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New RFID Shield Installs Like Wallpaper
Retailers can apply Avery Dennison's ShieldSense RFID Blocking Material to walls, barriers or other surfaces where stray RFID reads could occur, simply by peeling off the back and rolling it out.
Apr 29, 2019—
Several large retailers have deployed a new RF shielding solution from Avery Dennison that can be applied to walls, doors and barriers like wallpaper, thereby isolating RFID tag reads to specific areas. With the product, known as ShieldSense RFID Blocking Material, companies can identify whether tagged goods are in a store's front area or back room, or in a specific fitting room, as well as combat shrinkage, by identifying where tags were last detected. The product is designed for UHF RFID transmissions, but can also isolate HF and NFC transmissions.
Avery Dennison designed the RFID Blocking Material as an affordable solution to prevent stray RFID tag reads, one that can be easily installed without requiring staples or other attachments, says Chris Blackwell, Avery Dennison's product manager of electronics and printing and packaging. The technology is already in use at more than 1,000 stores throughout the United States and Europe, while Avery Dennison is currently in discussions with other retailers, as well as companies in other sectors, such as aerospace and automotive.
The first deployments in retail are aimed at reducing shrinkage and improving inventory accuracy. "A lot of retailers are trying to gain greater control over inventory," Blackwell explains, beyond a basic count of units on the store premises. In fact, he says, retailers using RFID often want a better sense not only of where inventory is located, but also where it isn't.
Stores utilizing RFID technology for inventory management employ either overhead readers that capture all tags within a specified area or zone, or handheld readers operated by sales personnel to conduct periodic inventory counts. In either case, Blackwell says, the isolation of reads to a particular area can be challenging. For instance, goods may be stacked against both sides of a wall separating the stock room from the store front. Thus, if a sales associate were attempting to read tags on the sales floor only, he or she might inadvertently capture reads from the products on the other side of the wall, in the stock room.
Such errors can mean that replenishment would not occur when it should, and that merchandise would not be available for customers even if the RFID data seemed to indicate it was. Stray reads are a problem not just in retail, though—manufacturers, logistics providers and companies in other sectors have been challenged with preventing the reading of tags that should not be interrogated but are located within range of a reader.
To resolve this problem, some companies in the past have relied on software to identify and filter out stray reads. However, Blackwell notes, that can be expensive. "If you're on a budget," he states, "that wouldn't be your best choice." Others have created their own shielding with aluminum sheets that they purchase and mount, but the shortcoming there is the installation costs. Since the sheets are not designed for that specific use case, they may need to be cut, the reader infrastructure may need to be removed prior to their installation, and fasteners or screws might be necessary, which could create a hole through which RF signals could still leak.
Avery Dennison was well poised to offer an easier alternative, Blackwell says, since it specializes in RFID and makes the materials necessary for shielding, as well as for adhering that shielding to reader portals, walls or barriers. ShieldSense is a 2- or 5-mil-thick (a mil is a measurement that equals 0.001 inch, or 0.0254 millimeter) aluminum foil that is available in 30-yard rolls. The width is available at between 4 and 54 inches, and the roll size can be modified to accommodate an end user's installation requirements—for instance, ensuring rolls aren't too heavy for installers to safely left them to certain heights.
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