East West Instore Solutions

    Energy harvesting eliminates expensive battery replacement in shelf labels

    East West Instore Solutions sells electronic shelf labels to Danish retail chains. An innovation project with DELTA detects a cheaper solution for shelf labels based on indoor solar cell technology. The potential for the retail trade is huge.

    By Nanna Bastved

    The Danish distributor, East West Instore Solutions, supplies electronic shelf labels to a variety of large retail chains, including the supermarket chain COOP. Each shelf label contains two batteries, which need replacing at regular intervals. That may not sound so daunting in itself, but for a retail chain like COOP, which has over 1 million electronic shelf labels, the manual maintenance becomes a costly and time-consuming affair. This is why East West Instore Solutions asked DELTA (a part of FORCE Technology) to help find an alternative, renewable solution for the shelf labels based on energy harvesting technology.

    “We didn’t know very much about energy harvesting and the potential of this technology before we started the project. It was something of a eye-opener to discover that, in premises with little or no sunlight, we could harvest energy capable of supplying power for the shelf labels,” says Michael Kastrupsen, CEO, East West Instore Solutions.

    In the innovation project, which is sponsored by InfinIT, DELTA has helped East West Instore Solutions and COOP to evaluate and demonstrate the feasibility of solar-powered shelf labels in a small store in COOP’s headquarters in Albertslund near Copenhagen.

    “The advantage of electronic labels is that the pricing information is available to the customers immediately, so our stores are always ready for sales. But the batteries in the labels need replacing after 5-7 years depending on where they are placed in the store. When the label has ‘used up’ the battery, the customers can’t see the price, and the employees have to spend time replacing the batteries. Furthermore, having to replace two million batteries represents a serious disadvantage for the environment. This is why it has been such an interesting case for us to test out the possibilities of harvesting energy from the store’s indoor lighting,” explains Svend Envoldsen, Senior Innovation Specialist, COOP Danmark.

    The results from the demo project have been promising. The advantage of the solar cell solution is that it can perform for longer and is far cheaper to maintain.

    “The potential is really great. It really is a quite brilliant solution to the annoying problem of having to replace batteries, plus it is also good for the environment – it can become a win-win situation,” says Svend Envoldsen, who is looking forward to the day when the completed commercial solution for the new generation of electronic shelf labels is ready.

    Indoor solar cell technology

    Over the course of the project, DELTA has supplied the very latest expertise about energy harvesting power management and helped to build a prototype with built-in solar cell technology. Components for energy harvesting can be expensive, which is why the project has covered cost-optimisation solutions in order to compete with cheap batteries. In the future ASIC technology could be the solution for high volume customers.

    “We have been very satisfied with our collaboration with DELTA, who has supplied knowledge about energy harvesting technology and assisted us in the evaluation of an interesting product solution that could strengthen our market position,” says Michael Kastrupsen, who sees international sales potential in the batteryless shelf labels.

    Energy left over

    As an added bonus the demo project has shown that there is energy left over in the shelf labels. The solar cells generate more energy than is required to display the price on the label.

    “We discovered in the demo project that the energy harvesting solution produces more energy than the shelf label uses. This opens up other possibilities, for example you could use sensors to detect customer activity in front of the shelf label or monitor whether the shelf is empty or filled,” says Lead Specialist Johan Pedersen, IdemoLab at DELTA.

    This opens new doors for East West Instore Solutions and their Chinese manufacturer:

    Our Chinese developers have long wanted to add new features to the shelf labels, but have struggled with the challenge of using as little power as possible. Now we no longer need to be restricted by energy usage, because energy is continually being added to the shelf label,” says Michael Kastrupsen, who is pleased that the technological expertise about energy harvesting we have here in Denmark can be used by large countries such as China.

    Need for a new business model

    The prototype for the new renewable shelf label will now be fully developed and refined so that the product is ready for sale. It is one thing, however, to develop a new type of shelf label with solar cell technology that is functional and durable. It is something else entirely to adapt the business model so that the product becomes a sales adventure for the company. This is why Aalborg University is also part of the project, helping East West Instore Solutions to change their business model in connection with the introduction of energy harvesting and making the product ‘service free’.

    More information

    DELTA works with IoT sensors and energy harvesting in many different industries and develops ASIC IP for energy harvesting. DELTA runs the project “Batteryless and self-powered electronics”, which is part of a GTS performance contract with the Danish Agency for Science, Technology and Innovation. The activities are supervised by representatives from the Danish industry and their aim is to promote Danish companies’ exploitation of the technological and commercial potential of energy harvesting.

    If you would like to know more about energy harvesting and the possibilities of using energy harvesting in your products, contact Morten Wagner, Head of IdemoLab, DELTA, mw@delta.dk, tel. +45 72 19 42 88.

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    DANISH VERSION


    Energy harvesting eliminerer dyrt batteriskift i elektroniske prisskilte

    East West Instore Solutions sælger elektroniske prisskilte til danske butikskæder. Et innovationsprojekt med DELTA viser vejen frem mod en billigere løsningsmodel for prisskiltene baseret på indendørs solcelleteknologi. Potentialet for detailhandlen er stort.

    Af Nanna Bastved

    Den danske distributør, East West Instore Solutions, leverer elektroniske prisskilte til blandt andre supermarkedskæden, COOP. I hvert prisskilt sidder der 2 batterier, som skal udskiftes med jævne mellemrum. Det i sig selv lyder ikke så besværligt, men når en butikskæde som COOP har over 1 million elektroniske prisskilte, bliver den manuelle vedligeholdelse en omkostningsfyldt og tidskrævende affære. Derfor bad East West Instore Solutions om DELTA’s hjælp til at lave en alternativ selvforsynende løsning for prisskiltene baseret på energy harvesting teknologi.

    ”Vi kendte ikke så meget til energy harvesting og teknologiens muligheder inden projektet startede. Det var en aha-oplevelse for os, at vi i et lokale uden sollys godt kan høste energi, som kan levere strøm til prisskiltene,” siger Michael Kastrupsen, CEO, East West Instore Solutions.

    I innovationsprojektet, som er støttet af InfinIT, har DELTA hjulpet East West Instore Solutions og COOP med at evaluere og demonstrere feasibility af soldrevne elektroniske prisskilte i en lille butik COOP’s hovedsæde i Albertslund.

    ”Fordelen ved elektroniske etiketter er, at prisbudskabet til kunderne er der med det samme, så vores butikker er salgsklare. Men batterierne i etiketterne skal udskiftes efter 5-7 år, afhængigt af hvor de sidder i butikken, og hvor mange ændringer etiketten har været udsat for. Når etiketten har ”brugt” batteriet, kan kunderne ikke se prisen, og de ansatte skal bruge tid på at skifte batterierne. Men udover dette er det en ulempe for miljøet, når 2 millioner batterier udskiftes. Derfor har det været en interessant sag for os at teste, om man kan høste energi fra butikkens indendørs belysning,” fortæller Svend Envoldsen, Senior Innovation Specialist, COOP Danmark.

    Resultaterne fra demoprojektet er lovende. Fordelen ved solcelleløsningen er, at de holder længere og er langt billigere i vedligeholdelse.

    ”Potentialet er rigtig godt. Det er en helt genial løsning på det generende problem at skulle skifte batterier, og så er det også godt for miljøet – det kan blive en ”win-win,” udtaler Svend Envoldsen, som ser frem til, at den færdige kommercielle løsning på den nye generation af elektroniske prisskilte er klar.

    Indendørs solcelleteknologi

    I projektforløbet har DELTA leveret den nyeste viden om energy harvesting power management og hjulpet med at bygge en prototype med indbygget solcelleteknologi. Komponenter til energy harvesting kan være dyre, og derfor har projektet afdækket kostoptimerede løsninger for at kunne konkurrere med billige batterier. Her kan ASIC-teknologi i fremtiden være løsningen, når man har høj volumen.

    ”Vi har været meget glade for vores samarbejde med COOP og med DELTA, som har leveret viden om energy harvesting teknologien og hjulpet os med at få lavet en interessant produktløsning, som kan styrke vores markedsposition,” udtaler Michael Kastrupsen, som ser et internationalt salgspotentiale for de batteriløse prisskilte.

    Energi tilovers

    Som en ekstra bonus har demoprojektet vist, at der er energi tilovers i prisskiltene. Solcellerne genererer nemlig mere energi, end det kræver at vise prisen på skiltet.

    ”I demoprojektet har vi fundet ud af, at energy harvesting løsningen producerer mere energi end prisskiltet bruger. Det åbner for andre muligheder, fx kan man med sensorer detektere kundeaktivitet foran prisskiltet eller monitorere om hylden er tom eller fyldt,” fortæller Lead Specialist, Johan Pedersen, IdemoLab, DELTA.

    Det åbner nye døre for East West Instore Solutions og deres kinesiske producent:

    ”Vores kinesiske udviklere har længe gerne villet tilføje nye features til prisskiltene, men har kæmpet med at skulle bruge så lidt strøm som muligt. Nu behøver vi ikke længere at lade os begrænse af energien, fordi der kontinuerligt bliver tilført energi til prisskiltet,” siger Michael Kastrupsen, som glæder sig over, at den teknologiske viden om energy harvesting vi har i Danmark, kan anvendes af store lande som Kina.

    Behov for ny forretningsmodel

    Prototypen for det nye energiselvforsynende prisskilt skal nu færdigudvikles og forfines, så produktet er klart til salg. Men en ting er at udvikle en ny type prisskilt med en solcelleteknologi, der er funktionel og holdbar. Noget andet er at tilpasse sin forretningsmodel, så produktet bliver et salgseventyr for virksomheden. Som en del af projektet hjælper Aalborg Universitet derfor East West Instore Solutions med at ændre deres forretningsmodel i forbindelse med de indfører energy harvesting og gør deres produkt service-frit.

    Yderligere information

    DELTA (er en del af FORCE Technology), arbejder til dagligt med IoT sensorer og energy harvesting i mange forskellige industrier og udvikler ASIC IP til energy harvesting. DELTA driver projektet ”Batteriløs og selvforsynende elektronik”, som er en del af GTS-Resultatkontrakten med Styrelsen for Forskning og Innovation. Aktiviteterne vejledes af repræsentanter fra den danske industri og har til formål at fremme danske virksomheders udnyttelse af de teknologiske og forretningsmæssige muligheder i energy harvesting.

    Hvis du vil vide mere om energy harvesting og mulighederne for at udnytte energy harvesting i dine produkter kontakt Morten Wagner, Head of IdemoLab, DELTA, mw@delta.dk, tel. +45 72 19 42 88.

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