Detego takes RFID-based stock management to the next level with advanced localization capabilities.

Smart Shield – Removing The Barriers To RFID Implementation

The Challenge

Over the course of recent years, Radio Frequency Identification (RFID) technology has been applied in many different business domains to handle inventory challenges, for example, the problem of monitoring stock. Retailers can use the knowledge of item locations to understand in which area of the store they can locate articles, such as the backroom or sales floor. By possessing this knowledge, retailers can rely on having optimal product availability for their customers through an efficient replenishment process. When using Detego’s InStore software, RFID technology provides the benefit of up to 99% stock accuracy and on-floor availability. However, there have always been limitations with the ability to understand an item’s exact location, due to the long-distance read signal an RFID tag emits. The most common “best-practice” methods that can ensure such high figures are currently known to involve a physical method of shielding between individual stock locations, whether this is using foil or metallic paint. However, this common and costly method of shielding has left retailers and our data scientists wondering what else could be done to lower the hurdles on the initial steps of the RFID journey.

Beating the laws of Physics

Detego’s data scientists have debated and solved this common problem by utilising machine learning and tag localization to establish the ‘Smart Shield’ feature to determine the relative locations of individual items. When RFID was developed, the concept of identifying individual tag locations was never considered a possibility. However, the innovation and progress made by our team has already defied the laws of physics, with our ‘Smart Shield’ results showing performance to be on par with physical shielding requirements. By removing this barrier, a much faster and affordable implementation into brick-and-mortar stores has been made possible.

How it works

Every individual RFID tag creates a specific time & signal stamp when it is read by an RFID reader – up to several times per second. Using the data that this process collects, we apply smart algorithms to our software so that it can continuously learn and improve the accuracy each time a stocktake is performed without physical shielding. Traditionally, ‘fixed reader infrastructure’ was the only technique of identifying individual item locations without physical shielding. To combat the rigidity of this method, we modified this approach to handheld readers to generate a highly cost-effective and scalable solution.

What it means

No more physical shielding – Firstly, we can solve one of the major downfalls of RFID by eliminating the necessity for physical shielding between a retailer’s separate stock locations. In saying that, ‘Smart Shield’ is not the silver bullet that 100% removes the need for physical shielding. There will be challenging stores where Smart Shield runs into limitations. However, there are also stores where it’s difficult to apply physical shielding – so here the ‘Smart Shield’ can help.

Continuous improvement with Artificial Intelligence – Applying our machine learning algorithms to the data will result in automatic learning & improvements with on-going stocktakes; further improving accuracy & efficiency of store processes.

More than just ‘shielding’ – This new capability for RFID tag localization has huge benefits far beyond the removal of physical shielding in retail stores. Through the machine learning infrastructure in place that enables us to identify locations of individual RFID tags, we can improve operations in the following ways:

  • Replenishment advice and picking lists for e-com processes can be optimised through location-based sorting to make the process more efficient for the store associate when in the backroom.
  • Staff will now additionally be supported in finding items to further enhance customer service.

Utilising the information about relative locations of items can drastically increase staff efficiency and business process efficiency across various functions relating to logistics, warehousing and retail. Not only will this save their budget, but they will also experience faster time to market and their franchise/wholesaler partners will be enabled in a more streamlined process that eases the implementation of the new technology.

What’s next?

The use cases of RFID technology have progressed even further than initially anticipated. From the first use case to our Smart Shield feature using artificial intelligence. The latter is now readily available as part of our platform and retailers can easily utilise the new system, seeing an increase in process efficiency across both the backroom and the shop floor. But perhaps the biggest development enabled by the ‘Smart Shield’ is the greater ease with which retailers can now implement RFID systems in stores. As this relatively-young technology continues to improve, developments like the ‘Smart shield’ are further steps towards RFID becoming part of the status quo in the fashion retail landscape, as advancements such as this discover new use cases for the technology whilst simultaneously reducing the cost and time required for implementation.

“Utilizing the information about relative locations of items can drastically increase staff efficiency and business process efficiency across various functions relating to logistics, warehousing and retail. Together with features that will significantly lower the costs for a roll-out, retailers will experience an even faster time to market and will have the ability to enable franchise/wholesaler partners with full RFID capabilities at low costs.”

Dr. Michael Goller – CTO Detego

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