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More Reflections on NRF

RFID solution providers showed off some cool applications that deliver real value.
By Mark Roberti
Jan 31, 2016

Last week, I wrote about my impressions of the state of radio frequency identification in the broad retail market, based on what I saw at the Big Show, the National Retail Federation's annual trade show (see Reflections on RFID and NRF's Big Show). This week, I'd like to share what I witnessed at the booths of some of the RFID solution providers exhibiting at the event.

The Big Show's focus was mainly on apparel retail. One highlight was an interactive dressing-room mirror developed by Oak Labs. Avery Dennison had the mirror at its booth, which offered attendees the opportunity to experience how RFID triggers the mirror and allows a customer interested in a garment to view what other sizes and colors are available, see related items, and request a different size or any one of the suggested accessories.

I had a chance to visit the Polo Ralph Lauren store with Dr. Bill Hardgrave and several of his colleagues from Auburn University's RFID Lab. The store has eight dressing rooms with Oak Labs' interactive mirror (see Polo Ralph Lauren Store Gets Smart Fitting Rooms). A store associate walked us through the features and said the system was working well, and that customers frequently used it.

Tyco Retail Solutions featured a solution from Kurt Salmon Digital at its booth. The company showed how the technology could be integrated with Tyco's TrueVue software to provide analytics about which items were tried on and which ones were purchased.

Intel exhibited its Intel Retail Sensor Platform, an overhead reader system designed to make installing an RFID system within a store less expensive and complex. Intel has outsourced the manufacturing of the units to Microelectronics Technology, Inc. (MTI) of Taiwan, and is allowing RFID solution providers to license the technology and market it under their own brand name.

Impinj had several cool demonstrations with partners at its booth. These included an interactive product display in which a consumer could view information about an item and push it to his or her mobile device; a smart fitting room; shopper analytics that integrate item information with video data to build a more complete picture of a shopper's journey through a store; and Impinj's always-on overhead readers, which provide real-time item inventory accuracy, product location and insights regarding merchandise flow and product availability.

Many of the companies that have been delivering solutions to apparel retailers are looking beyond that market to new retail categories. Smartrac exhibited several new RFID transponders designed for retail applications. Its Accessory inlay measures 33 millimeters by 18 millimeters (1.3 inches by 0.7 inch), so it an be used for small-size hangtags for accessory labels, or be attached to small cosmetic items. Its Bling inlays measure just 25 millimeters by 15 millimeters (1.0 inch by 0.6 inch) and are designed for jewelry labels.

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