Smarter electronic labels

German researchers have developed networked electronic goods labels for shop shelves which can be updated with prices and images from a single central computer

Even in the age of electronic labeling, the task of changing the price of goods on a shelf can be time-consuming and prone to inaccuracies. Researchers at the Fraunhofer Institute for Microelectronic Circuits and Systems IMS have developed networked electronic labels with electronics company renzel media in order to overcome this.

IMS team leader Hans-Christian Müller said: ‘The store manager can quickly and easily change the prices on the displays via a central computer in the office. To make this possible, we have integrated a receiver in each screen. Each display can be separately controlled via a transmitter in the central computer.’

If a price changes, the store manager copies a file containing the new price into the main computer directory, and the price displayed on the shelf is instantly updated. The software for creating the price tags is part of the package delivered by renzel media.

The computer splits up the product data, which could include an image of the goods alongside the price, into small data packages which it transmits to the receiver. The receiver pieces the image together again and displays it.

If a data package is lost during the radio transmission, the receiver automatically sends a query to the transmitter, and the missing package is sent again. The data packages are small as the displays only have a very small processor so that they can operate with a minimum of energy and do not generate much heat.

This means it is possible to use tightly sealed casings, which is an advantage in certain places where displays are installed, such as in refrigerated shelves where moisture is unavoidable.