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The user feedback has been overwhelmingly positive. In fact, Thrailkill says the staff has been very clear about never wanting to use the Kenwood 2 way radios again.
“I expected there to be a much bigger learning curve,” Thrailkill says. “Having come from using walkie-talkies for years — where you can’t do them wrong, all you do is push a button and talk — I expected it to be a month or more for [employees] to get used to commands and then connecting to a person, talking back and forth, and then remembering to end that conversation by pushing a button. It really was only a week.”
The Container Store plans to bring the Theatro wearable to a second store in the Dallas area within the next few weeks. In addition to bringing in the team to make Wi-Fi adjustments, it will send at least one IT representative to help with coaching for a day or so, Thrailkill says. He doesn’t expect much IT intervention beyond that. The company intends to put the Theatro wearable into the hands of roughly 2,500 employees in all of its more than 64 (and growing) stores during the next few years, adjusting the rollout and support process as necessary.
As for pricing, Thrailkill wouldn’t share specifics. He says the licensing fees, which increase as you add users, aren’t cheap, but he feels like his company is getting good value. “It’s very reasonable, I think, for the value it’s providing, and that value equation is going to go up tremendously as Theatro continues to add features.”
The Future of Wearable Tech at The Container Store
Today, Thrailkill and his team is focusing on the Theatro wearable rollout at its Dallas-area store. He does not plan to deploy the wearables at any other stores this year, though the ultimate goal is to use them in all of the company’s stores.
The company is also using an in-store, hosted server in its Austin location for the voice component of the system, instead of relying solely on Theatro’s cloud. Theatro says this allows it to run two development tracks with separate development teams — one focused on feature enhancements and another for creating the infrastructure to support large scalability. The Dallas-area store will operate in a similar environment.
“In the coming months, these two tracks will merge and The Container Store will be utilizing the entire solution as a cloud service,” according to Todd.
Along with the Dallas store rollout, The Container Store plans to distribute wearables to its “resource center,” or online help desk, which employees use for information on everything from IT questions to HR inquires, Thrailkill says. Wearable users will eventually be able to query the resources center for help with a system issue or HR question.
The ultimate goal is for the Theatro system to be deeply integrated with The Container Store’s IT infrastructure and systems. That way, the CEO could, for example, record a voice message with a smartphone or other devices and then distribute it to all retail staffers via their wearables.
Theatro and The Container Store have also discussed how the devices and associated cloud system could replace the employee time-clock system and integrate with inventory data, customer information systems and much more.
Theatro’s discussions with The Container Store began with personal communication. But they have evolved, Todd says. “A higher value opportunity might be the human-to-machine interface, connecting those people to the IT infrastructure versus just connecting the people to each other.