Gillette to test RFID tags in packaged goods
The Gillette Company is to begin the first large-scale testing of RFID tag technology in consumer packaged goods, using tags developed by researchers from the Auto-ID centre at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT).
From January 2003, in partnership with selected retail customers, Gillette is to begin testing the tag technology through its supply chain by placing tiny RFID tags in selected products for the US and UK markets.
Enabling technology For many years, the 'holy grail' of consumer packaged goods (CPG) tagging has been the 'penny RFID tag', which would enable goods to be automatically identified, priced, and promoted without manual intervention at the supermarket shelf.
Being very much an enabling technology, there is a huge number of retail and loyalty applications that could at last be implemented when the price of tagging becomes financially viable.
If Gillette's trials are successful, up to half a billion tags could be placed on Gillette products over the next few years.
Product tracking The tags make it possible to track products through their production life cycle, from manufacturing to retail point of sale.
It is hoped that, over time, this technology will enable businesses not only to reduce losses resulting from out-of-stock, stolen, and lost products but also to improve efficiencies across their operations by monitoring the status and location of products.
A smart shelf The tags will be used with the 'smart shelf' technology (also developed for Gillette by MIT's Auto-ID centre), which is scheduled to commence testing in stores in the US and UK from January 2003.
The shelf uses Auto-ID technology to monitor the status of products on display. It will alert retail staff when stocks become low or are being stolen, and will enable automatic re-ordering of products.
Leading the initiative, Gillette's vice president, Dick Cantwell, said, "We hope our leadership will help enable the wider CPG industry to begin a new era in its relationship with retail customers."
Alien Technology The tags are being manufactured and supplied by California-based Alien Technology Corporation (ATC). "This signals the commercial production of RFID tags at an affordable price point," noted ATC's CEO, Stav Prodromou. "We are delighted to be partnering with Gillette, in support of its evaluation of the implementation of RFID across its business."