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Wal-Mart, Best Buy Spearhead DVD-Tagging Pilot

The retailers, along with other EPCglobal members from the media and entertainment industry, are testing RFID's ability to provide visibility into where items are located, when they were placed there and when more need to be ordered.
By Claire Swedberg
In addition, the retailers are testing RFID interrogators in the transition area between a store's back room and sales floor—and, in some cases, on shelves or promotional displays. They are also using handheld readers to search for specific titles within the store.

Data related to the products and their locations is made available to participants via EPCIS, says Gay Whitney, EPCglobal's standards director. According to Whitney, the pilot participants are using a variety of EPCIS-based software systems to capture and interpret the data.

Wal-Mart is testing the system in "a handful" of stores in Oklahoma, Simley states. Though the retail giant is already utilizing RFID technology to track tagged cases and pallets of goods at about 1,000 of its stores, he says, this is the first time it is using RFID to track items on the sales floor. In each store, Wal-Mart is employing RFID interrogators mounted at the dock doors to receive new inventory. The retailer has placed readers at the transition area between the back room and sales floor, and also at the entrance and exit to the store itself.

By locating readers at the point of exit, Simley explains, Wal-Mart can use the technology to identify shoplifters attempting to remove DVDs from the store. Currently, however, the pilot is simply testing tag read rates in the store environment. Wal-Mart is also using handheld interrogators on its sales floors to test read ranges.

To educate consumers about the system, Simley says, Wal-Mart has installed signage in the DVD section, as well as at store entrances. Those signs state that EPC tags are being placed on products, explaining why they are being used and how they operate. "We feel customers need to know about the technologies we are using in the store," he says. "We find that the more they know about it—the more accurate information we give them—the more they support it."

After being formed by several media and entertainment companies, EPCglobal's Media and Entertainment Industry Interest Group met for the first time in January 2007. According to Whitney, the group quickly agreed to conduct a pilot. At that time, she says, there was already a consensus among players in media and entertainment that RFID tagging at the item level would benefit the entire industry. "There is universal recognition [within the entertainment and media industry] of the value of item-level tagging here," Whitney says—which is not the case with most other industries.

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