RFID tag to benefit store inventory management

A new system of electronic tagging could improve shop inventory and security systems without invading customers’ privacy, its inventors claim.

Hertfordshire-based Friendly Technologies (FTL) has developed a radio-frequency identification (RFID) tag that allows shops to instantly work out if any items are missing from their store and when they disappeared.

‘Our technology is cheaper, simpler and comes with all the benefits of RFID but without the security issues,’ FTL managing director Humberto Morán told The Engineer.

The system works by effectively taking a register of the shop’s inventory, scanning 600 times per second and asking the tag to confirm whether or not it is a specific product rather than asking it to provide details.

Each tag consists of a tiny silicon chip and an antenna to receive and transmit signals and power. They cost around 7p each to produce and can be read within a radius of 4m.

Because the system is constantly scanning the items, if a product is thought to be missing there will be a record of the exact time it disappeared from the shelves.

The technology can also link to a computer screen that automatically detects when a shopper has picked a product up off the shelf and provides information about the item such as cost, availability and similar products.

The technology was initially researched with a feasibility grant from the Scottish government and FTL hopes to have the product commercially available within six months.

The firm is also involved in a research project with the Fraunhofer EMFT (the Research Institute for Modular Solid State Technology) in Germany to bring the costs down to less than 1p per tag using printed electronics.

FTL demonstrated the system using over 100 garments at UK Trade & Investment’s Technology World exhibition in London last week.