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Organic Clothing Retailer Makes Shopping Personal

Clothing for a Better Earth is using an RFID-enabled iPod and EPC Gen 2 tags to link customers with products they might like, as well as track shoppers and goods throughout its store.
By Claire Swedberg
Jan 25, 2010Clothing for a Better Earth, a New York retailer specializing in eco-friendly garments, has opened its doors as a showcase for RFID technology, providing customers with the kind of shopping experience—such as tracking purchasing preferences and making recommendations—currently available only on the Internet. The store has a temporary home in Carousel Center, a mall being developed by Destiny USA, in Syracuse, N.Y.

The system is provided by Destiny USA, and the company hopes to offer it to many other new stores opening within the eight-story shopping complex as well. It incorporates two types of RFID technology: active ultra-wideband (UWB) tags and readers provided by Time Domain Corp., known as the Precision Location Ultra Wideband System (PLUS), and an ultrahigh-frequency (UHF) RFID system with Avery Dennison passive tags and Impinj interrogators. The Destiny USA Technology Platform ties these two systems together using a software platform provided by New York software firm Terakeet.

Clothing for a Better Earth's store in Carousel Center

With its RFID deployment, Clothing for a Better Earth is also serving as a showcase for what the technology can do, and has invited other retailers to come take a look and consider how they could use RFID within their own space. The goal, says Pat Danial, Terakeet's chief technology officer and co-founder, is to provide the system at numerous stores within the Carousel Center, part of a 1.3 million-square-foot mall complex under construction.

Clothing for a Better Earth, a new company that offers apparel made from natural, organic fibers, opened its first branch at a temporary 1,100-square-foot location in an open-air section of the mall, while a new area is being constructed, explains Frank Fiumano, the retailer's general manager. The store opened last year on so-called Black Friday—the day after Thanksgiving. With RFID, shoppers can track their own purchases, as well as learn about other products they might consider buying, and the store can gain data regarding shopper behavior, while also tracking its own inventory.

One of eight Time Domain RFID antennas deployed above the sales floor
One part of the system, provided by Time Domain, utilizes active UWB technology. Upon entering the store, customers are offered an iPod Touch with an active Time Domain RFID tag attached to its case. The sales staff explain the system, and also describe the organic products sold in the store. They then input two basic pieces of information into the iPod—the visitor's gender and approximate age—and hand the device to the customer, who can then simply carry the phone without providing any further information. In that case, the system recognizes when the shopper approaches a specific location of the store, and provides age- and gender-specific content to the phone.

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