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Schuitema Tests NFC Phones in a C1000 Grocery Store

The Dutch retailer gave RFID-enabled phones to 100 customers, who use the devices to receive deposits from bottle-return machines, make charitable donations and pay for purchases.
By Claire Swedberg
Sep 10, 2007One hundred consumers who shop at the C1000 grocery store in Molenaarsgraaf, the Netherlands, have begun paying for transactions with mobile phones equipped with Near Field Communications (NFC) RFID chips. The group is participating in a six-month pilot conducted by Schuitema, the nation's second largest retail chain, which—in an effort to improve efficiency at the checkout counter—is testing RFID in one of its 450 C1000 stores.

The pilot began in mid-August and will run through February 2008. This, says Rover van Mierlo, Schuitema's director of central logistics and research and development, is the first step toward gauging how the use of NFC technology in mobile phones can speed transactions at the point of sale. Van Mierlo says Schuitema intends to share the results of the pilot with Dutch banks and merchants, including C1000's competitors.

Rover van Mierlo
In the Molenaarsgraaf store, RFID interrogators have been added to checkout terminals, a machine that accepts empty returnable bottles and kiosks used by consumers to make charitable donations. For the pilot, the store provided 100 of its customers with free NFC-enabled telephones from Samsung.

Participants can use the phones to pay for purchases and carry out other financial transactions at the store. The phones have an embedded 13.56 MHz NFC RFID module and were provided by telephone services company KPN and Rabobank Group, which also supplied financial services and an interface between the store and Rabobank's accounts.

A participant inserts bottles, one at a time, through a receptacle in the bottle-return machine, which counts them and totals up the deposits to be refunded. The consumer then places the NFC-enabled phone next to the machine's, interrogator, which captures the unique ID number on the phone's NFC module. Using LogicaCMG software, the phone displays the total deposit refund the customer has earned.

After completing the bottle-return transaction, pilot participants can present their phones to an RFID-enabled kiosk that accepts donations directly from the bottle-return balance. If they choose to donate, proceeds go to a charity for Ukrainian children. The kiosk's interrogator captures the phone's unique RFID ID number and lets a user specify a donation amount, which it withdraws directly from the balance. The kiosk can also deposit the balance directly into the participant's Rabobank account, rather than donating it to charity. A third alternative is for a customer to finish shopping and use the balance to defray the cost of groceries.

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