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Zebra Launches RFID-enabled Overhead Sensor

The SmartSense for Retail system combines video, micro-locationing and radio frequency identification technologies to help retailers improve omnichannel fulfillment and reduce shrinkage.
By Mark Roberti

The in-ceiling devices run embedded software that provides some intelligence at the edge. The networked devices are connected to a physical or virtual server that aggregates and correlates the data collected from the multiple sensor inputs. Then, business analytics and reporting software provides data in a human-consumable form. An application programming interface (API) is also available, allowing retailers to write their own applications using the SmartSense data.

By combining video and RFID data, the system can alert personnel, for example, that someone is carrying 10 tagged items and heading toward an exit, rather than a checkout counter, which could mean he or she is attempting to steal those goods. This can help retailers to proactively prevent shrinkage.

The video analytics software also provides data regarding point-of-sale queues at stores.
The RFID system continuously reads tags. When the system is turned on at the start of each day, Bianculli says, the read rates are reasonably good within a few seconds. But as the solution continues to ping tags, he notes—and as staff members and customers interact with inventory—accuracy improves to the point at which it can exceed 99 percent. According to Bianculli, the technology is designed to provide departmental- or zone-level accuracy.

"The killer app, in the beginning, is knowing where your RFID inventory is, and optimizing labor and directing them to replenish, fulfill online orders and so on," Bianculli states. "There will be additional applications that could be very important down the road." One, he believes, is loss prevention, while another is delivering a more personalized shopping experience to customers in stores, using contextualized information.

Bianculli declines to provide pricing information, noting that the cost for a retailer depends on a wide variety of available options. Smartsense is now available for deployment in North America and Europe.

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