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German Supermarkets Use RFID to Manage Warehouse Access and Send Alerts

ALDI and Lidl are both using active tags from Albis Technologies to ensure only authorized personnel enter their warehouses; Lidl is also using the technology for its freezers.
By Claire Swedberg
Aug 19, 2011Two European retailers are using active RFID tags and readers to manage the movement of personnel through restricted areas in their facilities. German supermarket chains ALDI and Lidl have installed the system in dozens of stores and intend to continue ramping up the deployment to other stores across Europe. The retailers have installed readers at access gates to storerooms and freezers, enabling the reader to trigger opening of the gate when an authorized badge comes within range. The system allows store management to ensure unauthorized individuals don't access these areas, and thereby is intended to reduce theft. In addition, at Lidl, the system can detect if someone with a card has been in the freezer too long, and may be in distress, triggering an alert. Neither retailer responded to requests provided comments for this story.

The solution, provided by Swiss company Albis Technologies and installed by systems integrator PAT Deutschland Ltd., is now being considered by other retailers as a way to move staff in and out of warehouses quickly, without needing to present cards or open locks, while still maintaining security.

Discount supermarket chain ALDI first began installing the system in 2010, after testing it. It had several requirements as store management reviewed access-control options—the system needed to be low cost and easy to install, hands free, but prevent unauthorized entry to warehouses. At ALDI, every store has the same layout with a storage area connected to a store via a doorway through which staff can move items to replenish shelves as products are sold. Staff members pass through on foot or on lift trucks, often with their hands full. The problem for the company was theft—people either sneaking into the storeroom during business hours and stealing products, or staying in the storeroom after business hours. The Albis system resolves these issues, says Zeno Stämmer, Albis' VP of active RFID.

Each worker carries a badge with a battery-powered RFID tag that can be worn on a lanyard or carried in a pocket. The transponder transmits a 2.4 GHz signal every second, using a proprietary air-interface protocol. Albis Technologies readers are installed at access-control gates, and when the tag comes within about 3 meters of the gate, the reader captures the unique ID number transmitted by the tag. Albis Technologies' Zone Monitoring and Find (ZOMOFI) software on the reader determines whether it recognizes the ID number, and if it does, triggers to the gate's opening. If the tag is not on the authorized ID number list, the gate remains closed, blocking access to the storeroom.

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