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Turnkey Self-Service Store Would Employ RFID Instead of People

The prefabricated transportable structure, developed by a European startup, features RFID interrogators at the point of sale and exit door, enabling a retailer to operate without staff, and to quickly open up new branches to meet demand.
By Claire Swedberg
At the doorway, the customer can pick up a shopping bag. Inside the store, every item would be tagged with a high-frequency (HF) 13.56 MHz RFID tag that complies with either the ISO 18000-3, ISO 14443 or ISO 15693 standard and has a very short read range. IAL has not yet decided on a specific tag supplier, Niemietz says, noting, "We have been working with several hardware vendors."

The customer fills the shopping bag, then takes it to the checkout area, placing the entire bag on the counter within close range of the sales terminal's RFID interrogator. The reader captures all the items' tag ID numbers, and IAL software enables the linkage of those IDs with product and pricing data in the store's back-end system. The terminal's touch screen then displays the total cost for all goods being purchased. If the consumer decides not to buy a particular item, that person can cancel the purchase, remove the item from the bag and place the bag back on the counter.


Sylvia Pfaff
Once ready to pay, the customer inserts the debit or credit card into the terminal and approves payment. The unique ID numbers on the item tags are then updated as sold in the back-end system, and the door unlocks. The customer walks through the exit door, where another RFID interrogator is stationed. The reader captures the ID numbers of all tagged items passing through the door, and compares the IDs with those purchased.

If the customer is removing an item that has not been purchased, the system displays an alert indicating which items have not yet been paid for. Should the patron continue out the door without paying, the store will have a record as to that person's identity and what was removed. In addition, the store would be equipped with surveillance cameras, so videos could be reviewed in the case of sales discrepancies.

If the customer chooses not to buy anything, he uses his credit or debit card once more to unlock the door before leaving. The doors are locked at all times, both to those inside and those outside, though Pfaff says emergency doors would be made available.

The company is presently in discussion with food retailers, Pfaff says, and the mobile store could eventually be used to sell other small high-priced items as well, such as CDs, books or DVDs. IAL and FIS Europe are initially marketing the system in northern Europe, where credit card payments are more common than in southern Europe. The system does not accept cash payments. Ultimately, Niemietz says he can foresee selling the system globally.

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