Product tampering has long been an issue in retail. Brands must maintain the integrity of their supply chain and ensure items are authentic and unmolested. There’s a consumer-facing component, too: Package theft is an ongoing problem. Customers are looking to retailers for help securing their purchases, and what’s needed is end-to-end product protection. That’s where LocatorX comes on scene.
President and CEO Scott Fletcher says his team first focused on supply chain. Though it’s a back-end function, supply chain’s impact further downstream — on brands as well as end customers — is clear. “When you think about putting labeling and tracking on a product, it comes into topics like anti-counterfeiting, theft prevention and tracking,” Fletcher says. “Those are a key portion of retailing.”
As third parties take on larger roles, the potential to lose control over the supply chain is only increasing. From manufacturing to packaging to shipping, moving items from creation to consumption requires many partnerships. Because fakes can be difficult to distinguish, and because they could get into consumers’ hands in a number of ways, it’s important to have good insight at every step.
“If you can put a tracking device on the item, you can track it through your supply chain,” Fletcher says. “It also extends the relationship into the consumer lifecycle of the product.”
Just as brands want to take charge of their supply chains, customers want greater control over their purchases. Package theft has made shoppers wary. The convenience factor — a primary driver in many cases — has been replaced with sheer annoyance. Buyers are now having their items sent to their office, a process that isn’t always desirable. Many have installed cameras at home to try to deter thieves, or at least help local police capture them after the fact.
“If you have a tracking device, you could continue to track something if it’s stolen and get the ability to reduce the theft that’s going on,” Fletcher says. Among the capabilities LocatorX may release down the road are multiple linked tags. Where the container, shipping box and item share a tag, it would provide redundancy while also making it more challenging for someone to tamper with or steal the product.
LocatorX is rolling its technology out in three phases. The smart label, introduced last year, drives more vigorous oversight within the supply chain. A chip that supports multiple communication formats such as Bluetooth and near field communication was released earlier this year. Designed to provide more accurate tracking and status information, the chip automates the process of manual or optical scanning.
Anticipated to launch in early 2020, the third phase will feature a solid-state molecular atomic clock housed in a silicon wafer. The resulting device will offer organizations the ability to track any product no matter its location. Entire containers could be monitored or the whereabouts of a package delivered to a customer’s door could be verified.
LocatorX technology is poised to deliver benefits for consumers, retailers, manufacturers, shipping providers, warehouse facilities and a host of others. With the potential for such broad appeal, Fletcher believes LocatorX could become a standard in the industry.
“If you look at where we are today in terms of the amount of counterfeiting, we feel we could become like the Good Housekeeping seal,” he says. “A seal of approval that’s expected to be displayed and that shows you have integrity in your supply chain for your product.”
Fletcher hopes to see an impact in the consumer realm as well. “Today, people expect the supply chain goes to the front door, not just the store shelf.”
Julie Knudson is a freelance business writer who focuses on retail, hospitality and technology.