E-commerce is becoming a way of life

As the 21st century approaches, more services make their way onto the Internet. So much is available now through the Internet that the chief executive of IBM, Lou Gerstner, recently made a bold prediction that the PC as we know it, will soon be obsolete and everything that was once done on individual computers will be done over networks and "non-PC Internet devices," such as digital telev...

05/01/1999


As the 21st century approaches, more services make their way onto the Internet. So much is available now through the Internet that the chief executive of IBM, Lou Gerstner, recently made a bold prediction that the PC as we know it, will soon be obsolete and everything that was once done on individual computers will be done over networks and 'non-PC Internet devices,' such as digital television sets and household appliances.

As this Internet migration Internet continues, one of the fastest-growing enterprises is e-commerce. And within this realm, one of the fastest-growing fields offering the purchase of products and services online is automation and control.

Last month, several industrial automation companies' online stores were highlighted. Since then, several more companies have joined the e-commerce revolution. More companies are anticipated to explore this dynamic marketing tool in the near future.

National Instruments' store recently opened at www.natinst.com/store ; here users can search for the right product using specified criteria, and can purchase the products online through the standard online shopping cart method. Once purchased, customers can track shipments online using an order number.

Other automation companies with similar online store formats are Foxboro ( www.siebestore.com ), Fisher-Rosemount ( store.frco.com/frs ), and Siemens, which introduced its new Internet Mall ( mall.siemens.de ) at Hannover Fair '99 in April.

HVAC Online ( www.hvaconline.com ) maintains a database of manufacturers, distributors, and dealers in the heating, ventilation, and air conditioning fields, and facilitates the purchase of products or filing of warranty claims through those companies. When a registered user submits an order or claim, it can be sent directly to an affiliated company for processing. That site, while not industrial automation, puts a unique twist on Internet sales.



Business-to-Business e-commerce sales are expected
to grow dramatically in the next few years.

Keeping it private

With all this ordering online, the issue of security becomes prevalent. To prevent transfer of credit card and account numbers through a susceptible medium, companies with e-commerce systems have to implement systems to ensure that sensitive information cannot be tracked down by hackers.

The most common security method used is encryption. Many encryption methods exist, but the basic concept is the same: information sent is converted into a format unreadable to anyone trying to intercept while it is in transit. For this to happen, the user must have a security-enabled browser (Microsoft Internet Explorer version 2.1 or greater; Netscape Navigator version 2.0 or greater).

Site identification is a method by which a web browser can verify the web site it's visiting is the authentic one and not an imposter site. The web site must register with identification authorities so that it can return a valid response to the browser for identification. If the browser detects that the site is not authentic, then the transaction will not complete.

Even the most advanced security methods will not convince everybody to transfer sensitive information over the Internet, so it is always a good idea to allow online shoppers the option of completing an order via another method, such as telephone or fax.


Author Information

Laura Zurawski, web editor lzurawski@cahners.com




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