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The German supermarket responsible for the Future Store Initiative is to roll out RFID tagging across the entire process chain, starting with 100 suppliers, ten central warehouses and approximately 250 stores. Metro Group's Initiative is supported by around 40 companies, including IBM, Intel and SAP, and in what we can can only regard as a useful piece of tidying that puts all your most paranoid privacy nightmares in the one place, Microsoft joined in at the beginning of this week.

Says Microsoft Retail & Hospitality Solutions Industry Group GM Brian Scott: "Retailers need to differentiate themselves from their competitors by using technology, both to understand individual customers' wishes, even before they are expressed, and to have the agility and real-time overview to deliver on these aspirations."

Metro is currently deploying RFID primarily in warehouse management, tracking goods as far as "moved to front of store." But it's obviously when widescale RFID starts to play in the front of store and beyond that it becomes interesting. ""We believe that the future of shopping lies in technology, both in the hands of consumers and extensively, but unobtrusively, deployed throughout the store, to create a more satisfying shopping experience and a more profitable, sustainable business," says Metro Group CIO Zygmunt Mierdorf.

Metro says that "the new technologies hold numerous options for reacting to the consumers' needs with target group-oriented offers," and has a virtual tour of how some of it will work here. We direct you particularly to the cart that recognises your store card and says hello to you, then tells you what you bought last time and offers to guide you through the store. Also, note that one form of checkout appears to know what you've got already, so you just pay, while another, unattended, one seems to want you to put the items through one at a time.

We've no idea why this might be, but in either case you still seem to have to exit through a detector. What could you be stealing from the store of the future if everything's tagged, and they know where you live? Shelving? ®

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