No one can argue we’re in a time when technology seems to be moving faster than we can keep up with it. That may be why EAS (Electronic Article Surveillance) technology seems to be elusive and confusing when it comes to its evolution and modern capabilities. Well…it isn’t and doesn’t have to be. This article will attempt to break down very succinctly the evolution of EAS without too much “geek speak,” and will give the LP professional a quick, useful explanation of how this technology has advanced in an effort to support retail’s ever-changing needs.
If you’re a person who finds the need to be lost in a wonderland of amorphous metals and magnetic saturation values, STOP READING NOW, this ain’t for you!
In The Beginning
The history of EAS began in the ‘60s. Three influential pioneers recognized the need for this type of technology. They were Arthur J. Minasy, Ronald G. Assaf, and Albert E. “Ted” Wolf. The technology was needed, but not only in the retail space. Wolf was originally developing and utilizing EAS technology for protection of books in libraries. However, due to the expanding retail market and the foothold both Minasy and Assaf were gaining there, he quickly followed suit. By the early to mid ‘70s, the three were in a proverbial foot race to conquer markets and make fortunes. A lot happened over the next 20-30 years regarding company spin-offs, legal battles, technology shifts & development, and EAS’ overall use. The technology was found very useful, but its application needed tweaking multiple times on many fronts to meet the needs of retail. This challenge, coupled with competition and pressure to have the best technology, got quite precarious to say the least.
Amorphous Metals & Magnetic Saturation Values
Alright, this is it! This will be all you get when it comes to “geek speak.” Presently, there are essentially four technologies or systems utilized in the EAS world. These systems are RF (Radio-frequency) Systems, AM (Acousto-Magnetic) Systems, EM (Electro-Magnetic) Systems and Microwave Systems. There are combo systems such as RFID (Radio-frequency identification) whereby the tags hold information and the radio frequency tracks the individual tags. Each technology utilizes electro-magnetic energy and therefore, the signals can interfere with other electronic devices. While all utilize electro-magnetic energy, that is pretty much where the similarities end. Over the course of time, each technology has been employed in various applications. Even the designs of EAS tags have changed as various learnings occurred. With that said, each technology has both demonstrated value and some challenges. Store layouts, types of merchandise, customer service, and different business models play significant roles in the technology employed. Each technology should be researched, and advice from industry professionals should be sought in order to ensure all needs will be met with whichever technology is chosen.
Source-Tagging: The Final Link
Technology to the side, there has been other critical “tipping points” for EAS in its history. The most important has been the drive for “source-tagging”. This is applying the EAS device at the manufacturer or at the retailer’s own distribution center rather than at the store. If you’ve been in retail for any length of time you know that for every breath a store employee takes, there is an equation for how that breath impacts the labor budget for that store. Early EAS users were applying tags in merchandise receiving rooms, but operators quickly realized this was a labor drain that detracted from a sales floor presence and customer service.
In the early ‘90’s source-tagging began taking off, but not without its own challenges. EAS manufacturers were developing their latest and greatest systems while also attempting to rollout source-tagging. Among the many challenges, applying EAS tags to merchandise had to be precise, and bulky deactivation devices used for removing the tags at the POS affected customer wait times and overall shopping experiences. However, the EAS suppliers who slowed down, embraced these challenges, and developed a strong R&D function that involved retailers at the onset, were the ones that have realized longevity in the industry and have proven they are “partners” in reducing shrink and increasing bottom line profits.
CONTROLTEK is one of those partners. In fact, CONTROLTEK has not only developed ControlSpan™, an inventory tracking system that utilizes affordable RFID technology within the EAS system, but can handle all source-tagging needs as well. Visit Controltekusa.com to review their products in the EAS arena and see how they can partner with you to meet your EAS needs.
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