Archive for the ‘transportation’ Category

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

Wednesday, 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.”


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

Sunday, 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.”


Global demand for RFID tags nears $2B in 2010; 47 billion tags will be in use by 2015

Tuesday, July 19th, 2011

Global demand for RFID tags exceeded $1.9 billion in 2010, a value that is expected to more than triple within the next five years. Unit volumes are anticipated to increase more than 10-fold during the same forecast period, growing from 4.3 billion tags in 2010 to more than 47 billion by 2015.

According to VDC Research, the trends behind this market growth include, but are not limited to:

  • Scaling of existing projects in a diversity of markets and applications
  • Decreased pilot-to-deployment time and an increased level of commitment
  • A deeper understanding of the technology’s value propositions and limitations
  • More attractive price/performance levels and simplified investment justification
  • Deep integration and continued convergence with legacy systems
  • A continued push for adoption throughout value chains

Although approximately 50 percent of all global transponder revenues are derived from two verticals — transportation and government (primary applications are supply chain, asset tracking, security/access control and ID) — the rapid evolution and scaling within the retail sector is expected to dramatically alter the vertical landscape.

Retail accounted for less than 10 percent of all tag revenues in 2010; however, by 2015, the retail sector is expected to represent nearly 30 percent of total global revenues. Click here to read RFID 24-’s previous coverage on RFID and retail.

Click here to read the full VDC executive summary.

University of Dayton RFID research spawns temperature sensing solution

Tuesday, June 28th, 2011

Academic research is driving new use cases in the RFID sector. Already this month RFID 24-7 has reported on research initiatives out of the University of Cincinnati and the University of Pittsburgh that are destined to revolutionize the healthcare industry.

Now, the University of Dayton Research Institute is in the spotlight. The school, long a pioneer in RFID research, says that American Thermal Instruments of Moraine, Ohio, has licensed University of Dayton Research Institute researcher Bob Kauffman’s SMART technology to develop and manufacture monitors that will report unsafe temperature changes in products ranging from perishable items like fruit to train wheels while they are in transit.

Utilizing the SMART (Status and Motion Activated Radiofrequency Tag) system, monitors for perishable items such as food and medicine will be located in shipping containers for transport from production facility to distribution center to store shelf. Similarly, monitors for transportation applications will be attached to components whose controlled temperature is critical to the integrity of the vehicle.

A handheld scanner can be used at checkpoints along the way to quickly and easily check for temperature issues without having to open packaging. According to the University of Dayton web site, the RFID system could be on the market within 18 months, if not sooner. The company has already signed clients from the restaurant and transportation industries to use the temperature monitors.

“Temperature changes affect the taste, freshness, appearance and viability of food products,” says ATI president Randall Lane. “Every hour that a case of lettuce spends in temperatures that are too high means one less day of shelf life, which is significant for a produce company that ships more than seven million cases a year.

“But there are also instances where unsafe temperature fluctuations cause more than just expensive waste. They can be dangerous. For example, we monitor heart stents, which are made of metal. If a stent gets too hot in transit, it won’t open up and work properly once it’s been implanted. A case of vaccines worth millions of dollars can be rendered useless if they’re allowed to warm up for even a brief period of time.”

RFID: a green enabler when it comes to sustainability

Friday, April 22nd, 2011

I’ve been working on a top 10 list of how RFID not only benefits business, but the environment as well. Clearly, RFID qualifies as a green enabler when it comes to sustainability.

One area I’ll examine in this special report is transportation. RFID enables cars to zoom through tolls and pull into parking garages quicker, cutting down congestion and carbon emissions. I witnessed that this week on the drive to the Mt. Washington area to do some late season skiing. The toll on Rt. 95 in New Hampshire has always been a major bottleneck, sometimes tying up traffic for several miles. Now, with open-lane, high-speed tolling in place, autos cruise through at high speeds.

Click here to read RFID 24-7′s previous coverage on RFID and sustainability.

RFID is also making yard management more efficient at large distribution centers and warehouses. Even Walmart is on the bandwagon for using RFID as a green enabler. At a conference several years ago, Walmart executives noted that by having more products in stock by using item level RFID, customers don’t have to travel to another store for the product they are looking for, saving gas and lowering their carbon footprint.

Stay tuned for our report: RFID and the Environment.

Smartrac posts record year with sales of EUR 180M; expects more strong growth for 2011

Thursday, March 31st, 2011

It’s becoming clear just how strong a year 2010 was for the RFID sector. It’s been widely reported that tag manufactures couldn’t keep up with demand in 2010, as the economy rebounded and companies began implementing RFID trials and production deployments in earnest.

Publicly traded Smartrac N.V., a manufacturer of RFID transponders based in Amsterdam, shed some light on the industry growth when it reported its financial figures for fiscal 2010 earlier today.

The firm grew sales by a robust 41 percent in 2010, reaching EUR $180.1 million. The company expects more normalcy from the market this year – albeit still double digit growth – to push sales to EUR $200M.

“The year 2010 was an exceptional one for SMARTRAC,” said said Dr. Christian Fischer in a release. “We have accomplished several strategic milestones and shaped the foundations for the future of our company,” said Dr. Christian Fischer. “However, we are also aware of the fact that certain challenges remained unsolved in 2010 and will require our full attention in 2011. For 2011, we expected Group sales to grow to EUR 200 million. In terms of profitability, we are working hard to achieve Group EBITDA margins which come back closer to past levels.”

Click here to view the full earnings report.


Michelin rolls out RFID-enabled tires for commercial fleets; U.S. may pass tire mandate

Wednesday, November 3rd, 2010

Should there ever be another tire recall incident similar to 2001 when 13 million Firestone tires on Ford Explorers were recalled, it wouldn’t be surprising to see the U.S. government act swiftly to pass legislation mandating the use of RFID to track and trace tires.

In fact, some industry insiders expect that the government may issue a mandate requiring RFID tags on the tires of all passenger vehicles regardless. After all, why wait for another massive recall? When the Ford/Firestone incident occurred, Congress seriously considered track and trace programs for tires. However, the attention of lawmakers was diverted from the topic following the 9/11 attacks and the war in Iraq.

“We were very close to [legislation] after the Ford incident but then Congress went to war,” Dr. Pat King, Michelin’s leader for electronic strategies, said at this week’s AIM Expo in Chicago. “If it weren’t for the Iraq [conflict] we’d probably have tags in tires on passenger cars today.”

King estimates that at today’s costs, RFID tags in production for tires would cost about 30 to 40 cents apiece, meaning that consumers would pay about $1 extra for each RFID-enabled tire. RFID tags in tires would allow consumers to track mileage and maintenance records, and also provide beneficial safety information on tread wear, tire pressure and warranties.

Currently, Michelin is moving quickly into RFID-enabled truck tires, especially in China and other foreign countries. RFID can help to manage the re-tread process, for example, and assure that fleet owners get the re-treads from their own fleet, not from other tires that that may not have been maintained.

“We don’t know that passenger tires will ever have RFID in them” short of a government mandate, says King. “B2B is where it’s at.”

Would you be willing to pay an extra buck a tire to gain the above benefits? Leave a comment and let us know.

Customer savings from iGPS’ RFID-enabled pallets approach $68M

Monday, October 11th, 2010

Customers of Intelligent Global Pooling Systems (iGPS), operators of the first pallet rental service providing all-plastic pallets with embedded RFID tags, have saved nearly $68 million by switching from wood to iGPS’ lightweight plastic pallets, according to the firm’s web site.

iGPS now runs a running tally of its customer’s savings on its home page.

The savings have come from a variety of sources, mostly the lighter weight of iGPS pallets (48 pounds versus wood pallet’s 75-80 pounds), allowing customers save on transport costs immediately.

“Production line shutdowns caused by nails and splintered wood that jam equipment are a thing of the past, as are warehouse floors littered with wood shards and nails,” says Bob Moore, iGPS Chairman and CEO.  “Further, unlike wood pallets that warp and shrink, we provide a consistently true 48-inch by 40-inch platform that can hold more products per load.  And since iGPS pallets are easily scanned as they depart facilities, there are no year-end surprises in the form of questionable lost equipment charges.”

Four embedded RFID tags in each pallet enable shippers and receivers to track shipments throughout the supply chain and locate products in the event of a recall.  

iGPS’ pallet provides shippers and receivers with measurable sustainability benefits as well.  An independent life cycle analysis has documented that iGPS pallets are dramatically better for the environment than both one-way and multi-use wood pallets on every commonly-measured metric, including global warming, ozone layer depletion and ecotoxicity.  Over the course of five years, iGPS customers have cumulatively prevented the destruction of over 600,000 trees, saved 635,000 gallons of fuel and saved nearly 14 million pounds of greenhouse gas emissions.

“We not only provide our customers with the world’s most advanced pallet, delivered in excellent condition, but also a platform that delivers immediate and measurable savings that go right to customers’ bottom lines,” says Moore.  “These savings — up to $2 per pallet load — have been documented through rigorous operational studies by our customers, many of the world’s leading companies.”

International RFID Congress on tap for Sept. 14-15 in Toulouse

Wednesday, June 23rd, 2010

Toulouse in September? Fall is a beautiful time to visit France. Throw in the International RFID Congress being held Sept. 14-15 and what’s not to like? The Congress is billing this event as the first event focused on RFID applications in the aeronautical, shipping, railway and automotive industries.

The event will include keynote speeches by decision makers and world leaders in the aeronautical, automotive, railway and shipping industries; business meetings and demos from providers of innovative RFID solutions; and a unique opportunity to meet and mingle with international experts and ISO officials, and to find out the latest news on ongoing work. The event will also feature a tour of the Airbus Industrial Showroom & Innovation Centre, which will demonstrate the use of Auto-ID technologies in the aeronautical industry.

The following specific topics will be discussed for each vertical:


  • In-service parts monitoring and maintenance with reliable, hard-wearing tags specially designed for harsh environments
  • Development of human and material solutions that can be adapted for either in-house or outsourced maintenance operations


  • Vehicle fleet management
  • Optimisation of assembly line flows
  • Prevention of parts counterfeiting
  • Assembly line automation


  • Automatic wagon scanning for stock-taking purposes
  • Ensuring safe management of train journeys through sensing controls
  • Maintenance of sensitive part


  • Securing containers
  • Assistance for transferring responsibilities in maintenance operations