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Retail RFID Systems without Smart Shelves

IP.com Disclosure Number: IPCOM000021114D
Publication Date: 2003-Dec-23

Publishing Venue

The IP.com Prior Art Database

Related People

Jeffrey D. Lindsay: AUTHOR [+3]

Abstract

RFID (radiofrequency identification) technology has been proposed as a means to improve the ability to track inventory and to locate objects in retail stores and other environments. In particular, the use of RFID-tagged objects coupled with smart shelves that include RFID readers has been proposed as a means of efficiently tracking the presence of products in a retail environment. However, there are many practical limitations to smart shelves, and a need exists for a system that permits tracking of objects in a retail store or other environment without the need for numerous readers and without the need for objects to be adjacent to a fixed reader. In this paper, we propose several alternative systems that may be considered, including systems with fixed and moving antennas and advanced antenna systems.

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Retail RFID Systems without Smart Shelves

Jeff Lindsay, Walter Reade, and Larry Roth
Nov. 7, 2003

Introduction

In retail stores and other environments, the inability to rapidly locate items is a common problem. Retailers may appear to be out of stock of a product, when in fact the product may be available in the back of the store or may have been placed on the wrong shelf. RFID (radiofrequency identification) technology has been proposed as a means to improve the ability to track inventory and to locate objects. In particular, the use of RFID-tagged objects coupled with smart shelves that include RFID readers has been proposed as a means of efficiently tracking the presence of products in a retail environment. However, the smart shelves that have been demonstrated in public trials have employed numerous expensive RFID readers adapted to read sections of a single shelf, and have required the use of expensive and bulky coaxial cable for each of the readers.

Improved smart shelves have been proposed in which a single antenna built into the shelf can be used to read discrete sections of a shelf, but even with these improved systems numerous readers may be needed for each of the many shelves in a store, and even then objects may be placed in regions not adjacent to a smart shelf where they may effectively disappear from an RFID-based inventory tracking system. While advances in technology promise to bring the cost of RFID scanners down substantially, the cost of numerous smart shelves may still be excessive for some applications, particularly in environments where shelves per se cannot be installed or where wired shelves may pose problems for wiring access or safety. Thus, there is a need for a system that permits tracking of objects in a retail store or other environment without the need for numerous readers and without the need for objects to be adjacent to a fixed hardwired reader. In this paper, we propose several alternative systems that may be considered.

Background: Smart Shelves

There have been several proposals for smart shelves that can use RFID technology to automatically track products on the shelves of retail stores. Some concepts are treated in PCT publication WO 00/65532, “Storage System,” published Nov. 2, 2000, by Kevin Ashton, former Director of the Auto-ID Center. Smart shelf units under the name “SmartShelf” have been manufactured by SAMSys Technologies, Inc. (Ontario, Canada). Hitachi High Technology Corporation (Tokyo, Japan) has also developed a smart shelf consisting of an RFID reader with multiple antennas adapted to read Hitachi 13.56 MHz Coil-on-Chip (CoC) chips (see “Smart Shelves” in Smart Packaging Journal, No. 9, May 2003, p. 7). Custom smart shelves including multiple RFID readers have also been installed and trialed in several retail stores in the US and Europe, including the Metro Group Future Store in Rheinberg, Germany (Metro AG, Düsseldorf, Germany) described in a series of animations and other fil...