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BT Global Services Offers Retailers a Packaged System for Item-Level Tracking

The solution includes RFID tags and readers, Omnitrol's RFID appliance and software, and BT Global Services' networked server for storing and sharing inventory and supply chain data.
By Claire Swedberg
The use of Omnitrol technology allows the installation to be simple and scalable, Sherry says. Stores can utilize one to three BT handheld devices to encode unique ID numbers to RFID tags (BT provides 10,000 Avery Dennison EPC Gen 2 RFID tags as part of the pilot package), and attach them to individual items—typically, those selling for at least £6 ($9) apiece. If the customer chooses to employ readers in conjunction with a Wi-Fi wireless LAN, the read events are transmitted to a single Omnitrol appliance located within the store. The Omnitrol software installed on the appliance links the ID number of an item's RFID tag with its stock-keeping unit (SKU), along with other product data, and updates the inventory status accordingly. The handhelds can later be utilized to take inventory of the items on the sales floor, or in the back room. The handheld device can also display an alert to inform staff members of any discrepancies in the inventory count (such as missing items). In a typical store, the system could be installed and operational within a single day.

Omnitrol Networks' Raj Saksena
Omnitrol Networks and BT have been providing joint RFID solutions since 2008 (see RFID News Roundup: Omnitrol Networks Teams With Network Company BT Global Services). "Our relationship with BT allows us to take away the complexity of the technology," Saksena states.

"From our point of view, we take this as a pay-as-you-go service, enabling the retail market to adopt the technology very quickly," Sherry says, and thereby, "join up the dots of the supply chain" by sharing information with all supply chain participants on the BT Global Services network.

Typically, employees would periodically use the handheld readers within the store. If there is a Wi-Fi connection, the data would be routed to the Omnitrol device, which would then match the tag IDs with the inventory data, and forward that information to a BT-hosted server. If the store lacks a Wi-Fi wireless LAN, the handheld can be placed in a cradle wired to the Omnitrol appliance, in order to upload data related to tag reads. Workers could then access inventory data by logging onto BT's server via the Internet. If a fixed interrogator were deployed, data read from tags passing near the reader antenna as they are moved from one location to another would also be routed to the Omnitrol appliance. The system software running on the Omnitrol device typically stands alone, Sherry says, though it can be integrated with a store's back-end inventory-management software, as well as with its point-of-sale system.

The cost of the system will vary according to the deployment, Sherry says. Though he declines to list specific pricing, he adds that the company designed the product for "a low-cost entry."

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