Title:
SYSTEM FOR SECURING AN INVENTORY WITHIN RETAIL PREMISES
Kind Code:
A1


Abstract:
An integrated inventory control and security method for multiple types of articles which are for sale within retail premises accounts for entry of articles into the retail premises and removal of articles from the retail premises, including documenting certain events.



Inventors:
Davis, Charles E. (Coldwater, MI, US)
Application Number:
14/222640
Publication Date:
07/17/2014
Filing Date:
03/23/2014
Assignee:
DAVIS CHARLES E.
Primary Class:
International Classes:
G08B13/24
View Patent Images:



Primary Examiner:
CASILLASHERNANDEZ, OMAR
Attorney, Agent or Firm:
GEORGE LAWRENCE BOLLER (P.O. Box 530518 LIVONIA MI 48153)
Claims:
What is claimed is:

1. A method for securing an inventory of multiple types of articles which enter a retail premises through a point of entry, are then sold at a point of sale within the premises, and then leave the premises through a point of exit, each article of each type having at least one passive device containing a readable identifier identifying the type of article and a wirelessly detectable security element, the method comprising: a) at the point of entry, registering articles entering the premises into an electronic inventory data base according to type of article and quantity of each type of article by wirelessly scanning the readable identifiers of the entering articles to determine a quantity of each type of article entering the premises and adding each determined quantity to a quantity of the same type of article already in the data base; and b) at the point of sale, wirelessly scanning the readable identifiers of articles being purchased by a customer to register their sale and cause a quantity of each type of article whose sale is registered to be subtracted from the quantity of the same type of article in the data base and to render the detectable security element of each article whose sale has been registered wirelessly undetectable.

2. The method as set forth in claim 1 further comprising: moving the articles from the point of entry to a different location within the premises.

3. The method as set forth in claim 2 in which the step of moving the articles from the point of entry to a different location within the premises comprises moving the articles to a location which is accessible to customers.

4. The method as set forth in claim 3 in which the step of moving the articles from the point of entry to a different location within the premises comprises moving the articles to a storage location which is inaccessible to customers and temporarily storing the articles there until they are moved to the location which is accessible to customers.

5. The method as set forth in claim 1 further comprising at the point of entry, wirelessly detecting the detectable security elements of the articles entering the premises and recording their detection in the data base.

6. The method as set forth in claim 1 in which the step of wirelessly scanning the readable identifiers of the entering articles at the point of entry comprises optically reading the readable identifiers of the entering articles.

7. The method as set forth in claim 1 further comprising wirelessly scanning the readable identifiers of articles which have been registered in the data base and identified as unsuitable for purchase by customers, causing a quantity of each type of article unsuitable for purchase by customers to be subtracted from the quantity of the same type of article in the data base, and causing an entry to be made in the data base which categorizes the quantity of each type of article subtracted as unsuitable for purchase by customers.

8. The method as set forth in claim 1 further comprising leaving the detectable security element of each article identified as unsuitable for purchase by customers wirelessly detectable.

9. The method as set forth in claim 1 further comprising wirelessly scanning the readable identifiers of articles which have been registered in the data base and identified for return to a supplier of the articles, causing a quantity of each type of article identified for return to be subtracted from the quantity of the same type of article in the data base, and causing an entry to be made in the data base which categorizes the quantity of each type of article subtracted as returned to a supplier.

10. The method as set forth in claim 9 further comprising leaving the detectable security element of each article identified as returned to a supplier wirelessly detectable.

11. The method as set forth in claim 1 further comprising wirelessly scanning the readable identifiers of articles which have been registered in the data base and are being removed by an individual authorized to do so by management of the retail premises, causing a quantity of each type of article so authorized for removal to be subtracted from the quantity of the same type of article in the data base, and causing an entry to be made in the data base which identifies the authorized individual.

12. The method as set forth in claim 11 further comprising leaving the detectable security element of each article authorized for removal wirelessly detectable.

Description:

FIELD OF THE INVENTION

This invention relates to a method of securing an inventory of multiple types of articles which are for sale within retail premises.

BACKGROUND OF THE INVENTION

Theft of merchandise is a common problem for many businesses. It is typically considered an added cost of “doing business”, a cost which ultimately is borne by consumers.

SUMMARY OF THE INVENTION

One general aspect of the invention relates to a method for securing an inventory of multiple types of articles which enter a retail premises through a point of entry, are then sold at a point of sale within the premises, and then leave the premises through a point of exit, each article of each type having at least one passive device containing a readable identifier identifying the type of article and a wirelessly detectable security element.

The method comprises: a) at the point of entry, registering articles entering the premises into an electronic inventory data base according to type of article and quantity of each type of article by wirelessly scanning the readable identifiers of the entering articles to determine a quantity of each type of article entering the premises and adding each determined quantity to a quantity of the same type of article already in the data base; and b) at the point of sale, wirelessly scanning the readable identifiers of articles being purchased by a customer to register their sale and cause a quantity of each type of article whose sale is registered to be subtracted from the quantity of the same type of article in the data base and to render the detectable security element of each article whose sale has been registered wirelessly undetectable.

BRIEF DESCRIPTION OF THE DRAWINGS

FIG. 1 is a diagram showing a layout of a representative retail facility which has check-out counters and is secured by a security system and method embodying principles of the present invention.

FIG. 2 is an elevation view, partly broken away to show an interior, of a check-out counter.

FIG. 3 is a perspective view of an article of merchandise for sale at the retail facility.

FIG. 4 shows a passive security device securing an article of merchandise.

FIG. 5 shows several retail facilities each having its own security system.

DETAILED DESCRIPTION

FIG. 1 shows a portion of a building comprising retail premises 10 which comprises a merchandise area 12 containing aisles 14 where various articles of for-sale merchandise are stocked on shelves 16. Articles which customers wish to purchase are carried by the customers to a check-out area 18 where sales are consummated.

Check-out area 18 comprises check-out lanes 20 which may either be self-service or be served by an employee of the retailer. After a sale has been consummated, a customer can transport the purchased merchandise to an exit area 22 of the premises through which the customer can exit the building with his/her purchased merchandise.

FIG. 2 shows each check-out lane 20 to comprise a check-out counter 24 on which articles of merchandise to be purchased (designated by the general reference M) are placed. Merchandise to be purchased may first be placed on an approach surface 26 which is ahead of a surface 28 onto or over which the merchandise is moved article-by-article while automated equipment causes the sale of each article to be registered, as will be more fully explained hereinafter. After the sale of an article has been registered, the article passes onto a powered conveyor 29 which conveys the article to an inclined ramp 30 along which it can slide, or roll if the ramp has rollers, onto a collection surface 31 where the customer can retrieve it after having paid for it.

Each article of merchandise contains a UPC bar code which uniquely identifies the specific article. Surface 28 contains one or more areas 32 which allow a scanner 34 to “read” the UPC bar code on an article of merchandise when the article is placed on or moved past an area 32. By making areas 32 optically transparent and using an optical scanner 34 behind the areas, a visible UPC bar code on an article label, tag, or packaging, or on an article itself, can be read by scanner 34 to identify the article. With the article having been electronically identified, the electronic identity is processed by a computer-based register 36 which has access to a data bank comprising a correlation of sale price to bar code for each of various articles of merchandise stocked for sale to determine the article's sale price from the data bank, and the sale price is then recorded in one or more appropriate ways, such as electronically in a suitable storage medium, or memory. The article is then placed on conveyor 29 for transport via ramp 30 to collection surface 31.

After all articles of merchandise have been processed in this manner, register 36 provides a total of the individual sale prices in a dollar or other currency amount which the customer then pays by any appropriate means of payment such as cash, credit, or debit. A sales receipt which lists articles purchased and the sale price of each, and the total amount of the transaction, which may include other charges such as tax, is printed and issued to the customer who can then collect the purchased merchandise from collection surface 31 and leave the building through an exit door 38 of exit area 22.

For securing “for-sale” merchandise against unauthorized removal from premises 10, such as by theft or pilferage, each article of merchandise is secured by the presence of a passive security device which, upon attempted unauthorized removal of the secured article from the premises, will be detected when the secured article comes within a specified range of a detector 40 shown in FIG. 1 at exit area 22 inside exit door 38. Detection of a passive security device by detector 40 immediately initiates some form or forms of security action.

Such forms of action include issuing an alarm via an alarm device or system 42 which may comprise one or more of sounding an audible alarm in the building, illuminating a visible alarm in the building, and transmitting a silent alarm to security or staff personnel on the premises and/or to a remote location. Exit door 38 may also be locked closed.

Exit area 22 is also continuously monitored by a closed circuit television camera 44 and an associated video recording device 46 which records the exit area scene either continuously or at a sufficiently fast snap-shot rate, and which may also have audio recording capability.

Detector 40 comprises a detection transmitter which continuously transmits (i.e. wirelessly broadcasts) a detection signal into an approach to exit door 38 which is inside the building premises. The broadcast range does not extend to merchandise area 12 or to check-out area 18. Detector 40 also comprises a receiver for detecting receipt of a wireless return signal from a passive security device in response to the passive security device having received a detection signal from the transmitter.

FIG. 3 shows an article of merchandise M containing one or more visible UPC bar codes 48 and one or more passive security devices 50. FIG. 3 should not be construed to imply the size, shape, or location of passive security device 50, or the number of such passive security devices on articles, or where such passive security devices are placed on articles, because that is a function of the nature of each article and of the nature of the particular passive security device or devices used. The presence of a passive security device on any particular article of merchandise should be known only to authorized personnel, such as management and security staff of a retailer for example. The size and placement of a passive security device on any particular article of merchandise should render its presence unnoticeable to anyone, other than perhaps in some instances to authorized personnel having knowledge.

A passive security device may take any of various specific forms, to be discussed in more detail later. A passive security device is essentially a miniature, disposable electronic circuit having an antenna, or antennas, which render the device capable of receiving an incident wireless signal or signals and of transmitting a return signal or signals in response to such an incident signal or signals. A passive security device which receives an incident signal of sufficient strength will transmit a return signal of sufficient strength to be detected by the receiver of detector 40. The signal strengths are strong enough to provide detection of unpaid-for merchandise even when the person attempting to remove the merchandise from the premises does so in a concealed manner and/or uses some form of protective shielding.

Attempted removal of an unpaid-for article of merchandise through exit area 22 will result in a signal which is being broadcast by the detection transmitter of detector 40 causing the passive security device which secures the article to transmit a return signal which, upon detection by the receiver of detector 40, causes some form or forms of security action to be initiated.

So that a paid-for article of merchandise will not cause detector 40 to initiate security action when it comes within the broadcast range of the transmitter of detector 40, each check-out counter 24 comprises a “kill” transmitter 52 shown in FIG. 2. Kill transmitter 52, which may also be referred to as an unsecuring transmitter because it unsecures a secured article to allow the article to be removed from the premises without giving an alarm, can transmit a wireless signal, referred to as a kill signal or alternately an unsecuring signal, which is capable of rendering a passive security device incapable of transmitting a return signal in response to an incident signal from the detection transmitter of detector 40. In this way, the state of a passive security device is changed from a first, or “live”, state to a second, or “killed”, state.

Various ways of rendering a passive security device incapable of responding to an incident signal from the detection transmitter of detector 40 include causing an internal circuit change in the passive security device which changes a response characteristic of the passive security device, such as changing the frequency at which it would respond to a broadcast from the transmitter of detector 40 to a different frequency to which the receiver of detector 40 is not tuned, or overwhelming the internal circuit with enough energy to “burn out” one or more circuit elements needed for transmission of a return signal, thereby simply destroying the passive security device.

Upon register 36 having registered the sale price of an article in an appropriate storage medium or memory, the registration of the sale will cause kill transmitter 52 to transmit an unsecuring signal which “kills” the passive security device securing the article. The kill transmission broadcast is properly targeted to hit the passive security device securing an article whose sale has just been registered, but the broadcast range is not so far as to kill passive security devices on other articles which may be nearby waiting to be scanned. Register 36 keeps a record of each kill by transmitter 52 in an appropriate storage medium or memory. FIG. 2 shows kill transmitter 52 in a location where it transmits a wireless broadcast targeted toward a paid-for article on conveyor 29.

For assurance that the passive security device securing the article whose sale has just been registered has in fact been killed by kill transmitter 52 and is therefore no longer “live”, register 36 causes a “kill confirmation” transmitter 54 to confirm each kill after sale of the article has been registered and kill transmitter 52 has transmitted a kill signal intended to kill the passive security device on the article. Kill confirmation transmitter 54 performs a kill confirmation by transmitting a wireless signal which would cause a “live” passive security device to respond by returning a non-confirmation signal to a receiver located either in kill confirmation transmitter 54 or in the immediate vicinity. The kill confirmation broadcast is properly targeted to hit the presumptively-killed passive security device of the article whose sale has just been registered, but the broadcast range is not so far as to cause “live” passive security devices on nearby other articles of merchandise to return signals. FIG. 2 shows kill confirmation transmitter 54 in a location where it transmits a broadcast which is targeted toward a presumptively-killed article on ramp 30. A kill confirmation may be recorded in register 36 in a suitable storage medium or memory in correlation with the registered paid-for sale price of an article of merchandise.

Some of the various forms of passive security device 50 comprise passive nano-, micro-, or pulse-technology circuits. Such extremely small devices, whose sizes render them incapable of being seen by a person's naked eye, lend themselves to placement in merchandise in a variety of ways. Placement should be in a place where the circuit would be unlikely to be removed before an article leaves the secured premises. Articles of wearing apparel can be secured by passive security devices placed in apparel parts which if removed or altered would damage the articles. They can be placed in sewn-in labels or tags which would be expected to not be removed prior to leaving secured premises. Manufactured merchandise can use the manufacturing process to embed a passive security device directly in an article during its manufacturing process using processes such as laminating or pressing. FIG. 3 shows a passive security device 50 placed underneath a label L which is adhered to packaging of the article.

Nano-technology allows nano-type passive security devices to be dispersed in printing ink or fabric dye which is applied to an article of merchandise, a label on an article, or packaging containing an article. Placement of nano-type passive security devices in printing ink which is used to print UPC bar codes on articles allows bar codes themselves to function as the passive security devices, thereby avoiding a separate securing process. One or more nano-type devices which are dispersed in printing ink will become embedded in the ink after the bar code has been printed and the ink has dried.

A manufacturer of articles who incorporates passive security devices by placing them directly on the articles or else in packaging of the articles and then ships them to a wholesale or retail customer enables the customer to verify the presence of passive security devices upon receipt of shipment and count them by a detector to determine if the correct quantity of articles has been shipped.

If a retailer of articles wishes to apply passive security devices, a hand tool applicator, like the one 56 shown in FIG. 4, can apply them at locations on articles of merchandise which the retailer chooses and are known only to the retailer. Such an applicator can dispense ink containing nano-type passive security devices, labels containing passive security devices, or apply passive security devices directly by adhesive mounting or other similar techniques.

FIG. 2 also shows a removable medium, such as a cassette 58, associated with register 36. Cassette 58 has a protocol known to a supplier, or licensor, of the check-out lane apparatus (i.e., scanner 34, register 36, kill transmitter 52, and associated electronic data processing equipment), but not to the user of the apparatus, for limiting the total dollar or other currency sales volume of articles of merchandise whose passive security devices are allowed to be killed by the apparatus. The intent is to provide an accounting control on the extent of use of the apparatus which will assure that a user prepays the supplier, or a licensor of the supplier, for use of the apparatus. Once the sales volume of merchandise processed by the apparatus nears the prepaid limit, an alert can be given to enable the supplier or licensor to replenish the cassette, or exchange the cassette for a fresh one, upon user prepayment for continued use. Instead of a cassette, use can be monitored remotely by the supplier or licensor who can allow continued use after user prepayment. If a user is creditworthy, the supplier or licensor can monitor use and invoice the user accordingly after the fact.

By using this accounting procedure, it becomes unnecessary to involve a supplier of merchandise or a supplier of passive security devices in an accounting procedure. A supplier of merchandise who applies passive security devices to them could however be a secondary or alternate point of accounting.

If the total sales volume were to near the prepaid limit, certain controls in the apparatus become effective to shut down scanner 34, register 36, kill transmitter 52, and kill confirmation transmitter 54, thereby rendering the corresponding check-out lane 20 inoperative until a fresh cassette containing a fresh prepayment currency amount is installed or the existing one is reloaded with a fresh prepayment currency amount. By preventing the registration of the sale of an article in this way, its passive security device remains “live”, preventing the secured article from being removed from the premises without triggering an alarm at the exit, or alternatively its removal can be authorized by the purchaser paying for it at another check-out lane which will kill the live passive security device.

Cassette 58 thereby provides a removable medium containing value which is progressively depleted in the amount of the sale price of each secured article as the sale price of each secured article is registered in the register. Upon the amount of depletion of the value approaching some limit, such as the prepaid limit initially loaded into the cassette, the kill transmitter is prevented from transmitting a kill signal. To continue use of the kill transmitter, the cassette is removed from the system, and its value replenished only by a supplier or licensor of the system, such as by returning the cassette to such supplier or licensor. By requiring such removal before a cassette can be replenished with value, and by uniquely identifying each cassette, a supplier or licensor of the system can monitor system usage to assure user compliance with conditions of use specified by the supplier or licensor.

Another way to enable continued use of the kill transmitter is to allow the value of a cassette currently in use to be depleted to zero even when an article whose sale is currently being processed has not been fully paid for. If the depleted cassette is then replaced by a fresh one having value, the amount which remains unpaid is deducted from the value on the replacement cassette, allowing the security device on the article to be killed. Overall cost attributable to a retailer's stocking of fresh cartridges purchased from a supplier or licensor, and discarding depleted cartridges may be less than that of returning expended cartridges to a supplier or licensor for replenishing.

The point at which the remaining value in cassette 58 will prevent kill transmitter 54 from transmitting a kill signal can be set in different ways. One way is by using historical sales data to set a value which is greater than the remaining value in the cassette and which is likely to be exceeded by the total sales price of merchandise purchased by the next customer. Another way is to cause register to perform a “pre-kill” calculation by comparing the sale price of an article which has just been scanned to value remaining in the cassette. If the sale price of an article which has just been scanned exceeds the value remaining in the cassette, the register is prevented from registering the sale and the check-out lane is shut down.

The ability to manufacture electronic passive security devices with different frequency response characteristics allows each of different secured premises to be assigned their own unique frequency, much as commercial radios stations are. By reserving frequencies in this way, only passive security devices associated with a particular secured premises are useful at those premises. FIG. 5 shows several retail stores 60, 62, each of which has its own security system like the one shown in FIG. 1, with only the detectors 40 being shown in FIG. 5.

The security system of store 60 operates at a different frequency than the one of store 62. The supplier of the security system, or the licensor of the supplier, can assign a unique frequency to each user which can forestall or prevent unauthorized use of the apparatus and which can also avoid interference with other wireless communication functions, such as inventory control for example. A chain of stores having different geographical locations can be assigned a common frequency for use at all stores.

Attempts to defeat a security system can be made more difficult by using passive security devices which respond to coded wireless detection signals rather than just one particular frequency alone and/or which respond to multiple frequencies. These features may be incorporated into a single passive security device or may be provided by using several different passive security devices to secure a single article of merchandise. A person trying to defeat a system would therefore have to have knowledge not merely of a single frequency, but also knowledge of multiple frequencies and/or codes in order to kill whatever passive security devices are on an article.

A passive security device may also have the capability to respond to a detection signal by a return signal which identifies the specific article in some way such as by its bar code information. This would require a unique passive security device for the specific article of merchandise stocked for sale.

There may be instances where management or staff needs to remove from secured premises one or more secured articles which have not been sold. A separate kill transmitter under the control of management may be used to kill the passive security devices on such articles so that they can be removed without triggering an alarm.

The security system shown in and described with reference to FIG. 1 can provide conclusive proof of attempted theft. Upon detector 40 issuing an alarm indicating that a person is carrying an unpaid-for article of merchandise into exit area 22, the person can be stopped by store and/or security personnel and asked for a cash register receipt to prove the article has been paid for. In the absence of such proof, the article is then first transported out of range of the detection signal from detector 40 and then brought back into range, area, causing an alarm to once again be issued. These events are recorded on recorder 46 with witnesses present. This proves that the passive security device was live when the person first attempted to remove it from the premises.

With witnesses still present, the article is then brought to an idle check-out counter 24 and processed as if it were being paid for. Register 36 will cause kill transmitter 52 to unsecure the article by killing the passive security device. The article is then brought back to exit area 22 where it will not trigger an alarm. This scene is also recorded with witnesses present and proves a second time that the article was not paid for.

Certain prospective users of the system and method disclosed herein may already have an inventory control system in place using individual R.F.I.D. tags (radio frequency identification tags) applied to each article of merchandise to identify the particular article. An R.F.I.D. tag is a form of passive security device. Those R.F.I.D. tags may also be used as passive security devices in the system and method disclosed herein to provide a combined inventory control and security system.

The combined system registers entry of secured articles of merchandise for sale into inventory within the premises and distinguishes between authorized and attempted unauthorized removal of secured articles from the premises.

The combined system comprises an inventory control sub-system for registering entry of articles for sale into the premises by scanning inventory control R.F.I.D. tags on the articles and causing each article whose R.F.I.D. tag has been scanned to be registered in an inventory data base, and a security sub-system for distinguishing between authorized and attempted unauthorized removal of articles registered in the inventory data base from the premises.

The security sub-system comprises i) a detector for wirelessly detecting attempted unauthorized removal of articles from the premises by detecting R.F.I.D. tags on the articles when their unauthorized removal is attempted, ii) a register for registering an article for authorized removal from the premises by scanning its R.F.I.D. tag and for subtracting the article which has been registered for authorized removal from inventory in the inventory data base; and iii) an unsecuring transmitter controlled by the register for wirelessly transmitting to the R.F.I.D. tag on the article which has been registered for authorized removal, an unsecuring signal which unsecures the secured article by changing the R.F.I.D. tag from an article-securing state which renders the R.F.I.D. tag wirelessly detectable by the detector to a non-securing state which renders the R.F.I.D. tag wirelessly undetectable by the detector.

A typical retail store has a point of entry for incoming shipments of for-sale merchandise, storage space where merchandise which has passed through the point of entry is temporarily stored and which is inaccessible to customers, a shopping area where merchandise which has been removed from storage is made available for purchase by customers, one or more points-of-sale where customers pay for merchandise, and one-or more points of exit through which customers transport purchased merchandise out of the store.

Flow of merchandise through such as a store begins at the point of entry into the store's premises whereupon the incoming merchandise which has entered becomes part of the store's inventory. When a customer takes purchased merchandise to a point of sale, the sale is consummated by payment in any suitable manner, such as that described earlier. The security device on the merchandise is killed upon payment, authorizing the customer to carry the purchased merchandise out of the premises through a point of exit without an alarm going off. With the sale having been confirmed by the customer's payment, the purchased merchandise ceases to be part of the store's inventory, and the quantity purchased is subtracted from the quantity in inventory.

A shipment of merchandise coming into the store's premises through the point of entry may be packaged in such a way which renders difficult, or at an extreme renders impossible, the task of conveniently ascertaining the exact quantity of for-sale articles in a particular incoming shipment. Consequently, updating the inventory may be based on an assumption by a receiving employee's observation that the quantity of articles of a particular type in a particular incoming shipment looks like the quantity which is stated on paperwork associated with the shipment.

That assumption however is not necessarily correct in all cases.

For example if a store has a warehouse from which merchandise is shipped to the store, a quantity of merchandise documented as leaving the warehouse may be deemed to be the quantity received at the store without need to confirm that quantity at the store's point of entry. Such an assumption ignores the possibility that for whatever reason, some of the shipment never arrived at the store. If a shipment is tampered with, the disappearance of articles from the shipment may not be self-evident. Incrementing the store inventory using an incorrect assumption would cause the inventory control system to show a greater number of articles entering store than was actually the case.

If a store's inventory is measured by counting articles for sale when they are placed in the customer area, that too is not necessarily an accurate measure of the store's inventory because it does not account for possible shrinkage between the time that a shipment of merchandise first entered the store and the time at which it is moved into the customer area.

Shrinkage of merchandise which has entered the store's premises through the point of entry can occur in various ways, including theft (pilferage) which escapes detection, breakage, and spoilage. Inventory can be reduced by return of unsold merchandise which is defective and/or was mistakenly ordered, and/or was overstocked, to the supplier of the merchandise, and by legitimate removal by individuals authorized to do so by store management for whatever reason. The readable identifiers of merchandise returned to a supplier are wirelessly scanned upon leaving the premises, such as at a shipping/receiving department, to cause a quantity of each type of article identified for return to be subtracted from the quantity of the same type of article in the data base and also causing an entry to be made in the data base which categorizes the quantity of each type of article subtracted as returned to a supplier. Legitimate removal of articles by individuals authorized to do so by store management is processed in the same way, but with the entry in the data base containing an identification of the individual who is removing the article(s). Spoiled or broken merchandise, which is unsuitable for sale to customers, is also processed in the same way, but with the entry in the data base containing a notation of either spoiled or broken. Security devices on the articles in these various categories remain wirelessly detectable, and should they happen to set off an alarm upon leaving the premises, the alarm can be canceled by personnel on the scene.

The present invention provides improved inventory security for situations such as those just mentioned by wirelessly scanning each incoming shipment at the point of entry to ascertain the exact quantity of each type of article in the shipment before the articles are allowed to pass to a storage space or customer area and by wirelessly scanning articles identified as unsuitable for purchase by customers.

Certain types of shrinkage such as spoilage and breaking can be accounted for by wirelessly scanning their readable identifiers and causing a quantity of each type of article spoiled or broken to be subtracted from the quantity of the same type of article in the data base, and causing an entry to be made in the data base which categorizes the quantity of each type of article subtracted as spoiled or broken. Leaving the detectable security element of each article identified as spoiled or broken wirelessly detectable guards against removal of such articles from the premises in situations where the store management controls the removal process.

The packaging of incoming shipments may make optical scanning of each individual article in a shipment difficult or impractical. In such a situation, an optically readable quantizing of articles appropriately placed on shipment packaging may be scanned. Electronic detection of security elements in articles of an incoming shipment can be documented in the data base and assures that attempted theft of those articles will be detected at secured points of exit. The use of wireless scanning can avoid mistakes in entering incoming shipment information into the data base due to human error.

While a presently preferred embodiment has been illustrated and described, it is to be appreciated that the invention may be practiced in various forms within the scope of the following claims.