GB2286275A - Retail goods check-out apparatus - Google Patents

Retail goods check-out apparatus Download PDF

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Publication number
GB2286275A
GB2286275A GB9400414A GB9400414A GB2286275A GB 2286275 A GB2286275 A GB 2286275A GB 9400414 A GB9400414 A GB 9400414A GB 9400414 A GB9400414 A GB 9400414A GB 2286275 A GB2286275 A GB 2286275A
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GB
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Patent type
Prior art keywords
bar code
de
goods
security tag
signal
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GB9400414A
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GB9400414D0 (en )
Inventor
Robert Benjamin Franks
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Robert Benjamin Franks
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Classifications

    • GPHYSICS
    • G08SIGNALLING
    • G08BSIGNALLING OR CALLING SYSTEMS; ORDER TELEGRAPHS; ALARM SYSTEMS
    • G08B13/00Burglar, theft or intruder alarms
    • G08B13/22Electrical actuation
    • G08B13/24Electrical actuation by interference with electromagnetic field distribution
    • G08B13/2402Electronic Article Surveillance [EAS], i.e. systems using tags for detecting removal of a tagged item from a secure area, e.g. tags for detecting shoplifting
    • G08B13/2465Aspects related to the EAS system, e.g. system components other than tags
    • G08B13/248EAS system combined with another detection technology, e.g. dual EAS and video or other presence detection system
    • AHUMAN NECESSITIES
    • A47FURNITURE; DOMESTIC ARTICLES OR APPLIANCES; COFFEE MILLS; SPICE MILLS; SUCTION CLEANERS IN GENERAL
    • A47FSPECIAL FURNITURE, FITTINGS, OR ACCESSORIES FOR SHOPS, STOREHOUSES, BARS, RESTAURANTS OR THE LIKE; PAYING COUNTERS
    • A47F9/00Shop, bar, bank or like counters
    • A47F9/02Paying counters
    • A47F9/04Check-out counters, e.g. for self-service stores
    • A47F9/046Arrangement of recording means in or on check-out counters
    • A47F9/047Arrangement of recording means in or on check-out counters for recording self-service articles without cashier or assistant
    • GPHYSICS
    • G06COMPUTING; CALCULATING; COUNTING
    • G06KRECOGNITION OF DATA; PRESENTATION OF DATA; RECORD CARRIERS; HANDLING RECORD CARRIERS
    • G06K7/00Methods or arrangements for sensing record carriers, e.g. for reading patterns
    • G06K7/10Methods or arrangements for sensing record carriers, e.g. for reading patterns by electromagnetic radiation, e.g. optical sensing; by corpuscular radiation
    • G06K7/10544Methods or arrangements for sensing record carriers, e.g. for reading patterns by electromagnetic radiation, e.g. optical sensing; by corpuscular radiation by scanning of the records by radiation in the optical part of the electromagnetic spectrum
    • G06K7/10821Methods or arrangements for sensing record carriers, e.g. for reading patterns by electromagnetic radiation, e.g. optical sensing; by corpuscular radiation by scanning of the records by radiation in the optical part of the electromagnetic spectrum further details of bar or optical code scanning devices
    • G06K7/10881Methods or arrangements for sensing record carriers, e.g. for reading patterns by electromagnetic radiation, e.g. optical sensing; by corpuscular radiation by scanning of the records by radiation in the optical part of the electromagnetic spectrum further details of bar or optical code scanning devices constructional details of hand-held scanners
    • GPHYSICS
    • G07CHECKING-DEVICES
    • G07GREGISTERING THE RECEIPT OF CASH, VALUABLES, OR TOKENS
    • G07G1/00Cash registers
    • G07G1/0036Checkout procedures
    • G07G1/0045Checkout procedures with a code reader for reading of an identifying code of the article to be registered, e.g. barcode reader or radio-frequency identity [RFID] reader
    • G07G1/0054Checkout procedures with a code reader for reading of an identifying code of the article to be registered, e.g. barcode reader or radio-frequency identity [RFID] reader with control of supplementary check-parameters, e.g. weight or number of articles

Abstract

A problem in conventional supermarkets is that customers need to queue up at a check-out 3 in order for the invoice to be calculated and for the customers to buy their goods. The present disclosure provides a means by which customers may effectively check out their own goods using a bar code reader 2, without the need to queue up. Customer fraud or mistake is prevented by provision of a security tag device on the goods which is de-activated when the customer reads the bar code on the goods item. The customers may then drive their trolley through the check-out without the need to unload the goods from the trolley. <IMAGE>

Description

RETAIL GOODS CHECK-OUT APPARATUS Technical Field The present invention relates to goods check-out apparatus for retail establishments, for example supermarkets or self-service retail stores, and particularly although not exclusively, to an apparatus for reading a bar code and deactivating a security tag.

Background Art Conventionally, in self-service stores customers collect goods items to be bought in a shopping trolley which is wheeled around the store before being emptied at an automated check out, having a conveyor belt, a bar code reader and a cash till. The customer must take the items from the shopping trolley and place them on the conveyor belt, following which a check-out assistant passes each item over the bar code reader. The cash till calculates the customers bill from the bar codes read and from a set of prices relating to each bar code, which prices are stored in a computer data base.

This conventional system causes delays which can lead to long queues of customers at the check-out. A large part of the time taken to check out the goods items is taken by the process of unloading the goods items from the trolley, reading the bar codes, and then re-packing the items or placing them back into the trolley, which is then taken outside the store.

Several known systems have been proposed for reducing the queues and delays. In such systems a bar code reader is mounted on the shopping trolley.

In these known systems, on selecting an item from a shelf in the store, the customer uses the bar code reader to read the bar code on the items, and places the items in the shopping trolley. As the bar codes relating to the items in the trolley have already been read by the customer, when the customer reaches the till the items need not be unloaded from the trolley to have their bar codes read.

However, with the known systems, the goods items in the trolley are not individually checked by an employee of the retailer, at the point of sale.

Rather, the retailer relies on the honesty of the customer to enter the correct bar code for each item placed in the trolley, and thus be provided with an accurate bill.

In a known system, disclosed in GB 2068132, a computer mounted on the shopping trolley reads the bar code on an item, records the bar code number, and can display the price of each item and calculate the total value of the items in the trolley. To prevent theft of articles by customers who place articles in the trolley without first reading the bar code, information relating to the weight of each article is coded into the bar code on that item.

The weight of the items as a whole is checked at the check-out to ensure that this total weight corresponds with the total weight of each item as calculated by the till computer from the individual weights of each item indicated on the individual item bar codes.

However, such a system has a problem in that the weight of each item as stamped on the bar code label may differ from the actual weight of each item, because of settlement of the contents of each item, evaporation, tolerance variation in filling the containers, etc. Furthermore, some items, eg. pre-packed vegetables, may vary naturally in weight from item to item and therefore be difficult to code. Additionally, if a low cost item is replaced by a high cost item of the same weight, once the bar code of the low cost item has been read into the system, this known system will not detect the substitution. Also, this known system has a disadvantage in that it entails the additional information relating to the product weight being held in the bar code.

Various other prior art systems having a bar code reader mounted on the shopping trolley have also been proposed which, to detect fraud, rely on checking the weight of the articles bought. Examples of such systems are found in G.B. 2035647, U.S. 4071740, and U.S. 3836755. However, all of these prior art systems suffer from the same problems as mentioned above in checking the weight of the items, and in the fluctuation of the actual item weights.

In another prior art system having a bar code scanner mounted in a shopping trolley, as disclosed in U.S. 4,929,819, the problem of possible customer fraud is addressed by providing on the trolley a video camera which checks that the number of items placed in the shopping trolley corresponds with the number of items of which the bar code has been read. To avoid fraud, eg. by a customer scanning the bar code of a lower value item but placing a higher value item in the shopping trolley in its place, at the point of sale a check out assistant scans the video tape at high speed, to check that the items in the trolley correspond to the items which are itemised on the bill.

This system has a disadvantage of requiring a check out assistant to play a video recording of each customer's shopping excursion.

The above mentioned problems in ensuring the security of goods items may have so far prevented advantageous commercial exploitation of bar code reading by a shopper and the consequent reduction in queues in supermarkes.

Disclosure of the invention The present invention addresses the above mentioned problems of prior art systems and devices.

The present invention aims to provide a method and apparatus for checking out goods items which reduces the delay at the point of sale, whilst ensuring accurate calculation of bills and a low probability of fraud or theft of goods items.

In its broadest sense, the invention includes an apparatus and/or method for checking out a goods item by: reading a bar code corresponding to a particular goods item; and performing a marking or un-marking operation in relation to the goods item when the bar code has been read, in order that completion of marking/un-marking operation indicates whether or not the bar code corresponding to that particular goods item has been read.

Preferably the bar code and security tag are incorporated into or printed on the packaging of the goods item, or incorporated into the goods item itself.

According to a first aspect of the present invention, there is provided an apparatus for reading a bar code and deactivating a security tag, the apparatus comprising: a bar code reader for reading the bar code and generating a bar code signal therefrom; de-activation means for de-activating a security tag device, characterised in that the de-activation means is operable to de-activate the security tag device in response to the bar code signal, or in response to a dependant signal generated in dependence on the bar code signal.

This may have an advantage that the apparatus may be operated by a customer to read a bar code on a goods item without a risk of de-activation of a security tag on a goods item for which the bar code has not been read and may prevent the customer fraudulently de-activating a security tag without generating a bar code signal.

Preferably, the de-activation means operates to deactivate the security tag at substantially the same time as the bar code is read.

This may make it difficult for a customer to read a bar code on one goods item whilst attempting to deactivate a security tag on another different goods item.

Preferably, the de-activation means is operable no more than once to de-activate a security tag in response to any particular one bar code reading event.

Preferably, the bar code reader has a field of view in which a bar code present in said field may be read, and the de-activation means has a field of influence, in which a security tag present in said region of influence can be de-activated when the de-activation means is operated, wherein the arrangement of the bar code, bar code reader, security tag and de-activation means is such that when the bar code is in the field of view of the bar code reader, the security tag is within the region of influence of the de-activation means.

These features may make it difficult for a customer to attempt to deactivate two security tags at once whilst only reading one bar code and this may further hinder a customer in attempting to deactivate a security tag other than on a goods item for which the corresponding bar code has been read.

Preferably, said field of view and said region of influence overlap spatially.

The apparatus may be characterised by comprising recognition means for recognising a said bar code signal and generating a recognition signal when the bar code signal has been recognised; wherein the de-activation means is operable to deactivate the security tag in response to the recognition signal generated when the bar code has been recognised.

A said recognition signal may be generated when the bar code signal is recognised as being a signal which characterises a bar code.

A said recognition signal may be generated when the bar code signal has been recognised as a signal which uniquely identifies a particular set of pre-stored data relating to one or a plurality of goods items.

Preferably, the de-activation means comprises an electromagnet which is operated to create a temporary electromagnetic field. The electromagnetic field may influence a security tag within that field.

Preferably, the apparatus comprises a hand held bar code scanner.

The apparatus preferably comprises a portable power supply.

The apparatus may have a transmitter and a receiver, for transmitting information relating to the bar codes between a shopping trolley and a cash till computer or store computer.

Preferably, the apparatus is characterised by being adapted for fitment to a shopping trolley.

The invention includes a shopping trolley having an apparatus according to the above aspects.

According to a second aspeect of the present invention there is provided an apparatus for checking out goods items, comprising: an apparatus for reading a bar code and de-activating a security tag; a check out apparatus for receiving payments for goods bearing a bar code and security tag, and on which the bar codes have been read and the security tags de-activated; and an interrogation unit for interrogation of the security tags to determine whether any one or more of the security tags are active, said interrogation unit arranged to activate an alarm when an active tag is interrogated.

According to a third aspect of the present invention, there is provided an apparatus for checking out goods items, the apparatus comprising: a bar code reader means for reading a bar code on a goods item; a de-activation means for de-activating a security tag on the goods item; and a detection means for detecting active security tags, wherein, the means for de-activating the security tag is operable in response to a signal generated from the bar code reader, said signal being generated in response to a bar code being read.

Preferably, the bar code reader and de-activation means are adapted to be operable by a shopper at a point of selection or at a point of sale of a goods item.

Preferably, the bar code reader and de-activation means are adapted for fitment to a shopping trolley.

The apparatus may comprise a means for recording the bar code(s) read by the bar code reader, and for calculating an invoice corresponding to the value of the goods item(s) carrying said bar code(s).

The apparatus may be arrangeed in a goods store, such that the detecting means for detecting active security tags is positioned so that the goods items must pass within an active range of the detecting means in order to leave the store.

According to a fourth aspect of the present invention, there is provided a method of checking out a good articles from a sales area, each goods article carrying a bar code and a security tag, the method comprising the steps of, for each article; using a bar code reader for reading a bar code on the goods article to give rise to a bar code signal; and enabling a de-activation means to produce a de-activation signal for deactivating the security tag in response to the bar code signal.

Preferably, the method further comprises the step of recognising the bar code from the bar code signal, and upon recognition of the bar code, generating a recognition signal.

Preferably, upon recognition of each bar code, a corresponding bar code signal is stored in a computer. From an accumulation of such bar code signals and a set of stored price information, an invoice for the price of goods on which the bar codes have been recognised, may be calculated.

Said step of bar code recognition may comprise the steps of primary and secondary recognition. Said primary recognition may comprise the step of recognising the bar code signal as conforming to a pre-determined bar code signal format.

Said secondary recognition may comprise the step of translating the bar code signal into a set of bar code data, which is preferably computer readable data, and comprising said bar code data with a table of pre-stored data relating to various goods, said pre-stored data may include price information, stock level information; product weight information; product colour information.

Preferably, the method further comprises the step of interrogating each security tag to determine whether the tag is in an activated or a de-activated state, and if a tag is found to be in an active state, to activate an alarm.

Thus, using the above mentioned method, a customer may select a goods item in a shop, read the bar code printed or attached to the goods item into a trolley computer or store computer by means of the bar code reader, whilst automatically and substantially simultaneously de-activating the security tag on the goods item using the de-activation means. The goods item may then be placed in the shopping trolley. The selection and reading process may be repeated for a plurality of goods items in the store. For any particular goods item, because the bar code is read into the computer substantially simultaneously with the de-activation of the security tag, the scope for fraudulent de-activation of the security tag is reduced.Because the check out and interrogation unit are physically arranged in the store in such an arrangement that the trolley must visit the cash till in order to leave the store, and that the trolley must also pass the interrogation unit in order to leave the store, the possibility of a shopper leaving the store with goods which have not been paid for is reduced.

Description of the drawings.

For a better understanding of the invention, and to show how the same may be carried into effect, reference will now be made, by way of example, to the accompanying diagrammatic drawings, in which: Figure 1 shows a general arrangement of a check out apparatus, comprising a shopping trolley mounted unit, a check out station and an interrogation unit/alarm apparatus, according to a first specific embodiment of the present invention; Figure 2 shows schematically, elements of the check out apparatus of figures 1 above; and Figure 3 shows in schematic form a trolley mounted unit for reading a bar code and de-activating a security tag, as may be used in the check out apparatus of figure 1; Examples best modes for carrving out the invention.

Referring to Figure 1 of the accompanying drawings, there is shown generally the check out apparatus according to a first specific embodiment of the invention.

Each item in a store is marked with a bar code and a security tag attached to the goods item.

A shopping trolley has mounted thereon a trolley unit 1 comprising a bar code reading apparatus 2 for use by a shopper in reading bar codes of goods items to be bought prior to placing the items in the shopping trolley, and a trolley computer. The trolley unit also includes a transmitter 7 for transmitting bar code data, from the shopping trolley, for reception by a till or store computer.

The bar code reader 2 provided on the shopping trolley includes a deactivating means for de-activating a security tag on each particular goods item, when the bar code on that particular goods item is read. The bar code reader and de-activation means may be as described with reference to Figure 2 hereunder. Alternatively, the trolley mounted bar code reader 2 may be of a window type.

A check out station 3 comprises a cash till 4, a receiver 6 for receiving the bar code data from the transmitter 7, and a till computer. The check out station may optionally include a further bar code reader 5 for reading bar codes attached to goods items. The check out bar code reader 5 may be for example a conventional bar code reader of a hand held scanner type or of a fixed window scanner type.

The transmitter 6 and receiver 7 may be of a conventional infra-red, or radio type.

An interrogation unit 8, for the detection of security tags, eg. magnetic tags, which have not been de-activated, is provided at an exit of a retail store in which the apparatus is installed. The interrogation unit may be one which is conventionally known, comprising a plurality of electrical loops for generating an electric/magnetic field to interrogate resonant magnetic tags attached to the goods.

The interrogation unit 8 is positioned such that a trolley must pass through the interrogation unit or within working range of the interrogation unit before being allowed out of the store. The cash till 4 is positioned in the store such that shoppers must pass the cash till prior to leaving the store.

Referring to figure 2 of the accompanying drawings, elements of the check out apparatus of figure 1 are shown schematically in further detail.

The trolley mounted unit 1 includes a combined bar code reader/tag deactivator unit 2, a trolley computer 50, and the transmitter 7. The trolley mounted unit is powered by a rechargeable battery carried on the trolley.

The till computer 9 at the check out station is linked to a store computer 10. The till computer communicates with the receiver 6, the check out bar code reader 5, the cash till 4, and the store computer 10. The store computer 10 may be a separate computer from the till computer 9 and can be situated at a location remote from the check out station. The store computer includes a data base for storing bar code data, stock levels, prices and other information relating to goods in the store.

The till computer receives bar code data from the trolley computer, relating to goods items on which the respective bar codes have been read by the bar code reader/deactivator 2.

Referring to Figure 3 of the accompanying drawings a bar code label comprises a security tag and bar code, which are shown as a single unit 22 comprising a conventional magnetic security tag having a bar code 21 printed on it, the tag being adherable to a goods item.

The trolley mounted unit for reading a bar code and de-activating a security tag comprises the hand held bar code reader/tag deactivator 2 for reading the bar code label 21 printed on or attached to a goods item, and the trolley mounted computer 50. The security tag de-activation means may comprise, for example, an electromagnetic coil contained in a body of the scanner for de-activating the magnetic security tag 22 attached to the goods item.

The bar code reader has a field of view in which the bar code can be read, which overlaps co-spatially with a field of influence of the electromagnetic coil, in which a magnetic tag can be de-activated.

The trolley computer 50 comprises a bar code recognition circuit 30 for recognising a bar code signal generated by the bar code reader/tag deactivator 2 in response to a bar code 21 which has been read; an erase generator 31 for generating an erase signal for causing the de-activation means to energise and de-activate the security tag 22; a bar code data storage memory 33 for storing data relating to a recognised bar code of a particular goods item; a calculation unit 34 for calculating a cost of goods relating to recognised bar codes; a display unit 35 for displaying information relating to the goods, eg. price and description of goods, and/or total cost of a number of goods, and a transmitter 36 for transmitting bar code data to the check out station.

In use, the apparatus and system of Figures 1 to 3 operates as follows: Each item in the store is marked with a security tag and a bar code.

Preferably the security tag is permanently attached to the goods item, and is difficult to detach. The security tag can be for example a conventional magnetic strip resonant security tag. Preferably, however, the tag and bar code are printed on the packaging of the goods items. Preferably, the security tag and bar code are arranged in close physical proximity to each other, so that when the bar code is placed in the field of view of the bar code reader 2, the security tag comes within the field of influence of the tag deactivator.

A shopper selects a goods item from a shelf in the store, and decides to buy the item. The shopper reads the bar code using the hand held bar code reader 5 by placing the bar code reader over the bar code on the goods item such that the bar code is within the field of view of the bar code reader 2 in which field, the bar code can be read, and by pressing an activation switch 28 (eg. a push button) on the bar code reader to effect reading of the bar code.

The bar code reader reads the bar code, and a detector unit contained in the bar code reader generates a bar code signal. The bar code signal is tilen fed to the trolley computer 50, whereupon it is entered into the recognition unit 30, which checks to see if the bar code signal generated by the detector unit can be recognised.

The recognition process may comprise a plurality of stages. Firstly, the bar code signal from the detector may be electronically "cleaned up" into a standardised signal format, for example the voltage amplitude may be standardised, pulse rise times may be standardised throughout the signal, and unwanted noise may be filtered off. At this stage, the bar code signal may be recognisable as being a signal derived from a bar code which has been read.

Secondly, the information contained in the "cleaned up" signal may be compared with a set of pre-stored bar codes relating to existing bar codes of products in the store. The pre-stored bar codes may be stored in a data base memory. In this second stage, the bar code which has been read can be uniquely identified as corresponding to one set of pre-stored bar codes stored in the database memory, and thereby be identified with a particular goods item.

When the bar code signal has been uniquely identified with one of the bar codes in the database memory, a record of this may be entered into a separate purchase storage memory for recording the bar code of items which have been or which are to be purchased.

When the bar code has been recognised, the bar code recognition unit generates a recognition signal. Preferably, the recognition signal is only generated when; (i) the bar code has been recognised as one of the set of bar codes stored in the data base memory, and (ii) a record of the bar code has been entered into the storage memory.

The second stage of recognition may be performed in a till or store computer, remote from the trolley computer, and this requires passage of the bar code signal over the transmitter - receiver link between the trolley computer and the till or store computer.

The recognition signal is used to trigger the erase signal generator 40 which generates an erase signal to drive the security tag de-activator device, provided in the bar code reader unit 2.

Preferably, the de-activator is mounted physically in relation to the bar code reader such that a user, when reading a bar code, must place the deactivator in close physical proximity with the security tag. Thus, when the bar code has been read and recognised, and a record of the bar code has been entered into the storage memory, the de-activator may then operate to generate a de-activation field, which encompasses the magnetic strip of the security tag, and thus deactivates the security tag. The de-activation means preferably comprises an electro-magnet, eg. an electro-magnet having an electrically conductive coil, which then produces a magnetic field of sufficient intensity to de-activate the security tag 22.

De-activation of the security tag is one way of un-marking the goods item to denote that the bar code on that item has been read.

The time delay between recognising the bar code and de-activating the security tag, is sufficiently short that a customer does not have time to substitute for de-activation a separate security tag attached to a second, higher priced item, after reading the bar code on the first lower priced item. The deactivation means is operated only for sufficient time as to de-activate a single security tag on a single goods item. Furthermore, the electromagnetic field pattern and shielding of the de-activation means is arranged such that the deactivation means must be placed directly adjacent the security tag, for deactivation to occur. The shielding and configuration of the de-activation means is such that the de-activation means will not de-activate two adjacent tags simultaneously.

Thus the operation of reading and recognising the bar code of a particular goods item, storing the bar code, and de-activating the security tag all takes place in a single operation, on such a time scale and physical proximity that only the security tag of the goods item on which the bar code has been read may be de-activated.

At substantially the same time as the recognition signal is sent to the erase generator, the recognised bar code is fed into the bar code storage means 33, eg. a computer memory. The recognised bar code may be also fed into a calculation unit 34. The calculation unit 34 may keep a tally of the number of individual bar codes which have been recognised, and therefore a number of individual goods which have been selected by the customer.

Optionally, the calculation unit may match a recognised bar code with other data stored in the trolley computer, eg. price information, and may calculate a running total for the price of the goods so far selected. The running total invoice and number of items selected may be displayed on the display unit 35.

The bar code signal may be transmitted via the code transmitter 36 eg.

a radio link, between the trolley computer and a set of receivers placed around the store, feeding a till computer or central store computer.

The above example of a first specific embodiment has shown use of the apparatus with a conventional bar code and magnetic security tag in a single package.

However it is not essential to use the conventional magnetic security tag having a printed bar code thereon. Alternatively, a bar code may be printed directly on the packaging of a goods item and a security tag may be an adhesive security tag applied separately. This configuration will work provided the security tag and bar code are in close enough physical proximity so that the arrangements such that the security tag comes within the field of influence of the de-activation means at the same time as the bar code comes within the field of view of the bar code reader.

In a second specific embodiment of the invention, being a simplified embodiment of the invention, various parts of the trolley mounted apparatus may be incorporated into the till computer, on the other side of a transmitter receiver link. For example in the second specific embodiment which has a simplified trolley computer compared with the first specific embodiment, the trolley mounted apparatus may comprise a bar code scanner and de-activation means, a bar code recognition unit, an erase signal generator and a transmitter. The trolley bar code data storage memory, calculating unit, and display unit may be omitted altogether.

A bar code signal recognised only at the first stage of recognition, may be transmitted directly to the till computer or to the store computer, which may perform the invoice calculation function and the display function. In this embodiment, the display function may be situated at the cash till, and the customer may only be notified of the exact invoice amount when at the cash till. In the simplified form the recognition unit may be arranged to perform a low level of recognition of the bar code, in that the recognition unit may be arranged merely to recognise the bar code signal as being a signal derived from a bar code. The bar code signal may be transmitted over the transmitter-receiver link to the till computer or store computer, where a higher level of recognition may take place. Such higher level recognition, may include conversion of the received bar code signal into bar code data, and comparison of the bar code data with a stored data base containing a set of bar codes and corresponding data relating to information on price, stock levels, etc.

Similarly, the recognition signal may be generated by the store computer or till computer, and transmitted over the transmitter/receiver link, to the trolley mounted erase signal generator.

This process may be repeated for a number of individual goods items, until the customer has selected all the required items.

In either of the above mentioned specific embodiment examples, the customer collects a shopping trolley full of goods items to be bought, and for which the bar code corresponding to each goods item has been read by the customer and recognised and stored in a computer mounted on the trolley or elsewhere in the store.

Thus, when the customer reaches the check out desk, the goods in the trolley need not be taken out of the trolley for checking. The bar codes relating to each goods item will already be entered into the store computer, or into a computer mounted on the trolley.

Where the bar code data relating to the goods in the trolley is already stored in a store computer or check out computer or by the till computer. In either case, price and other information relating to each individual bar code may be obtained from a database held the store computer or till computer.

Where the bar code information is stored in the trolley computer, this information may be transferred to via the data communications link from the trolley computer to the store computer or the till computer.

The customer then simply pays for the goods by conventional means, eg. cash, credit card, cheque. Once the goods are paid for, the customer may proceed through the tag interrogation unit and out of the store.

If any items are placed in the trolley, upon which the bar code has not been read, and consequently which have not been paid for, the interrogation unit will detect the active security tags and generate an alarm. The still active security tags will not have been de-activated by reading the bar code and enabling the de-activator. The interrogation unit may also activate a mechanism eg. a gate to prevent the customer leaving the store. The customer must then return to the cash till and either hand the unpaid for items to the cashier, or pay for these items.

If a customer places goods in his or her personal belongings, eg. coat pocket or hand bag, without first reading the bar codes on those items the security tags will still be active and will be detected by the interrogation unit at the store exit.

Goods items having active security tags will always be detected by the interrogation units. Thus, goods cannot be taken out of the store unless all the tags have been de-activated. The tags cannot be de-activated, unless the corresponding bar code has been recognised by the trolley computer.

Where a customer has selected a goods item, read the bar code and consequently de-activated the tag, but then decides not to purchase that goods item, these items may be taken along with the other items to the check out, and handed over to the check out assistant, who will then re-read the bar code on the goods item, using a bar code reader at the check out till, and may then deduct the price of that item from the total bill, which the customer pays.

The embodiments of the present invention may satisfy as a primary objective, the avoidance of large queues in retail stores, with an automatic check for unpaid goods, which is an improvement on the prior art checking systems.

Where a person intends to defraud the shop, by reading bar codes of the goods thus deactivating the tags, and then simply abandoning the whole trolley and exiting the store without the trolley, with the goods concealed about their person, the interrogation unit at the store exit will not sound the alarm, since the security tags will have been de-activated when the bar codes were read into the trolley computer. In this case, the specific embodiments of the invention will have been foiled. However, this poses no greater risk to the retailer than currently commercially used conventional systems, having no security tag, in which a person can simply walk out of the store with goods concealed about them. Similarly, the risk is no greater than for current conventional tag systems, where the security tag can be detached from the goods.In fact, where the security tag is permanently attached to the goods, the present embodiments and methods of the invention may improve on security as compared to the prior art detachable tag systems.

In the embodiments and/or methods of the present invention, any goods which are placed in the trolley, must either be recorded on the trolley computer, and therefore be paid for at the check out, or be detected by the interrogation unit.

Where a person reads the bar code and consequently de-activates a security tag on a goods item, and then decides not to buy the goods item and places the goods item back on a shelf in the store, when the customer reaches the check out till the customer will be charged for the goods item even though the goods item is not in the trolley. Thus, the onus is on the customer to make sure that they collect all goods which are being paid for. Alternatively, if the mistake is pointed out to the cashier, a deduction may be made from the invoice.This will require either a visual check of the contents of the trolley, by the cashier to make sure that the goods are not being taken out of the store, or will require the unwanted goods being handed over to the cashier, who can then check that the tags are de-activated as claimed by the customer, and then reduce the invoice accordingly, whilst retaining the goods.

If a customer de-activates a security tag by reading the bar code and then replaces the goods item on the shelf, a subsequent user who picks up the item from the shelf will not know that the security tag has been de-activated, and will consequently read the bar code into their trolley computer, also performing a (redundant) de-activation operation of the security tag. Thus, items with de-activated security tags which are placed back on the shelf will not interfere with the presently described method of shopping using the bar code/security tag embodiments described herein.

It is possible that, where a customer de-activates a security tag by reading the bar code, and then places the goods item back on the shelf, a subsequent shopper may pick up the item, forget to de-activate the security tag by reading the bar code, and thus pass the check out till and interrogation unit without either paying for those goods, or without an alarm sounding when the goods are taken from the shop. However, it is anticipated that the likelihood of this event is small compared to the number of individual goods items transactions effected in total in a supermarket environment. Furthermore, if the security tag has been de-activated, then in all probability, the goods will have been inadvertently paid for by another customer anyway, and the store will therefore not lose money on those goods items.

The reader's attention is directed to all papers and documents which are filed concurrently with or previous to this specification in connection with this application and which are open to public inspection with this specification, and the contents of all such papers and documents are incorporated herein by reference.

All of the features disclosed in this specification (including any accompanying claims, abstract and drawings), and/or all of the steps of any method or process so disclosed, may be combined in any combination, except combinations where at least some of such features and/or steps are mutually exclusive.

Each feature disclosed in this specification (including any accompanying claims, abstract and drawings), may be replaced by alternative features serving the same, equivalent or similar purpose, unless expressly stated otherwise. Thus, unless expressly stated otherwise, each feature disclosed is one example only of a generic series of equivalent or similar features.

The invention is not restricted to the details of the foregoing embodiment(s). The invention extends to any novel one, or any novel combination, of the features disclosed in this specification (including any accompanying claims, abstract and drawings), or to any novel one, or any novel combination, of the steps of any method or process so disclosed.

Claims (27)

1. Apparatus for reading a bar code and deactivating a security tag, the apparatus comprising: a bar code reader for reading the bar code and generating a bar code signal therefrom; de-activation means for de-activating a security tag device, characterised in that the de-activation means is operable to de-activate the security tag device in response to the bar code signal, or in response to a dependant signal generated in dependence on the bar code signal.
2. Apparatus according to claim 1 characteriseed by operating such that the de-activation means operates to deactivate the tag at substantially the same time as the bar code is read.
3. Apparatus according to any one of the preceding claims, characterised in that the de-activation means is operable no more than once to de-activate a security tag in response to any particular one bar code reading event.
4. Apparatus according to any one of the preceding claims characterised in that the bar code reader has a field of view in which a bar code present in said field may be read, and the de-activation means has a field of influence, in which a security tag present in said region of influence can be de-activated when the de-activation means is operated, wherein the arrangement of the bar code, bar code reader, security tag and de-activation means is such that when the bar code is in the field of view of the bar code reader, the security tag is within the region of influence of the de-activation means.
5. Apparatus according to claim 4 characterised in that said field of view and said region of influence overlap spatially.
6. Apparatus according to any one of the preceding claims characterised by comprising recognition means for recognising a said bar code signal and generating a recognition signal when the bar code signal has been recognised; wherein the de-activation means is operable to deactivate the security tag in response to the recognition signal generated when the bar code has been recognised.
7. Apparatus according to claim 6, characterised in that a said recognition signal is generated when the bar code signal is recognised as being a signal which characterises a bar code.
8. Apparatus according to claim 6 or 7, characterised in that a said recognition signal is generated when the bar code signal has been recognised as a signal which uniquely identifies a particular set of pre-stored data relating to one or a plurality of goods items.
9. Apparatus according to any one of the preceding claims, characterised in that the de-activation means comprises an electromagnet which is operated to create a temporary electromagnetic field.
10. Apparatus according to any one of the preceding claims comprising a hand held bar code scanner.
11. Apparatus according to any one of the preceding claims, further comprising a portable power supply.
12. Apparatus according to any one of the preceding claims, having a transmitter and a receiver, for transmitting information relating to the bar codes between a shopping trolley and a cash till computer or store computer.
13. Apparatus for reading a bar code and de-activating a security tag according to any one of the preceding claims, characterised by being adapted for fitment to a shopping trolley.
14. A shopping trolley having an apparatus according to any one of the preceding claims.
15. Apparatus for checking out goods items, comprising: an apparatus for reading a bar code and de-activating a security tag according to any one of claims 1 to 13; a check out apparatus for receiving payments for goods bearing a bar code and security tag, and on whichìthe bar codes have been read and the security tags de-activated; and an interrogation unit for interrogation of the security tags to determine whether any one or more of the security tags are active, said interrogation unit arranged to activate an alarm when an active tag is interrogated.
16. Apparatus for checking out goods items, the apparatus comprising: a bar code reader means for reading a bar code on a goods item; a de-activation means for de-activating a security tag on the goods item; and a detection means for detecting active security tags, wherein, the means for de-activating the security tag is operable in response to a signal generated from the bar code reader, said signal being generated in response to a bar code being read.
17. Apparatus according to claim 16, wherein the bar code reader and deactivation means are adapted to be operable by a shopper at a point of selection or at a point of aslibf a goods item. <img class="EMIRef" id="026998538-00290001" />
18. Apparatus according to claim 16 or 17, in which the bar code reader and de-activation means are adapted for fitment to a shopping trolley.
19. Apparatus according to any one of claims 16 to 18, further comprising a means for recording the bar code(s) read by the bar code reader, and for calculating an invoice corresponding to the value of the goods item(s) carrying said bar code(s).
20. Apparatus according to any one of claims 16 to 19, arranged in a goods store, such that the detecting means for detecting active security tags is positioned so that the goods items must pass within an active range of the detecting means in order to leave the store.
21. A method of checking out a goods article from a sales area, each goods article carrying a bar code and a security tag, the method comprising the steps of, for each article; using a bar code reader for reading a bar code on the goods articles; recognising the bar code; upon recognition of the bar code, generating a recognition signal; and enabling a de-activation means to produce a de-activation signal for deactivating the security tag in response to the recognition signal.
22. A method according to claim 21, in which, upon recognition of each bar code, a corresponding bar code signal is stored in a computer, and from an accumulation of such bar code signals and a set of stored price information, an invoice for the price of goods on which the bar codes have been recognised, is calculated.
23. A method according to claim 17 or 18 further comprising the step of interrogating each security tag to determine whether the tag is in an activated or a de-activated state, and if a tag is found to be in an active state, to activate an alarm.
24. A label for a retail article, the label comprising a bar code and an electronic security tag, wherein the electronic security tag and bar code are in close physical proximity to each other, the bar code, or at least a part thereof, and the security tag being formed of a same thin film element.
25. A label according to claim 24 in which the bar code comprises a plurality of thin film elements.
26. A label according to claim 24 or 25 in which a said thin film element comprises a magnetically active material.
27. A retail article or package, having a label according to any one of claims 24 to 26.
GB9400414A 1994-01-11 1994-01-11 Retail goods check-out apparatus Withdrawn GB2286275A (en)

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GB2317075A (en) * 1996-09-10 1998-03-11 Herbert & Sons Ltd Weighing device with integral tag deactivator
EP0915439A2 (en) * 1997-09-16 1999-05-12 Meto International GmbH Method and device for identfying and deactivating a security tag
EP0933741A2 (en) * 1998-02-03 1999-08-04 KTP Limited A bar code reader and a security tag disabling device in combination
NL1009332C2 (en) * 1998-06-05 1999-12-07 Scantech Bv An apparatus and method for reading a bar code label and deactivating a monitoring tag.
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EP0355355A2 (en) * 1988-08-25 1990-02-28 Symbol Technologies, Inc. Portable scanning system including a surveillance tag deactivator
WO1990005968A1 (en) * 1988-11-14 1990-05-31 Checkpoint Systems, Inc. Method and apparatus for integrated data capture and electronic article surveillance
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Cited By (15)

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GB2317075B (en) * 1996-09-10 2001-03-07 Herbert & Sons Ltd Weighing device
GB2317075A (en) * 1996-09-10 1998-03-11 Herbert & Sons Ltd Weighing device with integral tag deactivator
EP0915439A3 (en) * 1997-09-16 1999-12-08 Meto International GmbH Method and device for identfying and deactivating a security tag
US6592037B1 (en) 1997-09-16 2003-07-15 Meto International Gmbh Method and device for the detection and deactivation of a deactivatable security element
EP0915439A2 (en) * 1997-09-16 1999-05-12 Meto International GmbH Method and device for identfying and deactivating a security tag
DE19740871A1 (en) * 1997-09-16 1999-06-17 Meto International Gmbh Method and apparatus for the detection and deactivation of a deactivatable security element
EP0933741A3 (en) * 1998-02-03 1999-12-08 KTP Limited A bar code reader and a security tag disabling device in combination
EP0933741A2 (en) * 1998-02-03 1999-08-04 KTP Limited A bar code reader and a security tag disabling device in combination
NL1009332C2 (en) * 1998-06-05 1999-12-07 Scantech Bv An apparatus and method for reading a bar code label and deactivating a monitoring tag.
WO2011126697A1 (en) * 2010-04-08 2011-10-13 Checkpoint Systems, Inc. Auto -accreting database for eas-rf applications
US8537007B2 (en) 2010-04-08 2013-09-17 Checkpoint Systems, Inc. Autoaccreting database for EAS-RF applications
EP2482261A3 (en) * 2011-01-31 2012-10-17 Metrologic Instruments, Inc. Bar code symbol reading system employing EAS-enabling faceplate bezel
US8381979B2 (en) 2011-01-31 2013-02-26 Metrologic Instruments, Inc. Bar code symbol reading system employing EAS-enabling faceplate bezel
EP2827309A1 (en) * 2011-01-31 2015-01-21 Metrologic Instruments, Inc. Bar code symbol reading system employing EAS-enabling faceplate bezel
US9081995B2 (en) 2011-01-31 2015-07-14 Metrologice Instruments, Inc. Bar code symbol reading system employing EAS-enabling faceplate bezel

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