RFID at NRF’s Big Show 2020

By Mark Roberti

Several solution providers were on hand with new products and demos showcasing radio frequency identification.

Last week, I wrote about some of the major themes at the National Retail Federation (NRF)'s Big Show (see The View from NRF's Bit Show 2020). This week, I'd like to share some information about the new RFID solutions and demonstrations that were on display at the event. I'll put these in alphabetical order by company, so as not to be accused of playing favorites.

Avery Dennison's booth showcased a wide variety of tags, but new this year were tags designed specifically for the cosmetics sector, along with software to enable brands to better manage their inventory. The ultra-narrow AD-160u7 and AD-163u8 are designed for lipstick packaging, eye liners and similar products, while the AD-180u7 is a small circular UHF tag that can be placed under lipstick. The company also showed off its Janela smart-products software platform (see Avery Dennison Looks Beyond Apparel and Avery Dennison Aims to Deliver Product Info Via RFID, Bar Codes).

Checkpoint Systems showed off a new version of its unique UNO RF-RFID label—which, it says, simultaneously offers retailers the benefits of electronic article surveillance (EAS) protection at store exits and RFID inventory management, when paired with the appropriate hardware and software. The tag is designed to decrease labor costs and the time required for employees to place and remove EAS tags. Checkpoint also demonstrated its recently enhanced HALO RFID software platform (see Checkpoint Systems' UNO Labels Combine RF EAS and Ucode 7 RFID Chip and Retailers Deploying New Omnichannel Functionality With RFID).

Converge Retail upgraded its cool tablet-based shopping experience to include RFID. When a customer slides a tablet across a shelf, a reader on the tablet reads the RFID tag associated with the item and displays information about that item, much like a customer would see online. The company also showed off an RFID solution for jewelry retailers (see RFID Tracks Jewelry Inventory, Shopping With Smart Tray).

Janam Technologies' displayed its XT3 ruggedized tablet with touch-screen capabilities and its Guardian GTI NFC reader. The company says the products will sell for less than other models on the market offering similar features (see Janam Technologies Intros Touch Computer With RFID, NFC Capabilities and Janam Offers Contactless Self-Credentialing Solutions With NFC).

Manhattan Associates has updated its retail software so that store associates can now use RFID to locate items and optimize the best route to an item, thereby reducing the amount of time required to pick a BOPIS or ship-from-store order.

Mojix showed off its new cloud-based platform. The solution can be used with RFID, QR codes and other unique identifiers, and it employs digital identities and event-capture systems to create a digital record of any product's journey from when it's manufactured until it is recycled.

Sensormatic (formerly Tyco Retail Solutions) displayed its TrueVue software and some of the enhancements to it, including new "recipes." This feature allows users to assign a status to a product. For example, if an item has been picked to be shipped from a store, it might still be in inventory but can be designated as no longer for sale (see Retailers to Pilot RFID for Loss Prevention). The coolest thing in the company's booth was an exit gate that allows customers to pay for an RFID-tagged item, or a product with a unique QR code, while exiting a store.

Smartrac Technology Group displayed its UHF and NFC tags, along with its Smart Cosmos solutions suite, which we've written about (see Smartrac Sees RFID's Future in the Cards, the Clouds and the Cosmos). One customer, Pure Hydration, a manufacturer of next-generation reusable water bottles, was in the booth to explain how the Smartrac tags and software enabled it to engage with consumers by providing personalized, contextual, and dynamic content with a simple tap of a smartphone on Pure Hydration's ICE° Bottle.

SML introduced its RFID TotalCare suite, which includes SML tag solutions, its Clarity Enterprise software solution, professional services and SML's Retail Ideation Space, where retailers and brand owners can test new technology concepts (see SML Unveils Item-Level RFID Tagging and Software Package, SML Opens Retail Ideation Space for Item-Level RFID and SML RFID Opens Retail Ideation Space in China).

Zebra Technologies showcased a new version of its Smart Lens overhead reader, which will be available soon. It's smaller, sleeker and less expensive, because Zebra has removed the video and microlocationing technologies on the first one, as customers just want the RFID capabilities. Zebra also presented a new demonstration in its booth related to food traceability. That demo was based on the IBM Food Trust, a collaborative network of growers, processors, wholesalers, distributors, manufacturers, retailers and more. The demo showed how RFID and blockchain technologies can be used together to enhance visibility and accountability across the food supply chain.

I sat down with Mike Callender, the executive chairman at REPL Group, which offers systems integration services for retailers. Mike said his company carried out a number of RFID projects for retailers throughout the past year and has seen interest grow during the last 24 months. He agreed that retailers need to get their inventory accuracy up and improve inventory visibility to compete in today's retail environment. Artificial intelligence, he added, is something retailers can take advantage of once they are getting good data into their systems.

In addition, I spent time speaking with the team at Nedap Retail, which had a couple of its customers on a panel. I will be covering that session in greater detail later in the week. There were other companies displaying their RFID solutions at the event as well. I didn't get to visit them all, unfortunately, but it's clear that RFID firms continue to invest in building out their solutions.

Mark Roberti is the founder and editor of RFID Journal.