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IC Tags Speed Up Checkouts (March 27, 2007)

One of the checkouts where IC tags are used (Jiji)
Some convenience stores, supermarkets, and other retailers are attaching integrated circuit tags to their merchandise. IC tags, which allow vast amounts of information to be read in the blink of an eye, have a variety of retail applications, including instantaneous checkouts and sophisticated inventory management. The use of this technology not only enhances convenience for the consumer but also boosts efficiency for retailers.

Check Out by the Basket
Imagine yourself at a convenience store. You pick out a sandwich, a cup of instant noodles, and a canned drink, put them in the shopping basket, and take the basket to the checkout counter. You hear a beep, and the total for your purchase instantly appears on the cash register display. In February 2007 major convenience store chain Family Mart tested a system that does just this at two of its stores in the Ikebukuro district of Tokyo.

The test, which was conducted under the guidance of the Ministry of Economy, Trade, and Industry, involved placing 2-cm-square stickers fitted with IC tags on the approximately 800 items carried by the stores. The stickers were attached at the company's production facilities, allowing all the items to be tracked en route to delivery at the stores. Then, when customers make a purchase, a sensor at the checkout counter scans the data on the products' IC tags and calculates the bill, eliminating the need to scan individual item barcodes and cutting customers' waiting time in half.

A virtual makeup selector using IC technology at a Shiseido outlet (Jiji)

Personalized Product Information
Odakyu Electric Railway Co. has partnered with Hitachi Ltd. to survey consumers' preferences and create a system capable of offering people information on products based on their own individual tastes. They provided survey respondents with IC-chip cards containing data indicating their degree of interest in various aspects of product appeal, such as healthiness, environmental-friendliness, price, and freshness. Participants were asked to scan the card on special in-store devices that recommended products based on customers' preferences. Tested recently at selected Odakyu Group supermarkets, the system received high marks from shoppers.

The use of IC tags has been expanding among a variety of retailers. The department store chain Mitsukoshi has introduced IC tags in its sales of cosmetics, while bookstores have utilized the tags to measure the frequency with which certain titles are browsed by customers. Electronics stores, meanwhile, are using the tags to provide swift and accurate product inventory data. If the current obstacle of high IC chip costs can be overcome, the use of IC tags is sure to expand further and could even lead to the emergence of unmanned shops.

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Copyright (c) 2007 Web Japan. Edited by Japan Echo Inc. based on domestic Japanese news sources. Articles presented here are offered for reference purposes and do not necessarily represent the policy or views of the Japanese Government.

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