Retail CIOs Demo RFID Prototypes

Written by Evan Schuman
January 17th, 2005

NEW YORK?Speaking to an overflow crowd at the National Retail Federation’s Redefining Retail show Monday, Metro Group CIO Zygmunt Mierdorf beamed in live footage of the company’s prototype RFID-enabled stores from Germany, showing interactive changing rooms that make clothing recommendations and have clerks bring additional pieces, a cashier shelf that instantly scans items (so the cashier doesn’t have to) and a privacy system that literally leaves the chip in the store.

Mierdorf also demonstrated smart shelves that display the clothing sizes on them so that customers need not rummage through clothing piles.

The customer in the dressing room can interact with a touch screen. If the clothing selected is not the right size “or if the customer accepts a computer-recommended accompanying piece of clothing” an attendant is automatically alerted and brings the items to the customer in the dressing room. This is helpful when customers may not want to go through the bother of getting dressed, go into the sales area to pick up the replacement items, and then return to the dressing area and repeat the dressing process, Mierdorf said.

Mierdorf’s presentation was one of three that teased attendees with the prototype potential of RFID, along with a brief update on initial RFID deployment activities from Wal-Mart’s CIO, Linda Dillman.

Dillman opened the presentation with references to her company’s highly publicized RFID trials, with the extensive attention to Wal-Mart’s announced plans to deploy this month. “As my vendors have told me repeatedly, ‘January’ does not mean ‘Jan. 1,'” she said.

Dillman said little new about the rollouts beyond what analysts were briefed on in late December. But she did reveal the small bugs discovered during the trial process, such as discovering that one manufacturer’s system kept issuing a sleep command to another vendor’s chip.

Wal-Mart will soon have forklift-mounted RFID readers and product visibility within 30 minutes of merchandise movement, Dillman told the crowd. She also said that an immediate advantage of their trial is that when associates try to place manual orders?something Dillman promised would always be permitted?the system can now alert the associate if the product being ordered is already in the backroom. Today, it’s just an FYI alert. In 60 days, Dillman said, they are considering making it mandatory, where the system will not permit a manual order if it knows the merchandise is already there.

The Wal-Mart executive also showed video of a handheld device?which she described as more closely resembling a small Geiger counter than a typical PDA?that associates can use to track wayward merchandise on the back of a store shelf. Just like that Geiger counter, the Wal-Mart unit beeps progressively faster as it approaches the hidden product.

As is the rule with live demonstrations, not everything went perfectly. Colin Cobain, the U.K. IT director for Tesco, had created on-stage a live working demo of the company’s RFID system. The demonstration was intended to show that the system would detect merchandise changes. On the first try, the system properly flagged a flawed crate with a red light. After it was repaired, though, it was supposed to show a green light. It didn’t, leaving some in the audience to comment that it was perhaps a more realistic demo than had been intended.


Comments are closed.


StorefrontBacktalk delivers the latest retail technology news & analysis. Join more than 60,000 retail IT leaders who subscribe to our free weekly email. Sign up today!

Most Recent Comments

Why Did Gonzales Hackers Like European Cards So Much Better?

I am still unclear about the core point here-- why higher value of European cards. Supply and demand, yes, makes sense. But the fact that the cards were chip and pin (EMV) should make them less valuable because that demonstrably reduces the ability to use them fraudulently. Did the author mean that the chip and pin cards could be used in a country where EMV is not implemented--the US--and this mis-match make it easier to us them since the issuing banks may not have as robust anti-fraud controls as non-EMV banks because they assumed EMV would do the fraud prevention for them Read more...
Two possible reasons that I can think of and have seen in the past - 1) Cards issued by European banks when used online cross border don't usually support AVS checks. So, when a European card is used with a billing address that's in the US, an ecom merchant wouldn't necessarily know that the shipping zip code doesn't match the billing code. 2) Also, in offline chip countries the card determines whether or not a transaction is approved, not the issuer. In my experience, European issuers haven't developed the same checks on authorization requests as US issuers. So, these cards might be more valuable because they are more likely to get approved. Read more...
A smart card slot in terminals doesn't mean there is a reader or that the reader is activated. Then, activated reader or not, the U.S. processors don't have apps certified or ready to load into those terminals to accept and process smart card transactions just yet. Don't get your card(t) before the terminal (horse). Read more...
The marketplace does speak. More fraud capacity translates to higher value for the stolen data. Because nearly 100% of all US transactions are authorized online in real time, we have less fraud regardless of whether the card is Magstripe only or chip and PIn. Hence, $10 prices for US cards vs $25 for the European counterparts. Read more...
@David True. The European cards have both an EMV chip AND a mag stripe. Europeans may generally use the chip for their transactions, but the insecure stripe remains vulnerable to skimming, whether it be from a false front on an ATM or a dishonest waiter with a handheld skimmer. If their stripe is skimmed, the track data can still be cloned and used fraudulently in the United States. If European banks only detect fraud from 9-5 GMT, that might explain why American criminals prefer them over American bank issued cards, who have fraud detection in place 24x7. Read more...

Our apologies. Due to legal and security copyright issues, we can't facilitate the printing of Premium Content. If you absolutely need a hard copy, please contact customer service.