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Altierre: Bringing Retail Industry to the Digital Age

Vimali Swamy
Wednesday, December 2, 2009
Vimali Swamy
Late one night in 2001 Sunit Saxena had to make an urgent dash to a grocery store., He was unable to find the items he needed -- nor could he find clerks to help him out. Looking around he saw the workers gathered in a back room preparing new paper price tags for the merchandise for the next day. Saxena was very surprised to know that this was an everyday task for the store clerks. On further research, he found out that this manual task of re-pricing not only wasted thousands of man hours but also cost the retail industry a whopping $40 billion every year.

Saxena thought this manual process was crazy because the entire process could be automated with the use of technology. He grabbed this opportunity to co-found Altierre in 2003 along with Anurag Goel. The company, headquartered in San Jose, has revolutionized the world of price and signage changes in retail, bringing stores into the Digital Age.

The Idea and Innovation
A couple of decades ago, grocery store clerks used to put a price sticker on every single product using a pricing gun. Next came the barcode scanners, enabling retailers to put a single price label on the shelf below each product and just scan the item at checkout. But it was still a tedious task for the retailers when it came to re-pricing the merchandise. "Having understood the pain points of the retailers, we thought of developing electronic tags that could be controlled wirelessly, allowing retailers to instantly change the price of items throughout the store," says Saxena, Chairman and CEO of Altierre.

The company has developed a complete Digital Signage and Electronic Price Tag system. The tags in the Altierre system are wireless LCD display devices that can be placed on shelves like normal price tags. Since the Altierre system is fully networked, pricing and promotion data can be generated for all stores at the Retail HQ and downloaded to each store. At the local store, the Altierre system takes over and automatically sends the data ‘over the last mile,’ so to speak, over its wireless platform to the RF Display Tags. This is the execution tool that retailers have been waiting for to make dynamic pricing and promotion a reality, giving the flexibility to change the price of any product in one or all of the stores in a chain, based on store traffic, season and competitive strategies. As an example, the tags let retailers launch promotions such as ‘Buy One, Get One Free’ almost instantly. At the local store level, with the click of a mouse, a grocery store manager could drop prices for a happy hour sale, and just as easily with another click return prices back to normal just in time for the dinner rush.

So how does it work? The foundation of the company’s solution is its mixed-signal chip technology and its RF Systems platform. Its software technology platform is built on top of its custom RF technology stack, which allows for a massively scalable ultra-low-power network of display tags, sensory tags and active and passive RF tags to coexist in an integrated fashion within its long-range RF network.

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