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At Expo Milano, RFID Tracks Thousands of Products

Every piece of merchandise received by the Shop of the Italian Pavilion is identified via an EPC UHF tag, to ensure that none of the Italian-themed merchandise is out of stock, as well as expedite sale transactions and control theft.
By Claire Swedberg
Tags: Retail
Oct 20, 2015

At Expo 2015, the six-month-long World's Fair currently taking place near Milan, Italy, the Shop of the Italian Pavilion sells tens of thousands of merchandise items, ranging from pins and towels to clothing and umbrellas. Each of the Italian Pavilion's 12,000 daily visitors must walk through the store, and many of them buy something during their visit. The store's operator, CIPI Spa, is using RFID technology to manage this merchandise and ensure that it is available on the shelf for buyers, as well as to quickly process transactions at the point of sale (POS) and track goods on their way out the door, in order to prevent theft. The passive ultrahigh-frequency (UHF) RFID system is provided by Italian wireless technology integrator H&S Custom.

The theme of Expo Milano, which runs until Oct. 31, is "Feeding the Planet, Energy for Life." Located approximately 15 kilometers (9.3 miles) northwest of Milan, the fair includes 145 participating countries, 60 pavilions, nine thematic clusters, 150 restaurants, and various kiosks, street food stations and shops.

When the goods arrive at the Shop of the Italian Pavilion, a worker uses a CAEN qID handheld reader (model R1240I) to read each item's tag.
The Shop of the Italian Pavilion is laid out in such a way that every visitor must pass through the store, as a way of encouraging him or her to browse the various Italian-themed goods available for sale. There are typically 25,000 to 35,000 merchandise items on sale at any given time, and 2,500 or more items are typically sold each day.

An Expo can be a uniquely profitable and yet challenging place to sell merchandise, says Renzo Ottina, H&S Custom's CEO. The sheer volume of people moving through and browsing within the store makes it difficult for staff members to keep track of what's on the shelves at any specific time. If a product is not on the shelf, a sales opportunity could be lost, since a buyer will not likely return to the store after leaving empty-handed. So while customers are typically in the mood to shop, if they don't see something they like on the shelves, the sale won't happen. "Most people are oriented toward buying something," Ottina says, "so it's quite important to have 100 percent availability."

Every piece of merchandise sold in the Shop of the Italian Pavilion is fitted with a UHF RFID label made with an NXP Ucode G2iL chip.
Because of the wide variety of merchandise, from pasta to wines and other souvenirs, as well as the high volume of sales, restocking shelves daily or weekly takes hours of effort to complete. To make this process more manageable, H&S Custom developed an RFID system in which every item—ranging from a €1 ($1.13)pen to a high-value product—is tracked via an EPC Gen 2 passive UHF RFID tag from the time it arrives at the store until it leaves in the hands of a customer.

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