For years, the PCC Natural Markets grocery store served residents of the Fremont section of Seattle. The grocery store closed its doors several years ago but still plays a role in retail; the site now functions as a technology incubator for retail’s future.
Impinj, a maker of the chips used in RFID tags and other RFID solutions, jumped at the chance to purchase the 11,000 square foot facility last year, with the goal of housing its sprawling Design Lab there. The site is located across the street from Impinj’s headquarters, providing for a highly convenient test lab.
When the facility opens in September, the Design Lab’s star will be the Speedway xArray solution developed by Impinj. The Speedway xArray reader provides wide-area monitoring through its beam-forming antenna array, which delivers full power throughout a 40 foot diameter when ceiling-mounted at 15 feet high.
The Design Lab will serve as a testing ground for some of the newest and cutting edge RFID technologies on the market that are dramatically changing retail strategies.
With its high ceilings, stocking areas, loading docks and point-of-sale counter, the old grocery store makes for a perfect site to test RFID products and demonstrate use cases. Impinj plans to test various retail scenarios to determine how xArray can perform in each of those.
“Wide area monitoring RFID systems like the xArray reader provide new and exciting insights into analytics that brick and mortar retailers have been unable to collect in the past,” says Larry Arnstein, vice president of marketing and business development for Impinj. “Tagging products with UHF RFID tag chips provides information into how customers interact with products.”
For example, an apparel item that is frequently taken into a fitting room but is not converting might have a fit or pricing issue. Similarly, knowing that products merchandised together on a display are regularly purchased together provides retailers with data that supports their merchandising efforts and encourages the use of in-store displays to drive sales.
Impinj plans to host major retail customers at the facility, where they can view RFID in action and how the technology not only improves inventory accuracy but can lead to a host of new use cases, including customer engagement tools. Impinj is in the process of assembling a retail jewelry counter that that will demonstrate the latest technologies designed to monitor the oft technically-challenged jewelry segment.
“We are setting up number of customer experience solutions to demonstrate how retailers can engage customers in new ways when you have an RFID infrastructure in place and you are thinking beyond using a handheld reader,” says Jill West, senior manager of marketing communications at Impinj.
“We want to demonstrate all the different activities you can do when you have RFID tags on the items and RFID overhead.”
During this fall’s Shop.org Summit in Seattle, the Design Lab will be the site of an evening event on RFID and retail being hosted by Impinj.
The Speedway xArray solution has been under development since 2010, and has been piloted by a major retailer for the past year. It is scheduled to be available commercially during the third quarter.