RFID has occupied a curious position in the retail IT landscape for the past decade. Most observers acknowledge that RFID holds great potential to offer expanded supply chain visibility and collaboration from source to shelf, but aside from a few high-profile programs run by retail heavyweights like Wal-Mart and Target, RFID’s potential still remains untapped after all these years. That may finally be changing.
As recently reported on Chainstoreage.com, American Apparel is automating in-store inventory tracking processes with a wide-area RFID system using technology from Senitron and Impinj, eliminating the need for handheld readers. On a continual basis, the system transmits data from RFID inventory tags with Impinj Monza chips through fixed antennae to a database providing real-time RFID coverage across the store. Benefits to the retailer include improved inventory accuracy, on-shelf availability, security, analytics, customer service and the ability to locate merchandise.
American Apparel deserves kudos for this effort, but here is nothing going on with this program that could not have happened in 2003. However, retailers’ perspective on the role of IT in the enterprise is shifting as IT functionality evolves, and RFID’s capabilities actually fit this new perspective quite nicely. Here’s how.
RFID Works on the Same Concept as the ‘Internet of Things’
The “Internet of Things,” or Web 3.0, is based on the concept of non-computing devices such as appliances and automobiles being connected to the Internet for purposes such as automatically notifying the owner when maintenance is needed. Web 3.0 is also being realized through innovations such as Google Glass that turn wearable objects into mobile computing devices.
RFID is basically the Internet of Things minus the Internet. It turns items in a retailer’s supply chain, or other objects such as store shelves and fixtures, into automated sources of information about themselves and their surroundings. In some ways, the rest of the retail IT world is finally catching up to RFID.