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Category: RFID, Automated Data Collection, and Internet of Things

RFID, AIDC and IoT New Round Up for Feb. 14, 2019


Perhaps New Record for Bar Code Label Switching Theft; Smart Glasses Starting to Get Some Supply Chain Traction; Clothes with RFID Chips that Report on How You Wear Them


Feb. 14, 2019
SCDigest Editorial Staff

Below are three of the top stories in automated data collection, RFID and the Internet of Things in recent weeks.


Louisiana Man Goes Big Time with Fake Bar Code Theft

SCDigest has reported on often somewhat funny stories about thieves placing the wrong UPC bar code labels on products to steal from retailers.

The basic scheme can run several ways, but usually involves removing UPC labels from less expensive goods and placing them on more expensive items, allowing the thieves to buy the expensive goods at a big discount, usually to sell to consumers after making off with the items.

Another ploy is to place UPCs for more expensive goods on lower price goods and trying to return them at a profit to a retailer.

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Usually some thieves get away with a few hundred dollars' worth of goods, or maybe into the low thousands of dollars at the high end before they are caught.

But a Louisiana man has taken fake bar code theft to a whole new levels.

A Bossier City man pleaded guilty on January 7, 2019 to using a merchandise price changing scheme to steal almost $200,000.

Peter Stifner, 39, of Bossier City, Louisiana, pleaded guilty before US District Judge Elizabeth E. Foote to three counts of wire fraud related to a merchandise price changing scheme to steal goods worth about $180,000, according to US prosecutor David C. Joseph. That's quite a haul.

According to his guilty plea, Stifner conducted a scheme to steal merchandise from Walmart, Sam's Club and Target.

He obtained bar code labels for lower priced merchandise, brought the stickers into the stores and placed them over the bar codes of higher priced merchandise.

Stifner purchased merchandise at the lower price and would then resell it online for a profit.

If you ever have thoughts of trying a similar ploy, note Stifner faces up to 20 years in prison, five years of supervised release and a $250,000 fine for each count when sentenced in May.


Smart Glasses Finding Place in Supply Chain

Among a number of recent bankruptcies in the smart glasses arena (e.g., Meta Company, Osterhaut Design Group, and Blippar), prospects for a large consumer market seem unlikely to be realized any time soon, as Microsoft and its HoloLens is gaining some market traction.

But while the consumer market is dubious in the short to mid-term, markets in supply chain are emerging. In distribution, smart glasses are starting to be used for augmented reality applications and order picking, where travel paths up and down aisles can be displayed on the glasses along with highlighting the right pick location, both of which can drive added productivity.

There are also a growing number of manufacturing applications. As recently reported by New York magazine, for example, Toyota is using smart glasses to improve the slow and tedious process of measuring the thickness of paint on its cars as they go through numerous stages off adding coats.

Before, each car would be overlaid with sheets of paper covered in 500 holes, and then an ultrasonic gauge would be used to ensure that the paint was the correct thickness.)

Now, technicians use a Hololens with augmented-reality capable of overlaying holograms on top of what the viewer sees. Instead of carefully applying the cardboard to each car, a tester puts on a Hololens, which superimposed 500 dots in the same positions as the paper's holes, and test for paint thickness.

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The traditional process amazingly required a full day and two employees, but now takes just four hours for one employee to complete.

Similarly, New York magazine reports how AGCO, an agricultural equipment manufacturer, uses smart glasses for product inspection. Before, as products moved down assembly lines they would be inspected using images on stationary computer monitors. But this meant employees were often walking back and forth between the monitors and what they were working on, wasting steps and time.

AGCO tried the use of ruggedized tablet computers. But with the tablets workers did not have both hands free to work on machinery. Not only was holding onto the tablets a safety issue, it also meant workers would set the tablets down wherever was handy, leading to a lot of dropped tablets.

The answer turned out to be the fairly recently revamped Google Glass for Enterprise. Workers can now see the parts needing inspection directly on the smart glasses.

Workers are of course able to keep both hands free while using Glass. They can also use their voice to control Glass, such as whether to take pictures to send to a supervisor or to go back a page on their work orders.

A pilot program began with six pair of Glasses, and the results were strong, with a 30% process improvement, 50% reduction in training time, and 30% improvement in quality processing time,

AGCO quickly upped their order to 100 pairs of glasses.

The numbers aren't great yet by any means, and these two examples are someone out of the mainstream manufacturing processes, but show how smart glasses can add value.

It may be worth taking a fresh look at smart glasses in supply chain applications.

Using RFID in Apparel to Track Consumer Usage?

There are a growing number of announcements relative to embedding RFID tags in apparel items, not only for use in supply chain identification and tracking but also to provide insight in IoT fashion on how consumers are using the products.

One of the latest is from Swiss outdoor equipment company Mammut, which just announced a new Mammut Connect app that pairs with NFC tags embedded in clothing to provide product information and digital content to consumers.

Mammut says the apparel item in effect becomes a "virtual hang tag" that allows customers with the company's smart phone app to see care instructions, extend their warranty up to five years for free, and give feedback on product performance and construction.

Mammut says that because the chips use RFID, they'll also allow Mammut to assign unique, digital IDs to physical products and "trace the product's life past the point of sale" - but somehow without infringing on the privacy and security of consumers. Sure.


Nearly all of the major athletic makers either have or are planning to release products that report how they are being used (e.g., how much running when) in FitBit fashion for customers to access on the Cloud - but which is also providing valuable insight into customer habits to the shoe companies.

In mid-2018, there were reports that LL Bean would sell items with embedded RFID tags to start in boots and coats, though consumers were said to need to opt in to have their clothing habits and usage tracked. However, Bean soon announced there would be no such program.

We're frankly not clear how the chips would communicate their data to he Cloud, but forgetting that, SCDigest editor Dan Gilmore comments that "I would like to keep my apparel usage data to myself thank you very much. Only my wife needs to know how often I leave my socks on the bedroom floor."

We think that general perspective is shared by most of us.

Any reaction to the stories in this week' roundup? Let us know your thoughts at the Feedback section below.


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