Semester of Graduation

Fall 2019


Master of Science in Industrial Engineering (MSIE)



Document Type



The purpose of this research was to investigate how effective item-level Radio Frequency Identification (RFID) tagging would be using current RFID technology as a replacement for barcodes in a supermarket/grocery store environment.

To accomplish this, an experiment was be performed that utilized commercially available RFID technology. Passive Ultra High Frequency (UHF) RFID Tags were affixed to various grocery store items of different material categories (Food, Metal, Plastic, Liquid, and Glass), and placed in a metal shopping cart. Eight (8) antenna arrangements were created, comprised of different combinations of four (4) antennas in different locations around the cart.

The experiment was performed in four phases:

  1. Pilot Test – Five (5) tagged items were placed in the center of the cart individually and scanned with all eight (8) antenna arrangements. Statistical analysis revealed the top performing antenna arrangements performed nearly identically.
  2. Material Interference Testing – Determine if materials would interfere with the legibility of other tags in the cart. The results indicated Food and Plastic items became more detectable when placed in proximity to other objects, while Glass and Liquid items because less detectable.
  3. Location Test – Items from each category were placed in different locations in the cart and scanned. This test showed an improvement in detectability when compared the Pilot Test, and no discernable bias in performance between the different locations.
  4. Full Cart Demonstration – Ten (10) shopping carts of items were scanned, and detection rates calculated. It was found a shopping cart full of tagged items had a 76.36% average detection rate, largely missing on the metal and liquid Items.

For item-level RFID tagging to be successfully implemented into a grocery store environment, the major shortfall of the tag’s detectability when affixed to metals and liquids needs to be addressed. A larger number of antennas should be used in a practical application to limit the chance the RFID tag is missed, and measures should be taken to limit material interference from items being placed between other items and the antenna. According to the experiment, accommodating these factors would increase the reliability of RFID in this kind of environment.

Committee Chair

Knapp, Gerald