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RFID at its (less than) finest July 6, 2006

Posted by hamcoder in retail stores.
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I was Home Depot the other day and NOT impressed by the use of RFID there. I joined the check out line behind a contractor-type who had several items to pay for. At first glance, the cashier seemed to be scanning each item twice. Why was she doing that?

I discarded a couple of cynical thoughts about Home Depot’s new program to increase sales by charging twice for everything, and looked closely at what the cashier was doing.

She actually had two scanners – one for the UPC code and a separate one for the RFID tag. The UPC code was scanned once, the scanner beeped, and she went on to the next item. The RFID scan, however, was much more time-consuming. She would scan an item several times before moveing on to the next one. It became obvious that she was clearing the RDIF tag so that the contractor-type wouldn’t set off the alarms when he left the building with a half dozen door knobs and assorted accoutrements. It’s also pretty obvious that the RFID scanner was both a reader (to retrieve the data) and a writer (to update the RFID tag with cleared data).

The problem was that the RFID scanner gave the cashier absolutely no feedback – no bleeps, no blurts, no blinks. So she would run an item over the RFID scanner 3, 4, 6 times. That really slowed her down, and the contractor-type, and ME.

Would it have been so difficult to design the RFID scanner to give the cashier some feedback when it detected a cleared tag?