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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
The need for greater item-level visibility is severalfold. DVDs are small, high-value items with rapid turnover. They can be sold quickly—especially new releases—and both retailers and distributors struggle to track inventory and keep shelves stocked with the movies consumers want to buy. What's more, production studios have an interest in ensuring DVDs first appear on store shelves and promotional displays on their actual release dates, rather than earlier or later, but this is hard to track when releases take place in thousands of stores across the United States.

Before launching the pilot, the group tested RFID hardware. "They were gaining an initial understanding of how read rates can be maximized," Whitney says. One unnamed replicator attached several models of EPC Gen 2 RFID tags to DVDs as part of the production process. The group then used various interrogators to test read rates for the different tag models and placement positions on the product. The goal was to determine how the tags would operate in stores, around fixtures such as store shelves and promotional displays. Most of that testing, Whitney recalls—which started in early June and lasted for six weeks—was conducted in a laboratory environment.

The pilot employs RFID hardware, software and services provided by ADT Sensormatic, Avery Dennison, Checkpoint Systems, Impinj, Motorola, Nashua Corp., NXP Semiconductors, OATSystems, Omron RFID, Printronix, SATO America, T3Ci, True Demand Software, UPM Raflatac, Vue Technology and Zebra Technologies.

Following the anticipated completion of the pilot in November, Whitney says, the group plans to publish the results in a paper that will be available to EPCglobal subscribers. "We see this as a watershed event," she notes, indicating that other industries will be closely watching this pilot. Its conclusion, she predicts, will mark the point "where real deployment can start."

As a nonprofit group established to promote EPC standards worldwide, Whitney adds, EPCglobal makes it possible for industry competitors to work together toward technology advancement in a noncompetitive environment. Simley says the pilot participants share a goal of bringing RFID to the item level in stores, stating, "There are so many advantages from the technology standpoint, we all stand to gain from that."

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