We recently reported that Intermec intends to acquire Vocollect, Inc., providers of voice-centric solutions for mobile workers. After having a chance to talk to the principals involved in this transaction, the only thing surprising about it was why it didn't happen sooner. According to Joe Pajer, CEO of Vocollect, his company's technology is used in only about 10-15% of large warehouses (50,000 sq ft and above) with 20 pickers or more that have a WMS and a wireless system and do mostly case and piece picking. That's a huge potential market.
The problem is, there still isn't much awareness of voice technology in that market. Only about half of its inhabitants know much about it.
“Some 75% of people who were aware of voice were likely to purchase it,” Pajer told me. “So we need to get it accepted as a standard technology to be considered when redesigning any workflow in the warehouse. And the combinations of voice with scanning, screens and RFID is all important to be able to deliver on this technology because no two warehouses are the same.”
But the potential goes beyond warehousing, Earl Thompson added. As senior VP of mobility products for Intermec, he's bound to think that way—although short-term his goal is to drive growth for both sides of the company in both warehouses and distribution centers.
“We see opportunities to voice enable a much richer set of devices,” he said.
Right now, the big story is solutions, not components. And until now data collection was very much a component-based technology. But now that bar coding, RFID and voice have matured, combining them on one handheld is a natural progression. And market players like LXE and Psion are bound to aim for the same customers. At the same time, these players have also been customers to both Intermec and Vocollect, so this market is in for some excitement.
Bert Moore, founder of IDAT Consulting and Education, is an ADC specialist and a member of MH&L's editorial advisory board. He gave me another good reason for Intermec and Vocollect to continue dealing with LXE and Psion and those vendors' customers:
“If they continue to license the technology to them it helps pay off their acquisition.”