Major retailers to test "smart shelves"

Two major retailers and a consumer products giant are teaming up to test a new "smart shelf" technology that allows for real-time tracking of inventory levels.

Gillette, Wal-Mart and the U.K.-based supermarket chain Tesco plan to install specially designed shelves that can read radio frequency waves emitted by microchips embedded in millions of shavers and related products.

The shelves can scan the contents of the shelves and, via computer, alert store employees when supplies are running low or when theft is detected, said Gillette spokesman Paul Fox.

Wal-Mart plans to test the Gillette shelf initially in a store located in Brockton, Mass., said Wal-Mart spokesman Bill Wertz.

The world's largest retailer is planning to run a similar field test with Procter & Gamble involving cosmetic products, such as lipstick, said Wertz. The companies haven't determined exactly when or at which Wal-Mart stores they would conduct that test.

A Tesco spokesman confirmed that the company is testing Gillette's smart shelf, but declined to discuss details until next week.

While the technology has appeared in other applications, such as cattle tracking, the tests appear to be the first by major retailers on such a large scale. If they prove successful at cutting costs, the trials could spur further adoption of the fledging technology, which has raised privacy concerns.

News source: C|net

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