Batteryless Robotic Autonomous Price-Changing System

Prototype system uses Badger Technologies® autonomous robots with RFID readers to wirelessly update prices on Powercast’s batteryless ESLs throughout a store, creating an automatic retail price changing system that eliminates battery replacement and reduces e-waste

Powercast, the established leader in radio frequency (RF) wireless power, was honored as a Finalist in the RFID Journal LIVE! Awards at the RFID Journal LIVE! Show, held in Phoenix recently, for a prototype Robotic RFID Reader and Batteryless Immortal ESL Autonomous Price Changing System.

This all-in-one robotic price-changing system is intended to save retailers time, money and batteries, and was developed in collaboration with Badger Technologies, a product division of Jabil Inc. (NYSE: JBL) and leader in retail automation. The two companies aim to display the prototype system for the first time at CES 2022.

The system is unique in several ways. Robots on the market today can search for out-of-stock items and check prices, but do not update prices electronically in real time without requiring someone to physically change prices on the shelf. Pairing Powercast’s batteryless electronic shelf labels (ESLs) with Badger Technologies’ autonomous robots enables the back office to manage real-time electronic updates while eliminating problems associated with the industry’s battery-powered ESLs, including labor-intensive battery replacement and disposal.

How the technology works

Powercast’s ESLs do not need batteries because the company’s RF-to-direct current (DC) power harvesting technology can harvest enough power to operate perpetually from industry-standard RFID readers. In this system, RFID readers installed on the robots send RF power over the air as they roam by the ESLs to Powercast’s embedded receiver chips. These chips convert the RF to usable DC power to wirelessly update the ESL’s ePaper displays with new prices in seconds. The ePaper display continues to display that price even when it’s not being directly powered by an RFID reader. Using Lidar to detect and safely avoid people, the robots can travel a store 24/7 for a completely autonomous price checking and changing system.

“There are no autonomous, batteryless systems like this on the market,” said Charles Goetz, CEO of Powercast. “Retailers will have greater control over their pricing, will create a better experience for their customers, and could save millions of batteries from going into landfills every year.”

Retailers experienced some of the biggest job losses during the pandemic and persistent labor shortages continue to impact store operations. Leading retail automation solutions are ideally suited to augment staff resources to improve shopping experiences and store profitability. “Our in-store, multipurpose robots monitor product availability, deliver precise product location data as well as collect and share other valuable data from the retail floor,” said William “BJ” Santiago, CEO of Badger Technologies. “The ability to help retailers implement an energy-efficient, autonomous price-changing system takes customer service and operational efficiency to the next level.”

To date, more than 500 Badger Technologies autonomous robots have been deployed throughout the United States, Australia and New Zealand while multiple pilot deployments are currently underway. Powercast’s technology touches millions of users across more than 15 industries, including automotive, consumer electronics, IoT, entertainment, retail, RFID and sensors.

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