Checkpoint pioneered RF technology’s use in the retail industry and is now ushering in a new era through the introduction of a brand new electronics platform that is resetting the boundaries of what is achievable, both in terms of antenna design and functionality.
Simon Edgar, Senior Director EAS Systems & Software at Checkpoint Systems, gives some information about the thought process behind the new NEO system.
1. Checkpoint is noted as inventing the first Radio Frequency-based Electronic Article Surveillance system, what would you say has been the main driver for you to re-think the whole Radio Frequency design?
“Checkpoint has a long reputation of delivering quality RF hardware and labels. We have maintained our position as the market leader as we’re always looking for ways to improve the solutions we offer. That said, there are only so many antenna designs and innovations that you can come up with, while working from the same blue print.
With the rapid rate of change retailers are having to adapt to, it made sense that our solutions were able to cope with these changes, particularly the increasing demand for connectivity between multiple new technologies and sensors. That’s when we started to think outside of the box, about redefining the antenna design – so that this valuable piece of hardware is fit for the rigours of today’s retail environment.”
2. How did you set about creating NEO?
“Discussions about a new electronics platform started a couple of years ago. As technology changes, the options to adapt our electronics platform also open up, so we started to re-think the traditional RF loop concept. Bricks and mortar stores are striving to be more technologically advanced and connected in everything they do, in order to bring new customers through the doors and maximise their sales.As technology changes, the options to adapt our electronics platform also open up, so we started to re-think the traditional RF loop concept"
So it made sense to apply the same philosophy to our antenna portfolio. We’re extremely proud of what we have achieved in such a short period of time. It demonstrates that we’re at the forefront of retail technology and not many vendors can have a market ready product available within just eight months.”
3. How many people have been involved in its development?
“The project was split in two, with an electronics development team and an antenna design team. All together the project has involved Checkpoint employees from around the globe, including 20 engineers, 10 technical designers and the entire senior management team of Checkpoint.
This doesn’t include marketing, sales and our customers – who have been involved throughout the process. It has been a true team effort and we have combined the wealth of retail experience and technical know-how within our business to create something really special.”
4. Acousto-Magnetic (AM) technology has presented some benefits to retailers over Radio Frequency, including wider aisles. Why have you continued to invest in RF?
“We believe that RF technology has more benefits than Acousto-Magnetic, including cost, detection and energy usage. It has always been our preferred option for antenna, labels and source tagging – where we protect manufactured goods straight out of the factory. The latter often involves a wide selection of differing tag sizes and formats, and when we started to investigate new ways to lay out the electronics, previous performance boundaries related to tag size started to melt away.
We soon realised that the NEO platform would enable us to incorporate new connected technology, while early test results showed the detection rates in the new electronics configuration was outstanding, enabling retailers to achieve the same distance between antennas that AM technology provides.”
5. You are using NEO to develop sensors for different vertical markets, why is it important that different stores have different types of antenna?
“When shopping on the high street or in malls, you usually spend a few hours browsing. Stores spend a lot of time to make their displays appealing and ensuring entrances are as open as possible to entice people in. As such there has been increasing demand for antenna designs that are minimalistic and deliver a clear eye line to the displays, rather than customers’ not being able to see past the point of entry/exit security systems.
In contrast, grocery or DIY stores tend to have more frequent footfall, often with trolleys. Designs for these environments need to be sturdy enough to take a few knocks and last a good few years under these harsher conditions. Thanks to the NEO electronics platform, the scope for varied designs has opened up dramatically, so over the next 12 months expect to see some exciting design concepts that can be utilised across the retail industry.”
6. Do you see the adoption of RFID speeding up across Europe, and is that why being able to upgrade to RFID is important?
“RFID has been talked about for a while and many retailers are now beginning to adopt this technology. We are also seeing the emergence of Bluetooth and NFC, while some retailers are experimenting with other wireless technology, Chatbots, VR, AR and AI. The customer journey is more complex and a diverse range of solutions are being created that help stores communicate with customers and improve the shopper experience.
Over the next 12 months expect to see some exciting design concepts that can be utilised across the retail industry"
So really, it’s not just about upgrading to RFID anymore, it’s about all round connectivity. By offering a wide range of ‘intelligent’ options, our NEO electronics present retailers with the ability to upgrade at any time; we are expanding retailer options beyond what has ever been possible with entry/exit systems.”
7. Connectivity is a key USP of NEO; how are retailers looking to connect their stores and what are the common challenges?
“As we just touched on, connectivity is playing an ever increasingly important role in the retail industry. Different technologies can be combined to provide wider information and hugely valuable, actionable data for retailers. NEO will become an active contributor to this data flow and will provide many different insights that will help a retail store run more effectively, not only in reducing losses, but improving customer engagement.”
8. 75% of retailers globally say their major investments in the next decade will be in in-store tech. Why is it important retailers introduce new technologies, like NEO, into their stores now?
“Recent studies have shown that bricks and mortar stores are still an important part of the customer journey. In fact, a large percentage of shoppers still want to visit stores despite the ease of shopping online. But however they choose to shop, their expectations remain similar – they want to easily find what they are looking for, they expect instant customer service, and, perhaps most importantly, they want an easy checkout.
This is where technology, like NEO, becomes a key part of a physical store’s modern day infrastructure. Delivering actionable, real time data to staff in-store, can significantly improve the consumer experience, keeping customers loyal and the store relevant in this new landscape.”