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Tags Helping Retailers Keep Shelves Stocked

February 01, 2006

Retailers are discovering how radio-frequency identification (RFID) tags can help keep their shelves stocked, say researchers at the University of Missouri-Rolla.

Sophisticated cousins of UPC barcodes, RFID tags use radio frequencies and can be read quickly and wirelessly by a scanner that relays information directly into computer systems. RFID tags are critically important for major retailers, such as Wal-Mart, because they provide real-time, accurate information about what’s in stock.

“Since you have full product visibility, you don’t have to order just-in-case products, which will also save retailers money,” explains Dr. Can Saygin, co-director of UMR’s auto-ID testbed and associate professor of engineering management and systems engineering at UMR.

Tomorrow’s food items and other time- and temperature-sensitive materials will likely have individual RFID tags, says Dr. Jagannathan Sarangapani, co-director of UMR’s auto-ID testbed and professor of electrical and computer engineering at UMR.

“If the food item is going to expire, grocers can change the rates automatically,” he says. “The price will automatically go down. Even the milk in your refrigerator could email and tell you it’s going bad.”

UMR’s auto-ID testbed has evolved over the last year to include new auto-ID applications, such as hardware-in-the-loop simulation models, RFID data-based decision making for inventory management, shipping and receiving operations at a dock door, in addition to a supply-chain application integrated with a shop floor.

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