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Dutch Bookseller Soon to Use RFID to Locate Items on Shelves

Boekhandels Groep Nederland is installing RFID interrogator antennas on shelves to facilitate the tracking of special-order books.
By Claire Swedberg
"The TrueVUE hardware and software platform being installed at BGN," Vue's senior vice president of sales, Gordon Adams, explains, "is capable of reading thousands of antennas embedded in shelves, all supported with a single reader."

BGN has been using Gen 2 UHF passive RFID tags since April 2006 for books shipped to its Almere location (see Bookstore RFID-enables Its Operations), and since November for books shipped to Maastricht. The company's book distributor, Centraal Boekhuis, attaches a self-adhesive passive EPC Gen 2 RFID label, supplied by UPM Raflatac and made with an Impinj IC, on the back of each book it ships to the stores. The distributor's employees scan the bar code and the new RFID tag being attached to the book, linking the tag's ID number with the book's details in the back-end system. Centraal Boekhuis electronically sends BGN an advance shipping notice (ASN) over the Internet, which includes the unique tag ID numbers of the books in that shipment.

Book shipments arriving at the store pass through an RFID tunnel equipped with a CaptureTech interrogator at the delivery door. The system matches the unique RFID tag numbers with those from the ASN, and is designed to alert the store if any books are missing that were supposed to arrive in the same box.

Books being shelved are loaded onto a CaptureTech RFID-enabled mobile cart that transmits data indicating which books are en route to the shelves. All tags are disabled at the point of sale once a customer purchases them.

Both BGN and Centraal Boekhuis use Progress software to integrate the data into existing enterprise-management systems. Eventually, Adams says, the TrueVUE platform will manage all third-party RFID devices, including the mobile cart, front-door security portals, a receiving station, RFID printers and POS devices. "This enables the client to use one single RFID software platform," he adds, "substantially reducing the total cost of ownership of the solution."

Thus far, Vink notes, results of item-level tagging at the two stores have shown a 12 percent increase in sales, as well as a decrease in receiving and inventory costs, and inventory labor hours (see Reading Books Reduces Out-of-Stocks).

Shelf-edge tracking is most important initially in the special-order and display areas, Vink states. "These are the areas where we need to see how fast a book is moving," he says. "By doing the first exercises in the special-orders area, we can work with smart-shelving technology and, eventually, implement it in other areas."

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