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Focus: RFID and Automated Identification and Data Collection (AIDC)

Feature Article from Our RFID and AIDC Subject Area - See All

From SCDigest's OnTarget e-Magazine

Jan. 19 , 2011


RFID and AIDC News: Wincor Nixdorf has New Take on Bar Code Scan Tunnel for Grocery

New 360 Scan Portal Picks Up on Concept Kroger Pioneered in 2011, Makes Some Improvements with Technology that Could Bring Dramatic Change to Retail Checkout


SCDigest Editorial Staff


At the NRF "Big Show" event in January, 2011, one of the most interesting products on display was a bar code scan tunnel developed by Kroger. The system, which Kroger called Advantaged Checkout, was designed to reduce or eliminate physical touches of product by Kroger checkout associates, and instead pass purchased products through a scan and imaging tunnel to identify the items and perform the price look-up function (see New Kroger Bar Code Scan Tunnel Could Revolutionize Retail Checkout).

SCDigest Says:


How effectively those no-reads are handled will be key to overall efficiency of such systems, customer satisfaction with the technology, and retailer profitability to ensure all purchased items are recorded.

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Kroger was not exhibiting its prototype solution at this year's NRF show, held this week in New York City. It is believed that Kroger is still running a pilot test of its Advantaged Checkout system in one of its stores in Erlanger, KY, as it was during at least parts of 2011, but that was not re-confirmed by SCDigest for this story.

At the NRF 2012 this week in New York City, retail equipment and systems provider Wincor Nixdorf offered a new take on this same concept, introducing its 360 Scan Portal that takes the Kroger concept and makes some advances.

Like the Kroger system. the idea is that customers or perhaps store associates would place items from a cart onto a belt system, and then move those items at fairly high speeds through the tunnel/portal for reading of the UPC code. This eliminates the "double handling" of checkout clerks picking up the items to run them past a scanner.

The system really uses imagers, not scanners, to take a picture of the item and the bar code. The images can "read" a bar code like a normal scanner, but might also be able to, for example, identify a product from the numbers below the bar code through the imaging technology if the bar code itself was damaged.

The scanners/imagers hit the product from several angles from the top and sides, and a scanner also is present on the bottom, coming up between a small gap in-between belts, to find bar codes that may be oriented face down.

A Wincor Nixdorf manager said that the prototype system on display at NRF was achieving read rates of about 95%, but that production versions were reaching 98.5% read rates, and that that number could go higher. The system now can process about 60 items per minute.

The Wincor Nixdorf design is smaller and sleeker than the Kroger version seen last year. The company has partnered with DataVision for the scanner/reader portions of the system.

How Will Exceptions be Handled?

Even if very high read rates are achieved, there will always be some no-reads, although again imaging may address some failures, perhaps someday identifying products simply from its look and packaging.

How effectively those no-reads are handled will be key to overall efficiency of such systems, customer satisfaction with the technology, and retailer profitability to ensure all purchased items are recorded.

Wincor Nixdorf has been thinking quite a bit about those questions, a spokesperson said, and its system control software will allow retailers various options for how a no-read will be handled. For example, the system could stop immediately for a no-read to be addressed, or let items pass through until the end, at which point all the no-reads would be handled.

As with the Kroger system, a display would be capable of showing images of exactly which products were not read to speed up the handling process.

(RFID and AIDC Story Continued Below)




Below, we offer a short video clip from NRF 2012 showing the Wincor Nixdorf system in action, along with some brief commentary from Leyla Fegghi, director of retail marketing for the company, on some of its features and benefits.

Wincor Nixdorf's Bar Code Scan Tunnel


In the video, Fegghi says the system will "revolutionize the checkout for retailers because it is very fast."

Key to success of such systems will also be how they are configured physically for in-store operations. Fegghi told SCDigest editor Dan Gilmore at the show that one configuration the company expects to be popular would be two adjacent scan tunnels with some space in between, where there would be an operator and a POS system and display to deal with any no-reads or other exceptions.

However, it is possible, she said, that those two tunnels could support more than two POS stations or input lanes. This would then require each customer's full order to be diverted, almost like a distribution sortation system, to individual lanes, presumably matching the number of input stations.

If these systems gain traction, it could also lead to changes in grocery carts to speed the unloading process.

Another company spokesman said the company is actively in dialog with a number of retailers in Europe and the US about deploying the technology.

It is also worth noting that the development of these kinds of systems is something of a bet that item-level RFID tags capable of being read en-masse or at high speeds are not coming to the grocery industry any time soon - else retailers would not make the investment in this UPC-based technology.

What do you think of the UPC scan tunnel concept? Why will it work - or not? Let us know your thoughts at the Feedback section below.

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