Fighting “Friction” in the Check-Out Line and Beyond

You pull up to the gas pump, wait in a long line, and then fumble with your debit card and the touchscreen. Once at your hotel, you search mightily to find a parking spot before struggling with the ticket payment system. And then comes check-in, which entails more waiting in line at the front desk to get the key, before discovering that the key doesn’t work.  When you finally get in the room, it’s set way hotter than your preference.

OK, none of these experiences are major hardships, let alone life threatening. But taken together, along with so many other time-wasting aggravations — or business friction — they do take a toll: on energy bills, productivity, and nervous systems!

One of the great promises of the Internet of Everything (IoE) is its ability to cut down on the sources of this friction, and to streamline our lives. IoE represents the next leap forward in the war on friction, with great implications for retail, manufacturing, and many other walks of life.

This leap couldn’t come at a more welcome time. The  e-commerce movement peaked around the turn of the millennium, as it ignited one of the greatest waves of improvement since the Industrial Revolution. But after nearly two decades of e-enabling businesses, it’s getting harder and harder to squeeze more gains out of eliminating paper and manual processes.

IoE promises the next breakthrough by combining two game-changing elements, precision location and confident identity, with smart connected devices. The key is knowing with accuracy and certainty where an object or person is and what, who, or whose it is. With this capability, we can trigger much more sophisticated business automation rules, reducing friction in myriad ways.

Let’s look at a few examples of friction that have resisted e-commerce and are ripe for IoE improvements:

  • Buying gas, vending; etc. — In the IoE era, the pump and vending machine will be smart enough to confidently recognize the patron and authorize their purchase automatically.
  • Parking — With smart parking spaces, the lot can identify the guest and guide them to the space, take payment, and wish them well, all without friction.
  • Checking into a hotel room — With the right sensors and location services, a property can sense guests, positively identify them, along with their preferences, and provide a seamless, high-touch experience.  Leading hospitality organizations, such as Hilton Hotels, are already adopting mobile device-based check-in and the use of the mobile as a key.

So how can organizations get started applying these two capabilities and IoE to attacking new frontiers to eliminate friction?  CxOs should begin to champion the “frictionless” mindset today. That is, if they want to increase profits and productivity. Here are a few steps to consider taking:

  • Foster a culture of “frictionlessness”:
      • Encourage employees, customers, and partners to question the status quo, identify pockets of friction, and voice ideas on how to eliminate them.
      • Sponsor innovation challenges to address the biggest opportunities.
  • Establish the technology foundation for precision location and confident identity.
  • Incorporate multi-factor sensor fusion into Enterprise Architecture standards to increase security and guard against the growing threat of fraud.

Friction — it’s great for keeping our shoelaces tied and our cars on the road. But when it comes to business processes, IoE technologies can go a long way to eliminating its drag on efficiency and productivity. So, get ready for faster checkouts, more productive work environments, and less aggravation.

How do you see the IoE eliminating friction in your business? Tweet us @Cisco_Mobility.


Shaun Kirby

Director and Chief Technology Officer

Cisco Consulting Services