RFID has long been considered the key to automating retail operations. By integrating RFID tagging with cloud-based analytics, retailers can dramatically improve operations and gain valuable business intelligence.
RFID is particularly valuable for inventory. RFID improves inventory accuracy and reduces the cost of performing inventory. The math here is simple: reducing “out of stocks” increases the potential to make sales.
With RFID, instead of employees manually scanning bar codes, fixed RFID readers track the RFID tags on products as merchandise moves through loading docks, doors, aisles, checkout stands, and exits. Employees can also use handheld readers to perform inventory counts in specific areas. For instance, on the sales floor they can walk a handheld device around a clothing rack, recording what’s on it in seconds.
While RFID tags and readers have become less expensive and more common, the missing link has been a gateway solution that can collect the data from the readers and communicate it to the back end. Such a gateway solution is the key to enabling what the industry is calling the digitally Responsive Store (Figure 1).
Figure 1. In the Responsive Store, data is collected from all store devices and transferred to the cloud for analysis providing greater business intelligence.
Now solutions based on the Intel® IoT Gateway are making RFID technology practical. Rather than requiring data to be fed directly to the cloud, solutions based on the Intel® IoT Gateway platform can wirelessly and securely collect the data (Figure 2). They then can perform preliminary in-store analysis and transfer important data to the back end for Big Data analysis and visualization. The result is more accurate inventory and better decision-making.
Figure 2. Intel IoT® Gateway-based solutions enable more RFID reader locations and preliminary data filtering and edge analysis for better quality data.
Developed in collaboration with McAfee and Wind River, Intel IoT Gateways provide the pre-integrated, pre-validated hardware and software building blocks for connecting with RFID devices and other store devices. These building blocks can enable seamless and secure data flow between RFID readers and the cloud. In one tidy package, developers and system integrators get the technologies for enabling wireless connectivity, embedded control and enterprise-grade security.
Solutions based on the Intel IoT Gateway now also come pre-integrated with the Wind River Edge Management System (Wind River EMS). This cloud-based IoT platform enables devices to securely connect to a centralized console and be quickly integrated with existing IT systems.
Intel® IoT Gateway-based Examples
Measuring only 4.6 x 5.6 x 1.4 inches, the UTX-3115 from Advantech provides a robust and compact solution (Figure 3). This fanless system features the Intel® Atom™ processor E3800 series and supports a wide-range of operating temperatures from -20 ~ 60° C. It also offers rich I/O expansion with one serial port, dual gigabit LAN ports, a USB 3.0 port; and 2x USB 2.0 ports. In addition, it also comes with one half-size Mini PCIe slot and one full-size Mini PCIe slot. A UHF RFID module is available.
Figure 3. Advantech UTX-3115
Aaeon makes the Intel® Quark™ SoC-based AIOT-X1000 (Figure 4). This gateway uses a 3.5" subcompact board and offers up to 1GB DDR3 800/1066, a micro SD Slot, 4x USB 2.0, and 2x serial ports (RS-232/422/485 and RS-422/485). The AIOT-X1000 can support PAN (Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, ZigBee, RFID), LAN (Ethernet, Wi-Fi), and WAN (2G/3G/LTE).
Figure 4. Aaeon AIOT-X1000.
More developments are ahead in the RFID gateway space. A new platform, the Intel® IoT Retail Gateway has recently been introduced and members of the Intel® Internet of Things Solutions Alliance will soon be supporting that, as well as offering RFID readers. You can always find the latest Alliance products by periodically checking the listings in our constantly updated Solutions Directory.
Solutions in this blog:
Roving Reporter (Intel Contractor), Intel® Internet of Things Solutions Alliance
Associate Editor, Embedded Innovator magazine