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German Clothing Retailer Adler Gives RFID Robots a Spin

The company is among several retailers that are using MetraLabs' new Tory robotic system to automatically count inventory and record merchandise locations within its stores.
By Claire Swedberg

There can be a virtually unlimited number of routes or areas per store, Reuther says, but a full inventory run will typically be the most commonly used route. Other routes could include a certain merchandise family or an area of the store for specific inventory counts.

The robot can travel at speeds of up to 1 meter (3.3 feet) per second, but that speed can be adjusted during inventory counts according to the density of RFID tags and the activity within the area (for instance, the presence of shoppers and store personnel). Typically, Tory can read tags located as far away as 8 meters (26.2 feet), at a rate of up to 250 tags per second. Its built-in memory can store more than one million tag reads. The robot forwards data to a server via a Wi-Fi or wired connection.

MetraLabs software, which resides on the retailer's database, stores information regarding the inventory that should be located at each store shelf or rack. If the robot fails to capture the tag IDs of items expected to be found at a certain location, the machine can return to that section and perform another reading. It can also circle back for a second read in areas where tagged items are very densely packed together, making the likelihood of a missed tag read high. The robot can then forward data indicating which items are missing, via a Wi-Fi connection. These options are dependent on the retailer's actual requirements. "Our software serves to interface Tory's data output—tag EPCs, timestamps and spatial locations of tags—with the ERP [enterprise resource planning] system of the retailer."

The robot accomplishes its inventory-counting tasks about 10 times faster than would be possible via a manual count with a handheld reader, Trabert says, based on user trials performed with retailers.

In addition to using the robot to track inventory, Leitz reports, Adler also plans to test RFID technology with intelligent changing rooms. Such a system would identify clothes being carried into the fitting room, and would display data about those items by reading each garment's RFID tag. "We are planning to install intelligent changing rooms in selected markets [stores] in the course of 2016," he says.

MetraLabs will be attending this year's RFID Journal LIVE! conference and exhibition, to be held on May 3-5 in Orlando, Fla. At the event, the company will display the Tory robot at its booth (#1044) on the show floor.

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