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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

As an item is removed from the shelf, the pusher slides forward, exposing an additional RFID tag—one tag would typically represent one item removed. This data, captured by the reader, is updated to the software, which can also forward alerts indicating that a shelf needs to be replenished from the back store room, or reordered from suppliers. Personnel can receive that information in the software, or via e-mail or text message, and respond accordingly.

The system is also being used for theft prevention, Pellegrino reports. Thieves often sweep through a store, grabbing multiple high-value items from a shelf at a time, and then exit the building before the surveillance system or security personnel have time to respond. The Smart Shelf can detect if multiple items are removed from a shelf simultaneously, and thus trigger an alert to security personnel. That data can then be coupled with video surveillance for that part of the store, enabling security to view on camera who may have removed the items, as well as whether the intention appears to be theft. They can then intercept the individual before he or she reaches the exit.

Typically, says Don Taylor, NeWave's business-development VP, supermarket shelf sections measure 4 feet wide and accommodate five to seven shelves apiece. A single Nobel reader with 16 Wave antennas can provide RFID visibility to all shelves within four sections. "A great deal of research was done to determine the optimal RFID tag to enable our solution," Taylor says, though he does not indicate which tags have been selected.

Since the proof-of-concept was completed in 2016 with the tobacco company and convenience stores, Taylor says, "We are now actually in the beta phase, the first step of which began in early April." The retailer and tobacco company are currently evaluating the procedures to deploy the system across a large number of stores. Testing and data analysis will continue through the third quarter of this year.

In the meantime, another company based in Europe is expected to begin piloting the solution as well next month. NeWave demonstrated its new solution at RFID Journal LIVE! 2017, held earlier this month in Phoenix, Ariz.

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