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METRO Unveils Warehouse-to-Checkout RFID System

German retailer METRO launched an RFID system at a high-end retail store in Essen, Germany, that fully integrates the most talked about retail RFID applications, including supply chain visibility, smart shelves and mirrors, and point-of-sale. It is truly an end-to-end retail deployment, all based on Gen2 and related EPCglobal standards.
Sep 21, 2007This article was originally published by RFID Update.

September 21, 2007—German retailer METRO yesterday further cemented its position as the most pioneering retail RFID adopter in Europe -- and arguably the world. Working with RFID solutions provider Checkpoint Systems, Gen2 chip and reader manufacturer Impinj, and RFID network infrastructure provider Reva Systems, METRO has deployed an RFID system at its Galeria Kaufhof high-end retail store in Essen, Germany, that fully integrates the most talked-about RFID retail applications, including item-level tagging, supply chain visibility, back room inventory visibility, smart shelves, smart mirrors, point of sale (POS), and theft prevention. It is truly an end-to-end retail deployment, all based on Gen2 and related EPCglobal RFID standards.

One end of the deployment begins at METRO's distribution center in Neuss, where tagged goods bound for the Kaufhof store are read as they are packed, as they pass down a conveyor, and as they are shipped out through a dock door. The goods are read again upon delivery at receiving portals at the back of the Kaufhof store, and again as they pass from the back room to the store floor. For the moment, the deployment is focused on men's apparel.

It is the store floor where the deployment really shines. RFID readers are installed in walls, tables, and clothing racks of the men's department. In addition to providing METRO with data on store floor inventory in real-time, the readers enable a number of consumer-facing applications that METRO hopes will both wow customers and make their buying experience richer and more convenient.

The RFID tables are hooked up to an accompanying flat screen, which displays what sizes and styles are immediately available on that table. The RFID mirrors detect which garment the customer is wearing or holding and offer recommendations for complementary items. At in-aisle kiosks, customers can wave tagged garments to see more product information.

There are also security gates that combine RFID with standard EAS (electronic article surveillance) at entry/exit points to the store.

Finally, readers at the checkout counters scan items as they are bought, representing the final point in the end-to-end deployment.

All told, about 65 readers are deployed. Roughly 60 of them are Impinj's Speedway fixed readers, while the remaining half-dozen are skeye.integral handhelds from Germany's Höft & Wessel. The handhelds allow store staff to locate tagged items and do store floor inventory checks.

All of the tags are based on Impinj Monza chips, converted into tag inlays by UPM Raflatac.

Checkpoint supplied dock-door portals, EAS/RFID security gates, a number of RFID reader antennas, and integration services.

Two Tag Acquisition Processors (TAP) from Reva were deployed at the store, with another two TAPs at the Neuss DC. Reva's TAP product allows METRO to centrally manage the dozens of distributed readers. It also collects, filters, and cleans the flow of reader-generated data, which it integrates with METRO's existing applications and back-office systems.

The deployment is the first of its kind to incorporate the full range of EPCglobal standards: Gen2; low level reader protocol (LLRP) for interfacing with the readers; application level events (ALE) for obtaining and formatting RFID-generated data; and EPCIS for data transfer and sharing.

METRO has two overarching goals with this initiative, one aimed at improving its top line, the other its understanding of shopping processes and patterns. By improving the customer experience with smart recommendations, reduced out-of-stocks, and enhanced browsing, the company hopes to affect a sales lift at Kaufhof. By obtaining in-store visibility of its inventory, the company hopes to understand, map, and refine the process products go through from the moment they hit the store floor to the moment they are purchased.

"The business benefit to us as retailers is that an end-to-end RFID infrastructure at the item level can fill the data void that exists between products being received and products being sold," Dr. Christian Plenge, head of research and innovation of MGI METRO Group Information Technology, was quoted in the release. "We can now see products also in those steps of our process chain which so far weren't illuminated by the inventory management system."
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