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Thomas Pink Piloting IoT System With RFID and Cameras to Manage Inventory, Traffic

The solution, from BT Global Services, enables the use of multiple technologies under the single Acuitas Digital Alliance store platform to manage the inventory of men's shirts, as well as the movement of customer and sales staff traffic around that merchandise.
By Claire Swedberg

Thomas Pink's store management can view that location-based data regarding each tagged item moving around its store, and respond accordingly. The software is not integrated with Thomas Pink's management software; however, Wolf says, such deployments are available to customers.

For the Thomas Pink pilot, tags (provided by NexGen Packaging) are applied to specific men's shirt stock-keeping units (SKUs) when they arrive at the Wall Street site. The unique ID number encoded on each tag is linked with that specific product's SKU and is stored in the SATO software. The shirts are then displayed on the sales floor or stored in the back room.

The location data provides a variety of features, not all of which are yet in use by Thomas Pink. For instance, Wolf says, the read data can identify in which zone a particular tag is located, as well as when it is moved to a fitting room, if it has remained in the wrong zone or in the fitting room for a specified amount of time, and if it leaves the store without being purchased. "Over the first few days after an installation," Wolf states, "retailers find they can get a near-100 percent accurate inventory in real time."

SATO software enables users to view a hierarchy of data feeds from the RFID system, based on importance. For instance, if an RFID tagged item were in a fitting room and a request had been made via a touchscreen from that fitting room for another item, that request would take priority for a sales associate using an Acuitas Digital Alliance app on a tablet or smartphone. If a shelf were empty or a product were placed in the wrong zone, that data would be presented in a less urgent category.

Currently, however, Thomas Pink's goal is to utilize the RetailNext data solely to view traffic patterns, and RFID technology only to test the capture of inventory-based information. In this way, the store hopes to use RFID to ensure that products are available on the shelf, and to understand when specific areas of the store are being visited more or less often, based on the RetailNext data.

The Thomas Pink deployment is a first of its kind for BT, Wolf says, since it employs fixed RFID readers rather than handheld models, providing real-time RFID tag-movement data, and also incorporates data from camera-based sensors. "This is an important deployment," he states.

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