RFID 'at heart' of Internet of Things era in retail

As the concept of the Internet of Things (IoT) in retail gains traction and businesses look to increase connectivity, RFID is expected to play a central role, according to Adam Sharp, business development director for retail at Smartrac Technology Group.

Sharp suggests that as the retail industry continues to go through some "transformative changes", RFID can play a key part in helping businesses in the sector improve inventory accuracy and planning, prevent shrinkage, and facilitate omnichannel fulfilment.

At this year's European retail tech solutions show RBTE, which takes place between 10-11 March at London's Olympia, retail visitors will have an opportunity to visit a dedicated RFID Zone showcasing nine companies – including Smartrac – that are bringing the technology to the retail sector.

It is the second year in succession that RFID will be featured in such a way at the European show, and on this occasion visiting retailers will also be able to catch up with representatives from BT Global Services, Enso Detego, Impinj, Nordic+, OCS, r-pac, TRC Solutions and Xterprise.

Essential Retail spoke to Smartrac's Sharp to hear his views on RFID's growing influence on the industry.

Why are a growing number of retailers realising now is the right time to invest in RFID?

The retail industry is going through some transformative changes. A growing number of retailers are taking big steps improving inventory accuracy and planning, preventing shrinkage, facilitating omnichannel fulfilment and providing enhanced, real-time customer experience. RFID technology has incredible ability to combine all those benefits and make outmost use of all powerful competitive differentiators.

What is (or has been) the most impressive use of RFID in retail that you've seen?

Of course, not every RFID application is right for every retailer. But "smart" merchandise will enable the next generation of retail.

"Smart" means, for example, that RFID technology will allow item-level visibility for almost any merchandise across the value chain. Merchandise visibility will enable retailers to address their critical inventory management requirements such as factory to shelf asset tracking, store optimisation, self-checkout, loss prevention, returns management, smart mirrors and dressing rooms, location-based services, mobile shopping and promotions, and many more. Further on, the opportunities and the related benefits from merchandise visibility all the way to applications for consumer acquisitions, experience and retention is really endless.

What role does your company play in bringing RFID technology to retailers, and which companies are you working with?

First and foremost, Smartrac is the leading RFID technology company and manufacturer of RFID tags covering all specifications and all frequencies. To complement and enable a wide array of solutions we offer ready-made and customised products and services. We have all what it takes to connect the unconnected, make products smart, and enable retailers and brand owners to identify, authenticate, track and complement product offerings. Together with our partners from across the retail industry we develop solutions and use cases that shape the future of retail. And by combining physical products with digitally based services we empower and enable the ecosystem of connected things.

Everyone's talking about the IoT; what's your definition of this term and how central is RFID in this ultimate drive towards 'a connected world'?

RFID is at the very heart of the IoT. For Smartrac, IoT means that virtually all things can be connected, not limited to computers and smartphones or machines for example. RFID technology enables simple things to be connected, and SMART COSMOS, our ground-breaking cloud-based platform offers a tightly integrated set of easy-to-use services that can be used to build customised and innovative applications with RFID-tagged objects. SMART COSMOS enables businesses to connect physical objects to the digital world and with that create new applications for authentication, identification and tracking of items.

Retailers and brand owners can create unique and truly personalised customer experiences by better connecting offline brand items to the digital world of consumers along the customer journey from promotion to repurchasing, and along the product journey from production to recycling.

Tell us what to expect from this year's RFID Zone at RBTE?

RFID will enable the next generation of retailing, driven by many key applications. And as with many other technologies, the whole is greater than the sum of its parts. We expect the retail industry to move ahead very fast towards a new era of merchandise visibility and consumer experience, which is, for good reasons, our trade show motto for this year's RBTE.

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Smartrac Technology Group