The fact RFID is a technology facing a very promising future is proven by the predicted values of the market for devices and solutions utilizing it, as well as by increasingly broader implementation, also outside the trade sector. According to the last analysis published on the Bloomberg agency website, the value of the global RFID market, starting from the level of USD 14.5 billion at the end of 2022, is to reach USD 35.6 billion by the end of the decade, which is more than double.
Even today, solutions of this kind are used on a large scale in logistics and transport, for precise location and management of products in supply chains. Moreover, they are utilized in the control of people visiting tourist or sport venues where events with large numbers of participants are held, to help manage exhibits at museums or books at libraries, assist physicians and hospital personnel in the location of patients and inventory of surgical instruments, or provide invaluable aid to farmers in livestock identification. One could give many more similar examples. However, it is worth focusing on the area in which the participation of the RFID market development will be most prominent, namely, retail sales.
Advanced designs and RFID technology
It is utilization of a system based on RFID communication that makes it possible to materialize the visions of creating a fully autonomous trade establishments, already appearing for some time. The game offering future stores to customers is joined not just by new trade chains but by brands themselves as well. L’Oreal, one of the largest manufacturers of cosmetics and beauty products, has recently launched a demonstration pop-up store in Dusseldorf, Germany2. The visiting customers simply choose the products of interest from the shelves, and those products are automatically scanned on the basis of its RFID markers. The only thing that customers do is to pay for the shopping using a cashless payment method.
Identification of items with this technology enables development of the most advanced self-service store designs – the Japanese Lawson chain may serve as an example, testing a system using shopper baskets that automatically scan the goods and even featuring a function of automatically packing the products inside3. Interestingly, besides considerably more efficient inventory management thanks to ongoing, real-time monitoring, the use of RFID also ensures better visibility and rapidly “refreshed” control over foodstuffs and their shelf lives, helping mitigate food waste issues at points of retail sale.
Although fully autonomous stores are still a matter of the future, RFID proves immensely helpful today in the control of products, management of their “life cycle”, and prevention of losses. UPS announced switching to smart packages bearing RFID tags in as many as 100 warehouses managed by the company, to considerably accelerate their redistribution4. According to the representatives of the courier giant, implementation of this solution will help eliminate as much as 20 million manual package scans performed by employees every day, thanks to a system automatically recognizing them by markers. This technology is also successfully utilized by Inditex, the owner of the Zara brand. Substantial streamlining of logistic and storage processes allowed the company to focus on online sales after the outbreak of the pandemic, as well as to limit losses caused by theft or damage in transport, previously reaching EUR 170 million annually5. Polish enterprises have also bet on RFID, including the LPP Group where implementation thereof with support of the Checkpoint Systems company has eliminated problems with management and loss of control over products in the supply chain, resulting in store availability of the company’s articles of clothing at the level of 99%6.
“Apart from full control over the product from production to shelves, minimization of supply chain losses, or systems of automatic identification and scanning of goods, I would pay attention to one more essential aspect of the use of RFID, namely – anti-theft security systems at stores. This technology serves as a foundation for effective counteraction to unfair consumer practices, and I am convinced that, in the age of rampant inflation or amendments unfavourable to traders in the Criminal Code, it has the chance to convince more and more trade chains to invest in anti-theft systems. Especially in the era of common return to shopping in the classic stationary store formula – which we have noticed e.g. during the last Black Week – that is not going to give way to e-sales for a long time,” convinces Robert Głażewski, the Business Unit Director at Checkpoint Systems.
The benchmark of digitization
It turns out that use of the RFID technology is strictly related to the degree of innovativeness and digitization of Polish companies. This conclusion was reached by the SW Research agency. Its study also shows that 28% of medium and large companies from such sectors as production, logistics, transport, or retail trade have implemented solutions based on RFID communication today7. Asked whether they would recommend this technology to other companies, the respondents, with absolute unanimity (100%), said they would.