SML Opens U.K. RFID Ideation Space

SML has launched its latest innovation center, known as a Retail Ideation Space (RIS), in Corby, England, to bring RFID technology closer to the U.K. and European retail markets. The center, co-located with SML’s newly rebuilt factory and service bureau, includes SML’s readers, tags and Clarity software solutions.

The Corby Retail Ideation Space is the third such center that SML has opened this year, following the first at its headquarters in Plano, Texas, and the second in Shanghai, China (see SML Opens Retail Ideation Space for Item-Level RFID and SML RFID Opens Retail Ideation Space in China). The new RIS will serve retailers, brands and logistics providers about one hour north of London, making it easily accessible for companies across the United Kingdom and the rest of Europe, according to Dean Frew, SML Group’s senior VP and CTO of RFID solutions.

In 2016, the site was the scene of an industrial fire that destroyed the original structure; SML has since fully rebuilt its manufacturing facilities at this location, in addition to adding the RIS. The facility, which employs a staff of 70 employees, will serve a busy market, Frew explains, noting that the United Kingdom is among the top five apparel markets in Europe, representing 13 percent of all RFID sales in recent years. It was the third and final of three planned RIS openings aimed at helping customers understand the technology and better strategize deployments, the company reports.

The Plano RIS has been in use since June 2019, Frew says, by companies seeking to learn about RFID solutions, generate ideas and test the technology. “We’ve had dozens of customers come through,” he recalls, “taking the opportunity to touch the technology and see its simplicity.” Additionally, workshops and a customer advisory meeting have been held there this year. The Shanghai RIS opened in September, and the company expects to see similar activity there as more RFID business launches throughout Asia.

All three centers are similar, SML reports, but the Shanghai site is the only one that includes a convenience store as part of its demonstration areas. The Corby RIS, like the others, includes warehousing and a store sales floor, as well as a laboratory space for innovation. The lab includes multiple anechoic chambers for testing RFID tag read functionality, as well as a space for tag prototyping. The lab replaces a previous facility at SML’s manufacturing site within the same space. SML also offers similar labs in North Carolina and in Dongguan, China.

The company envisions the 30,000-square foot Corby center as a collaboration space for retailers that are new or existing users of the technology. For instance, Frew says, a retailer might already have an RFID system in place that manages inventory for apparel or footwear, but might intend to expand its implementation to track inventory related to other products that might require a new tag form factor or some other modification.

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