Time for librarians to check out?

September 1st, 2011

Could NFC technology make the role of librarian obsolete? A new NFC-based solution demonstrated at the 100th German Librarian Day in Berlin certainly suggests so.

The prototype of the first-ever mobile SelfCheck features an NFC capable smart phone that makes it possible to borrow straight from the library shelf. Users can check out, extend the lending period and manage their media with their mobile device. Bibliotheca RFID Library Systems, which is partnering with NXP on the solution, has applied for patent protection for the system.

A specially developed application for NFC-capable mobile devices enables users to check out media from any location within the library as soon as it is taken from the shelf, entirely eliminating check out lines and enhancing user privacy.

Library goers simply point their cell phone at the book, press “borrow” in the appropriate menu, and the book is checked out. Reconciliation with the library system occurs simultaneously.

NFC is a transfer standard for contactless data exchange over short distances. The use of the technology is expected to explode when it comes to cashless payment, paperless ticketing, online downloads and access control. Industry analysts predict that 100 million or more NFC-enabled devices could be in use by the end of this year, with that number approaching 500 million by 2015.

Of course, librarians will still be needed for users who don’t know how to use a card or computer system to locate books, to offer general reference guidance, and to hush hush those noisy kids in the reading area!


Terso CEO: RFID will see double-digit growth in the healthcare market

August 30th, 2011

Joe Pleshek, the CEO of Terso Solutions, recently penned a column for WTN News about the increasing role RFID is playing in the healthcare and medical sectors. While growth is not nearly as strong as in the retail space, intriguing new use cases are expected to contribute to increased adoption in medical and healthcare.

Here’s an excerpt from the WTN News article:

By monitoring the usage of rental equipment and providing alerts when rental equipment is sitting idle, Texas Health Dallas has saved about $30,000 a month in rental savings. For years, hospitals simply threw money at the problem, buying and renting more equipment to make sure it was on hand when needed. With RFID, fiscally irresponsible purchases are becoming a thing of the past.

The same theory holds true for temperature sensitive items like drugs, orthopedic supplies, and cardiovascular products that can be stored in RFID-enabled cabinets, refrigerators and freezers like the ones manufactured by Terso Solutions. Using secure access, each inventory transaction is automatically captured and processed — in real-time. Then, data can be analyzed to track product usage, improve workflows, and make better business decisions. In addition, costly product spoilage can be avoided.

Hospitals are benefitting from other uses beyond asset tracking. For example, by placing higher-memory RFID tags on high value products, users not only gain the ability to track items, but the ability to keep track of product-specific information, such as maintenance reports and when tools were last calibrated.

Click here to read the full article.

New report: apparel tagging will consume 20 billion tags and reach $1B by 2021

August 26th, 2011

Apparel tagging is starting to finally experience the scale that will drive it to become ubiquitous in the retail marketplace. According to a new study, the apparel industry alone will account for $1 billion worth of UHF tag sales by 2021. The report from IDTechEx says that apparel will consume 20 billion RFID tags annually within a decade. (Click here to view more coverage of item level and apparel tagging)

In addition, $670 million will be spent on RFID infrastructure for apparel alone in 2021, up from $80 million this year.

And, the report states that for the first time ever, more passive RFID tags are being used in the apparel sector than in all other industries combined. The apparel movement started with the tagging of rented apparel and linen, which now accounts more than 60 million tags annually. By 2021, more than 200 million tags will be used for that application.

Click here to view an executive summary of the report.

Charleston County to deploy RFID-based recycling program to 120K homes

August 24th, 2011

In case you missed this week’s issue of RFID 24-7, we’ve posted our lead story here.

The retail industry is embracing item level RFID for the enhanced visibility that the technology provides when it comes to monitoring product movement through the supply chain and on store shelves.

While much has been written about the high stakes for retailers, another industry is just discovering the plethora of benefits that result from increased visibility and the attractive ROI from harvesting that newfound data.

RFID is becoming big business at the far end of the supply chain, as trash haulers and recyclers embrace the technology. This week Intermec announced a partnership with systems integrator Sonrai Systems that has helped Charleston County, S.C. to more than double its recycling participation. The program has been so successful that it will be expanded from a pilot program for 5,000 households to a major deployment to 120,000 homes over the next two years.

“The ROI on this is starting to scream off the page,” says Tony Romano, business development manager with systems integrator Sonrai Systems. “This usage data has never been available. This is going to save the County millions.”

Don Ross, project manager for Kessler Consulting, which is advising Charleston County on the project, says that an additional 30,000 RFID-tagged bins will be rolled out during the first quarter of 2012. Similar programs have been deployed in Philadelphia, Cleveland and parts of New Jersey, and Sonrai Systems is about to deploy a pilot in Framingham, Mass.

By utilizing RFID, Charleston County has more than doubled its recycling participation, reaching recycling levels of 70 percent or higher in some areas. RFID has helped to provide Charleston County with unparalleled accuracy within its environmental management program, with productivity rates increasing by 83 percent.

One reader and a pair of antennas provided by Intermec are installed on each trash truck to read the recycling bins before and after they are dumped. All of the 120,000 trash bins will carry RFID tags on each handle. Trash bin manufacturers have used a variety of tag manufacturers and have been tagging new bins for several years in anticipation of a strong need for tagged product.

However, RFID adoption is still very much in its infancy when it comes to trash and recycle hauling. Romano says that there are about 120,000 trash haulers on the road, with RFID penetration currently at less than one percent.

“We’re telling everybody looking at cart programs that even though you may not know or understand the benefits of RFID today, if you are buying a cart that has a 10 year warranty put a chip in it now,” says Ross. “Because in a very short time you’re going to need that. You don’t want to retro-fit them later.”

Ross estimates that it costs about $1 to tag each recycling bin. Outfitting the trucks costs about $10,000-12,000 per truck. Charleston County is rolling out four RFID-enabled trucks during the first deployment and will eventually need about 15 enabled trucks. ROI is estimated at only four months.

With a solid waste diversion goal of 40 percent, Charleston County is addressing improvements in all facets of its recycling program, including residential single stream recycling, where the RFID solution has proven invaluable in its ability to precisely identify recycling participation and increase collection operations productivity.

While the Charleston County application doesn’t come close to rivaling other municipal programs in terms of size, there is a clear distinction with the program that qualifies it as a ground breaking application.

“For the first time, resources and capital equipment investments will be allocated specifically by knowing what the job entails from the data they have collected,” says Romano. “There are much larger programs out there where some people dabbled in RFID and they are starting to see the return on it because there is a cultural shift occurring.

“Historically there has never been a bullet proof way to gather data on who puts their blue bin or recycling cart out at the curb. Charleston County knows exactly how many people are participating, down to the address level. That is the beauty of what RFID has afforded us, and hopefully the entire industry, very soon.”

Romano says that convincing municipalities to invest money on technology to track trash is difficult in today’s challenging budgetary environment. However, “ROIs are becoming so significant and compelling,” he says, noting that municipalities don’t have the proper visibility to know how many trash trucks they need, and are basing purchases of trucks that cost upwards of $250,000 off little or no data at all.

Additionally, there has been some hesitation to purchase tagged recycling bins. “A purchasing manager is going to ask why do I need asset tracking for a $55 asset,” says Ross. “But when they understand that they have $6 million of them in 140 different locations, they realize that maybe they do need to track these.”

The other sweet spot? Disposal costs in the U.S. range from $20 a ton to $200 a ton for trash. For recycling, the figure can be as low as zero to $40 a ton. Every ton of trash that the city of Philadelphia removes from its trash stream represents a $110 swing – instead of paying $75 to dump it, they can receive up to $35 to recycle it.

“This solution pushes on all three of your major cost groups in collection and hauling,” says Ross. “The ability to track labor and productivity down to the unit provides supervisors with the visibility to control labor costs. In addition, knowing where the truck is and how it is operating is very beneficial.”


Charleston County, S.C. deploys RFID-enabled solution to dramatically increase recycling efforts

August 22nd, 2011

The use of RFID technology is being integrated into products from cradle to grave. While more products are being tagged at the source to provide visibility through the supply chain and to the store shelf, RFID is becoming big business in the trash hauling sector as well.

This morning, Intermec announced a partnership with systems integrator Sonrai Systems that has helped Charleston County, S.C. to more than double its recycling participation, surpassing 70 percent recycling levels in some areas. (Watch for more details in this week’s issue of RFID 24-7).

RFID has been instrumental in providing Charleston County with unparalleled accuracy within its environmental management program with productivity rates increasing by 83 percent.

“In order to make future program decisions, we needed to be able to collect reliable and consistent data about recycling in our County and the RFID solution from Intermec and Sonrai has given us a high level of data confidence,” said Hal Crawford, Charleston County Collection Department Manager. “We now have technology as a trusted measuring stick for recycling in the County so we can strategically implement programs to encourage recycling to residents who aren’t.”

The County deployed curbside recycling carts with RFID tags at 5,000 homes in an initial pilot effort, and is in the process of extending the program to another 5,000 homes.

Bar codes are hot again!

August 21st, 2011

The mundane bar code just got a little sexier. A pair of British volleyball players have signed a deal to wear scanable bar codes on their bikinis. The British based gambling site Betfair signed the deal with Olympic volleyball players Zara Dampney and Shauna Mullin, according to the London Daily Mail. Their bikini bottoms will feature a quick response code that will take users to a Betfair website when photographed on a smart phone.

According to the Daily Mail, the women tried out the bar code bikinis during a recent tournament. However, Olympic sponsorship rules will prevent them from donning the bar codes during the 2012 London Games.

No word yet if Dampney and Mullin will opt to embed RFID tags on their clothing as well. Although, RFID and apparel tagging is certainly a hot sector.

Hawaiian produce trial will track pallets of produce from Taiwan starting next month

August 14th, 2011

In case you missed last week’s issue, we’ve posted our lead story here:

The Hawaii Department of Agriculture is a leader when it comes to piloting RFID for food safety. In May, the department began shipping 70 RFID-enabled pallets of produce between distribution centers on the islands of Maui, Hawaii and Oahu to monitor shipping temperatures and to learn how variances in temperature impact produce.

The Hawaii Produce Traceability Initiative is ready to take its next step, which will occur in late September when a pallet of produce is shipped from Taiwan carrying RFID and GPS technology. The pallet will be tracked from the pallet build level in Taiwan, although the program’s partners in Taiwan want to extend the project and tag produce immediately after it is harvested in the field.

“This is an opportunity to establish a working relationship on food safety with other countries and cooperatively develop the technology,” says John Ryan, the retired head of Hawaii’s quality assurance office, and now a principal with Ryan Systems. “We think that in the not too distant future, something like this could become a standard.”

Taiwan-based Asia Pallet Pooling is providing the plastic pallets for the pilot project, as well as much of the funding. Intelleflex has been selected to supply the battery assisted passive RFID tags for the project. The DCs are operated by Armstrong Produce. Ryan says that he is also working with the Riverside County (Calif.) Economic Development Association with the hope of tagging pallets of perishables flowers or dairy items destined for Taiwan later this year.

“We want to help the exporters out as well,” says Ryan. “The idea is to not only determine why spoilage is happening, but to work together to and try and prevent produce losses from occurring altogether. The food supply chain has a ways to go when it comes to how to manage product better.”

Intelleflex says that one-third of all fresh produce spoils before reaching the retail market, resulting in $35 billion of losses annually. On that note, Intelleflex is seeing a rapid demand in pilots for fresh produce tracking, as well as for temperature-controlled pharmaceuticals. Kevin Payne, the company’s senior director of marketing, expects to see deployments ramp up as early as this fall.

“We’re seeing more pilots, especially in the grower and shipper area, and we’re seeing a lot of interest in the earlier edge of cold chain at the production level because the real cost burden is on the growers and the packers,” says Payne.

Retailers are typically less motivated to install technology to monitor temperature control and spoilage because they usually push costs on to the consumer, or back up the cold chain. “They are less motivated financially,” says Payne. “It’s the growers and packers who are paying for the one-third of produce that spoils in transit, so we’re seeing an uptick in the number of growers and shippers interested in the technology.”

Intelleflex tags and readers provide on-demand, data visibility solutions for cold chain and asset management applications. Its battery-assisted passive RFID technology enables condition monitoring of individual products on loaded pallets or totes from a range of up to 300 feet and can penetrate packaging. That means that users can make informed decisions on product shipment, inventory and product rotation that can reduce shrink in perishable foods and guarantee efficacy of pharmaceuticals.

Intelleflex hopes to announce the results of a study soon that shows the effects of temperature swings on shelf life. “Our tests have generated some real interesting data for fresh produce, as far as monitoring temperature of products and the impact on shelf life from both the field to the pack house as well as the pack house to the DC,” says Payne. “The data has been extremely compelling in that we are finding significant amounts of variation between each hand off point in the cold chain.”

“We’re hoping to see a significant number of customers adopting this technology starting this fall based on the level of pilot activity and the inquiries we’ve had,” says Payne.

Of course, the ROI of less than four months achieved during one pilot, or one growing season, is opening a lot of eyes when it comes to deploying the technology through the produce cold chain.

The technology has also caught the eyes of the insurance industry. This week Intelleflex announced a unique partnership with The Hartford Financial Services Group, in which both companies will explore insurance-related opportunities to reduce the amount of produce lost and improve the overall quality of produce during the distribution process from the grower to the retailer. The partnership, which is through The Hartford’s corporate venture division Hartford Ventures, may also enable The Hartford to enhance its loss control and underwriting practices based on results from RFID tagging.

In many cases, the billions in losses each year from spoiled produce are covered by insurance companies like The Hartford. In this case, RFID could help to not only limit those financial payouts, but also cut down on the huge amount of paperwork and investigative research that goes into each claim.

“Identifying cold chain issues quickly and routing perishables based on remaining shelf life are critical to enhancing customer profitability and operational effectiveness,” says Alexander McGinley, marine underwriting officer at The Hartford. “This new technology will help our customers decrease the amount of produce wasted due to temperature variations.”


Stock market collapse could jeopardize Impinj IPO

August 10th, 2011

The recent and dramatic downturn in the stock market could spell bad news for Impinj’s bid to go public. According to an AP report, eight IPOs have been cancelled this week alone, with one more reducing its price as a turbulent stock market has caused many investors to flee stocks.

Only one company has gone public this month after eight IPOs were launched in the last week of July. The Impinj deal has yet to be priced. However, the company hopes to raise about $100 million from the IPO.

Financial experts say that it often takes between six months and a year to complete an IPO. The general consensus is that the Impinj offering will be priced between mid-August and the end of September. Impinj and online real estate firm Zillow both filed their S1 statements on the same day; Zillow went public two weeks ago. 

A cancelled IPO would certainly disappoint investors who have sunk more than $150 million into the leading producer of tag and reader ICs for the burgeoning EPC market. However, it wouldn’t have an entirely negative impact on the industry. For starters, the current market conditions are out of Impinj’s control and do not reflect the overall strength of the RFID sector and Impinj’s market leading position.

Just the same, a successful IPO “would definitely show that the core component of the industry – the tag and the reader — is a growing market and that there is a growing demand for it,” says one industry insider.

To draw a parallel between a cancelled Impinj IPO and the failed Alien IPO from four years ago would be unfair. Alien was a victim of untimely market conditions, but that was only half the story. Investors also had serious concerns about Alien’s business plan and the overall acceptance of RFID back in 2008. Today’s market, however, features strong orders and growing momentum. Impinj grew sales from $20.8 million in 2009 to $31.8 million last year. First quarter revenue for 2011 came in at $12.2 million, compared with $5.1 million for the same period last year.

Impinj has sold over two billion of its Monza tag ICs since the product line was introduced in 2005, including 940 million tags in 2010 alone. VDC Research projects the number of UHF Gen2 ICs shipped will grow from 1.6 billion in 2010 to 41 billion in 2015, a compound annual growth rate of 92.2 percent. Investors drool over such growth numbers, and such explosive growth should also push Impinj to a profit.

Click here to view RFID 24-7’s previous coverage of the pending Impinj IPO.

The Hartford teams with Intelleflex to reduce insurance claims from spoiled produce

August 9th, 2011

The insurance industry is warming up to RFID technology. Insurers represent a strong market for applications like asset tracking for IT items and document management. But this morning’s announcement from the Hartford Financial Services Group takes the potential benefits of RFID to a higher level.

By teaming up with cold chain solution provider Intelleflex, the insurer hopes to potentially save billions in claims, while also reducing the staggering amounts of paperwork, documentation, and investigatory research that accompany each claim.

You see, one-third of all fresh produce shipped goes bad before reaching the retailer, representing $35 billion worth of losses each year. Some of those losses are actually covered by insurance claims. The Hartford hopes to use Intelleflex’s XC3 Technology™ RFID readers and tags to provide shippers, distributors and retailers with the ability to route product to maximize quality, salability and reduce unnecessary perishable waste. Placed in pallets of produce at harvest, RFID tags continuously monitor the temperature and condition of produce as it travels through the distribution process, calculating the remaining shelf life.

“Identifying cold chain issues quickly and routing perishables based on remaining shelf life is critical to enhancing customer profitability and operational effectiveness,” said Alexander McGinley, marine underwriting officer at The Hartford. “This new technology will help our customers decrease the amount of produce wasted due to temperature variations.”

While the Hartford is focusing on the produce market, think about the possibilities of using RFID when it comes to the claims litigation process. A bank or financial institution that reports theft of a group of laptops, for example, might be able to isolate the last place the equipment was if it was tagged with RFID for asset tracking. The same theory holds true for retailers, who fight a constant battle with shrink during the supply chain process. Item level tagging, which allows complete visibility of an item as it moves through the supply chain, can help to isolate where a product left its intended route, and help to catch the parties involved, and therefore limit the exposure to insurance companies.

“The Hartford is strongly committed to open innovation in helping us get to the future faster,” said Jacqueline LeSage Krause, vice president of innovation and corporate venture capital at The Hartford. “Hartford Ventures allows us to identify and collaborate with leading private companies to develop solutions that address the unique needs of our insurance and wealth management customers.”

Stanley Black & Decker acquires CribMaster parent WinWare

August 5th, 2011

In a very quiet transaction, Stanley Black & Decker acquired WinWare, the creator of the RFID-enabled CribMaster tool management system, with very little fanfare  in May. No purchase price was disclosed.

In our coverage of the ThingMagic acquisition last October, RFID 24-7 predicted that CribMaster would be one of the next firms to be purchased. While no terms were announced, those with knowledge of the company said it had sales of about $25 million, $10 million of which were related to RFID.

In a letter dated May 23, CribMaster president Larry Harper announced the transaction to WinWare’s customer base. The first paragraph of that letter reads as follows:

Today is an exciting day to be a CribMaster user, because today we are becoming part of the world’s biggest and best tools company — Stanley Black & Decker. That means in the near future you will be able to use your CribMaster solutions with a powerful new complement of Stanley Black & Decker brands, such as DeWalt, Mac Tools, Proto Tools, Vidmar Cabinets, and much more.


Stay tuned for more details on this deal and what it means to Stanley Black & Decker.