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Polo Ralph Lauren Store Gets Smart Fitting Rooms

The interactive fitting-room technology, provided by Oak Labs, is part of Ralph Lauren's adoption of RFID for customer-facing applications and inventory tracking.
By Claire Swedberg

The mirror offers six language options: English, Italian, Portuguese, Spanish, Mandarin and Japanese. If a user would like to try another garment or accessory that is recommended on the smart mirror display, he or she can select the appropriate prompt and the software will forward that request to a sales associate equipped with an Apple iPad running Lab Oaks' app. The app also displays the area of the store in which that specific item can be found.

The sales associate responds by sending a message back to the customer's smart mirror, and then fetches the requested item. That same employee also has the capability of completing a sales transaction with the customer using her or his iPad—a function that the store already offers, explains Healey Cypher, one of Oak Labs' co-founders. The shopper can use the smart mirror to indicate a desire to make a purchase, and an associate will then appear to ring up that order while the customer is still changing.

Oak Labs' Healey Cypher
The Fifth Avenue store opened in September 2014, but the company had already been attaching passive UHF RFID tags to Polo Ralph Lauren products, enabling it to use RFID to perform inventory counts and manage its supply chain. When the firm constructed the store last year, it was already preparing for further RFID technology use. Ethernet connections for the readers were installed in each fitting room, with RF shielding on every wall so that an RFID transmission in one fitting room would not spill beyond its walls into another.

Oak Labs was founded approximately six months ago, Cypher says, to provide RFID-enabled smart fitting room technology to retailers. He previously served as eBay's enterprise group head of retail innovation, and last year led the deployment of touchscreen RFID-enabled smart mirrors in fitting rooms for New York clothing store Rebecca Minkoff (see Rebecca Minkoff Store Uses RFID to Provide an Immersive Experience).

Cypher says he and his three fellow co-founders began researching and developing the smart mirror now in use at the Polo Ralph Lauren store, based on his early experience at eBay. He says he traveled to Germany to meet with Avery Dennison at its Avery Design and Innovation Center, in Sprockhövel, where he was impressed with the variety of ways in which radio frequency identification can now be implemented based on new tag form factors, as well as the interest in RFID he observed from visiting retailers. "What I saw was that this [technology] is more than just a supply chain thing," he states.

That enthusiasm from retailers, Cypher says, was part of what convinced him that the time was right for Oak Labs' smart-mirror product. "I think, if we had done this one or two years ago, we would have failed [to see enough demand from retailers]," Cypher says, whereas now, he adds, current interest expressed by stores and consumers is such that the company's products will be well received.

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