By recording the information on the box, along with details about the retailer who sold it -- such as their geographic location and store number -- along with the date and time of an item's sale, Nintendo found that it could prevent many attempted returns that involved fraudulent behavior. The system was piloted at Wal-Mart in 1995, and rapidly expanded into other retailers worldwide.
The company soon realized it had a hit on its hands when its largest rival at the time, Sega, came calling after hearing how well the system worked from its own retail partners. As a result, Nintendo decided to spin off the technology into its own company, Siras, in 1999.
With massive manufacturers including General Electric, Hewlett-Packard, Philips and Sony, and retailers such as Best Buy, CompUSA, Sears and Target using the Siras Electronic Registration system today, the company maintains it provides an easy solution to the point-of-sale data collection nightmare presently facing retailers.
By eliminating the need to collect customer data, including credit card numbers, said company officials, Siras feels it can also allow retailers and manufacturers to protect themselves from information exposure incidents and all the related fallout such events may bring.
"Once consumer data is collected it's really just a matter of time before it gets exposed or stolen, and you don't need to be a sophisticated hacker to commit such a crime, a lot of times it's a retail employee who finds a way to capture the data and sell it," said Peter Junger, president of Siras, based in Redmond, Wash. "Meanwhile, many point-of-sale systems can be easily hacked, and radio frequency ID tools that aim to help solve these problems are still many years away."
By purposefully avoiding the collection of personal data using a system such as Siras', companies can already begin lowering their risk while streamlining the retail shopping and returns process for themselves and their customers, he said.
After collecting the UPC and sales information, the data is transmitted to a national database presided over by Siras, allowing the software maker to handle much of the legwork and eliminate related point-of-sale management costs for retailers, according to Junger.
Siras is also in the process of developing other iterations of Electronic Registration for use by law enforcement officials tracking the movement of stolen goods, and for pawn shops and online auction sites that are trying to reduce sales of misappropriated or counterfeit goods.
"It's a very simple technological approach to a complex problem," Junger said. "And we're hoping that someday its use will stretch far beyond electronics and other high-end items into almost any type of products that carries a serial number."
One company already using Siras' tools is the consumer products division of Philips Electronics North America, the New York based manufacturer of everything from desktop computers to flat-screen TVs.
Prior to implementing Siras in 2001, Philips dealt with the same sorts of issues that drove Nintendo to create the technology, but since that time, consumer fraud has been cut significantly, said Tony Sciarrotta, director of returns management for Phillips Consumer Electronics.