Mike Grimes is vice president of sales and marketing at Cuesol Inc., a leading smart-cart vendor. Grimes said he disagrees that the random audits are especially punitive and says that customers have generally not objected, understanding that the system is a privilege. Speaking on behalf of himself and others in the smart-cart industry, he quipped, "The customers dont mind these random checks nearly as much as we insist they do." Both Cuesols Grimes and NCRs Lutz agreed that RFID (radio frequency identification) is going to solve most of the self-checkout issuesand that its not likely to happen anytime soon. "The Holy Grail for all of this will be full-item RFID tagging," Lutz said, adding that he believes full RFID product tagging is still 10 to 15 years away.The smart carts also have some practical disadvantages compared with stationary self-checkout systems. The smart-cart scanners require that the customer have a courtesy card, which means it couldnt be used when visiting a grocery chain where the customer didnt have a courtesy card. In the pre-RFID world, Grimes said, Cuesols cart tablets do a pretty good job of knowing precisely where products are, even when employees move product locations without updating the database. Although the system cant yet zero in on one item, it uses a self-healing technology approach that realizes that customers are suddenly scanning cat food from the middle of aisle seven instead of aisle six, which is where the cat food is supposed to be. If enough customers do that, it concludes that pet foods have been moved to aisle seven and immediately updates its map accordingly, Grimes said. Cuesol is also readying a system that tracks the actual carts, even if they dont happen to have a Cuesol tablet inside them. That way, the system could automatically flag management when, for example, a particular checkout lane had more than four customers in line. Check out eWEEK.coms Retail Center for the latest news, views and analysis of this vital industy.
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