Top Stories



Study: RFID Scan Accuracy Drops As Number Of Items Increases

August 7th, 2008

The more RFID-tagged items retailers place on Z-bars or shelves, or in boxes, the lower the read rate will be when those items are scanned, according to a study out of the University of Arkansas. By setting up store-like scenarios in a university lab, researchers conducted three feasibility test scenarios of RFID tagged apparel and shoes.

What they found was that when an associate scanned items, the number of items scanned affected the read rate. For example, researchers scanned RFID items hung on a rounder. When there were 97 items, they found a 99.38 percent read rate. Compare that to the 89.89 percent accuracy of 180 items scanned.…


Location-Based Mobile Spending To Hit $3.3 Billion By 2013

August 2nd, 2008

As retailers struggle to figure out the proper role for PDAs and cellphones in their merged channel and marketing strategies, it’s good to know that there’s strength–well, comfort at least–in numbers. An ABI Research report released Friday (Aug. 1) projected that “location-based mobile social networking revenues will reach $3.3 billion by 2013.”

The service is defining that market as one that “allows users to share real-life experiences via geo-tagged user-generated multimedia content, exchange recommendations about places, identify nearby friends and set up ad hoc face to face meetings.” As marketers fund such deployments, opportunities for helping consumers find storefronts and turn those locations into desired meeting places soars. Privacy concerns and licensing/revenue-sharing issues aside, this is something few retailers can afford to not watch closely–and creatively. …


European Union’s SMART RFID Efforts Show Promise

August 1st, 2008

An EU undertaking called the SMART project—set to start widespread testing in October—is getting good support with some creative efforts. It’s looking at scenarios such as “if one product is selling well at store A but selling badly at store B, RFID-powered inventory systems could initiate the transfer of the product from one store to another,” according to this ComputerWeekly story.

The project Web site goes into some other interesting possible directions, such as smart-shelves that tell consumers “whether the product is available in the back-room or whether there is a joint/ personalized promotion” and “shelf replenishment practices that change based on real-time information about availability and product shortages.” One of the tests includes “automatic discounting system for products–specifically, meat–that is nearing its (expiration) date.”…


When IT Disaster Strikes, Should ISVs Be Held Accountable?

July 25th, 2008
When two unrelated IT disasters hit a major retailer and a major consumer goods manufacturer, executives for both firms this month pointed fingers at the two software companies involved: Microsoft and SAP.

But the comments made by top brass from Hannaford (hit by a 4.2-million-card data breach) and Levi's (a troublesome ERP rollout suspended lots of shipments) have raised the question of where the responsibility line should be drawn. At what point is the software company responsible for doing what it has billed itself to do? And at what point is the CIO supposed to deliver, no matter what? Read more...


Court Allows University To Publish RFID Security Flaw Paper

July 24th, 2008

A Dutch court has given the go-ahead for a university to publish research about security flaws in the RFID chips used in as many as 2 billion smart cards, despite resistance from a semiconductor company, according to a story in Computerworld.

NXP Semiconductors manufactures the MiFare Classic RFID chip, which is used in government buildings and to board public transportation systems. They had filed a lawsuit in Court Arnhem in The Netherlands against Radboud University Nijmegen in an attempt to stop the university from publishing a paper that reportedly reveals flaws in that chip. That paper is scheduled to be unveiled in October at the ESORICS security conference in Malaga, Spain.…

Next-Generation Search: Marketers To Try And Use Consumers’ Own Games and Cell Phone Cameras To Spy

July 18th, 2008
In an eerie snapshot of where some top marketers want to take the next generation of search engines, a Japanese government-backed research project is working on a search that is based on what a user does, not a keyword a user types in.

But the specific tactics being considered—and detailed in a Web site for the group officially dubbed the Information Grand Voyage Project—includes searching history of game programs, blog postings, surreptitiously captured video segments from TVs and computers, tracking Wi-Fi locations and using an RFID reader connected to a cell phone to identify a consumer's activities "based on data captured by mobile device camera." Read more...

Former Hannaford CIO: Avoid Microsoft And Change PCI’s Encryption Rules

July 11th, 2008
Bill Homa, who just stepped down July 1 as the CIO for the 165-store Hannaford grocery chain, considers Microsoft's OS to be "so full of holes" and describes the fact that current PCI regs do not require end-to-end encryption as "astonishing."

But Homa's key point is that most retailers handle security backwards: Don't pour everything into protecting the front door. Assume they'll get through and have a plan to control them once they're inside. Read more...

Are 2-D Barcodes About To Ship On Cellphones? Will That Be Enough To Make A Difference?

July 10th, 2008
Retail deployment of the 2-D barcode, a technology that allows consumer cellphones to see virtually unlimited amounts of content by taking a picture of a special barcode, has slowed after an initial flurry of activity in January.

But several major cellphone carriers are preparing to bundle the 2-D barcode software with phones as they ship. Will that make a difference? Read more...

Impinj Buys All Of Intel’s RFID Group

July 10th, 2008
RFID vendor Impinj on Thursday (July 10) purchased all of Intel's RFID operation--including the R1000 RFID reader chip. A joint Intel/Impinj statement said that the acquisition details are not being released, but The Seattle Times reported that Intel will get an equity stake in Impinj. The move is not expected to change things much for RFID-focused IT execs in the near term, because both firms were pretty much headed in the same direction anyway. But ABI RFID Research Director Michael Liard said the move could accelerate already-projected RFID reader price drops over the next few years. Read more...

Fooling An Age-Verification System The Low-Tech Way

July 10th, 2008

No sooner had IT concocted a system to try and automatically detect an under-age shopper than someone has crafted a remarkably low-tech way to fool it. How low-tech? How about a picture ripped out of a magazine?

This delightful story from Pink Tentacle shows how the Japanese cigarette-machine RFID-leveraging face-recognition system is completely fooled by the magazine photo. “The face-recognition machines rely on cameras that scan the purchaser’s face for wrinkles, sagging skin and other signs of age. Facial characteristics are compared with a database of more than 100,000 people, and if the purchaser is thought to be well over 20 years old (the legal age), the sale is approved,” the story said.…

Lawsuit Filed To Keep RFID Flaws Secret

July 10th, 2008

A semiconductor company is suing a Dutch university to keep its researchers from publishing information about security flaws in the RFID chips used in up to 2 billion smart cards, according to this intriguing Computerworld story.

NXP Semiconductors filed suit in Court Arnhem in The Netherlands against Radboud University Nijmegen. The company is pushing the courts to keep university researchers from publishing a paper about reported security flaws in the MiFare Classic, an RFID chip manufactured by NXP Semiconductors, the story said.…

Medical Study Raises New RFID Fears

June 27th, 2008

Although the question of RFID safety has been debated extensively over the years, with conflicting study results, a major new medical study released this week points to very specific electromagnetic dangers within nine inches of the transmitter.

The highly respected Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA) found 34 electromagnetic interference instances out of 123 tests, with 22 of them rated potentially hazardous. “Interference changed breathing machines’ ventilation rates and caused syringe pumps to stop” at a distance of about nine inches, according to a story in The Wall Street Journal. This may give serious pause to some retail IT operations, who can have dozens of RFID devices in loading docks and assembly lines, in addition to trucks and even on shelves. …

Why Wal-Mart’s $2/Pallet Non-RFID Penalty Isn’t Going To Work

June 2nd, 2008

Computerworld columnist Frank Hayes–a former colleague of mine from CMP and an awesome folk singer as well–has a wonderful column out about why the Wal-Mart RFID effort is still having problems.

Although some of the proprietary arguments are slightly overstated, Hayes makes a great point about how Wal-Mart’s $2 per pallet non-RFID penalty reflects a lack of understanding of why suppliers have resisted RFID tagging. It’s the software implementation costs and the fact that different retailers demand different versions. Hayes’ column is worth reading. (But not everyone seems to agree. The RFID Journal took exception to the piece, on several levels. And then some RFID Journal readers took exception to that disagreement.)…

Metro Using RFID To Track Meat Freshness

May 30th, 2008

Germany’s METRO Group is experimenting with RFID inserts to track meat and to immediately locate any product that is about to expire or that has expired.

METRO is placing the inlays into the foam meat packing trays used in their Future Store. “RFID has a key role to play in quality management for fresh food,” said Gerd Wolfram, managing director of MGI METRO Group Information Technology in a statement. “This automatic product identification technology will contribute to product quality and efficiency in our stores.”…

MasterCard To Trial NFC In Canada This Summer

May 29th, 2008

MasterCard Canada this summer will start a 4-month NFC-phone trial, with the backing of some of Canada’s largest retailers, including Loblaw, Petro Canada, Tim Hortons’, Pioneer Petroleum, Rabba Foods, a major NHL arena and McDonalds.

One unusual aspect of the trial is that it will eventually support more than one payment card on each phone, said MasterCard Canada’s Nagesh Devata.…

The Self-Checkout Future: Customized, Faster And More Dangerous

May 23rd, 2008
Jane's contactless loyalty card is detected as the Des Moines attorney approaches the self-checkout. The system knows the counselor's shopping history and anticipates that the counselor likely has a dozen kiwis in her cart.

So when she places the barcode-less fruit on the scale, the first fruit it displays in its list is kiwi, followed by the four fruits and vegetables that Jane typically buys. Other fruits and vegetables follow alphabetically after Jane's favorites have been displayed. Given how many fruits Jane buys each time, this shaves a precious 108 seconds off of her checkout. Read more...

Checkpoint Chooses Cheesy Chore

May 21st, 2008

The grocery challenge with the theft of moist, fresh products–such as cheese–has frustrated retail loss prevention managers because such products tend to react poorly with EAS tags. Checkpoint and Sealed Air Cryovac announced Wednesday (May 21) one possible way around this issue.

Cryovac has started to integrate anti-theft labels inside the vacuum shrink bags. “The first market request to Sealed Air Cryovac was for two million packs for the protection of Parmigiano Reggiano. In Italy, for instance, Parmigiano Reggiano has a shrink rate of about 9 percent,” said a joint statement. “Initial studies have shown that this RF-EAS source tagging program may cut down inventory shrinkage of dairy products from 9 percent to 1 percent.”…

Report: RFID Market To Hit $9.7 Billion By 2013

May 20th, 2008

The RFID market has a healthy future, looking at a 15 percent compound annual growth rate over the next five years, hitting $9.7 billion by 2013, according to a report issued Tuesday (May 20) by ABI Research.

These figures highlight an RFID market that is growing “robustly,” said ABI research director Michael Liard, pointing to recent commitments from Wal-Mart’s Sam’s Club and the German retail giant Metro AG as key factors. …

Verichip Puts Itself Up For Sale, Parts Ways With CEO

May 17th, 2008

Controversial RFID vendor Verichip on May 15 announced that it is selling much of the company, wants to sell the rest of it and that the company has parted ways with its CEO, Scott Silverman.

Verichip and its onetime parent company, Applied Digital, generated a lot of negative publicity for RFID with its efforts to push implantable RFID chips, including some especially controversial statements that Silverman made about RFID chips being implanted in non-citizen guest workers. The company’s sale of its XMark unit to The Stanley Works for $45 million will remove the vast majority of the company’s revenue. (RFID Update just ran an excellent look at whether such implantable RFID efforts are viable anymore.) …

Applying Internet Security To RFID

May 14th, 2008

NeoCatena Networks has in the wings a product designed to stop fraudulent or bad tag data from getting into the system from the supply chain.

Applying Internet-level security to RFID is something that has not gone very far, according to this RFID Update story about the anticipated rollout. NeoCatena Networks is developing RF-Wall, an appliance to be installed between RFID readers or controllers and middleware servers, edge servers or host applications in networked RFID systems. The product acts as a firewall that authenticates RFID tags prior to allowing their data to pass into enterprise systems and also scans input to detect and block malware. RF-Wall works by using the unique tag ID to create a digital signature.…

FTC To Hold Contactless Hearing In Seattle

May 14th, 2008

Retailers focused on contactless payment might want to circle July 24, 2008, on their calendar. That is when the U.S. Federal Trade Commission will hold a hearing in Seattle “to explore the growth of contactless payment systems and the implications for consumer protection policy.”

Here are the details of the FTC’s hearing along with a link to submit comments electronically. There are lots of legitimate pros and cons on this issue, but the panel should at least understand the merchant’s perspective.…

Self-Checkout: It’s Not Just For Lanes Anymore

May 9th, 2008
With the nation's largest casino town as its backdrop, IBM and NCR gambled that the ho-hum growth in self-checkout can become a winner if the systems are moved away from the front-of-the-store checkout lanes and moved back toward the deli, bakery and even in the middle of the cereal aisle. All in all, I'd rather take my chances at rolling a 10 the hard way.

Las Vegas was hosting the 2008 Food Marketing Institute and Marketechnics show, which felt like self-checkout central this week. Read more...

The Dangers Of Choosing The Wrong Wireless Approach

May 9th, 2008
London-based Marks & Spencer is the RFID tag champ. Attaching 350 million a year to items of clothing, they even blow past Wal-Mart when it comes to tagging individual items. Unfortunately, each and every one of those tags might have used the wrong technology. The exec "who has been running the program said to me a year ago, 'I'd love Nokia to say we have a way for people to walk into this door, wave their phone over a suit and take it home,'" said IDTechEx Chairman Peter Harrop. "But he said, 'I think I've chosen the wrong frequency.'" Read more...

Which Do You Want, Buddy? Compliance Or Security?

May 1st, 2008
GuestView Columnist David Taylor this week suggests that, today, only a small minority of retailers says that they are getting much value from their security investments.

Examples abound: Intrusion alerts that are ignored due to lack of staff, firewalls with rules that are out of date, intrusion detection systems that have not been tuned to minimize the false positives, encryption keys that are never changed, privileged users who have permissions left over from prior projects, terminated employees who still have logins and policies that are not enforced. Fixing this stuff is not expensive, but it's not fun either.Read more...

Wal-Mart Makes RFID Privacy Promises To Arkansas State Legislators

April 25th, 2008

Wal-Mart executives this week promised Arkansas legislators that any product with a radio tag would be clearly labeled, as the retail giant tries to put the inventory-tracking devices on all products sold at Sam’s Clubs by 2010, according to this BusinessWeek story.

After checkout, customers would have the option of removing the labels containing the tags, Wal-Mart told the state legislators. “If a manufacturer installed the tag inside a container, workers would be able to deactivate it before a customer leaves the store,” the story said.…


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