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RFID Reading Robot Automates Decathlon Store's Inventory Management

The company's flagship sporting goods store, located in San Francisco, is leveraging Simbe Robotics' Tally robot to automate inventory counts, locate missing products and enable analytics about products of interest, while RFID readers at the door help to prevent loss.
By Claire Swedberg

In addition, Leon says, the robot adds some entertainment to the environment. He notes that Tally has received positive attention from customers as well. "Tally offers a fun conversation topic," he says, "as our customers observe the inventory process in action." Whether or not customers are in the store, he says, Tally "moves seamlessly around the store taking a methodical, accurate count of our inventory, allowing our staff to spend more time engaging with our customers, answering questions and providing a positive customer experience."

At existing stores throughout Europe and Asia, Decathlon's store associates utilize handheld RFID reader wands, which they carry through clothing racks and shelves to capture RFID tag reads. Such reads, however, cannot be conducted as often as Tally is currently intended to accomplish.

At the San Francisco store, Decathlon is using fixed RFID readers to interrogate the tags of any items that might leave the store. "We're able to activate the RFID tags to ring [sound an alert at] a security gateway if a product was not purchased," Leon explains. The tags of purchased items would be switched off at the point of sale, so only tags that had not undergone that process would trigger an RFID tag read and a resultant alert at the doorway.

In spring 2019, Decathlon plans to open another store in Emeryville, Calif. That store will have a much larger footprint than the San Francisco flagship location, the company reports, at 50,000 square feet.

The Tally robot uses RFID to track inventory at a variety of companies, Bogolea says, and each deployment poses its own challenges. "Every RFID environment we get into is a little different," he states. "What we find is there is greater differences in the types of products that are tagged, as well as fixtures [such as shelving] and the size of the store."

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