Argos to Install Yard Management System to Boost DC Productivity

Argos to Install Yard Management System to BoostDC Productivity

U.K. retailer Argos plans to deploy yard management software at its distribution centers across the country to optimize resources and improve efficiencies in day-to-day operations.

The Milton Keynes, -based retailer will use Dallas-based Retalix’s Yard Management System to provide greater visibility into warehouse operations, allowing real-time control and monitoring of its 500-vehicle fleet across all of Argos’ nine U.K. distribution centers through a Web-enabled user interface.

“With a large network of regional and national distribution centers across the United Kingdom, it is essential that our tractor and trailer fleet is closely tracked,” said Adrian Burleton, commercial director – supply at Argos. “By integrating the Retalix Yard Management system with our existing Retalix Warehouse Management system, we will be able to optimize our yard and dock resources, and eliminate inefficiencies that negatively impact our operations.”

The first phase of the rollout is the vehicle-tracking module, which is being implemented in parallel with the enabling radio frequency identification (RFID) technology. RFID readers are being installed at the entry and exit points of the company’s distribution centers, and each of the approximately 1,100 trailers and 500 tractors in the Argos fleet are affixed with a rugged RFID tag, automatically registering arrival and departure information as the vehicles enter and leave the distribution centers.

The Retalix Yard Management system is designed to automate the yard and dock management process through advanced predictive logic and leading-edge optimization algorithms. Using software engines and rich visibility tools, Retalix Yard Management is expected to eliminate operational silos and synchronize yard and dock activity with distribution center demand in real time.

The system, which was designed using the Microsoft .NET platform, is part of the Retalix Transportation solutions suite, which is designed to fulfill the critical transportation requirements of inbound traffic, yard management and dock scheduling for retailers and distributors. Additional offerings include Retalix Traffic Management, which provides comprehensive inbound freight management for planning, procurement, execution, settlement, visibility and supplier control, and Retalix Dock Scheduling, which facilitates dock appointment scheduling via the Web, predicts labor demands, optimizes dock resources and streamlines the flow of goods through the distribution center.

Argos operates 700 general merchandise stores throughout the UK and Republic of Ireland.


‘EPCmagic’ mirror a new technology launched by NEC and GSI

RFID, LCD and networking technologies combine to enhance shopping experience, and provide a new advertising channel.

NEC and supply chain standards group GS1 today launched a new technology, called the EPCmagic Mirror, that can display key product information such as available sizes, colours and prices to shoppers as they try on clothes in a store.

Using GS1 standardised Electronic Product Code (EPC) and RFID technology, shoppers can see what sizes and colours are available within a store, pricing information, and tips on which accessories would best match what they have chosen to try on – all while they stand in front of the “magic” mirror inside a change room.

The mirror features an integrated RFID reader that picks up information from EPC/RIFD tags on clothing in the store, sends the ID number to the store’s central database, and then uses that information to display product information the store wants its customers to see.

According to a statement released by NEC, the EPCmagic mirror was developed over six months, incorporating the company’s RFID, digital signage, LCD and broadband network technologies.

The mirror can also be used to screen advertisements and sale information. NEC said it will provide ongoing managed services to complement the product and can offer tailored specifications.

Eyewear Retailer applies RFID to eliminate shoplifting

Santa Fe Optical applies EPC tags to all of the frames it sells, helping it to eliminate shoplifting and streamline inventory management.

When Santa Fe Optical opened its third location in Austin, more than a year ago, the store experienced an uptick in theft, resulting in losses of up to $5,000 per incident. Bob Ross, an optometrist who owns the eyewear retailer, began seeking a security system that would not require tags as large as those utilized for traditional electronic article surveillance (EAS) systems. Customers may have difficulty trying on an eyeglass frame if an EAS tag—which typically measures approximately 1.5 inches to 2 inches in length, 1 inch in width and an eighth of an inch in thickness—is attached to it.

For about a year now, Santa Fe Optical has been employing RFID-enabled security system at one of its three eyewear stores in Austin, Texas, effectively cutting shoplifting losses from about $12,000 per year to zero. Now, the company is adding an RFID-based inventory management system to the mix.

RFID Tagging

“One of appealing aspects of RFID was the small size of the tags,” says Darryl Hubbard, president of EIS. Ross began working with EIS, which, about one year ago, installed an RFID-enabled door portal with an antenna infrastructure hooked up to an alarm. Since the installation, employees have been affixing RFID labels to the eyeglasses’ temples as they are received into the store’s inventory. Before it is attached to the frame, the paper-thin label measures about 1.75 inches by 1.25 inches in size. When applied to a frame’s temple, the label is folded in half. Each label has a number printed on it—the same number encoded to the RFID chip inside the tag. At that time, employees manually input the RFID tag number into the store’s inventory database, along with other information about the frame, such as the manufacturer, date received and price.

As a pair of frames is sold, employees remove and discard its RFID tag. If a tag has not yet been removed and a customer attempts to pass through the portal and out the store’s front door, an alarm will sound. “At the end of the day, what this has done for Dr. Ross—the store went from about $12,000 in theft a year down to zero,” Hubbard says. “The [RFID-enabled security] system was actually half that in cost.”

RFID-enabled inventory management system

EIS is currently in the process of installing a system that includes a handheld RFID reader that employees can use to automatically take inventory throughout the store. The closed-loop RFID system is being integrated with Santa Fe Optical’s inventory database, and Hubbard indicates the inventory management system will be up and running in approximately two months.

Here’s how it will work: On the store’s sales floor, eyeglasses are displayed and grouped in zones by designer or manufacturer. Once the inventory management system is in place, the staff will be able to download onto the handheld a list of inventory numbers that are supposed to be within a specific zone, then walk through that zone with the handheld reader. A small screen on the reader will display the list of eyeglass inventory numbers; as the interrogator captures the RFID tags on the eyeglass frames within that zone and correlations are made with the numbers on the list, the numbers will disappear from the screen. If any numbers remain on the screen, the employees can walk through the remainder of the store in an attempt to locate the corresponding frames.

According to Hubbard, the RFID-enabled system will help Santa Fe Optical reduce the time required to conduct inventory of the store’s 800 to 1,000 frames by at least 80 percent. Using one handheld reader, he estimates, an employee would need only about 40 minutes to conduct a complete inventory at the store, based on an in-store test of the management system that EIS undertook. “Without RFID, it takes at least eight hours,” he states.

Once the inventory management system is installed in that store, Santa Fe Optical plans to implement both the RFID-enabled security system and the RFID-enabled inventory management system in its two other locations. This, Hubbard says, is likely to occur within the next six to eight months.

Infosys Technologies Ltd launches ShoppingTrip360

Infosys Technologies Limited today launched ShoppingTrip360 to help retailers and consumer packaged goods (CPG) companies achieve visibility into in-store activity.  

ShoppingTrip360 is a platform that enables a suite of managed-information services to create a 360-degree view of real-time in-store shopper and shelf activity.

ShoppingTrip360 leverages a network of wireless sensor-based applications within the store that allows people (shoppers), places (retailers) and products (CPG companies) to collaborate in real-time by creating an information ecosystem. This permission-based, implicit and seamless exchange of information delivers value to shoppers, retailers and CPG companies.

“Companies around the world continue to recognize the need to transform themselves in order to be more competitive,” said S. Gopalakrishnan, CEO, Infosys Technologies. “Infosys remains the partner of choice for global brands in this journey because we are creating a new generation of services like ShoppingTrip360 that enable them to innovate closer to their customers.”

By gaining insights into shopper and shelf activity throughout the store, ShoppingTrip360 delivers a paradigm shift in the in-store shopping experience and enables:

– Retailers to know the total number of shoppers and their shopping trip paths, allowing them to gauge in-store energy demand based on occupancy, or open new checkout counters when lines start forming. They can also monitor shelf-level inventory of fast moving products without using expensive RFID tags.

– CPG companies to make choices on the right locations in the store to place their promotional products. They also gain greater visibility on the efficacy of their promotional spend through an analysis of shoppers who interact with a promotional display or shopper traffic to a particular area and actual purchase.

– Shoppers to use a concierge service on their cell phones to organize their shopping trip. While at the store, they may access their shopping list, locate products, retrieve recipes, and download coupons, with personalized promotional offers that could be redeemed electronically.

The patent-pending technology behind ShoppingTrip360 is based on Infosys’ intellectual property and designed to operate with existing store and information technology infrastructure.

Infosys fully invests in the platform infrastructure, protecting clients from the risk of capital investment and technology obsolescence thereby eliminating the traditional barriers to adoption of in-store technologies within the industry.

Clients subscribe to ShoppingTrip360 services and pay for the information that enables business benefits.

“Retailers and CPG companies are seeking new ways to collaborate seamlessly in order to better understand and engage their shoppers in today’s hypercompetitive landscape,” said U.B. Pravin Rao, senior vice president and head of Retail, Consumer Packaged Goods and Logistics, Infosys Technologies. “ShoppingTrip360 answers this need.”

Infosys has developed a roadmap for the ShoppingTrip360 platform to enable future applications based on the real-time collaboration between shoppers, retailers and CPG brands.

With select customers in pilots, Infosys has established a business model that leverages the scalability of a platform to reduce the cost per application to clients.

Types Of RFID Tags (Update#1)

RFID products fall into two basic categories: Passive and Active. Passive tags do not have batteries and have indefinite life expectancies. Active Tags are powered by batteries and either have to be recharged, have their batteries replaced or be disposed of when the batteries fail.

Various Types of Antennas (above)

RFID products are then broken up into different frequencies. Tags and Antennas are tuned or matched much the same way as a radio is tuned to a frequency to receive different channels. These frequencies are grouped into Four basic ranges: Low Frequency, High Frequency, Very High Frequency and Ultra-High Frequencies.

Each frequency range has its advantages and disadvantages. Europe use 868 MHz. for its UHF applications while the US uses 915 MHz. for its UHF applications. Japan does not allow the use of the UHF frequency for RFID applications. Low Frequency tags (LF) are less costly to manufacturer than Ultra High Frequency (UHF) tags. UHF tags offer better read/write range and can transfer data faster then other tags. HF tags work best at close range but are more effective at penetrating non-metal objects especially objects with high water content.

Various Types of Tags (above)

Once a frequency range is determined, then it is time to choose an antenna that best fits the application. Antennas come in all sorts of sizes and shapes. The size of the antenna determines the range of the application. Large antennas used with Active Tags can have a range of 100 feet or more. Large antennas used with Passive Tags generally have a range of 10 feet of less. There are dock door antennas (some times called Portals) that allow a forklift driver to drive between two antennas. Information can be collected from the tags without the forklift driver having to stop. There are antennas that mount between rollers on conveyors for reading/writing from below. While other antennas are available that mount to the side of or above the conveyors. Handheld Reader/Writers are available as well.

More on RFID Tags

Thin film transistors (TFTs)

Controllers are available to communicate with most Networks (Ethernet, DeviceNet, ProFibus, etc). They typically have serial ports for programming and data transfer. Controllers are usually shipped with programming software to set-up and customize the application. Controllers typically operate on 120VAC or 24VDC.

Protecting against Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, RFID data attacks

NEW YORK–Using a laptop, cell phone headset, building access badge, credit cards, or even a passport can make you a walking target for data thieves and other criminals, a security expert warned at the Last HOPE hacker conference here late Friday.

In a frightening but entertaining session entitled “How do I Pwn Thee? Let me Count the Ways” (pwn is hacker speak for “own” or control), a hacker who goes by the alias “RenderMan” explained how most people are at risk and don’t even know it.

By now most people probably know they should be careful using Wi-Fi networks, especially public hotspots that don’t encrypt data transmissions and where network access points can be spoofed. These issues leave Web surfers at risk of having their data stolen, receiving fake Web pages and other information, and having their computers completely taken over, he said.

Even airplane passengers who either ignore stewardess requests to disable Wi-Fi or don’t know how to turn it off are not immune to attacks from others in the airplane, he added.

RenderMan suggests that people disable Wi-Fi when it is not in use and use VPNs and firewall software.

Bluetooth headset users are at risk because of a security hole in the technology and default PINs that don’t get changed, he said. Exploiting vulnerabilities someone can break in and steal data from the phones, make calls without the cell phone owner knowing, listen in on and break into conversations, and even spy on people by turning the device into a bug.

He advises that people change the default password, disable the Bluetooth on the phones, turn off the headsets when not in use, and limit access to the data and features when communicating with other Bluetooth devices.

Many people don’t realize that new U.S. passports have RFID technology with weak encryption that makes the data on the chip easy to read with the proper reader device.

The U.S. government attempted to mitigate the privacy threat by putting a metal foil layer on the front and back cover of the passports, but the stiffness of the foil pops the passport open as much as an inch, wide enough for RFID readers to snatch the data, RenderMan said, showing a video to demonstrate this.

“There is no rule that says that if the chip doesn’t work, they will refuse you access to the border. You will get increased scrutiny, but it’s still a valid document,” he said. “So, liberal application of a hammer can negate a lot of the possible” problems.

But doing willful damage to the passport is a crime, one attendee pointed out. “I fell, really hard,” RenderMan deadpanned.

RFID used in transit and building access badges has also been proven to be insecure, allowing someone to use an RFID reader to copy data off the card and make a clone of it, he said.

A security flaw in the Mifare Classic Chip used in transit systems is the subject of a court case in The Netherlands. The maker of the chip, NXP Semiconductors, sued to block a university from publishing details of the problems, but a court ruled on Friday that the research can be made public.

Even traditional keys are vulnerable, RenderMan said. For instance, photographs of spare keys for electronic-voting machines displayed on a Web page were used to make replicas with similar-looking keys, he said. A video demo showed how someone filed down a key from a hotel mini-bar and was able to open up the memory card slot of a Diebold voting system.

What is the RFID chip and how will it be sold to the public?

What is the RFID chip?

A lot of people think the RFID chip is all about more Big Brother surveillance. Look at the CCTV around you: clearly that is for surveillance. So what is the microchip for? The microchip is an implantable device (about the size of a grain of sand) that has the ability to read your body’s frequencies, and thus also send frequencies to your body. The plan is to stick you under mind control to do, quite frankly, whatever they want to you. The assumption is that most will be killed and the remaining people will be put into a matrix of sorts. Elitists and eugenicist scientists have justified their enthusiasm by promoting the chip’s ability to create world peace, as people would be controllable and thus not able to create disruption, or even enter certain areas of the world (the chip has GPS-style location tracking).

If you don’t believe the microchip exists, realise Verichip is the company making it. They have a website,, and the company is publicly traded on the stock market. The potential for a $100 billion market has recently led to significant capital investment being put into the operation.

If you’ve heard about microchips for pets being sent abroad, but don’t think there is a plan to implement this in humans, see the Verichip slogan, “RFID for humans”.

If you don’t believe it is possible to read frequencies (and thus send them), read the part on the Verichip site where they boast about it.

If you don’t believe a chip could affect your mind, see this video where a top scientist disgustingly boasts about its ability, and how this is something desirable.

If you think that some radical scientists may be in favour of it, but that doesn’t mean it will be governmental law, look at where we’re going with mandatory ID cards. Then realise that people will lose their ID cards, and thus the system will evolve into un-losable implanted chips. There will be no going back with the ID infrastructure set up.

If you don’t understand the concept of a matrix, realise that it’s basically taking what you perceive as reality and turning it into something else. While right now you see the walls of whatever room you’re in, the matrix would maybe turn it into a jungle, or a prison, or whatever.

If you don’t think that’s possible, I suggest you spend 10 minutes researching some basic mainstream hypnosis and other science. We don’t see stuff with our eyes. All we see with our eyes is frequency waves. Our brains then decode this into what we perceive as reality. This is done with the subconscious mind. Thus, if you can change how the waves are interpreted by the subconscious mind, you can create a matrix as described. This is what the chip does through sending vibration frequencies.

If you don’t think the mind control can work, because people will only get this thing gradually – and thus the people without the chip will notice if everyone goes under mind control and thus complain heavily about it – realise that only once everyone has it will the mind control signals be turned on.

How will the chip be sold to the public?

The populations of the various countries of the world are made up of different people with different needs and opinions. Thus, the following methods will be used to sell it to each of these groups of people.

Trendy people looking to be hip and cool (the average guy in the public) will have it sold to them through celebrity endorsements and television advertisements. If millions of people will buy particular clothes and products to keep in trend with the latest fashions, it will not be hard to sell them a product which allows them to instantly pay for goods at the supermarket without waiting in line. In fact, most people – celebrity-driven or not – will find the concept of swiping your arm by a scanner to pay for stuff very cool. See this IBM advert for proof. That looks pretty sweet to me.

Mothers and Fathers looking to protect their children from kidnappers and paedophiles will be interested in the GPS capabilities of the device. They will be able to check up exactly where their children are. This could even be prompted through an automated e-mail or SMS text message. You can be damn sure that at the time, the media will be running a story about some vicious killer or stalker, adding to the selling point. Question: do tagging devices which you strap to your legs already exist? Yes. But they are awkward and annoying to wear, hence the low take-up. This will be effortless, because it’s implanted in your arm as if it’s not even there. You can’t feel it.

The single biggest demographic to convince will no doubt be the Christians. This is because in the Bible, the “mark of the beast” is talked about, an unspecified device that is placed on everyone’s arm or forehead, that without it you “cannot buy or sell”. There is already a large Christian activist movement on the internet protesting the microchip because they see it as this “mark of the beast”. Considering that the majority of the United States population is a Christian to some degree, how can a majority of people ever accept the chip? Well, this problem has been assessed and thousands of preachers and priests have been recruited to sell the microchip to Christian America. “It’s OK, guys. God said the microchip is cool. He changed his mind since the Bible”, I hear them screaming already. Considering how blindly Christians tend to follow the Bible, and considering how blindly they tend to follow Christian leaders like the Pope (“It’s OK to believe in aliens now”. I’ll get to that later) and even their local priests, I actually think that Christians will be the easiest group of people to sell the microchip too! Rational, logical people will surely have the most questions. (I know I’m being stereotypical here, but you get the point.)

And let’s consider the greatest contributor to the up-take of this thing: democracy! Democracy states that with a 51% vote of confidence, a leader or law can be passed. Thus, if just half the people like this thing (or don’t bother to be politically active against it), the bill will be passed! Once the system is used, America’s infrastructure will change accordingly. Just like you now need a credit card to pay online and in most stores, you will need a microchip to pay via the RFID scanners, which by the way, are being subsidised to many companies.

Also take into account the earlier point about the infrastructure already being set up for ID cards, which will evolve into RFID chips once people start losing their cards.

With all of this said, it is still likely that more people will find this thing scary than useful. If this is the case, there are 2 backup plans, both ridiculously radical, but yet probable (one more than the other) when you look at the evidence.

An economic crisis may be created. With oil at $135 (as of writing), the US dollar at record lows against other major currencies and mainstream talks of a US recession, it is not unlikely that we will see people lining up for soup as seen in the Great Depression (if it was possible to manipulate a depression back then, just after signing the Federal Reserve Act, think of how easy it would be today). With people dependent on food and water to survive, if the chip is needed to make sure you’re a legal citizen or not a terrorist or whatever, you know people will take the chip. People will do anything to survive in a life or death situation. Just see how third world children and those of Iraq are forced into prostitution or humiliation by US troops in return for food. There are plenty of such videos on YouTube, as if this concept of survival really needs to be proven!

Related Article: General information on RFID

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