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Retailer, Tobacco Brand Each Track Shelf Availability via RFID

The system, from NeWave, incorporates RFID tags on shelf pushers, as well as readers installed with the shelves to identify each pusher's position, and thus the quantity of product at that shelf location, thereby preventing out-of-stocks and helping to thwart shoplifting.
By Claire Swedberg
May 23, 2017

A tobacco company and a Canadian convenience store chain are beta-testing ultrahigh-frequency (UHF) radio frequency identification-based smart-shelf technology to track the stock of goods on store shelves. The Smart Shelf system, provided by NeWave Sensor Solutions, enables the convenience stores to track when cartons are removed from shelves and, therefore, need to be replenished, or when the number of cartons removed at once is suspicious. By using the technology, the tobacco company and the retailer can each view how products are selling, as well as when stock levels are low, without placing an RFID tag on every product.

The UHF RFID system from NeWave deploys built-in shelf pushers (spring-based mechanics that push products toward the front of the shelf as one in front is removed). With RFID tags on those pushers, NeWave's Nobel readers with Wave radiating antennas capture each tag's ID number as the tags become visible to the system, every time another product is removed and the shelf pusher moves forward.

NeWave's Don Taylor
NeWave developed its Smart Shelf technology in 2016 as a solution to help retailers and brands view which items are in stock on store-front shelves, without requiring the manual labor involved for store personnel or brand representatives to visually count each stock-keeping unit (SKU) on the shelf. The difference between this solution and other RFID smart-shelf systems, says John Pellegrino, NeWave's technical business development manager, is that users do not need to apply RFID tags to the products.

Traditionally, RFID-based smart-shelf systems include readers in or around shelves, which read the tag on each product placed on such a shelf. When a product is removed, the reader no longer reads its tag ID, and the software then determines that the item is going to be purchased and need to be replenished. However, tagging each product is still not cost-effective in some cases, NeWave explains, since each tag must be purchased, and the labor required to apply a tag to every product is an additional expense.

The Smart Shelf technology includes a single strip of RFID tags attached to each shelf pusher. When a pusher is positioned at the back of a shelf filled with products, a shield covers those items' tags. Only a single shelf identifier tag is readable. NeWave's software captures the tag ID associated with that shelf, and if no other tags attached to the pusher are visible, the cloud-based software interprets that data and displays, on a dashboard, that the specific SKU is fully stocked.

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