Friday, April 11, 2008

Coming soon: electronic shelf labels

By now we've probably all seen that guy at trade shows, with a booth full of tiny screens showing itty-bitty digital images and mounted to on mocked up supermarket shelves. I think I've come across this tech at pretty much every major industry show I've gone to in the past five years. But I've yet to see a single deployment.

According to some news from BizJournals, that may change soon, thanks to a $52M cash injection by Galleon Group into electronic shelf label pioneer Altierre Corp. And given how cheap tech is getting and how expensive labor (and everything else) continues to become, it looks like the time for such a seemingly-overkill system might finally have come. The article notes:
The technology would eliminate the paper labels that are often changed weekly in grocery stores, freeing up workers and reducing paper waste, says CEO Sunit Saxena. ESL would also eliminate discrepancies between the shelf and cash-register prices and allow the flexibility to make immediate price changes, he says.

"You've got a poor store manager trying to orchestrate the changing prices of 40,000 products, and they just can't do it," Saxena says. "So how do you get the information out there? Through wireless networks."

The system consists of a digital liquid crystal display (LCD) device that sits on the shelves' rail and can be altered from a central computer in the store's office or company headquarters. The system uses secure Wi-Fi to change a price in less than two minutes. The digital displays are powered by batteries with a shelf life up to five years. The system would pay for itself in one to two years by eliminating the cost of paper tags, Saxena says.
While the touted benefit is the ability to change prices faster and more efficiently, there's obviously also the potential to provide additional information (e.g. nutrition info or promotions on food items), as well as more nefarious uses like real-time, demand-based price adjustments that could mean the $3.19 box of Cheerios you put in your cart turned into a $5.59 box by the time you checked out. Sure, nobody says they plan to do that, but you know they're all thinking it :)

No word on when we'll see pilots of Altierre's technology, but according to the company, two major grocers are already testing the stuff out.

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Anonymous said...

Has no one been to a supermarket in the last 15 years????

These tags have been out there in NYC, CT, Ma and many other locations for a very long time

Anonymous said...

stiamo sviluppando un network di estremo successo. il digital signage è sicuramente il presente del mercato pubblicitario

Anonymous said...

Vorrei dire che etichette elettroniche aggiornabili tramite wireless, sono gia' presenti sul mercato europeo da molti mesi.
Per maggiori informazioni, potete visitare il il sito web

Quindi,le etichette elettroniche sono già il "presente", non solo futuro...

Anonymous said...

Excuse me, but Wireless Electronic Shelf Labels , are installed in Europe from many time.

For more information, You can visit the web site

Anonymous said...

Ciao a Tutti.

The best company in the world that produce ESL is Pricer in Sweeden ( It's the sole that has already installed in many stores thousand Epaper labels and millions of the standard ones. He has be 99.5% of the Japanese market. The italian reseller is
In the web pages of you cand find a web cam and you can update one ESL yourself. In Italy there are more than 500 store installed.

Unknown said...

Tagnetics has been installing Electronic Shelf labels in the US since 2003. They use unique wireless technology for both communication and power. This means a low cost high reliability system that does not use batteries.


Anonymous said...

The best answer for Pricer is: 60.000.000 labels sold, 3800 installations. 8-10 years of battery lifetime. 50.000/200.000 Prices updates per hour. A very nice labels with 184 segments and 28 pages available.

Anonymous said...

For something better than Pricer or any of the RF solutions take a look at ILID - these guys use the existing lights found in store to send the data to their Electronic Labels - no need to install RF or IR infrastructure and they boast a 10 year...YES....TEN YEAR battery life regardless of the number of changes made to the label

Anonymous said...

Hey - I've seen the ILID stuff in the UK and in the UAE. They are based in Australia and the UK if this helps...

I've spoke with them once and they seem like good people - the guy who heads up the UK office used to be a customer at the Co-op and certainly knows his stuff when it comes to how this works(Rob, Bob or something like that - cant remember his last name)


Jon W