Apple Patent Application Gives A Glimpse At The Computer Brain Running Its Retail Stores | TechCrunch

Posted on by Brandon Klein

The filing notes that often these kinds of tasks are handled locally or regionally, but Apple’s differs by providing up-to-date information in real-time to customers around the world via in-store digital signage, and to employee devices. Since it’s all tied to a central server, displays attached to, say, the iPad section of any store can be instantly updated around the world with new or modified information, such as special changes in pricing. Displays can also be used to send out information about scheduled events and classes, or check inventory levels. Switching between customer- and employee-facing functions on the interactive displays is handled via a simple gesture, according to the patent application.

Some versions of the system also include indoor positioning systems based on GPS and Bluetooth to locate particular display installations and flag them for updates or interaction by store staff, which means it could help direct traffic within a store for finding a customer who needs help or directing staff to a kiosk that needs a manual update.

Apple is often cited as an innovator in retail, and mostly people point to things like store design and layout as the driving factor behind its success in that arena. What isn’t so clear is how much Apple’s use of innovative in-store display, POS and customer service and other systems have contributed to its ongoing ability to succeed in brick-and-mortar. This patent gives a glimpse at that side of the equation, both planned and present.