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Intel Unveils RFID System for Retailers

Levi Strauss has been piloting the Intel Retail Sensor Platform—designed to make RFID deployments easier and provide real-time inventory data—at one of its stores.
By Claire Swedberg

Prior to launching the Retail Sensor Platform, the company evaluated the RFID reader and the adoption landscape. "We've looked at why RFID hasn't scaled, especially in the retail sector," Gutwein states. With RFID tags being applied to a growing number of items in order to track products in the supply chain, he notes, retailers could serve to benefit from those tags by reducing their own out-of-stocks and understanding their inventory levels onsite.

Intel determined that deployment of fixed solutions to track tagged goods within a store or back room required too much infrastructure installation for some retailers, as well as software integration. To address that issue, the firm developed a reader that uses power-over-Ethernet (PoE) and can be attached to a wall or ceiling. The readers are designed to provide "intelligence at the edge," Gutwein says, by capturing the read data and conducting pre-set analytics, such as identifying only when a tag is being moved, and then transmitting that event data back to the Intel Gateway, which manages the collected read data and forwards it to a server.

At the Levi's Plaza store, each garment is fitted with an RFID hangtag.
The data is then managed by Smartrac software. "Through our cloud platform, we are able to take the sensory data from the smart sensor and sensor network and pull that into the cloud," explained Leonard Nelson, Smartrac's director of product development, in the Intel video. "We take that data and those events and translate that data into insight and information, and that insight goes to the executive team at Levi Strauss & Co., it goes to the in-store stylist, it goes to the supply chain."

The quantity of readers per gateway could be considerably higher than the 21 installed at the Levi's Plaza store, Gutwein says, though most stores would require only a single gateway. Intel is also providing an open API that a retailer's software integrator can use to develop an RFID data-management system that could integrate into a store's existing inventory software.

Intel's Daniel Gutwein
The solution is intended to make it faster and less expensive to install a system that tracks goods in real time, compared with the installation of traditional RFID readers. But that data is just the beginning of what retailers can collect with the Gateway, he says.

"RFID is just another sensor to me," Gutwein says. Readers provide one key piece of information: where products are and where they've been. He adds that RFID data could be linked to information from other systems—such as video-based analytics regarding the movement of customer traffic, or data derived from Bluetooth beacons—to provide predictive intelligence.

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