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Can RFID Protect Jewelry?
Is the technology effective for this use?
Well, no, not if you go by the strict definition of "protect"—which, according to Merriam-Webster, is "to cover or shield from exposure, injury, damage, or destruction." RFID can, however, reduce the incidence of shrinkage due to loss or theft.
Placing a small RFID tag on each individual jewelry item allows you to do two things. First, you can count many items very quickly. Second, you can track the location of those pieces, which makes it easier to figure out when they disappeared. You might even be able to determine who last controlled an item when it vanished.
Typically, companies buy jewelry items, place them in a secure area of their warehouse, and then ship them to stores when requested. Items can end up missing when picked from the warehouse, when packed for shipping to the store, when received at the store, when brought out to the sales floor or when shown to a customer.
So, let's say you have someone pick 50 items and place them in a tote, and then they read every tag to confirm that the 50 items were all in the tote when it was delivered to the shipping area. Then, just prior to shipping, the tags are read again. If only 40 items are interrogated when the jewelry shipment arrives at the store, then you know 10 items went missing in transit.
You could use an RFID-enabled lock on totes and cabinets to record who is handling the jewelry. Let's say I visit the warehouse to pick the items, and I enter the secure area by waving my RFID-enabled company ID badge. That records that I entered the area. I use a secure tote that only opens if an authorized company ID badge is scanned. Now I know who put the items inside. When the goods arrive at the store, an employee uses his or her badge to open the tote, and then uses his or her ID to open a glass display case on the retail floor. After placing all items within the case, the worker reads all of the tags and locks the case. Another employee later opens the case with his or her badge to show a customer some items. The pieces can be placed on an RFID-enabled mat that reads the tags. If the items are not all returned to the case or sold, an alert is sent to a store manager.
By interrogating the tags at each point, a company can confirm that the items were all handled properly. If pieces of jewelry end up missing, workers can then consult the records and determine who the last person was to open a case or tote before this occurred.
Here are some articles that you might find interesting:
—Mark Roberti, Founder and Editor, RFID Journal
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