Lowe’s Pioneers System to Solve Organized Retail Crime

Lowe’s Companies Inc. has innovated – and successfully tested – a new system geared toward tackling organized retail crime in a frictionless and almost invisible manner.

It’s called Project Unlock, and it’s a proof-of-concept system that underscores how there are methods to solving this industry-wide problem without having to lock up every product on the shelf, Lowe’s Chief Digital and Information Officer Seemantini Godbole said.

Lowe’s demonstrated Project Unlock last week during NRF’s 2023 expo in New York City, hosted in conjunction with the Loss Prevention Research Council. Its goal is to prove that technology can be leveraged to solve organized retail crime without hindering the shopping experience for law-abiding citizens.

Over the last 12 to 18 months, Lowe’s Innovation Labs has been testing out the system which utilizes RFID [Radio Frequency Identity] chips, scanners and blockchain.

If implemented, it would render a stolen tool inoperable which would discourage bad actors and in turn, keep employees safe, according to Godbole.

To work, manufacturers would first have to embed a wireless RFID (Radio Frequency Identity) chip into a power tool product. The chip is already preloaded with the item’s serial number. It is also embedded in the box’s barcode.

The product is set to inoperable up until the moment the customer pays for it. An RFID scanner at the register would then read the chip and activate the tool for use.

“Only products that are legitimately purchased are activated,” according to Lowe’s Innovation Labs. “If a power tool is stolen, it won’t work, which makes it less valuable to steal.”

If implemented, the idea is that word will spread “pretty quickly that stealing these tools this way is not worth it because it’ll never work,” Godbole said.