Tokyo department store begins RFID cosmetics trial

Shoppers at a Tokyo department store have a chance to get help with their make-up as part of a three week-long test of RFID technology that began on Friday.

Shoppers at a Tokyo department store have a chance to get help with their make-up as part of a three week-long test of RFID technology that began on Friday.

The Mitsukoshi store in Tokyo's Ginza district is host to the trial in which RFID tags have been attached to lipstick, eye shadow and blush.

In one part of the trial a kiosk can provide customers with a simulation of what they would look like wearing various make-up. The 19 items available all have RFID tags attached and shoppers just need wave them over a sensor for the simulator to detect which product has been selected, then it's up to a computer to do the rest.

The trial also seeks to keep track of which samples are most frequently selected by shoppers browsing for products. Each time one of 49 tagged items is removed from a display stand the system takes note. The information is compiled into marketing data for the store.

Alongside the display case another RFID system displays product data on a PC screen when a product is waved over a sensor.

And in an attempt to turn the current popularity of consumer-generated content into hard sales another part of the trial provides customers with recommendations and information from other shoppers. Make-up items with RFID tags attached can be waved over a reader to call-up a list of comments on the product from other shoppers.

Working with Mitsukoshi on the trial is Fujitsu, which developed the majority of the hardware used, Toppan Printing Co., which made the RFID tags, and cosmetics company Shiseido Co.. The trial is sponsored by Japan's Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry and runs until Feb. 11 at the Mitsukoshi main store in Ginza. A similar trial will run from Jan. 30 to Feb. 12 at the Mitsukoshi store in Sakae, Nagoya.

The trial is taking place alongside a year-long project in the Ginza area that will see around 10,000 RFID tags and other sensors deployed.

The sensors are all encoded with a unique ID number which terminals can cross-reference with database to call up location-related information. For example, users walking under a transmitter in a subway will be able to obtain a map of the vicinity and directions to a desired location. Walking past a radio beacon in front of a shop might bring up details of current special offers or a menu for a restaurant.

The terminal being used in the Ginza trial features a 3.5-inch OLED (organic light emitting diode) touch-panel screen and is about the size of a PDA. It was built by a joint venture between some of Japan's largest electronics companies and the project is co-sponsored by the government.

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