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Portuguese Book Megastore Deploys Item-Level RFID System

At its new store, Byblos is applying EPC Gen 2 tags to 250,000 books, games and videos to help customers locate and learn about their products, and to provide inventory and security applications.
By Claire Swedberg
Jan 17, 2008Portuguese book retailer Byblos has deployed an item-level RFID system in its new Lisbon store, Byblos Amoreiras, to track 250,000 books, games and videos. Byblos opened the 50,000-square-foot store for the Christmas shopping season with what Byblos COO Rui Gaspar calls the best technology available to enhance customer experience. The store, the largest in Portugal, claims to sell every book printed in Portugal.

The system includes 40 RFID-enabled kiosks where customers can learn about books and print out their sales-floor location. It also incorporates RFID security gates that sound an alarm if a tagged product is taken out of the store without being purchased, as well as 14 RFID point-of-sale (POS) reading stations. This system—which the company and its technology suppliers describe as the world's largest item-level RFID retail deployment—will enable the tracking of more than 50,000 books in the back room and about 200,000 books and other items on the sales floor. "The Byblos vision is to create the best possible experience to the visiting customer," Gaspar says, "giving complete, fast and accurate information [about] where his or her books are."

João Vilaça
System developer and systems integrator Creativesystems provided the system using Vue Technology's TrueVUE RFID Platform. The software suite incorporates TrueVUE Site Manager, which captures all read events and manages the interrogators, and TrueVUE Essentials, which enables the store and its customers to employ RFID data for a variety of uses, such as locating books and tracking inventory.

When books or other items arrive at Byblos, employees use five Creativesystems check-in stations equipped with bar-code scanners and Avery Dennison RFID printer-encoders. They first scan the International Standard Book Number (ISBN), printed in bar-code form on a book's back cover. The ISBN is linked to the item's title, author and description in the store's ERP system. The item is then assigned an Electronic Product Code (EPC) number, using TrueVUE EPC commissioning software, and the employee prints and encodes an Avery Dennison RFID label containing an Alien Technology Squiggle EPC Gen 2 passive UHF inlay. Measuring 1 inch by 3 inches, the label was custom-made to be small enough to fit properly on the items.

If a book or other item is moved to the back storage room, about 15 by 5 meters in size, it passes through an Alien RFID portal, which captures the unique EPC encoded to the item's tag and sends that number, along with its own ID and the date and time, to the store's ERP system. Integration to the ERP system is provided by Tecnidata Grupo.

If an item is transferred to a shelf, the RFID number connected to that shelf (all shelf locations are identified by means of labels containing Alien Squiggle RFID inlays) is linked with the item's EPC number during twice-daily inventory checks performed by store employees with Nordic ID handheld RFID interrogators. The devices transmit data via a wireless connection to the company's ERP system.

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