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Company Fetches Canine Shoppers With RFID

The BarkShop Live popup store in New York is featuring UHF RFID tags on toys and readers on vests worn by dogs, letting humans use their smartphones to view which toys their pets like the most.
By Claire Swedberg
Jun 06, 2016

Bark & Co., a provider of toys, treats, services and events for dogs and their owners, is testing an RFID-enabled popup store this week in New York City. Dubbed BarkShop Live, the store uses RFID technology designed to take shopping decisions out of the hands of dog owners and put them into the paws of their canine friends.

The popup, which will only operate for seven days (June 6-12), is an experiment for Bark & Co. Depending on the popup store's popularity, the number of visitors that it receives, the purchases made and the excitement expressed by shoppers, the company could opt to launch similar events in New York or other cities.

At the BarkShop Live popup, each dog wears a vest with a built-in battery-powered RFID reader, as well as a passive UHF RFID tag encoded with an ID number.
"At Bark & Co., we try to do everything from the dog's-eye view," says Andras "Sly" Szalai, the art and technology lead at BarkShop Live. "It comes from our constant desire to know more about how our dogs see the world—and what makes them happiest."

Andras "Sly" Szalai, BarkShop Live's art and technology lead
To shop at the popup store, a dog owner first visits the BarkShop Live website to schedule a half-hour time slot and buy a ticket. The ticket's $30 cost can be applied toward the purchase of any products during that person's visit to the store.

The store, located at 3 Howard St. in downtown Manhattan, includes an open play area for the dogs, filled with a variety of toys that Bark & Co. sells through its BarkShop website. Every toy contains a ruggedized, washable passive EPC Gen 2 ultrahigh-frequency (UHF) RFID tag, each encoded with a unique ID number linked to that item in Bark & Co.'s software, which resides on its own server and was developed by the company.

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