A003 / Future Stores

Project Unlock

  • Blockchain
  • RFID
  • IoT
Flex brand drill sitting in the aisle of a Lowes Home Improvement.

Future Stores

Inventing new, low-friction ways to curb retail theft

Over the last few years, theft – driven in part by organized groups – has risen for the entire retail industry. The net result has been locked-down store experiences that penalize customers.

We think there are ways to make anti-theft measures invisible, frictionless for customers, and cost-effective to implement – and our team’s experience with hardware and emerging software led us to develop Project Unlock.   

Customer purchasing a Flex brand drill, being checked out by a Lowes Home Improvement associate.

See it in action

We see a future in which technologies like Project Unlock can help the entire retail ecosystem create a great environment for our customers.
Seemantini Godbole

Seemantini Godbole

Lowe's Chief Digital and Information Officer

How it works

Project Unlock features two components that can work together or independently to deter retail theft via benefit denial and transparent purchase records.


Benefit Denial

At the heart of Project Unlock is the ability to activate a powered product after it has been legitimately purchased – rendering a stolen tool inoperable and virtually worthless. 

Lowes Innovation Labs team member installing an RFID chip prototype to an open Flex brand drill, with additional cutaway image of the opened Flex drill.

To make this work: in the manufacturing process, a manufacturer embeds a wireless RFID (radio frequency identity) chip into a powered product. The tag is preloaded with that item’s unique serial number – which is also embedded in the box’s barcode – and the product is set to inoperable.


At the store, a customer takes the product to the register, gets the barcode scanned, and pays – just like they always do. A point-of-sale RFID scanner reads all tags in range, finds the tool with the correct serial number, and writes a unique secret key value that activates the tool for use.

Only products that are legitimately purchased are activated. If a power tool is stolen, it won’t work, which makes it less valuable to steal.


Transparent Purchase Records

Project Unlock also uses blockchain to create a secure, publicly accessible, anonymized record of authentic product purchases. 

Once a customer buys a product, that transaction is recorded to the blockchain. 

Often thieves will try to resell stolen goods to individuals and secondary marketplaces. This record, which contains NO personal information, can be used by retailers, manufacturers and law enforcement to validate authentic purchases — and to reduce the economic incentives to engage in retail theft at all.

Flex Drill alongside a conceptual diagram of the blockchain.

Fight Retail Theft Together

We see a future in which capabilities like Project Unlock can help the entire retail ecosystem create a great environment for our customers. 

If you’d like to learn more about Project Unlock or are inspired to explore ways to fight retail theft together, please reach out to us at ProjectUnlock@Lowes.com.