SAN JOSE, Calif.In a warehouse demo facility at its headquarters here, startup Altierre Corp. maintains a mock supermarket that could easily be mistaken for the real thing. The facility is complete with shopping carts, aisles stocked with goods, and Altierre's flagship producta wireless LAN based on a system of RF tags, LCD displays, servers, access points and wireless stations, which controls and updates prices for each item.
Replacing the low-tech paper display tags used by grocery stores to display prices and marketing messages with electronic shelf labels may seem at first glance like an unnecessaryand expensiveapplication of technology. But Altierre executives say supermarkets and other large retail operations invest thousands of man hours in the inefficient process of manually replacing paper tags on store shelves to reflect updated prices. They are constantly behind on these updates, and frequently make mistakes, the executives say.
Using Altierre's platform, a supermarket employee can update prices throughout the store in a matter of minutes with a few keystrokes, according Sunit Saxena, the company's chairman and CEO. He argues that the system saves time and labor costs, reduces human error and is "green," saving billions of sheets of paper each year. Altierre has a shopping cart in the demo room overflowing with paper price tags, a compelling visual that attests to the amount of paper that can be saved in a single supermarket.
|Sunit Saxena, Altierre chairman and CEO, at the company's San Jose, Calif. demo facility.|
The system also brings a whole new potential for marketing advantages, according to Saxena. Pushing a shopping cart through the demo room, he notes that potential for a readout mounted on the cart which could display advertisements, alerts about what items are on sale or nutritional information about products in the immediate vicinity of a shopper's current location.
"People today are so pressed for time," Saxena says. "They are rushing through the store to pick up a few things for dinner on their way home for work. The system could give them the information they need to allow them to get in and out faster."
With the ability to dynamically change pricing and sale information tags much more quickly, supermarkets could also run different specials on products in a store at different times of the day, enabling them to appeal to target demographics, according to Saxena. In the middle of the day on weekdays, when more senior citizens tend to shop, stores could run specials on items they tend to buy for a few hours, he notes as an example.