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Observations from NRF's Big Show 2019, Part II

RFID companies showed off some impressive solutions, rather than just products.
By Mark Roberti
Tags: Retail
SML Group: The label and retail software provider has been on a roll lately. It showed off its Clarity software, which is being used by retailers around the world to manage store inventory, replenishment and other operational tasks, as well as its new GB5U8 RFID inlay. Measuring 42 millimeters by 24 millimeters, the GB5U8 is designed for item-level inventory management and loss prevention, and can be used for such retail market segments as apparel, accessories, cosmetics, eyewear, homeware and sporting goods (see SML RFID Intros New Inlay for Inventory Management, Loss Prevention).

SML also announced that fashion retailer Matalan has deployed SML's Clarity RFID solution across all 220 of its stores in the United Kingdom to enhance its inventory accuracy and deliver on the omnichannel model to improve the shopping experience. In-store staff members will be able to provide a better customer experience by using real-time stock enquiry and search-find functionalities. The system utilizes more than 900 handheld terminals from Zebra Technologies, with an Android touch computer across the estate, and the data is stored in Microsoft's Azure Cloud platform.

Smartrac: The UHF and NFC label and software provider displayed a variety of its RFID labels for different applications. Most impressive was a demonstration by one of its customers. Swiss outdoor brand Mammut showed a backpack and winter ski jacket with embedded NFC transponders from Smartrac and a dedicated smartphone app, known as Mammut Connect. When the smartphone is tapped on a product's NFC touch point, it delivers digital content and services to customers throughout the product's lifetime, while also supporting retail channels with in-depth product information to enhance the sales process.

Zebra Technologies: The handheld, fixed and overhead RFID reader maker displayed a fully integrated BOPIS solution with RFID-enabled lockers. For the demo, a Zebra employee took inventory of a shelf full of T-shirts of varying colors and sizes. A visitor to the booth was asked to "buy" an item via a smartphone app. The "store associate" quickly found the item using the Zebra handheld unit's Geiger counter function, which makes the unit beep more quickly as it gets closer to the RFID tag of the item in question.

Once located, that item is tagged with a second RFID tag containing the order information. When the tag is interrogated via a locker fixture with an embedded RFID reader, the system accesses the cloud and checks the dimensions of the item purchased, after which an appropriate-sized locker opens. An employee can then put the item inside the locker and close it, and the customer who bought the item can either wave an RFID-enabled loyalty card in front of the locker's reader or scan a QR code delivered via a smartphone app. The locker containing that person's item opens automatically, and he or she can retrieve his or her purchase.

As NRF's Big Show clearly demonstrated, the RFID industry is moving toward providing solutions that solve problems for retailers and others. In my opinion, this is a healthy sign.

Mark Roberti is the founder and editor of RFID Journal.

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