German retail giant Metro has unveiled a new voice-operated, smart-tag system designed to help warehouse personnel quickly and accurately fill merchandise orders.
The prototype system, announced at a news conference on Wednesday, is one of many new systems using RFID (radio frequency identification) technology that the Metro Group and its technology partners are demonstrating in a 2,800 square meter booth at the Cebit trade show in Hanover, Germany.
It consists of several components: a high-tech glove equipped with an RFID reader and short-range Bluetooth; a headset with integrated microphone equipped with both Bluetooth and Wi-Fi technologies; and a voice-operated computer system application in the back office.
Here's how it works: Employees wear the headset, which uses Wi-Fi to connect to the computer system and Bluetooth to connect to the RFID scanning device mounted to the arm. A cloth strap containing two antennas extends from the device to two fingers.
Employees receive computer-generated instructions to their headsets and confirm them over their microphones. The glove automatically registers the products they pick from the shelves and put into boxes or onto pallets. If they accidentally pick the wrong product, they receive a message requesting them to repeat the process.
After fulfilling the order, employees notify the system through the microphones.
The main benefits of the voice-operated RFID picking system are that work sequences aren't interrupted by employees having to read through lists and manually compare data, according to Metro.
The arm-held, Bluetooth-enabled RFID reader was developed by Perdictum GmbH & Co. KG, in Dortmund, Germany, and the wireless headset with microphone by Deister Electronic GmbH, in Barsinghausen, Germany.
Metro is currently testing the technology at its RFID Innovation Center in Neuss, Germany, and expects to deploy it in one of its stores using RFID technology as early as next year, a company spokesman said.
The German retail giant, with more 2,300 supermarkets and wholesale, department and electronics stores, is collaborating with several IT companies, including IBM, Intel and SAP, and more than 40 additional consumer goods and technology suppliers to develop RFID systems for the retail sector.