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Tesco Deploys Tag-Reading Robot at Five Stores to Track F&F Clothing

The global retailer is one of a half-dozen companies trialing RFspot's robotic RFID reading solution to identify which goods are at what location throughout sales floors and storerooms.
By Claire Swedberg

The data can not only be stored on the robot's own computer, but also be sent back to a cloud-based server hosted by RFspot, via the store's Wi-Fi network. F&F can then view that information in real time, or collect analytics such as areas in which tagged items have been misplaced, when shelves require restocking, or which shelf displays are resulting in the highest volume of sales, based on the removal of tagged items from those shelves or hanging rails.

"We have a base platform that fits into any environment," Gold states. "Naturally, every customer wants to engineer the solution for their environment."

Other configurations of RFspot's base platform can detect products on shelves using optics, and can use that data for managing planograms showing what shelf displays look like, in real time. That information can then be compared with sales data. According to Gold, RFspot is also working on automated tools for the robots to open doors and operate elevators in situations in which they must move from one room to another through a door, or to a different floor.

"This trial will give us insight into the technology and how it fits into our operations, how it will form part of our RFID journey," says Katherine Isle, F&F's program manager of operational change. That journey, she adds, will include learning more about how the RFID tags on products can be used to improve efficiency and productivity.

F&F personnel can use the LCD screen on the front of the robot to view the data being captured, or to display the face of someone who is remotely operating the robot when it is in semi-autonomous mode. This mode enables an individual in a remote location to manually control the robot's movements within the store, while viewing where he or she is taking the robot in real time (via cameras installed on the robot). This allows individuals physically around the robot to see the face of that person on the screen, and to speak with him or her via the Wi-Fi network, similar to a Skype conversation. For example, they can ask the robot operator questions about the robot.

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