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University of Arkansas Study Finds RFID Can Add Value to EAS

The researchers compared RFID-based theft-deterrent applications with traditional electronic article surveillance technologies, both RF and acousto-magnetic.
By Claire Swedberg
Mar 11, 2008The University of Arkansas' RFID Research Center has completed a research project to test the viability of RFID as an electronic article surveillance (EAS) technology for security in the apparel and footwear industry. The results, says Bill Hardgrave, director of the RFID Research Center, which is part of the Information Technology Research Center (ITRC), indicates that RFID works in theft-deterrent applications, as well as current EAS technologies. "It's a preliminary investigation of RFID as an EAS. We established the baseline tests using common EAS technologies to establish how well RFID works," Hardgrave says. A white paper describing the project and its results will be available free on the RFID Research Center's Web site in April, says Hardgrave.

The project included ADT's Sensormatic EAS division and Checkpoint Systems. The companies contributed EAS technology, as well as consulting services. Researchers tested both RF and acousto-magnetic (AM) EAS technologies, as well as EPC Gen 2 tags and readers from a variety of vendors. They compared the results and found that RFID and traditional EAS offered equivalent read rates.

"Overall, we were pleased with what we saw, but the research is far from over," Hardgrave says. He adds, however, that "RFID did well against [traditional] EAS."

EAS is a common shoplifting deterrent used in stores to sound an alarm or alert the staff when it senses tags that have not been deactivated at the point of sale. The difference with RFID, however, is the ability to display specific data about an item as it passes readers on the way out the door. In deployments where the RFID tags are already in use for tracking inventory, the store is alerted not just that items are being taken from the premises, but also what those items are and how many of them there are.

The center is now beginning testing at retail locations, both by simulating typical shoplifting scenarios using RFID portals and RFID tagged items in the store, and also tagging some items that shoppers will purchase to test in a real-world setting. That research will be completed at the end of summer 2008, Hardgrave says. He declined to name the participating retailers.

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