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New Retail Kiosk Enables RFID-based Sales

Stora Enso's Intelligent Cabinet features an RFID reader and an antenna to capture the unique ID numbers of tagged goods, enabling un-manned sales for food, beverages or other consumer goods by retailers in such places as office buildings, malls and schools.
By Claire Swedberg
Jun 26, 2019

Efforts to deliver products to consumers, where they are and when they want them, have led to the so-called "new retail" movement that includes unmanned kiosks offering goods for sale to consumers outside of traditional stores. The new retail concept began in China. This year, several companies in China and Europe are piloting a new intelligent cabinet solution from Stora Enso, a renewable packaging and biomaterials solutions company, that leverages passive UHF RFID to track inventory and enable sales transactions to consumers, without requiring the presence of a sales associate.

The system is now commercially available for use in public spaces, such as transit stations, office buildings, hotels and sports facilities, says Martin Ros, Stora Enso's senior VP of intelligent packaging. The refrigerated, automated cabinet is already being piloted by retailers to provide food, beverages or other consumer goods to the public. RFID tags on each product enable the system to identify what item is being purchased from the cabinet, update inventory data for replenishment purposes and provide analytics regarding sales.

Stora Enso's Smart Cabinet
For the past year, Stora Enso has been working with its retailer customers to develop this solution to meet the changing demands of consumers. "A lot of our development work is done closely with clients or potential clients," Ros explains. "It has been driven by several customer innovations and ideas."

Traditional retail models are changing, in part due to the prevalence of mobile phones, the Internet and digitalization. Brick-and-mortar shops are sharing the market with online stores, as well as omnichannel sales models by which customers can purchase goods either in-store, on the Web or via mobile devices. Unmanned kiosks provide a bridge between online and brick-and-mortar stores, as part of a movement known as automated retail, which can bring products closer to consumers at their places of work, school or leisure.

Stora Enso has released an intelligent cabinet solution for the retail market that includes food and beverage sales at transportation hubs, offices, schools and hotels. It is available for use in Asia, Europe and North America, Ros says, while the earliest adopters are in China. Retailers seek to offer increased efficiency, he explains, while technology is enabling many sales options beyond the brick-and-mortar model. "New ways of serving customers are developing," Ros states, "and we believe that's a really strong driver for this solution."

The system consists of an RFID-enabled refrigerated cabinet (also available in a non-refrigerated format for non-perishable goods), as well as Stora Enso's Bridge Cloud software. The cabinet comes with temperature sensors and Stora Enso's customized RFID reader and antennas to capture transmissions from RFID tags. Stora Enso provides its passive UHF ECO RFID Tags that can be applied to each product. Each tag's ID number is linked to product details in Stora Enso's cloud-based software.

An Eco RFID tag is encoded and applied to each product before it is placed within the cabinet. The software can be set for specific inventory thresholds for each product, indicating the minimum number of items that must be present before replenishment orders must be placed. The cabinet is installed in a public space, using a power source at the site. It can forward RFID read data to the server via a cabled connection, or wirelessly via Wi-Fi or cellular connectivity.

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