[LINK] CW: 'Marks & Spencer UK expands RFID trial'
Roger.Clarke at xamax.com.au
Tue Feb 20 15:55:21 EST 2007
[Initial comments are about the trial, but the second half contains
bullish marketing comments about the irrelevance of privacy as a
Marks & Spencer expands RFID trial, includes lingerie
Laura Rohde (IDG News Service) 24/02/2005 13:24:15
UK retailer Marks & Spencer will begin putting RFID tags in bras as
part of an extended trial.
U.K. retailer Marks & Spencer (M&S) will extend its ongoing trial of
radio frequency identification (RFID) technology for the management
of its clothing stock from nine of its stores to 53 in the second
quarter of next year.
"The feedback so far from our staff has been very positive in that
the RFID tags have clearly improved our stock-taking process. What
takes up to eight hours a week to do manually can be done with RFID
tags in about an hour," said M&S spokeswoman Olivia Ross on
Wednesday. "Plus the staff have said that they find the technology
easy to use: simply waving a scanner over a rack of clothes."
RFID is a method for storing, receiving and transmitting data using
antennas on tags that respond to radio frequency queries. Tags can be
read when a remote scanner is passed over them. M&S began a trial of
the technology itself in 2003 and then moved on to trial RFID on an
item level in April 2004. The current trial is only for men's suiting
but will include women's undergarments in 2006, Ross said.
"We are looking to test RFID with size-complex items, and for bras
alone, there could be over 40 sizes," Ross said. The extended trial
is expected to run through the third quarter of 2006, after which the
company plans to continue with additional tests. Ross said there are
no plans for what items future trials would include or time lines for
when RFID would move from the test stage to being used on a regular
basis in M&S stores.
BT Group will be the main contractor on the second phase of the
trial, providing M&S with IT services like deployment assistance and
maintenance of the RFID readers. BT is also assisting with the
implementation of RFID in M&S' food supply chain. M&S has contracted
with Intellident for the scanner technology, while the microchips are
from EM Microelectronic-Marin.
M&S is quick to point out that the only purpose in using RFID is for
improving its stock-taking process. The RFID tags are not scanned at
the checkout, nor is any link made between the garment information
held by the tag and the customer's details, such as credit card
information, Ross said.
"We don't match personal details to the garment and we will never be
doing that," Ross said. "We are open about the trials and the
customer feedback we've been getting has been positive. The customers
we've polled in the stores using RFID have said they noticed an
improvement in stock availability which they like."
In the current trial, the RFID chips are placed inside throwaway paper labels.
During the second phase of the garment trial, the chips will be
integrated into the paper barcode labels M&S already uses to record
the size and cost of the item, and will have the words "Intelligent
Label for stock control use" marked on it so shoppers are aware of
the RFID chip. The intelligent labels can be read at speeds 20 times
faster than bar code labels, M&S said.
The company also provides leaflets to customers in the stores where
the tags are used explaining the new technology as well as what M&S
is doing -- and will not be doing -- with the information it
collects, Ross said.
Peter Harrop, chairman of RFID specialist IDTechEx, said that
companies planning to use RFID must conduct trials that show
customers the technology's benefits, such as well-stocked stores, and
address potentially sensitive issues from the outset.
Harrop pointed to the decision by clothing retailers Benetton Group
and Prada (I Pellettieri d'Italia) to drop their RFID trials after
receiving negative reaction to tags being put in women's lingerie and
women's dresses, respectively. "I think Prada was quite surprised by
the reaction of women shopping in its New York store who didn't like
the idea of the store recording dress sizes," Harrop said.
U.K.-based retailer Tesco, also found itself dealing with protests
after it was revealed that during its pilot with Gillette razor
blades, the tags were programmed to send instructions for in-store
cameras to take pictures of people with the product at the check-out
stand. "There was some protest, but Tesco completed the trial, which
showed that the technology works," Harrop said. "Tesco has decided to
proceed with its RFID trials but to focus on ones that don't have to
do with catching criminals for the time being."
Harrop believes several of the privacy campaigners' concerns are
contrived and, based on information culled from the 1,300 European
RFID case studies IDTechEx has in its database, doesn't think privacy
issues will derail the technology's use.
"People face more intrusion on their privacy through the use of their
mobile phones, which can continuously track their whereabouts, and
that hasn't kept people away from that technology," Harrop said. "The
main thing that would keep RFID tags from becoming ubiquitous is
Roger Clarke http://www.anu.edu.au/people/Roger.Clarke/
Xamax Consultancy Pty Ltd 78 Sidaway St, Chapman ACT 2611 AUSTRALIA
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mailto:Roger.Clarke at xamax.com.au http://www.xamax.com.au/
Visiting Professor in Info Science & Eng Australian National University
Visiting Professor in the eCommerce Program University of Hong Kong
Visiting Professor in the Cyberspace Law & Policy Centre Uni of NSW
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