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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 way in which people interact with the robot has been one of the more interesting elements of the technology's deployment, Gold says. RFspot conducted studies to determine how store personnel and customers, including children and the elderly, would respond to a robot traveling through store aisles during business hours. Many of the retailers that are piloting RFspot's technology operate stores that are open 24 hours a day, so robots are sure to come in contact with customers. To date, he reports, interactions have been positive. Children like to play with the robots, and the elderly indicate they'd like such a machine to help them around the house.

If the robot is programmed to capture as many reads as possible within a short span of time, it can move at a speed of about one meter (3.3 feet) per second, with a read range of up to 30 feet. By using the system, Tesco can boost sales by reducing out-of-stocks, ensuring products are displayed in the proper location, and freeing up F&F colleagues to work with customers rather than having to walk through stores searching for products with a handheld reader.

RFspot reports that the reduction in labor costs, as well as the benefits achieved thanks to greater inventory accuracy and the planogram data, would eventually offset a retailer's cost of purchasing the robot and accessing the software. However, to make the deployment less expensive for some retailers, RFspot also offers a smaller version of the robot that has fewer sensors but can still read tags and capture more generalized location data.

Gold recalls that F&F's management brought dedication and commitment to the project. "They had a vision," he says, "They knew exactly what they wanted to do, and what problems they had to solve."

Dawson adds that F&F views the technology trial as a collaborative effort with RFspot. "The opportunities are endless," she states, "and with the RFspot team, we hope to continue to develop solutions that will be helpful across retail."

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