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Retailers Test RFID Smart Tables

Two stores are using the tables, which have built-in UHF EPC RFID interrogators, to display marked-down products and track their movements.
By Claire Swedberg
Mar 07, 2007Two retailers, one a book and magazine seller, the other a merchant of general merchandise, are testing a table that automatically reads the passive UHF (902-928 MHz) EPC RFID tags of items placed on it, eliminating the need for a handheld interrogator. The retailers are using these tables to display products for discount sale. Other stores have also shown an interest in testing the system, according to Joe Leone, president and CTO of RFID Global Solution, which makes the SmartTable being tested by the retailers.

The stores are interested in using the tables to track the movement of products on bargain or markdown tables. Such products are traditionally hard to track because customers may pick up items and set them down elsewhere, often leading them to be reshelved incorrectly. With the SmartTable, retailers can know if items are no longer on the table and can use that information either for reshelving, or for tracking the interest customers have in a particular product. The SmartTable, Leone says, is an alternative to more costly and larger shelf reader systems.

RFID Global Solution's SmartTable includes a built-in EPC RFID interrogator.
RFID Global Solution first began developing the SmartTable STHD2000 in 2005 for the military, and the device has since drawn attention from retailers as well as other industries such as utilities, Leone says. The table, which is 3 feet wide and 6 feet long, comes equipped with a choice of RFID reader models from a range of manufacturers, as well as antennas, a power cord and a wireless or wired connection to allow data to be sent to a server or back-end system. The STHD2000 comes with standard Java or HTTP interfaces such as those used by Alien Technology readers and Motorola's Enterprise Mobility Business division (formerly Symbol Technologies).

The system is also designed to isolate the read field within the boundaries of the table. Therefore, there can be no ambient reads of tagged items stacked beside or below the table. A built-in indicator light alerts users if the system is ready (green light), reading tags (yellow light) or not functioning properly (red light).

Designed to be durable for the military, the STHD2000 weighs 97 pounds and is constructed of industrial-strength aluminum, although Leone says his company is in the process of developing a lighter version. It can hold weight up to 1,000 pounds and can be moved by two people.

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