American Apparel's tags start tracking your pants
But not with you in them - yet
Iconic clothing store American Apparel is to start putting radio tags into every item of clothing, tracking it from factory to stockroom to store shelf and possibly beyond.
The company has been trialling RFID tags at its New York story for the last few months, attaching tags as items arrived at the store and removing them for re-use when the item is sold. But following that trial the company is preparing a national roll-out, with tags attached to clothing at manufacture and remaining with the items even after sale.
RFID has long been proposed as a replacement for bar codes, allowing tags to be read without requiring line of sight, but the cost has generally limited deployments to boxes of products rather than individual items. American Apparel have a particular stocking challenge as they insist on having at least one of every item, in every size, out on display at all times. This complicates restocking and makes RFID a more worthwhile investment.
The tags come from Avery Dennison and allow each item purchased to be noted as it leaves the stockroom bound for the shelves, and tracked as it's sold. The AD-220 tag was launched two years ago, at which time they cost less than eight cents each. RFID Journal reports that American Apparel has ordered more than a million of them for the 17 stores they'll be rolling out to initially. However, even that's only expected to last six months, as this time the tags won't be removed at the point of purchase.
Readers are built into the doorway to the stockroom and the counter at the till, and hand-held readers are used for stock-taking - a process which was reduced, during the pilot, from 32 man-hours to four. The whole lot is tied together using software from Vue Technologies who quote the retailer's RFID director: "American Apparel takes pride in being a vertically-integrated manufacturer, distributor and retailer of fashionable, high-quality basics, and we embrace any technology that allows us to further realize this vision to better serve our customers."
During the pilot signs around the store warned customers that RFID tags were in use, though in that instance the tags were removed from garments at the point of sale. The next deployment will see RFID tags walking out the door still attached to clothing. American Apparel weren't able to tell us if those will be deactivated or remain in operation to be identified next time you're passing, nor when we might be able to enjoy having our trousers tracked on this side of the pond. ®
@ Gareth - I'm paranoid, but don't see the big deal about RFID
You are absolutely right. RFID was originally conceived as a slightly more remotely accessible barcode intended for fast asset tracking in warehouses and distribution. And provided that it remains equivalent to a simple 1D barcode (Code 29, UPC-A, EAN-8 etc) it is totally benign.
In fact it was the above imperative that, for many years, was a primary driving force behind the development of 802.11wireless networking; companies like Symbol Technologies (now Motorola) and Cisco invested huge amounts of capital in developing the industry strength networking that permeates the entire global food distribution system (using both barcode and RFID). It’s the only way in which supermarkets can maintain their precise balancing act between full shelves and limited on-site warehousing.
The future COMMERCIAL use of RFID will depend, as ever, upon the development of increasingly smarter RFID data storage. 2D barcodes (PDF-417) can already encode prodigious data, including certain biometrics, in a simple and durable form factor. The WIDESPREAD adoption of an RFID equivalent may inadvertently produce something potentially far more sinister. However, I will continue confine my concerns to real-world practical applications not in any hypothetical flights of impractical fantasy.
Incidentally, some UK Police Forces already use PDF-417’s on their Warrant Cards as a means of limited verification internal ID; though none of them use it to its full potential. Other than the HOSDB (whose experience in many areas remains strictly limited), Police Forces don’t have any meaningful R&D and, just like the CPS, civilian Police IT staff are paid peanuts - and we all know that’s the best way to attract monkeys.
Ah, Tonto and Alf, I knew you guys wouldn't disappoint.
…… and Tonto, I've been meaning to ask: who WAS that masked man?
Paranoia here we all are
There would appear to be a certain amount of paranoia here.
Who said that!
Is it the state watching or is it something in my trousers?
Surely if you are that scared of a certain type of RFID trousers then dont purchase them, easy when you think about it.
@ FOOF - Calling all paranoid fantasists
Mr Foof (nice nom de plume), what is your real name, your comments mean you will happily print your correct title, if Foff is your real name, i feel sorry for you, consider deed poll.
Wise words great mate, dont worry about the 'if you were in Germany' quote by 'AC', (Yes another AC for you to whine on about Mr (or Mrs) Foof), cant imagine a person with a name like yours in leather trousers, slapping you thighs and drinking vast amounts of yellow beer from a mug with a lid on it, just dont go to Germany.
Foofs (Mr / Mrs / Monsieur?), will hate you more than everyone, top name though. Keep wearing the moleskin codpiece, i prefer mine to be made from scotchbrite.Nice.
@How to avoid being tracked by Argus Tuft,
You will be hated a close second by Foofs (Mde / Senorita?),Tonto just has it for me.
Dont use money or credit cards mate, your paranoid ideals will overtake you very quickly !!
I'm off now to think of a really good name to call myself.
All those worried about RFID should wear tin foil pants, not to stop any details escaping, but to catch the mess when you shit yourself everytime you think about the tracking in your strides.
I'm paranoid, but don't see the big deal about RFID
RFID is just a fancy barcode, the chips don't contain any real information, just a serial number which can be read from distances at which you're visible through line of sight anyway.
I'm firmly against erosion of civil liberties and things like pervasive CCTV, but I don't really see what the big deal is about RFID.
@ If you've got nothing to hide
Why wear trousers at all?
I favour the moleskin codpiece. I was going to say that it is not big enough to secrete such a tag but that might give the wrong impression!
I keep my Tesco Visa chip and pin card safely in a lead lined box so that my route through their shop cannot be traced. I then pay cash, in Euros, and affect a foreign accent thus confusing my identity further. You know it makes sense.
AC - As for '1984 all over again'. Have the Eurythmics re-released said album?
@Moss Icely Spaceport
If you've nothing to hide, why wear trousers ?? If you got em, flaunt em !! Having said that, there is a significant (and rising) proportion of the population that make beached whales look sexy !! Perhaps they should be forced to wear canvas tents to spare the rest of us some ghastly sights !!