Albertson's Technology Brings Handhelds To Customers - InformationWeek

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Albertson's Technology Brings Handhelds To Customers

The retailer's Shop 'n Scan technology is designed to give customers more control of their experience.

Albertsons Inc. is pushing further toward the supermarket of the future. Shoppers at all the retailer's stores in the Dallas and Fort Worth metro area now can scan their items with handhelds to record purchases, tally costs, receive special offers, and check out and pay.

The $36 billion food and drug retailer has been aggressive in using technology to improve customer service. Albertsons recently issued a mandate requiring its top 100 suppliers to tag all cases and pallets they ship to the retailer with radio-frequency identification tags by April 2005. Wal-Mart, Target, and several European retailers are pursuing similar RFID strategies to improve their supply chains and in-stock rates by making it easier to locate products as they move from suppliers to distribution centers and ultimately to individual stores.

The new scanning technology, called Shop 'n Scan, doesn't employ RFID tags. Instead, it scans bar codes on individual items and is designed to give customers more control of their shopping experience, the company says. The Shop 'n Scan technology, unveiled Thursday, was developed by Albertsons through a partnership with Symbol Technologies Inc. and NCR Corp. The handheld devices run off in-store wireless networks developed in conjunction with Cisco Systems.

To obtain a scanner, a customer goes to a kiosk at the store entrance and swipes his or her Preferred Savings card, which unlocks the handheld device. During checkout, the customer can use a traditional lane, a self-checkout lane, or an "Express Pay Station." At the latter, the customer scans an "end-of-trip" bar code at the station and then automatically downloads the contents on the scanner into the register.

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