HP Unveils Prototype Smart Display Case

By Mark Roberti

Once deployed, the shelving unit would store HP inkjet printer cartridges and provide the company with real-time information about the demand for different types available.


Hewlett-Packard (HP) unveiled a prototype smart display case at last week’s RFID Symposium, an event the company hosted in Sao Paulo, Brazil. The unit, about the size of a kitchen oven, is designed not as a self-service vending machine, but rather to improve the replenishment of inkjet printer cartridges sold at stores, and to assist retailers with sales.

“This shelf will allow us to have world-class management of inventory,” said Didier Chenneveau, VP and general manager of HP’s Americas operations. “It will help us make sure the store never runs out, and that we can replenish based on real demand.”

The unit can store several dozen cartridges, each tagged with a UHF EPC tag. The system includes an RFID interrogator that continuously reads the tags, and a touch-screen display that shows a variety of HP printers. A customer would select the specific printer he or she owns, and the system would inform that person whether a replacement cartridge was in stock, and suggest seeking help from a store employee. The employee would then unlock the display case and take out the correct product.

The system does not currently differentiate the locations of items within the display case, or indicate if a given product is in the wrong location. It does, however, incorporate an authentication feature. After being given a cartridge, a customer could place it in a tray. The system would then read the Electronic Product Code (EPC) serial number encoded to the product’s tag, and confirm that the cartridge was genuine by matching the EPC to a serial number in HP’s database.

The unit incorporates built-in cell-phone technology, used to upload information about which items have been sold. That data is then stored in a database so HP can replenish its inventory based on near-real-time sales data.

“This is not just an idea,” said Chenneveau. “We have a working prototype. We’ve tested the technology, and it works. Now, we are working to roll out it out.”