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An RFID Partnership Overshadows a Major Acquisition

A complete solution could propel the retail sector toward mass adoption.
By Mark Roberti

The Checkpoint-Mojix partnership is significant because the two companies can go to market with a complete solution for retailers. In 2008, Mojix introduced the first overhead RFID reader system designed to track items in large areas from great distances. That year, Checkpoint, a company that provided mainly electronic article surveillance (EAS) technology to reduce shrink in retail stores, purchased OATSystems for an undisclosed sum. OAT was a leading provider of enterprise software that could manage RFID data.

The OAT Foundation Suite was designed to help retailers manage inventory based on the RFID data they collect, and to let them set up and enact business rules based on that information. The suite includes Mobile Asset Tracking and Electronic Proof of Delivery, which can be used in distribution centers to track the receipt or shipment of pallets and cases of goods. The OATSystems product can, for instance, automatically trigger an advance shipping notice—or, in the event a shipment is late, it can trigger alerts informing the retailer of the delivery delays.

Checkpoint has transitioned from a provider of EAS systems to a company that provides RFID-based visibility solutions for retailers. It won a major deal to outfit Kohl's department stores with RFID technology (see Kohl's Rolls Out RFID for Select Product Categories at Its Stores). Checkpoint has developed its own overhead RFID reader, based on technology acquired from a startup called Wirama, but that reader is designed mainly for theft prevention at exits. By partnering with Mojix, Checkpoint has positioned itself to offer retailers a complete solution: hardware, software and deployment services. This is important because technology buyers generally do not want to buy readers from one company and software from another, and hire yet another firm to put the system together (tags are largely reliable and are readily available from any number of sources).

It's not clear whether the market will embrace the complete Checkpoint-Mojix solution, but if it does, and the partnership leads to a succession of contracts with major retailers, the two companies could emerge as the go-to companies for retail solutions—the "gorilla," in the parlance of Geoffrey Moore, author of Crossing the Chasm and other books on technology adoption. Once a gorilla emerges, the market will quickly reach critical mass, as retailers follow the crowd and deploy the gorilla's solution.

Even if the Checkpoint-Mojix partnership does not have a series of quick wins among retailers, the partnership will put pressure on other hardware and software companies to join forces to offer competing solutions. That's good for retailers, because complete solutions reduce deployment risk.

The whole product is one of the last pieces of the puzzle required to achieve mass adoption of RFID in the retail sector. The Checkpoint-Mojix partnership moves that market a step closer. When one solution emerges as the winner, adoption will take off.

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