST) From: HAncock4 <firstname.lastname@example.org> To: email@example.com. Subject: Supermarket shop by mobile phone Message-ID: <firstname.lastname@example.org> The "Giant" supermarket chain is offering a new shop by phone plan, called "peapod". At advertising billboards they have a QR (quick response) code for mobile phone uers. They then can select groceries from the advertising billboard at train stations or the website, which are then delivered to their home. http://www.peapod.com/ This is interesting in that an early proposed automated telephone applications nearly 50 years ago was grocery shopping by phone. A caller would have a list and use their Touch Tone phone to select and order items. Ironcially, that never seemed to catch on. About 75 years ago it was common for neighborhood grocery stores to deliver purchases to the home; many people walked to the store and didn't have any way to carry a large order home (other than those little wheeled baskets). But then supermarkets came out with self- service and big parking lots for the automobile and cut prices, which wouldn't allow for delivery. Shoppers liked the low prices and supermarkets flourished every since. Aggressive price competition remains in the retail food business today, so it will be interesting if people are willing to pay for this enhanced service. (There are a few "premium" supermarkets, but most shoppers seem to prefer to shop on price.) Telecom notes: The manager in my local supermarket carries a cordless phone hooked to his belt. If he is paged, he can answer the page from anywhere in the store. He also can initiate a page from his cordless phone. Also, all the cashiers have intercom phones in case there is a price check or other need for assistance. The stores' checkout aisle have a mounted swipe reader for credit and debit cards, which includes a keypad for the shopping to enter their PIN. When first installed, these machines would dial up to verify the connection--you could the dial tone and connecting beep. Now, they're always on-line and work fairly quickly. A nice free feature is when paying with debit card, shoppings can get cash back by adding the desired cash to the total of the purchase; this saves a trip to the ATM machine. When paying by check, a shopper gives the cashier a blank check, and she then inserts it into a mini-printer. The printer fills out the pay-to and the amount automatically, all the shopper has to do is sign the check.
Date: Tue, 21 Feb 2012 15:13:07 -0500 From: Bill Horne <bill@horneQRM.net> To: email@example.com. Subject: Re: Supermarket shop by mobile phone Message-ID: <20120221201307.GA27421@telecom.csail.mit.edu> On Tue, Feb 21, 2012 at 10:20:47AM -0800, HAncock4 wrote: > ... an early proposed automated telephone applications nearly 50 > years ago was grocery shopping by phone. A caller would have a list > and use their Touch Tone phone to select and order items. > Ironcially, that never seemed to catch on. ISTR coming across a Bell System study that evaluated the issue, some years ago. The ghist of it was that the researches had found that housewives were afraid of making a mistake and having the wrong groceries delivered, and so they continued to shop the "old fashioned way", because they could see what they were buying. I don't know if Touch-Tone phones were originally intended to give customers the ability to interact with automaticc response systems, but they weren't adopted as quickly as was hoped: I think local LEC customers didn't see the signalling capability as an advantage worth paying for, and some might have shied away from automated systems that depended on Touch-Tone because they didn't want to lose the human touch that they enjoyed with the old system. It's also possible that customers thought that they would have to surrender all their phones, including the millions of unauthorized extensions which still had dials on them. I'm always fascinated by people's reactions to new technology, both positive and negative, so I'd like to hear from others who have better information about this. The study I saw was from the 1970's, so it didn't cover the Internet, but I think at least part of the reason that brick-and-morter retailers discounted (pun intended) competition from Internet sellers was that they thought buyers would continue to want to handle the goods before purchase. However, high-resolution photographs and high-speed Internet connections to carry them gave buyers a "close enough" experience, so they are now willing to order online: the paradigm shift is also attributable to the pachaged-goods industry, which produces uniform products with enough repeatability that buyers can buy by brand instead of by item. After all, nobody cares which tube of Crest toothpaste they purchase, just that the one they get is like all the others. It remains to be seen if Peapod (offered by Stop & Shop in my area) will be able to leverage the public's experience buying packaged goods in order to sell groceries: since nobody cares which bottle of soap they buy, Peapod is hoping that they won't care which melon or tomato or ear of corn is delivered. Bill -- Bill Horne (Remove QRM from my email address to write to me directly)
Date: Tue, 21 Feb 2012 21:03:03 +0000 (UTC) From: David Scheidt <firstname.lastname@example.org> To: email@example.com. Subject: Re: Supermarket shop by mobile phone Message-ID: <firstname.lastname@example.org> Bill Horne <email@example.com> wrote: :It remains to be seen if Peapod (offered by Stop & Shop in my area) :will be able to leverage the public's experience buying packaged goods :in order to sell groceries: since nobody cares which bottle of soap :they buy, Peapod is hoping that they won't care which melon or tomato :or ear of corn is delivered. I don't know, fifteen years of selling groceries online seems to be enough to say if they're going to manage to succeed. Peapod are a subsidery of Royal Ahold, a Dutch supermarket congolmerate. Ahold owns both Giant and Stop & Shop. -- sig 16
Date: Tue, 21 Feb 2012 16:34:26 -0500 From: Bill Horne <bill@horneQRM.net> To: firstname.lastname@example.org. Subject: Re: Supermarket shop by mobile phone Message-ID: <20120221213426.GB30384@telecom.csail.mit.edu> On Tue, Feb 21, 2012 at 09:03:03PM +0000, David Scheidt wrote: > Bill Horne <email@example.com> wrote: > > :It remains to be seen if Peapod (offered by Stop & Shop in my area) > :will be able to leverage the public's experience buying packaged goods > :in order to sell groceries: since nobody cares which bottle of soap > :they buy, Peapod is hoping that they won't care which melon or tomato > :or ear of corn is delivered. > > I don't know, fifteen years of selling groceries online seems to be > enough to say if they're going to manage to succeed. Peapod are a > subsidery of Royal Ahold, a Dutch supermarket congolmerate. Ahold > owns both Giant and Stop & Shop. I don't know how well Peapod is doing in the market, but (as I wrote before), I'd like to know what factors work against it and for it. My questions cover several areas: 1. Predictability. I stayed at a long-term hotel once while working for Verizon, and it offered Peapod service. I filed an order, but I was disappointed that they delivered different brands of food than the ones I had ordered. Their service agreement gives them permission to do it, but I wanted Brand X cereal and they delivered Brand Y. ISTM that a service which is trying to make inroads into traditional buying patterns and customer habits would concentrate on delivering exactly what was ordered: it may be that Americans are more demanding in this regard than Dutch customers, so perhaps it's a culture clash. 2. Portioning. The order I filed included some vegetables, and the ones that were delivered where smaller than ones I would have chosen myself. I was left with the impression that Peapod customers are expected to accept fruits from the "bottom of the barrel", and felt I had been cheated. It's not a rational conclusion, I know, but that was how I felt. Once again, this might be a cultural difference. 3. Ease of use. I filed my order using a Touch-Tone phone, and found the IVR system to be (to my mind) overly complicated and difficult to navigate. I was left with the impression that the whole thing was intended for restauranteurs and chefs who were used to ordering over the phone - and accustomed to accepting a certain percentage of discards - and not for home users without experience in commerical food preparation. The bigger questions remainss, though: what motivates customers to accept a faceless transaction over the traditional supermarket? The prices weren't that different from the market, and considering the price of gas and value of my time, I thought the charges were reasonable for my order. What makes the average buyer willing to pick up the phone instead of the car keys? Bill -- Bill Horne (Remove QRM from my email address to write to me directly)
Date: Tue, 21 Feb 2012 13:54:48 -0800 (PST) From: HAncock4 <firstname.lastname@example.org> To: email@example.com. Subject: Re: Supermarket shop by mobile phone Message-ID: <firstname.lastname@example.org> On Feb 21, 3:13 pm, Bill Horne <b...@horneQRM.net> wrote: > I don't know if Touch-Tone phones were originally intended to give > customers the ability to interact with automaticc response systems, > but they weren't adopted as quickly as was hoped: I think local LEC > customers didn't see the signalling capability as an advantage worth > paying for, and some might have shied away from automated systems that > depended on Touch-Tone because they didn't want to lose the human > touch that they enjoyed with the old system. It's also possible that > customers thought that they would have to surrender all their > phones, including the millions of unauthorized extensions which still > had dials on them. I'm always fascinated by people's reactions to new > technology, both positive and negative, so I'd like to hear from > others who have better information about this. In doing a search for "Touch Tone" in the New York Times for the 1960s, I came up with the following. It seems some of the services were envisioned quite a long time ago, and took longer to become universal. 12/19/1962: Touch Tone installed in Chardon, Ohio, by the Chardon Telephone Company, using sets made by Stromberg Carlson (a division of General Dynamics). This is of interest since it was an Independent company, not part of the Bell System. Also, Stromberg Carlson was a relatively small maker of telephone equipment--I would've presumed Automatic Electric* would've been the pioneer because it was the biggest independent company. 11/15/1963: Bell installed Touch Tone in Greesnburg and Carngegie, in Western Pennsylvania. 9/20/1964: Article talking about future modernization of the telephone system. ESS and its customer features are described. Touch Tone is described, along with examples of interfacing with a computer. It also said Touch Tone services were in demand and Bell had trouble keeping up with orders for sets and converters to meet demand. So, as far back as 1964, they envisioning using TT phones for computer interface. (I remember bank tellers having a TT keypad next to their rotary phones circa 1970 to get balances from the bank's central computer.) --Salesman inquiring if an item is in stock in a warehouse; --Housewife ordering groceries, --Investors getting stock quotes --Housewife remotely turning on/off oven, air conditioner, and heater. 1/12/1965: The Bell System had a display at a convention of department store executives, suggesting using Touch Tone phones for immediate credit authorization, ordering from home, and in-store purchasing and paying bills from home. [As an aside, some of the fears expressed at that convention--discounters taking over markets from traditional department stores--did come to pass.] 5/27/1966: Centrex receives a patent. Instead of a big cord switchboard, operators use small consoles with Touch Tone keypads to connect calls that can't be dialed directly. 5/21/1967: The Checkless Society: Using the card dialer phone plus some entered codes, customers could pay bills. Envisioned to be up in 1980. Issues of privacy and security were discussed. 8/30/1967: Touch Tone phone panel for aparment house lobbies, tenant dials a code on their phone to let someone in. Rental: $60/month plus $1.10 for each apartment. (I saw this system in use at the Stuyvesant Apts in NYC in 1968. Pretty slick for its day.) > The study I saw was from the 1970's, so it didn't cover the Internet, > but I think at least part of the reason that brick-and-morter > retailers discounted (pun intended) competition from Internet sellers > was that they thought buyers would continue to want to handle the > goods before purchase. However, high-resolution photographs and > high-speed Internet connections to carry them gave buyers a "close > enough" experience, so they are now willing to order online: the > paradigm shift is also attributable to the pachaged-goods industry, > which produces uniform products with enough repeatability that buyers > can buy by brand instead of by item. After all, nobody cares which > tube of Crest toothpaste they purchase, just that the one they get is > like all the others. People always shopped by mail order, especially when there were specialty goods not available locally or the price was better than retail. But mail order in the old days was cumbersome. One had to fill out a form, carefully entering complex product codes. Then, shipping had to be carefully calculated using complicated charts since rates varied by both distance and weight. If a person didn't have a personal checking account, they had to go out and buy a money order. I'm not sure when this happened, but to me the big change was when credit card companies accepted a telephone submitted credit card order (1980s?). Well before the Internet was commonplace companies had 800 order lines. At that point, for the consumer, the transaction was effortless. Consumers didn't only use catalogs, but also ads from magazines. Indeed, going way back, the telephone companies offered special equipment for department stores to accept telephone orders ("order turrets") that automatically queued and distributed calls to order- takers. According to the Bell Labs history, Touch Tone interpreters for central offices were expensive. Different models were developed for different sized applications. A "cheapo" model was developed for PBXs where the loop distances (between extension and PBX switch) were short and accuracy not as critical. We take for granted the precise accuracy of electronics today, apparently back in the 1960s it took a lot more effort and expense to achieve that precision. *As an aside, the Bell System gave Touch Tone (as well as wall and desk sets) all different model numbers, eg 500, 2500, 2554. AE, instead, used the same code for a variety of equipment. Thus, the AE 80 covered the 500 equivalent of desk and wall, and rotary and Touch Tone sets.
Date: Tue, 21 Feb 2012 15:15:25 -0600 From: "John O'Ryan" <email@example.com> To: firstname.lastname@example.org. Subject: Re: How does a "Trunked" line between two 5ESS CO's work? Message-ID: <MLGdna9a-YbwlNnSnZ2dnUVZ7q2dnZ2d@bt.com> On Mon, 20 Feb 2012 09:23:43 -0500, Bill Horne wrote: > This leads me to a question about the future, and I'm not sure that I > know how to ask it clearly, so please bear with me. > > > The Cellular networks, which routinely forward calls from a "home" CO in > Maine to a cell tower in New Mexico, have formed a - I'm not sure > "bypass" is the right word - parallel path that logically duplicates the > "last mile" connection to a cell cite in the traditional network view, > but have replaced that "last mile" with a "last cloud" or "last point > where the traditional view holds true". > > In like manner, VoIP offerings have replaced last mile circuits with a > sort of workaround, which allows Ma Bell to "deliver" a call to a Rate > Center, but then replaces any physical circuit with a virtual connection > that can be, literally, anywhere. > > So, here's the question: will some other method of distance-sensitive > billing take the place of V&H? I suppose that cellphones could be > programmed to deliver their latitude and longitude when connecting a > call, but I doubt there's any such capability in VoIP devices. > > I believe distance-insensitive but service responsive charges will become more normal. Outside the USA most mobile billing is caller pays, there are also various national rates, from free (0800/1800 etc.) to premium. The inclusion of basic call minutes in rental packages will continue. This may require regulatory change, as voice becomes "yet another service". Some economists hold that clear pricing signals related to underlying costs produce the best results. If the cost of billing small amounts of usage charges becomes excessive and the dominant costs are fixed that implies rental. This has in the past been implemented at the wholesale (UK FRIACO) as well the consumer level. The cost of bulk long distance transmission will continue to fall also than of packet based switching. There will continue to be, due to competitive and regulatory pressure, reductions in call charges. > And, come to think of it, is the V&H concept so ingrained in the > network's design that it can't be replaced? I think cell plans come with > long distance service included because the cellular providers realized > that it costs more to bill for it than to provide it as part of a > monthly package, but will the costs of providing it ever return to a > distance-based model? Given that most billing is now done away from the exchange there is a cost to maintaining the source destination charging matrices in billing systems. Some modern billing platforms are generic and telecoms style usage billing has to be added on. So if regulators can be persuaded, distance based charges in domestic networks could disappear. Telecoms companies are very good at micro charging and this may be used in other ways, including high cost international routes. I have a view of the end game for voice; IP (internet protocol) packet based, converted to analogue at the last moment, sharing infrastructure with data services. The demise of the local exchange replaced by customer located Analogue Termination Adaptors and IP phones, supported by a few soft switches. Quality provided by QOS measures and VPNs at the IP and Ethernet level. In Europe with multiple service providers competing on price, service and brand. How we get from now to the future and is not yet clear. How we pay is also not obvious but I believe it will be mostly rental, to cover the high proportion of costs which will be fixed charges. Mobile is another game as the air interface is relatively expensive and usage charging makes sense, also encourages the use of lower cost technology such as Wifi hot spots. We have had a proposal from Indian regulators to extend the roaming caps in Europe to India and visa versa. John
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