Expo Visitors Gain Vision of Ray-Ban Products With Smart Table

By Claire Swedberg

The interactive table and touch screen employ LF RFID technology to allow users to place a pair of glasses on a pedestal and view content about them, such as videos and images.

Global sunglasses and eyeglasses company Ray-Ban is preparing its second rollout of RFID technology as part of its interactive display at Vision Expo. The technology, provided by Float Hybrid, includes Ray-Ban's Smart Table to link tagged glasses frames with content via an RFID reader built into a pedestal.

The technology was first released at Vision Expo East, held in New York this past spring, where it drew large numbers of interested users, says Keith Bendes, Float Hybrid's marketing and strategic partnerships VP. The next deployment, he says, will be at Vision Expo West, to be held in Las Vegas in September 2017.

Brands and retailers increasingly face challenges when it comes to attracting customers into brick-and-mortar stores and accomplishing sales at those locations. They must complete with online purchasing, Bendes explains, not only available to customers in their homes, but on their smartphones as they shop at physical stores.

Ray-Ban has launched the interactive RFID-based Smart Table as a way to attract attention to its products at expos, while some retailers viewing the technology in action have expressed interest in using it to increase sales of Ray-Ban products within their stores. At the expos, the Smart Table is part of a three-pronged effort. The company sought to communicate new campaigns—such as product launches—to the public, and to help retailers understand and optimize planograms for product displays, as well as allow attendees to learn more about products.

Keith Bendes

As visitors approached Vision Expo East's Ray-Ban exhibit, they could use a touch screen to access information via Float Hybrid software residing on a local server. If they wanted to simply learn more about new products, they could do so on the touch screen itself. They could use the planogram tool to view maps of effective displays of glasses, depending on a store's type and size. The third option offered a look into particular new products with RFID. With this third option, users were invited to pick up a pair of glasses that interested them, and to place those glasses on the RFID-enabled table.

The table consisted of a pedestal into which Float Hybrid built an ID Innovations low frequency (LF) 125 KHz RFID reader. Each of about 100 pairs of glasses on display had an LF RFID tag embedded in the printed hangtag attached to the frame. When a user put the glasses on the pedestal, positioning the frame directly above the reader antenna, the reader captured the unique ID number encoded on that tag. The collected data was forwarded to the server, where Float Hybrid software captured that ID, linked it to content about those glasses and launched that content to be displayed on the touch screen. The user could then select video or other specific information to view. Some of the content included pricing, sizes and styles available for that pair of glasses.

The response was enthusiastic enough that the company plans to use the system again at Vision Expo West.

Float Hybrid offers a variety of experiential solutions for brands, including at music festivals, sporting events and conferences. Its Anything Interactive solution includes camera-based data, managed by its software to determine which object in a display visitors pick up or move, and to then provide relevant content accordingly.

The company also offers other technology for intelligence, including Bluetooth and beacons using Bluetooth Low Energy (BLE), as well as radio frequency identification. Bendes says RFID technology works best in applications in which a limited number of items are being tracked, since tagging products can still be costly if performed in large numbers (assuming those goods are not being tagged at the source). In the case of Ray-Ban, he explains, the company wanted to be able to provide content related to products that might be moved from another physical area, such as those being carried from a shelf to the touch screen where the reader pedestal is located. That can be more difficult to accomplish with a single or limited number of cameras.

Retailers visiting the exhibit at Vision Expo East, Bendes says, expressed an interest in trying the technology at their stores in order to further boost foot traffic into brick-and-mortar stores. By providing the touch-screen-based experience with a limited number of display items at the storefront, he explains, the stores could reduce the amount of inventory they must keep on hand, while also attracting customers to make purchases onsite.

For instance, after entering a store, a customer could try on a displayed pair of glasses. If the shopper preferred to see the frames in another color, he or she could select that color, and the system could either provide a virtual-reality image of the frames in that color on the person's face, or enable the customer to request those frames from the back of the store to try on and purchase. Without such technology, Bendes says, buyers might be more likely to simply order a pair of glasses in another color online instead of at the store.

Improving the in-store experience may be central to increasing sales, Bendes says. "It's all about consumer experience," he states. "I think people want to get out," away from the Internet, and experience products in a real-world environment. According to Bendes, they simply need to incentive to do so. "If you can walk into the store and have fun interactive experiences," the consumer is likely to spend more money in stores.

Ray-Ban has declined to comment for this story.