Below are SCDigest’s picks for the top stories in recent weeks on RFID, automatic data collection and IoT. It’s actually not easy to find news on these topics in supply chain applications, but we do our best.
Dollar General Latest Retailer to Try Scan and Go
Dollar General has become the latest retailer and the first dollar store to introduce a scan and go app, according to a recent article on RetailWire.
Being piloted at 10 Nashville-area stores and rolling out to 100 more in the second quarter, DG Go! enables shoppers to scan items as they shop and then use one of the store’s self-checkouts to pay. While saving shoppers time by allowing them to avoid waiting in a cashier-manned checkout line, the app also provides a running total of what shoppers have in their baskets.
DG Go! automatically applies digital coupons for shoppers and alerts them of savings on the items they have scanned. Said CEO Todd Vasos on the retailer’s first-quarter conference call, “All of this makes staying on budget easier.”
For many, the question is whether Dollar General has the appropriate demographic for this type of technology.
“Customers are always right R11; they vote with their wallet,” wrote RetailWire BrainTrust panelist Chris Petersen, president of Integrated Marketing Solutions, in an online discussion last week. “They must find a piece of technology to be a value, not a pain. The best news for Dollar General is that this is a pilot and the numbers will tell them whether this makes sense to scale.”
“It’s a great idea until some savvy shoppers catch onto the fact that they can scan cheaper items and take more expensive ones home provided they are same weight,” wrote Andrew Blatherwick, chairman of Relex Solutions, also of RetailWire’s BrainTrust.
Real life sometimes gets in the way of a great idea,” wrote Phil Chang, retail influencer. “While most of the product in Dollar General has bar codes, there are a fair number of items in general/home merchandise that generally lack them. I’m also shopping for smaller items that fit in a handheld basket (subtract one hand) while the other hand is grabbing the items I need (subtract a second hand).”
But some on the RetailWire panel did see the technology as having legs — assuming certain conditions could be met.
“As long as they can manage the shrink and the technology in the stores (and those are BIG ifs) I see this as the right use of the technology,” wrote Paula Rosenblum, managing partner at RSR Solutions.
So far this year, Kroger and Meijer both rolled out scan and go programs. Macy’s expanded its program and Urban Outfitter is testing the technology at its New York City flagship.
However, in May, Walmart discontinued its second test of the technology due to low adoption rates. Shoppers found it awkward to scan a large number of items, especially fresh products like fruit and vegetables.
Device Sends Rotten Food Warning to Smartphone
When it comes to the “smell test,” the nose isn’t always the best judge of food quality. Now in a study appearing in the American Chemical Society’s journal Nano Letters, scientists report that they have developed a wireless tagging device that can send signals to smartphones warning consumers and food distributors when meat and other perishables have spoiled.
The idea is that the new sensor could improve the detection of rotten food so it is tossed before consumers eat it. Every year, 48 million people in the U.S. get sick from foodborne illnesses, according to the US Centers for Disease Control. Of these, about 125,000 people are hospitalized and 3,000 die.
Traditionally, many consumers just smell a food to detect spoilage, but this technique is only as reliable as the sniffer’s nose. At the other end of the spectrum, food inspectors often use bulky, expensive equipment to detect harmful microbes. Scientists are investigating other approaches, including near field communication (NFC) labeling, that are both portable and dependable.
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NFC devices wirelessly transmit information over short distances – usually less than 4 inches. They are similar to the RFID tags companies such as retailers use to track inventory and shipments. Building on this idea, Chinese researchers Lijia Pan, Yi Shi, Guihua Yu and colleagues sought to incorporate a sensitive switch into NFC labeling tags to detect food spoilage using a smartphone.
They created a nanostructured, conductive, polymer-based gas sensor that can detect substances called biogenic amines (BAs), which give decomposing meat its bad odor. They embedded these sensors into NFCs placed next to meats. After the meats had been stored for 24 hours at 86 degrees Fahrenheit, the researchers found that the sensors successfully detected significant amounts of BAs. The sensors then switched on the NFCs so they could transmit this information to a nearby smartphone.
It would seem restaurant applications could also be developed using the approach.
Siemens, Alibaba to Part on IoT in China
Siemens and Alibaba Cloud said they will partner to build out the industrial Internet of things in China.
Under the partnership, which was recently singed in Berlin with German Chancellor Angela Merkel and Chinese Premier Li Keqiang watching, Siemens and Alibaba Cloud agreed to use each other’s technology.
For Siemens, the partnership with Alibaba Cloud gives it a foothold in China’s IoT market with its MindSphere Iot platform. Alibaba Cloud, which has been growing at a rapid clip by leveraging its Chinese customer base, gets industry knowhow and access to larger enterprises.
Alibaba, as with US rival Amazon.com, is aggressively building out a web services business and platform that has really nothing to do with the ecommerce offering that launched the company.
Alibaba Cloud may also get access to a more diverse customer base given Siemens is a global IT player, as other companies may follow Siemens to Alibaba. Developers have been favoring AWS and Microsoft Azure as IoT platforms. Alibaba Cloud has a $2.8 billion annual revenue run rate, but not much of related to IoT.
As part of the deal, Siemens said its MindSphere IoT operating system will be available on Alibaba Cloud sometime in 2019.
Siemens and Alibaba Cloud said they will start collaborating immediately.
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