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Thursday, January 03, 2013, 05:19 am PT (08:19 am ET)

Apple invents centralized Apple Store floor plan management system

A patent application filed with the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office on Thursday offers a look into how Apple manages retail store operations worldwide, from dynamic product signage to customized floor plan layouts.

Retail Store

Source: USPTO


Apple's aptly-named "System and method for planning layout of a retail store" filing combines a number of interactive features, like dynamic product displays and floor plan blocking, with a centralized management system, ensuring customers have a consistent experience when visiting any Apple Stores in the world. The inclusive application brings together dynamic signage creation and management, customer experience services, floor maps and other details to form a cohesive worldwide retail system.

At the heart of the invention is a central server that is responsible for providing Apple Stores with floor information, including dimensions and orientation of the floor space, product data, dynamic signage information, organization of fixtures, an interactive map and more. This server sends current information to in-store servers which then mete the data out to dynamic product signage.

Server

Block diagram of centralized server system.


The filing notes that conventional retail stores are largely designed individually or locally, with different geological locations setting up displays according to the region's demographic. Apple's system provides an efficient way to roll out new products, display sale items and manage operations to offer customers around the globe uniform shopping experiences.

Products at Apple Stores are arranged according to "fixture blocks" comprised of multiple devices and signage. Depending on the size and space of a given location, these fixture blocks can be implemented in various ways to coordinate a consistent layout and design between stores.

In some embodiments, dynamic signage displays an interactive information, pricing and store guidance tool for demonstration devices. Apple Stores currently utilize iPads as the informational kiosks, allowing customers to browse devices on their own or as ask for help from an in-store representative. Because the system is fed by a central server, updates can be pushed out to quickly coordinate changes in pricing or promotions.

Signage

Dynamic signage for showing an iPad model and corresponding information.


Dynamic signage devices must first enter "retail mode" for certain updates. A device can be configured to enter the non-commercial mode at startup or through gesture input from an employee.

Going further, the wireless capabilities of the iPad signage allows for the display of store-specific information like the schedule of upcoming classes or special events. Inventory levels can also be monitored through the system as each point of sale is connected to the central server.

Other embodiments call for the use of GPS or low-power communications like Bluetooth to triangulate the relative position of a certain product's display signage to single it out on an employee's floor map for over-the-air updates and other functions.

Floor Map

Illustration of system floor map.


Apple's application was first filed for in September 2012 as a continuation of a 2011 pre-grant publication and credits Jason Raskin, Erik Hadden, Jonathan M. Van Keulen and Kuochun Chin as its inventors.