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Checkpoint Offers RTLS Solution for High-Value Retail Goods

The company's ZigBee-based system, known as S3i, is designed to track the movements and locations of merchandise in stores, in order to prevent shrinkage, as well as better understand shopper activity and product replenishment needs.
By Claire Swedberg
May 13, 2015

Checkpoint Systems has developed a real-time location system (RTLS) known as S3i, with companies selling high-value items in mind. The solution features electronic article surveillance (EAS) tags containing battery-powered transponders that transmit 800 MHz signals based on the ZigBee protocol. The S3i tags work in conjunction with similar transponders known as locators, each of which transmits a unique ID number correlated to the locator's specific location. Typically, at least three locators would be installed together, in order to create a zone that is defined in the S3i cloud-based software. The tags would then receive transmissions from locators and forward that data to a receiver known as a coordinator, which is connected to a server.

The S3i transponders are incorporated in hard tags, CableLoks and Spider Wrap EAS products made by Alpha High Theft Solutions, a company that Checkpoint acquired in 2007. Alpha specializes in EAS tags for merchandise especially vulnerable to theft, according to Seth Strauser, Checkpoint's senior director of worldwide product management for EAS and RFID consumables. Like other electronic article surveillance solutions, Alpha's products can trigger an alert if they are detected at doorways via EAS readers (using magnetic or RF EAS technology). However, he says, retailers still did not have any way to know when a product could be moving in the direction of a doorway or leaving a predetermined zone, or when and where it was last seen if it ended up missing but was not detected at the door.

An S3i RTLS hard tag on a pair of jeans
The other shortcoming for EAS tags, the company reports, is that a would-be thief could remove them from the merchandise to which they are attached if that individual were able to create his or her own magnetic-based detacher capable of successfully imitating the magnetic array employed by that retailer's detacher.

The S3i version of a CableLok, hard tag or Spider Wrap transmits an electronic key that must be recognized by the S3i magnetic detacher before it will release the tag from the product. That action, along with a date and time stamp, is then stored in the software.

Shobnah Patel
The S3i solution has been trialed by a handful of businesses in North America, Asia and Europe for a period of six months or less. The company is currently in discussions with several future adopters of the system.

First, says Shobnah Patel, Checkpoint's global product management director, a user would install the locators, typically on ceilings. An S3i CableLok, hard tag or Spider Wrap is then attached to a product, and the bar-code serial number printed on the S3i unit is linked in the S3i software to the unique ID number transmitted by its transponder. The transponder receives the IDs transmitted by the locators and forwards that data to a coordinator, also via 800 MHz, which then sends that information to a server, where the cloud-based software identifies the device's location and determines if an action is necessary, such as displaying an alert. The location and alert are displayed on cloud-based software, Patel says, or on an Apple smartphone or tablet running the S3i app. In addition, the software and app provide analytics to help stores increase sales by determining where goods are located when they are not on the shelf, thereby boosting on-shelf availability and preventing shrinkage.

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