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Retail Tech Chat Episode 2: Touchless & RFID for Safer Stores

Retail Tech Chat

The pandemic has created new sensitivities around interpersonal contact—and nowhere is that more true than in the retail and hospitality sector. Happily, new touchless retail technologies are helping merchants make their businesses safer, more comfortable, and more efficient.

Discover how the industry is moving forward in this conversation between technology power couple Sarah-Jayne and Dean Gratton, and experts from BlueStar, a leading distributor of mobility, point-of-sale, RFID, and security solutions.

You will learn:

  • How the checkout experience is evolving to meet new expectations
  • Why technologies like RFID are critical for store operations
  • How leading retailers are deploying these technologies today

Available on Apple Podcasts, Spotify, SoundCloud, and iHeartRadio, the Retail Tech Chat is a limited-run podcast focused on the recovery of the retail and hospitality sector. Subscribe now so you don’t miss an episode!

Listen to Retail Tech Chat Episode 1: AI Innovations for the Customer Experience

Listen to Retail Tech Chat Episode 3: Digitizing the In-Store Experience

Listen to Retail Tech Chat Episode 4: Accelerating Digital Transformation

Listen to Retail Tech Chat Episode 5: New Roles for Digital Signage

Listen to Retail Tech Chat Episode 6: Safety, Security, & In-Store Intelligence

Transcript

Sarah-Jayne Gratton: Welcome to the Retail Tech Chats, sponsored by Intel. I'm Sarah Jane Gratton.

Dean Gratton: And I'm Dean Gratton.

Sarah-Jayne Gratton: And together we explore the world of technology and the ways it's reshaping our lives.

Dean Gratton: So in this podcast series, we are taking a new journey into retail innovation with Intel and its partners.

Sarah-Jayne Gratton: And today we're talking to Gordon Atkins from BlueStar Europe, a leading distributor of mobility, point of sale, RFID and security solutions, which work exclusively with value-added resellers.

Dean Gratton: Gordon, thank you ever so much for joining us today.

Gordon Atkins: No worries. It's great to be here.

Dean Gratton: And, of course, ultimately what does BlueStar do? And ultimately, what is your role?

Gordon Atkins: So BlueStar is a solutions distributor. So we work with different manufacturers, bringing their items together and putting them into solutions available for resellers, ISVs, anybody to take to market, to help solutions in retail, hospitality, warehousing, and other areas.

Sarah-Jayne Gratton: That's really interesting because I think these days retailers are looking for innovation to make sure, one, with potentially reduced staff levels, they've got means of tracking things. And I also think that retail is moving forward so much into a data world. Would you agree with that, Gordon?

Gordon Atkins: Oh, definitely. We're in a real-time world now. And when people say, "Have you got it?" We're wanting to know right now if they have it or not. It's that simple question, isn't it?

Sarah-Jayne Gratton: I was talking to somebody the other day and she looked online to see whether her dress was in stock. And she didn't get a response from the system. She walked to the store, it wasn't in stock, and she was so disappointed. And she said, "Why can't I see online whether my dress is in stock, and know before I go to the shop?" So I'm sure you can relate to stores that still have that issue.

Gordon Atkins: Unfortunately, the stock issue's always been there for a long time. And using the ways people have for years, it's always going to be there unfortunately. There is new and upcoming ways, but like you say, for me, the expectations of technology and expectations of retailing now is for that to be available and to be able to find that information, at hand, instantly. The tools are there, so why not have it working perfectly for the customer? Because customer service is key in this world.

Sarah-Jayne Gratton: Absolutely. And things have changed so much over the past six months. How do you think the pandemic has changed the retail landscape, and what do you think in regards to that? That merchants need to do differently?

Gordon Atkins: I think this year, huge growth in online presence of everybody recently is showing the way that people that would normally go to the High Street to have a look, have been shopping online, have potentially got new trends now where they have enjoyed shopping online. And for me, like you say, the stock calibration between the two needs to be there. If the stock's not there, is there a chance for them to sort of showroom those items? Have some on a demo rail where people can go, "I just needed to try an 8," regardless of color, regardless of availability. "I just want to try an 8." So it worked, it fitted, and I knew that I could go online and buy it. But if it's not there and that size is not available, then the customer service level goes down, doesn't it, instantly.

It's that unhappy feeling. And expectations now by customers are they want to be able to do this. And for me, the experience needs to be there in retail. If you go in your car, driving into a town as such, to the High Street, if you're on a quick mission, no problem at all. But if you're looking for something that's different, you want the help. You want the advice. You want an experience when you go shopping. Especially if you're with the family. It needs to be an experience for all. And for me the High Street does need to draw some customers back in, shall we say?

Dean Gratton: Do you think the High Street still has a future? We've seen a lot of High Street stores close as a consequence of online stores such as Amazon. But now, because of the pandemic, that's really put the nail in the coffin for the High Street. So what do you think the future of the High Street is?

Gordon Atkins: Don't get me wrong, for me the High Street is always going to be there. The shopping experience is always going to be there, because some things you just can't do online. And sometimes you just want to go and try and collect it and get it now quickly, and the High Street is a great way of doing that. And again, for me, some people like that experience. It's part of, certain parts of your life where you have that experience with the family. You need to go shopping for new school clothes or summer outfits for holidays, or anything like that. It's great to have a High Street where it's fun, it's an experience. Or you want to go bargain hunting or something like that.

For me, it's always going to be there. It just needs to revive itself, have a bit more of an experience feel. And for me, sometimes missing the mixing the retail and hospitality together really does work. Because if you're going shopping for a couple of hours to look at several things that you've put on a list, you're going to want a cup of tea or a lunch break or something in between. So making that experience is kind of key.

Sarah-Jayne Gratton: Yeah, that's so true. I really think now, because of this mind shift in the way that people shop now, they go out. I've noticed myself, if I go out now to the High Street, I go out with an agenda in mind. What I need to do rather than spend the whole day browsing. So I think you're right about this hospitality retail blend where there's much more an experience for the whole family there. And people can use this kind of focus to draw more out of their time there. With that in mind, the touchless experiences, I feel, have become really important. How do you think that stores can bring more of these in to enhance, if you like, the event aspect of shopping?

Dean Gratton: Well, I suppose that would tie in with the technology, because as well as the pandemic that's happened ... I know that Gordon touched upon the actual need for consumers to go out and get their stuff, to have that experience. I think today, now, we would experiencing customers or shoppers going out, getting what they want and coming back quickly because of social distance and…

Sarah-Jayne Gratton: Yeah. I think that's true. But I still think that if you go out as a family, you want to have this experience. In a sense, to people that have been in lockdown, it's nostalgia. Wouldn't you agree, Gordon?

Gordon Atkins: Yeah, definitely. Definitely. Like you say, there's times at the moment that we rush in, we rush out. But after this, like you say, to get the High Street and everybody back moving again, when everybody's happy and we can have the way it was together, it makes perfect sense. And like you say, the touchless world that we're potentially moving into, yes, contactless, everybody started accepting the 45-pound limit in a UK is great because more people have accepted it. More transactions are done quicker. So it's very good for stores. And like you say, there are other versions of that. Like voice control on a self-checkouts and things like that. And they're getting facial recognition sometimes will help a store with their marketing, and maybe the videos they play, the music they play, to make it an experience. Because, no offense, is I kept thinking the different generations like different music and can create different atmospheres. So if your store is full of a younger generation that wants something very-now music, then play that now music to get them in the mood to have a good experience.

Dean Gratton: Well, that could be even worse. Because if, thinking ahead as a futurist, I would say what if a young shopper goes into a store and they have the ability to actually stream their music across the in-store entertainment system…

Gordon Atkins: Like you say, touch, touchless, hearing, it all comes together. And if you're in an experience where you're retail shopping and you've been there an hour and you smell a donut or a croissant cooking in the morning, you're likely to go sit down for 10 minutes, enjoy the experience, and then carry on shopping.

Sarah-Jayne Gratton: Mm-hmm (affirmative). That sensory element to the psychology of the shopping experience. Yeah. I'm a real sucker for that. A real sucker for that.

Dean Gratton: Yeah. That's been going on for such a long time because when you have the restaurants opening their windows and wafting out the food smells and all this, it's classic.

Gordon Atkins: Is the bakery always at the back of the store?

Dean Gratton: Exactly.

Gordon Atkins: Mm-hmm (affirmative). There's thousands of different ones, variations and things you can do, but it all actually does help in its own little way. And for me, like you say, customer service and experience are the key things that High Street needs to see. But there is lots of different things that people can be doing, and people will start expecting this because they're already used to being connected in their own world. When they're connected at home, they're taking that technology into store and sometimes it's nice to have that replication of technology in store. So let the customer buy online, in store, via their normal card payment or something like that, if there's not the stock available. So, people are willing and looking for that type of environment. It's about having options at the moment.

Dean Gratton: And with that in mind, do you think the evolution of transactions and how they occur, do you think that's going to change? I know it's increased, the contactless has gone up 45 pounds, but do you see that changing where we'll have security, more security built around the contactless experience, just to maintain that contactless and social distance experience to ... do you see that evolving at all?

Gordon Atkins: Yeah, to be honest. The use of phones as payment devices now is growing dramatically. The acceptance is definitely there in a younger generation, obviously. For me, part of the generation of, "Really? I'd rather just carry a card and beep it." Just one of those things that I've always done. But the acceptance is there and it's coming through strong, to be honest. It's just using that technology on different people, different times at the moment. We're still in that middle of that changing period where new methods are out there and it's just the acceptance. And the people's understanding, to be honest. For me, people really wouldn't put it out there if it wasn't that secure. As long as you're checking your basic things of, yes, this is a legitimate company, it's a big company, etc., then use these things that they're trying to give to you, because sometimes they are easier.

Gordon Atkins: A bit like online banking, isn't it? Some people stayed away for online banking for a while, then they all of a sudden had to download an app, and before they knew it, they were like, "Well, I'm not going back in the bank anymore. This is much easier."

Dean Gratton: Yeah, exactly.

Sarah-Jayne Gratton: It's that education, isn't it, really?

Dean Gratton: Yeah. That was absolutely right. I think it's about education and confidence in the technology that you're using on a daily basis. And I think the wider it's accepted by the masses, the more confident people become with it.

Gordon Atkins: Definitely.

Sarah-Jayne Gratton: That the elderly struggle. I know contactless is incredible. I love contactless. Walking through. Things are evolving even more with Amazon. Go and walk in, walk out. But one of the things that is still there, if you like, there as an issue, is the fact that also elderly people go to the shops to talk to people, and actually want somebody to actually serve them and talk to them. And it's that kind of personal contact, I think, that resonates with people that are on their own an awful lot of the time.

Gordon Atkins: Yeah, definitely. Definitely. Customer service is key, regardless of the person. Now I've had seen this personally, where elderly come in and they want that experience. They want time to chat. Certain supermarkets look at their beats per minute. We must be at 20 beats per minute. Get the customer and getting the customer out. But certain people who give that level of customer service where they take their time, they talk to the customer, the customer is then much, much happier and not looking for that quick in-out experience. Like you say, you've got to cater to different needs at the moment. Some people just want a quick self-service, two items and out, some people want that, let me just pack this correctly. Again, even with scan-as-you-shop nowadays, the acceptance is there. People are willing to scan their own items because it speeds them up at the other end. And even the acceptance of bring your own device or use one of the in-store devices. For me, it's a great way for people to do a bit more themselves because they're winning as long as they're educated and they understand.

Dean Gratton: I suppose it's trying to achieve that balance. We still have, Sarah mentioned about the older generation, but do you see changing regarding the customer-experienced staff versus non-staff? Or the self-service checkout experience? Do you see always a need for staff service desks or kiosks at the shopping?

Gordon Atkins: At this present time, for me it's offering everything to the customers because there's different levels of customers at the moment. To say, everybody must queue up, everybody must go for this process, is a little bit odd in today's world. Most people would like the choice of, I can go over there with my big trolley, take my time, and load it all, or, I'm just running in quickly, when we're using the same store. It's giving the customers options. A bit like some of the larger stores, do I have to walk all the way to the other end of the store just to pay for this one item? Can't you just scan it on your little handheld, I pay it and then run out this door here quickly? It's giving that option to be able to give good customer service.

Sarah-Jayne Gratton: Yeah. I think you're absolutely right, Gordon. It's about choice, isn't it? And it's about making sure that everybody has the best experience that they can have. Not everybody wants that speedy scanner experience. I mean, Amazon Go is great for young people who…

Dean Gratton: And you don't have to. You simply go into a shop, pick what you want…

Sarah-Jayne Gratton: Yeah. Pick what you want, and you're off.

Dean Gratton: And you're off. Don't even have to stand at a kiosk, pay someone. You just [inaudible] let’s achieve that.

Sarah-Jayne Gratton: That would be a miserable experience [inaudible] the person who was stuck in, not seeing a single person, walk in and have nobody to talk to. So I think there's a time and a place for all these technologies. And I love the way that Gordon explained how we're balancing this to make sure that we're not overlooking anybody's needs. And I think that's key in the evolution of retail.

Gordon Atkins: I think definitely. The customer will tell you what he wants, or what they want, when they want it. Just listen to the customer. They're always your main source of income, your main source of what you're looking for. So listen to them for a minute and work with what they want. Have that flexibility to better go, "Yeah, we can do that. Yeah. We can do that."

Sarah-Jayne Gratton: Absolutely. Yeah. Yeah. You're so right. And in terms of the operations side and improving that, should stores put a higher priority on technologies like RFID? So real-time inventory tracking, we've already talked about stock supplies and tracking those and making those better, should it be a higher priority do you think, Gordon?

Gordon Atkins: For me, yes. Like you described earlier, you can easily, within yourself, describe a contact where your friend couldn't find what they were looking for online, went into the shop and it wasn't available. Inventories have always been a bit of a nightmare for retailers, keeping them up to date. And for me, yes, when you look at RFID as a total solution, the return on investment is there in such a strong case. And for me, just having that ability to be able to say, "Yeah, we've got that item in stock, it's actually just over there. We scanned it two hours ago." And people look at these RFID robots that go around scanning items, but then instantly, if you sold an item at 9 o'clock in the morning, somebody at 2 o'clock in the afternoon might be looking online for it, see it's online, and it might not have been updated it's there. If the RFID robot's gone around four times and read that scan and scanned and knows it's still there and it's been there all morning, much better results for the customer. Much better.

Sarah-Jayne Gratton: Absolutely. Yeah. And actually, ultimately for the retailer, because they're going to be giving a better service in terms of stock availability and avoiding those disappointments from customers.

Gordon Atkins: Definitely. It's that a simple thing of happy customer, happy retailer, isn't it?

Sarah-Jayne Gratton: Yeah.

Dean Gratton: That's very analogous to happy wife, happy life.

Gordon Atkins: Well, this is it. We got to keep things simple, haven't we?

Dean Gratton: We've been looking at BlueStar and I noticed that you guys use data. And I just want to know how ... Okay, that's topical of artificial intelligence, but let's take it from a high-level point of view, because data modeling, data science, machine learning and deep learning and so on, are subsets to artificial intelligence. Do you use BlueStar artificial intelligence for any aspect of your technologies?

Gordon Atkins: Actually, our shelves in our new warehouse, we have been looking at some of these different ways of picking and different things like that. So we are starting to work with different companies and look at different ideas ourselves. Because this technology is coming. Understanding it for different things, even as far as wayfinding and stuff like that. It's the new technology that's coming through that makes sense when used in the right way. Don't get me wrong, you can have a lot of fun with it, but there's big use cases for it.

Dean Gratton: I suppose that the deep-learning aspects, which I saw about the background to your company, machine learning to adapt the way and to model how consumers and retailers are using your technology, and how they experienced that. And to better develop better algorithms as to how the consumer and the retailer's experience you as a company.

Gordon Atkins: For me, again, this data is key. And it's understanding the data. Because the information is just sitting there really, and it's just getting that data into the right categories, used in the right way and it will tell us so much. But yeah, getting hold of the data is one thing, using it in the right way is something else.

Sarah-Jayne Gratton: Yeah. I think on your website you talk about data and big data and how it's so valuable. Big data is so much more than data because it's everything.

Dean Gratton: It's the new currency.

Sarah-Jayne Gratton: Well, yeah, the new oil apparently, but yeah, it's this valuable, valuable asset that is flooding in that you can draw so much from in terms of predictions, in terms of understanding the customers I guess, and evolving your technology and the innovations that you need to serve them. So, we're coming to the million-dollar question here, which is, how do you work with Intel to help retailers deliver these new technologies and innovation?

Gordon Atkins: Good question. I mean, for me, Intel has always been at the back of everything we’ve done, all the way down to the endpoints, from using Intel for servers all the way down to standard touchscreen terminals. We're using one-touchscreen terminals, we now offer from 10 inch to 65 inch in stores. There's so much. Little Intel boxes hidden behind different things that you're seeing. Behind multi-screens, behind the single screens, interactive and non-interactive. And it really does…

Dean Gratton: Intel Inside.

Gordon Atkins: Intel Inside. Of course. Like you say, we forget all about this when we see and we're playing with the screens. But like you say, there's a PC running behind giving it the power, giving the graphics, giving everything it needs, it's generally Intel powered. For me, Intel's a great a team player in this. They fully understand our marketplace. And the chipsets we use in a lot of this with different manufacturers gives us great ability. So working with them is key.

Sarah-Jayne Gratton: Yeah. In a sense, Intel's the unsung hero behind the screens, isn't it? It's doing its job, it's generating all this input for you and working away there. So applause to Intel for that. Can you give us some examples, Gordon, of the merchants that are using these technologies to find the success?

Gordon Atkins: Well, if we just purely talked about the UK, I think you'd find it ... realistically you'll find Intel inside every single self-checkout in supermarkets, and every single checkout being used. So regardless, potentially somebody's had an Intel, been close to an Intel chip being used every single week they go shopping. It's as simple as that. When they go into a retail store, realistically anybody that's running Windows, so that's realistically from tier one down to a three to four, anybody realistically on the High Street will be running Intel chips because they're running a Windows world.

Sarah-Jayne Gratton: Yeah. So it's they're everywhere around us.

Gordon Atkins: Yep. And that's from anything that's computerized. So again, we forget all about our back office and warehousing, everything like that. It's all, from front to back, it's all running Intel chips.

Sarah-Jayne Gratton: Yeah. Fantastic stuff. We have skated through these questions, which is wonderful, Gordon, because you've answered them so well. Probably a bit too well because we've got lots of time. So with that in mind, is there anything else you'd like to talk about?

Gordon Atkins: Like you say, for me we are still in that middle change. Even pre-COVID. I've done a few presentations to some high-end retailers last year and they asked me to sit down and look at their sort of ideas. Where are we now? If they were changing things, what would they change? And yeah, I looked at it and said, "We still are and still will be for quite some time, in that middle. Certain, I hate to say generations, but certain younger generations being used to things and wanting things and older generations accepting things and understanding things." So like you say, we're still having some people wanting to go around, chat, with a trolley, fill it up, put things onto a belt, have those conversations. We've got to cover the self-service because people want to do it themselves.

Gordon Atkins: We've got to cover that mobile pulse way, because somebody might just want one item, see queues in both areas and go, "I've got one item." Beep, beep. Scan, scan. Payment done. Out the door. So it's just giving everybody opportunities. And it's quite strange, I've always remembered the Christmas tree one. For a big retailer to sell Christmas trees outside always used to be, how do we get a till point all the way outside? It's got to be one of our normal tills. So on and so forth. Where, in today's world, you can grab a payment device, grab a handheld reader, and send somebody outside in an hour.

Sarah-Jayne Gratton: Yeah. That's fantastic, isn't it? Yeah. When you think about how things used to be. One of my bugbears, I don't know if this has happened to you, Gordon, but it's when you've got two items in your basket and you are standing behind this massive basket, and there's no one with just a few items.

Gordon Atkins: We've all been there, I think. When you look down the aisle and think, "Oh, I just got two items. I just want to be quick." Give the customers the options

Sarah-Jayne Gratton: And I always say, if I'm in front of somebody and they come along and they've just got one thing or two things or a small amount, just, "Go ahead." And I suppose that the self-service, and as you say, this has revolutionized the speed in which these people can actually think, "Yeah, I've got my stuff, I can go." In this very busy world in which we live, and especially if you are limited on time what with things like the pandemic where you have to be very focused on what you're doing while you're out, and time restrictions on getting back and whatever…

Gordon Atkins: Like you say, in this day and age, things don't have to be big, all-singing, all-dancing, weighing everything. They've shown that self-service can be ... as human beings we can be trusted with it, generally. And all we need to do is scan a couple of things, accept the payment and walk out the door. Now I can do that on a little tiny 7-inch touchscreen and have lots of these available. So there's lots of ways of doing it, isn't it? And there's always peak times that you want to wheel out extra things at certain times because there's so many people, or speed things up. There's many, many different ways. But for me, about catering what's best for your customer because they're always the key.

Sarah-Jayne Gratton: And actually, with that in mind, with the lunch break customers who are all coming out from the offices, is there a need for sort of greater self-service during certain hours? I mean, the self-service checkouts are normally, when I go at lunchtime, are also quite busy. And there's a queue and there's people explaining and then something doesn't get scanned properly. Is there a need, do you think, for better organization over amounts of self-service technology at certain times of the day, how it works and how it's planned? It just seems a bit haphazard sometimes.

Gordon Atkins: Yes, unfortunately, but then that's I think down to sheer numbers of acceptance for me. I think you'll find most people, most large stores now, are actually still understanding self-service technology and growing it themselves. I think, to be honest, our local Sainsbury's has had even more self-service booths put in recently, and again, already, a bit like the M25, you give it a fourth lane and it will fill up quickly.

Sarah-Jayne Gratton: That's such a great analogy. That's such a great analogy. I love that.

Gordon Atkins: But it's a bit like the one, if you build it, they will come. If it's there and it's quicker, people will use it.

Sarah-Jayne Gratton: Yeah. That's brilliant.

Dean Gratton: I just want to go off topic somewhat and talk about what we've discussed the other day. And that was the Internet of Things and Near Field Communications and RFID. So Near Field Communications and RFID, I mentioned to you that RFID was probably ... it wasn't probably, it was, the launch for this guy, Kevin Ashton, who conceived Internet of Things. And he worked at MIT and he was developing tracking systems for products and whatnot, in warehouses and retail and so on, using RFID. Do you think IoT for you, as a business, works?

Gordon Atkins: Yeah, it totally does. Totally does. If we just talk about RFID for a moment alone. Say for instance, I'm a retailer and I have sort of a basket environment where the customers come up with 10 things in the basket. If I'm using barcode, I have to find 10 barcodes, position 10 barcodes, put 10 barcodes in front of a something. Now the sheer fact of moving my hand across it, scanning all 10, and carrying on with the transaction, speeds up the whole thing for the customer and the retailer. So for me, it's crazy little things. When you look at RFID as a whole, can I scan it? Can I have a robot going around scanning every single item, knowing where it is? Is my loss prevention being covered because I can track items better? Can I speed things up at my till point?

So it's just a quick scan of items rather than each and every single item being found. And for me, acceptance of that technology is coming because it speeds everything up and it makes it more accurate at the same time. Yes, historically there's always been a cost to it. But these costs have dramatically come down as the whole world accepts RFID and NFC more and more.

I mentioned the other day, years ago when I went through the change in access control from magnetic car technology, physically swiping that car through the system, to an RFID technology where it's just tap the card and open the door, that was a quick, swift, easy acceptance. It's just the rest has to follow. For me, it's making people's lives easier in this day and age with technology is easily done. It's just understanding and accepting it.

Dean Gratton: Yeah. And I suppose the evolution to NFC and RFID, you talked about those magnetic strips and opening doors, for example. The next step in that would be to have the Star Trek-like doors, where you approach the doors and they open. Not because the movement, but they recognize you. Because if you need to use your car to get in because you're authorized to get in, then I think that would be a great ... though, maybe there's a problem with that because…

Sarah-Jayne Gratton: No, you're talking about having your phone in your pocket and it recognizing that you've walked up to the door…

Dean Gratton: Yeah. But that's what RFID [inaudible] that would require something like Bluetooth as a longer distance. Or even facial recognition for the door to actually recognize you, to say, "Ah, I know who you are. I'll open the door for you."

Sarah-Jayne Gratton: And would the door make the Star Trek sound?

Dean Gratton: That'd be a bonus.

Gordon Atkins: That would be key, to be honest.

Sarah-Jayne Gratton: [inaudible 00:30:52]

Dean Gratton: There's no point in having it…

Sarah-Jayne Gratton: Without the sound.

Dean Gratton: Without the sound.

Sarah-Jayne Gratton: Yeah. I think we're onto something here. We should develop this.

Dean Gratton: Got it. Let’s patent it now.

Gordon Atkins: Well, I was just about to say, this is absolutely great because you answer your own questions, guys. It's absolutely superb. Like you say, the technology is there. There is actually something called a UHF, Ultra High Frequency, which they use in warehousing and things like that. It gives them a longer read rate. Because if you just picked on normal RFID, like a MIFARE card or something like that, you've got inches read rate. But if you picked on UHF, in theory it's used for, say for instance, a pallet on a forklift truck driving through a warehouse door. That's how it could be used. And like you say, that's only recognizing a serial number, populating it onto a database. What that does instantly would then just give a door access, instant rewards to go, "Right. That's been populated at this point. Let's open that door." So the technology's there, not hard at all to put it together.

That is coming. Because why couldn't the door know that I'm walking down the corridor, and if it's the only door that's there, I'm within the security parameters, open the door for me. Be so kind, would you? Like you say, there's lots of different ways of doing it, radio frequency is a great way of doing it because it's physically there. Even with facial recognition nowadays, it's getting so much better and we're linking it to different types of marketing via interactive screens to draw people in and things like that. So yeah. Why wouldn't we use this technology for easier and greater things to make our lives better and quicker and easier so we can enjoy more?

Sarah-Jayne Gratton: Yeah. Absolutely. And there's other, of course there's things like disabilities, anything that would mean that you can't easily get to your phone, to get there to show that would recognize you. Also I think you were judging, Dean you were judging the NFC awards this year. And I think there was an actual campus or college campus where students could just gain entry through their phones by having registered. Which means safety for the students and no more fumbling for their phones to try and hold them up, they can actually get straight into their rooms. So it’s safety aspects. As you say, Gordon, it's all sorts of things that it expands out to the larger community and the world as a whole.

Gordon Atkins: Definitely. That's great to hear as well, because the second they've got it on their phone, they can have it on their watch. So again, it's just making life simpler, isn't it?

Sarah-Jayne Gratton: Yeah. Yeah, yeah. It's just about making life easier, making experiences better for everybody.

Dean Gratton: It needs to be innocuous, seamless and transparent to whoever's using the technology.

Sarah-Jayne Gratton: Yeah, absolutely. In terms of loss prevention, can you give us an example of how RFID might assist in inventory tracking?

Gordon Atkins: Yeah, sure. One of the ones I use quite a bit is, RFID technology, each chip has its own unique serial number so that you're able to track everything under a batch, but every individual item within that batch. And there's a retailer that found it was losing a certain amount in a certain area. And because they're actually able to track each RFID chip and know which serial number moves where in the building and what goes on with it, they were actually able to work out their loss prevention. The items were never actually leaving the store. People were actually being so bold to come in, collect the items from the floor level, put it straight into a bag, go straight upstairs to level two where the refunds were and ask for a refund with no receipts.

Dean Gratton: How do they do this?

Sarah-Jayne Gratton: That's incredible.

Dean Gratton: That's incredible. How do they know this?

Gordon Atkins: Yeah, it's crazy when you hear it. Because each one had a unique serial number and they were able to keep constant tracking of the tags and the actual items where they were, they realized the items never left their store. They didn't go to the front. They went up the escalator into this department and then arrived on the till point. So it's just another form of loss prevention. Again, that whole thing could be tracked from the warehouse, all the way through. So when certain serial numbers go missing in batches, if it's recorded all the way through, you'll physically know without opening boxes, that item was in there at that point, and not in there at that point.

Sarah-Jayne Gratton: Yeah. That's actually [inaudible], isn't it? And obviously people aren't aware of this, but of course they will be because [crosstalk].

Dean Gratton: There would be a whole logistics and supply chain across all of this. Because if we have goods coming from, say, Switzerland, arriving into Brussels, then surely those goods will be tracked and known. And when they're delivered at the warehouse, then there'll be traceability and trackability in those products. So they should be known at any place and time where they are.

Sarah-Jayne Gratton: Yeah. And then somebody goes to try and take one of them, who of course will be, "It was here. It was here." Which is exactly what Gordon was saying. It's a brilliant example. Fantastic.

Gordon Atkins: Having that unique serial number for each item gives you true trackability all the way through. It's like everything, we're always saying we need to be connected in our world. What about everything else? Let's connect everything else into our world so everything is connected.

Sarah-Jayne Gratton: Yeah. That's great. Yeah. Just total connectivity where everything is traceable. Everything is trackable. I wish my Chihuahuas were, because they are everywhere right now.

Gordon Atkins: I feel your pain with my two beagles. They're never where you expect, are they?

Sarah-Jayne Gratton: Oh, I love beagles. I grew up with a beagle. Billy. Oh, I miss Billy. Love beagles. The most adorable dogs ever. But now we have Chihuahuas. We've downsized. Yeah. Happy days. Absolutely. We love our dogs. We love our dogs.

Gordon Atkins: Oh, definitely. Wouldn't be without them.

Sarah-Jayne Gratton: Oh, no, no, no. And when we're in the UK, we must meet up and have a glass together.

Gordon Atkins: Yeah, definitely. Look forward to that.

Sarah Gratton: When all these times are behind us. Absolutely.

Dean Gratton: Yeah, definitely. We should meet up…

Sarah-Jayne Gratton: Yeah, definitely.

Dean Gratton: And meet face to face.

Sarah-Jayne Gratton: And introduce our Chihuahua. Well, Walter is my little man at the moment. He's the plucky one. Introduce him to your beagles. What are their names?

Gordon Atkins: Mine are Alfie and Roxy.

Sarah-Jayne Gratton: Alfie and Roxy. Happy days.

Gordon Atkins: They're getting on a little bit now, but it'd be great to meet you guys and have a good chat.

Sarah-Jayne Gratton: That would be wonderful.

Dean Gratton: Thank you ever so much, Gordon, for taking the time today, and we look forward to meeting you face to face. But until next time.

Sarah-Jayne Gratton: Yeah, thanks so much. Until next time.

Gordon Atkins: No worries. Thanks, everyone. Great to speak to you.

Sarah-Jayne Gratton: And that's it. Thank you so much for tuning in to this episode.

Dean Gratton: And if you've enjoyed this podcast, you can find out more about retail innovation at insight.tech.

Sarah-Jayne Gratton: On behalf of Intel, this has been Sarah Jane.

Dean Gratton: And Dean Gratton. Until next time.

Sarah-Jayne Gratton: Until next time.

About the Author

Kenton Williston is the Editor-in-Chief of insight.tech and served as the editor of its predecessor publication, the Embedded Innovator magazine. Kenton received his B.S. in Electrical Engineering in 2000 and has been writing about embedded computing and IoT ever since.

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