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British Clothing Retailer Sees RFID as 'Enriching Experience'

Giulio is using privacy-protecting RFID technology from Friendly Technologies to determine which garments shoppers are interested in, and to prompt a touchscreen to display information about those products.
By Claire Swedberg

Employing the RF Tracking protocol, Moran explains, enables the tags to be more secure, and to offer better performance than standard RFID. The latter benefit, he says, results from circumventing collision when multiple tags are within the reader's vicinity, since each tag responds with a much shorter ID. The process can accomplish read rates of up to 500 tags per second in noisy environments. Although some makers of standard EPC Gen 2 readers claim read rates of thousands of tags per second, Moran adds, that can be accomplished only within optimal environments and without the security feature. In addition to reducing collision and thereby increasing reliability, he says, the RF Tracking protocol also offers a higher level of security and privacy, since the tag cannot be read unless the interrogator transmits an authorized ID number to that tag. Thus, if a customer purchases a product at a retail store and carries that tagged item out of the store, he or she can be assured that no reader other than the one at the store can prompt the tag to transmit a response.

At Giulio, Friendly Technologies has installed two e-rails, each consisting of a 3.5-meter-long (11.5-foot-long) rod with two readers, between which tagged items are hung. The tags are attached to men's jackets and shirts, and can be interrogated whenever they are hanging between those readers. A single e-rail, Moran reports, can support up to 100 garments, offering reliability close to 100 percent.

If a Giulio customer removes a zip front hoodie from an e-rail, a touchscreen will show information about the garment and list other items that might go well with it.
Giulio also installed a touchscreen wired to the reader. When a garment is removed from an e-rail's rod, the e-rail software detects a change in the strength of the signal transmitted by that clothing's tag upon polling, along with any changes in the configuration of the tags hanging between those antennas, thereby enabling it to determine that an item has been removed, as well as identifying that product. The software then prompts the touchscreen to display data about that garment. Therefore, for instance, if a customer removes a wool jacket to examine it more closely, the touchscreen will show information regarding the jacket and list other items that might go well with it. By using the touchscreen, the shopper can then select other specific items and learn more about them, including where within the store they can be found.

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