Last year we published an article about Santa Claus using RFID to ensure that each person believing in Santa would receive their Christmas presents on time. Now we concentrate on the benefits that RFID can bring consumers to their Christmas preparations.
It has started again. Brainstorming about Christmas presents,
listening to Christmas carols, trying to gather the whole family
and all relatives to the same place for Christmas Eve, planning the
menu, writing Christmas greetings… The list is quite long, and some
of us tend to get a few gray hairs trying to make it all work
A year ago, exactly at this time of the year, I was working at a
fairly large department store. The closer to Christmas it was, the
more it seemed that people would fall in three different categories
based on their attitude towards the season. The first group - and
majority of the customers - was very enthusiastic about everything
concerning Christmas. They bought their gifts quite early but kept
coming back to the shop for more home decorations and "something
small". The second group of customers had "accepted" that it's
Christmas again and that they are obligated to buy a few gifts.
They usually showed up the evening before Christmas Eve in a panic.
The third group consisted of the people who resisted the whole idea
of Christmas and the commercial aspects of it. They preferred to
skip coming in to the shop at all in December.
So, the thing that I found was common for all the three groups
was the fact that all of them seemed to have some kind of "stress"
before the season. The first group was stressed about the
availability of goods and whether the gifts would please their
recipients. The second group found buying gifts very difficult, and
the third group was not very enthusiastic about the excessive
consumption. Perhaps they had received many gifts that they didn't
like and couldn't exchange due to the lack of a receipt.
Based on publications on the RFID Arena website this year, I
have made a list of solutions related to "Christmas stress" that
would make the holidays more pleasant for all of us.
Christmas cards and gifts - by
After deciding at what house the whole family and relatives will
spend Christmas (and that's something that RFID really can't help
you with), sending Christmas greetings and gifts to the ones living
far away is the first thing to do. The problems here usually
concern lost addresses and never or late arriving cards/gifts.
Deliveries to other continents in particular should be shipped off
early if order to avoid the high costs of express deliveries.
So, how can RFID help? An RFID equipped postal
service would make sure that the cards and gifts arrive at the
right address and that the overseas receivers are reached before
Christmas. This still requires that you, the sender, are at the
post office in time before the rush. Otherwise Santa's little elves
have a lot of express deliveries to take care of.
With the help of RFID-tagged mail the deliveries to "changed
addresses" do not end up in the wrong mailboxes, thanks to "wrong
mail" -alerts in the mailboxes. Also, at the post DC, where the
letters are tagged, the system can alert if the address in the
envelope does not match the information of the recipient in the
post database. If we take this one step further, the system could
generate an SMS message to the sender with the new address
information in order to ensure that the sender gets it right the
What comes to cards and packages, the supply chain can be
speeded up with RFID: this gives the consumers more time to take
the deliveries to the post offices. Perhaps in the future the post
office could send out reminder messages like: "Today it's the last
day to drop deliveries to Australia in 2 Class" to customers that
have requested the service.
Christmas shopping - gifts and party
Aaah, my favorite. Shopping for something to wear on Christmas
Eve is somewhat easier than the gambling of picking out Christmas
gifts for relatives. I'm not quite sure about the shoe size of my
grandmother, or the favorite color of my aunt. But I do know what I
With RFID, the sales assistants can ensure that the consumers
find the products they are looking for in the right places and that
all the sizes and color variations are available. Shopping for a
Christmas dress for myself could be facilitated with "Smart fitting
rooms" - a fitting room equipped with an RFDI reader and a tablet
telling me about the available sizes, colors and items that match
the outfits I have chosen. (Read more about this application in Nordic IDea
When it comes to buying gifts, I have an idea how RFID could
help. A customer could try on an item in a fitting room and come to
the conclusion that "this would make a perfect gift for me from my
husband". The RFID reader in the fitting room in combination with
the tablet would allow the wife to "share" the item by e-mail or
social media with her husband. How is that for a hint? When it
comes to items that you don't take to a fitting room the store
personnel can assist the customer with a RFID mobile computer that
does the trick. The NFC function in mobile phones could also get
the job done. Whole wish lists can easily be made and shared with
The difficulty with apparel gifts is that we don't all have an
identical twin that can try out the garments before purchase. The
wish list mentioned above could take care of this. If there isn't
time to try the garment on, how about an RFID enabled walk-through
body scanner in the store (as Henri Dalén suggested in his guest blog)?
It would register the cloth and shoe sizes of the customer and
automatically compare it to the information given in the wish list.
Because cloth sizes vary shop by shop, this precaution would
prevent purchase of the wrong size. Then the gift buyers can walk
in the store, enter a code for identifying the specific wish list,
and choose the items they will purchase. How does this sound?
Merry grocery retailers and
Consumers are quite conscious about the origin of the products
they eat nowadays. Each meat producer is obligated to keep records
of the origin of the raw materials of their end products. But that
is not all the consumers of today want to know. The storing
temperatures and the length of the supply chain interest the
consumers more and more. And with RFID tracking the differences in
storing temperature lead to a more supervised supply chain.
Especially on Christmas the freshness is important, since the
grocery stores are closed over the holidays and the food must
remain fresh in the fridge for more than a few days. Read more
about this: Not to perish so fast.
Another problem related to seasonal food is availability. If you
go to a supermarket a few days before Christmas, it's quite
probable that you will not find everything you wanted to buy. Or if
you do, it's too late because the last item is already in another
customer's hand. RFID speeds up the supply chain logistics and with
real-time product data and "smart shelves" the system can order
more replenishment in good time before it's about to run out.
Nowadays grocery stores often estimate the coming demand based on
data from the past year, which isn't always reliable. With
unreliable data the supply chain isn't able to deliver the goods in
time. With RFID in the smart shelves the sale of the goods can be
monitored and therefore the timing of deliveries can be estimated
more precisely and the food you need will be on the shelf on
RTI (returnable transport items) is also a huge part of the
grocery retail business. Returning roller cages, plastic crates and
pallets can get a bit sticky when most of the employees are devoted
to moving goods from the back room to the shop floor as fast as
they can. Returning the transport platforms becomes a secondary
issue. This can lead to a situation where the producer has all the
pallets in stores and has nowhere to pack all the out-going goods.
By tracking the RTIs, the transporter or producer always has an
idea about how many platforms should be coming back and when.
fresh Christmas trees and flowers
RFID has proven to be beneficial for the horticultural sector
and some consumers of today want to know where their Christmas tree
has grown and when it has been cut. These circumstances might e.g.
have an effect on how fast the tree needles start falling on your
living room floor. In addition, for some consumers the difference
between natural trees and grown trees is remarkable. When it comes
to flowers, the growers and retailers can use temperature tags to
ensure that the flowers have been stored in the correct temperature
at all times.
Travelling at Christmas
Most of us spend at least a part of Christmas in the car. We
travel to see relatives and share gifts and Christmas greetings.
Renting a car in Christmas time is easier when
the cars are tagged with RFID: the rental companies keep better
track of their vehicles and the parking. The park houses and
parking areas can better supervise the ticketing and provide free
lots for their customers faster. Even the gas station owners get
into the Christmas spirit since they know that gasoline thefts are
reduced with RFID. The road maintenance companies can warn drivers
about accidents and jammed crossroads and the police and safety
authorities make sure we all drive safe.
So from all of us to all of you, have a merry RFID