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Observations from NRF's Big Show, Part 2

RFID solution providers showed off some "secondary" retail applications.
By Mark Roberti

Smartrac Technologies showed off a fascinating application for brand owners. Purchasers of, say, running shoes could use their smartphone to scan a Near Field Communication (NFC) tag or QR code on an item, and then scan a billboard from the company, located anywhere in the country, to obtain special deals on new products or services, or information about sporting events in the city. Another application involved a store shelf with an embedded RFID reader. When a customer places an item on the shelf, a screen displays a large image of the item, along with information about that product.

Zebra Technologies' booth had a number of interesting demonstrations, developed by its partners and by Zebra (which has now incorporated Morotola Solutions' enterprise business) itself. A company called Uberall showed an application that used temperature sensors and StickNFind beacons to monitor goods in the supply chain and in the store, and to provide that information to retailers via a cloud-based solution.

Another application involved displaying information to customers at a wine store. Zebra used Bluetooth Low-Energy (BLE) beacons to determine that a customer was in front of a large display. Using Zebra's Zatar cloud-based Internet of Things platform, the store could display information that might appeal to that specific customer, based on profile information. If the customer placed a bottle of wine with an NFC tag on a pedestal, the system showed information about that wine, but tailored other information, such as things that go well with the beverage, to the customer. It might, for example, display a cigar to male customers and chocolates to female shoppers.

Most of these applications are not particularly new. I've seen demonstrations of most of them in one form or another for several years. But they were new for most attendees at NRF, who are just beginning to focus on RFID. And I think what many retailers strolling through these exhibits found appealing is that RFID can do more than just improve inventory accuracy and store execution—it can enhance the customer experience in myriad ways. The real competitive advantage of RFID will not be in improved inventory accuracy, but in the other ways in which retailers can take advantage of the technology.

Mark Roberti is the founder and editor of RFID Journal. If you would like to comment on this article, click on the link below. To read more of Mark's opinions, visit the RFID Journal Blog, the Editor's Note archive or RFID Connect.

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