Archive for March, 2010

Korea will tag half of all pharmaceuticals

Wednesday, March 31st, 2010

There’s big news out of Korea today, with the Korean government reporting that half of the prescription drugs in that country will carry RFID tags within five years. The report in the Korea Times says that RFID tags will be placed on drug containers by 2015 in an effort to create a wireless tracking system that enables better inventory control and a reduction in prescription mistakes. The Korean government estimates that tagging pharmaceuticals will save manufacturers about $1.6 billion annually, while also cutting down on counterfeiting.

H&M Bay deploys RFID solution at cross-docking distribution center

Tuesday, March 30th, 2010

 H&M Bay, a third-party transporter of temperature-controlled freight, has deployed RFID technology at its cross-docking distribution center in Federalsburg, Md. H&M says the install has resulted in a 25 percent reduction in cross-docking labor, allowing workers to concentrate on fulfilling customer orders instead of repetitive warehouse tasks.

H&M has realized faster truck loads and re-loads, leading to increased efficiencies. The company is utilizing a system from supply chain solutions integrator Franwell, and technology from Motorola.

“H&M Bay prides itself on its ability to deliver efficient and quality service to customers,” John Walker, software development manager for H&M Bay, said in a press release. “In order to speed up freight transfers, guarantee product freshness and reduce labor costs, we have joined forces with Motorola and Franwell to improve our delivery and inventory processes to help us meet our overall business objectives – to deliver quality and timely delivery service.”

H&M Bay moves freight in the less-than-truckload (LTL) frozen and refrigerated commodities market. Cold storage freight transfers must be stored and shipped in environments that meet stringent industry guidelines and government mandates. H&M relies on the RFID system to locate and record pallet information in real time, providing the firm with real-time visibility of inventory as it flows through the DC.

“H&M Bay approached us with a desire to develop a solution that would allow it to track inventory movement throughout its facility without impeding the flow of its workforce,” said Terri-Anne Crawford, vice president and chief operating officer at Franwell. “By deploying an RFID solution that tracks freight at the pallet level and identifies each warehouse storage location, together with the right mix of mobile devices, we were able to deliver to this objective.”

At the DC, RFID tags are placed at each storage location along with each pallet to facilitate product control and automate the tracking of inventory in the cooler and freezer storage rooms. Motorola RD 5000 mobile RFID readers detect tagged pallets and tagged storage locations, triggering H&M Bay’s automated inventory system to record when a pallet has been removed from its location and where it has been placed.

H&M Bay also turned to Motorola MC9090-G RFID handheld mobile computers to commission location tags and make initial assignments to storage locations. IN addition, forklift trucks are outfitted with RD5000 mobile RFID readers and a Motorola VC5090 vehicle-mounted mobile computer for greater ease-of-use while on the forklift, on the ground or anywhere in the DC. Motorola’s RFID industrial-class XR series readers are employed on cooler and freezer doors to detect pallet tags as they enter and exit cold storage facilities.

“We believe in combining best practices to help our customers achieve their goals and improve business productivity with our cold chain solutions,” said Mike Maris, senior director of transportation, distribution and logistics, Motorola Enterprise Mobility Solutions. “Motorola works to ensure each solution is tailored to meet everyday business objectives, helping LTL customers streamline supply chain efficiencies and improve employee effectiveness, productivity and customer service.”

The beginning of the end for bar codes?

Tuesday, March 23rd, 2010

New developments in printed RFID tags could spell the end for bar codes within five years. Researchers at Rice University and at Sunchon National University in Korea say they have designed an inexpensive, printable transmitter that can be invisibly embedded in packaging. Once a few kinks are ironed out of the technology, RFID tags could be embedded into all products at grocery stores, enabling retailers to inventory an entire store in a matter of seconds.

The research, conducted at Rice and Sunchon, was recently profiled in the March issue of the journal IEEE Transactions on Electron Devices.

Consumers leaving the store with a cart full of groceries could simply pass under a portal that would take seconds to read their items and check them out of the store, with the transaction occurring seamlessly from an RFID-enabled credit card, mobile phone or store loyalty card. As soon as the customer leaves the facility, the store’s inventory levels would adjust automatically.

“We are going to a society where RFID is a key player,” Gyou-jin Cho, a professor of printed electronics engineering at Sunchon, said in a press release. Cho expects the technology to mature in five years, at which time tags should cost no more than a penny a piece, the result of the roll-to-roll printing process that has been developed.

However, before the technology can become ubiquitous, it must overcome some challenges. For starters, researchers must find a way to reduce the paper tags by at least half their current size – or to the size of current bar codes. In addition, the tag’s range must increase dramatically.

IT asset tracking set to explode as more sectors seek RFID solutions

Wednesday, March 17th, 2010

One of the hottest sectors for RFID technology in 2010 looks to be the tagging of IT assets at financial institutions and federal agencies, where close to a million assets could carry RFID tags by year end. Almost half a million IT assets were tagged last year.

So it’s a good bet that the total number of tagged IT assets will exceed one million this year, which represents about 50 percent growth in the sector. Big banks like Wells-Fargo, Bank of America, Chase and Citibank have either already finished data center tagging projects or are in the midst of completing them. One of the largest ongoing projects is the worldwide deployment of RFID at 17 bank data centers around the world, a contract won recently by ODIN technologies, which tagged about 100,000 IT assets in 2009.

Some large banks have dozens of data centers with tens of thousands of items like servers, blades, and laptops being tagged. Banks that decide to tag items like storage tapes could add several hundred thousand more products to the mix.

Go to rfid24-7.com to read the full article.

University of Wisconsin targets RFID to track rifles and handguns

Wednesday, March 17th, 2010

The University of Wisconsin is relying on RFID technology to track the AR15 rifles and Glock handguns carried by its police force. The solution, which went live on Monday, relies on passive RFID tags applied to each weapon, and is mainly a compliance-driven solution.

The University of Wisconsin is no stranger to RFID technology. The campus opened its own RFID Research Lab in 2005, and has conducted many industry-leading trials there.

The deployment represents the first non-government weapons tracking client for ODIN technologies, an Ashburn, Va.-based full-scale RFID solutions provider that has implemented several weapons tracking solutions for government agencies.

“It’s a small police force but the important thing is they had tried to do RFID tracking before and couldn’t get it to work, so when they put out this RFP they were keenly focused on the physics and high read rates,” says ODIN founder Patrick Sweeney, author of RFID for Dummies. “So it’s very much like other folks who have started down the path of RFID and couldn’t make it work, but they’ve come back and they know what to look for now.”

The University of Wisconsin is required to track each weapon assigned to officers on every shift. Prior to RFID, the department relied on a manual process that required police officers to record information on a sign-in sheet at the start of their shift. As with any manual process, mistakes occurred frequently, especially during hectic shift changes. Tagged weapons are now associated with each officer’s security credentials.

“It’s a big way for them to save money on the compliance process because they have to go through this process on a regular basis,” says Sweeney. “It was a very laborious process. They need to make sure this information is recorded each time an officer goes through the door, so they were going back and auditing video files and everything else. This will be a lot more efficient from an operational perspective.”

The solution could be a hit with state and municipal police forces, given the budget crunch many law enforcement groups are faced with. Many municipalities have had to layoff officers because of budget cuts. Therefore, increased productivity is crucial.

“We’re getting a lot of interest in this already,” says Sweeney. “It’s something we’ve developed a very specific solution for.”

Item-level provider TAGSYS raises $12M in venture funding

Tuesday, March 16th, 2010

The investment community continues to channel cash into the RFID sector. The latest beneficiary, item-level RFID infrastructure provider TAGSYS, has pulled in $12 million from five investors. The announcement follows those from Alien Technology, which raised $10.9 million, and RTLS provider Awarepoint, which raised $10 million.

TAGSYS marketing director Maria Kaganov says the new funding will help the firm to expand its distribution channels, assist partners in securing new markets, and allow TAGSYS to continue to develop UHF and HF solutions optimized for item-level applications for a variety of markets including library, textile services, brand and fashion and healthcare. Specifically, Kaganov sees the funding helping to expand the firm’s retail solutions into the U.S. market, and its textile solutions into the Middle East and Asia.

TAGSYS’ business model provides complete purpose-built infrastructure to customers, and has led to wins in several major applications during the last 12 months, including item-level supply chain projects in the fashion sector with Rica Lewis and Serge Blanco. The companies use TAGSYS solutions to track millions of clothing items, and to manage in-store inventory at leading European retailers including Carrefour, Auchan and Intermarché.

“After years of over-hyped expectations, the RFID market has reached a stage of maturity where customers are focused on the proven tangible benefits of RFID and using practical, real-world solutions to gain competitive operational advantage,” Bernard Vogel, of venture firm Endeavour Vision, said in a press release. “Industry leading RFID solutions-based companies such as TAGSYS are at the forefront in delivering this competitive advantage to leading companies around the globe.”

FloraHolland orders 250K passive tags from Omni-ID

Monday, March 15th, 2010

Omni-ID has won an order for about 250,000 RFID tags from FloraHolland, a horticulture and flower industry auctioneer. The firm will use the tags to tag and track trolleys that transport flowers and plants throughout the supply chain. Omni-ID partner Mieloo & Alexander, business integrators specializing in RFID-enabled process improvement, co-developed the complete UHF RFID solution to meet FloraHolland’s requirements.

As part of a redesign of 270,000 auction trolleys used for logistical processes throughout FloraHolland’s entire supply chain, every auction trolley will be tagged with passive UHF RFID tags over the next two-and-a-half years.

Omni-ID’s Max ABS tags showed near-perfect read rates near water-filled buckets, in a high humidity environment, and with obstructed line-of-sight visibility of the tags.

Tom Pavela, Omni’s CEO, says that his firm is expanding into a number of new markets after solidifying a stronghold in the IT asset tracking sector. “Omni-ID’s ultimate goal is to revolutionize business and demonstrate immediate customer benefits, regardless of market,” says Pavela. “By using Omni-ID RFID tags to provide greater insight into its supply chain and the real-time state of its trolleys, FloraHolland will be able to continue its reputation as a high-quality auction network with the most cost-effective model.”

Senate leaders urged to consider tracking technology in food safety reform

Friday, March 12th, 2010

The chief executive officer at iGPS is urging the U.S. Senate to mandate the latest tracking technology in legislation pending to overhaul the nation’s food safety law.

Bob Moore, chairman & CEO of iGPS, says that cost-effective technology that allows products to be traced through the U.S. supply chain might have helped contain the spread of hydrolyzed vegetable protein products contaminated with Salmonella.

The list of recalled products containing the contaminated HVP has now topped 100, according to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA), and is expected to grow as the popular food additive is found in everything from soups, sauces, chili, stews, hot dogs, gravies, chips, dips and dressings.

“Fresh on the heels of the nationwide Tylenol recall, this HVP recall once again illustrates the need for tighter controls in the U.S. food supply chain,” Moore said in a prepared press release. “In this case, we see how one common ingredient can disrupt the nation’s food supply and potentially threaten millions of people. We hope this reality will hasten Senate consideration of product tracking technology and action on critically important food safety legislation.

The Senate has not yet scheduled action on the food safety bill, which the House passed overwhelmingly last year.

iGPS operates the world’s first pallet rental service providing manufacturers with lightweight, recyclable all-plastic pallets embedded with RFID tags.  Unlike the more than one billion wood pallets in circulation, the RFID tags in iGPS plastic pallets allow products to be easily traced at numerous points along the supply chain, providing a way to pinpoint and contain contaminated products.

Alien unveils new reader at Global User & Partner Conference

Wednesday, March 10th, 2010

Alien Technology used its 2010 Global User & Partner Conference to unveil its ultra-high performance Gen 2 enterprise category reader platform yesterday. The ALR-9900+ is a global enterprise category reader platform with significant performance and feature improvements over its predecessor, the ALR-9900.

Alien’s Conference, held adjacent to its RFID Solutions Center in Dayton, Ohio, drew approximately 150 users from 20 countries.

The ALR-9900+ supersedes all previous regional-specific enterprise category readers with an operational frequency band ranging from 866MHz (Europe, Middle East & Africa) to 954MHz (Japan). The ALR-9900+ is the parent model to the recently announced ALR-9900-EMA, which was specifically designed for compliance with the new ETSI EN 302-208-2 regulatory compliance standards, more commonly known as ‘the four-channel-plan’.

New technological advancements led to a global reader architecture, enabling a single hardware platform to be factory configurable to accommodate world-wide regional compliance profiles. Additionally, numerous new developments resulted in significant performance improvements as well as incorporation of several innovative features, further complementing the industry leading Alien Higgs™-3 RFID tag IC, bolstering security and authentication applications and supporting all extended and customized Higgs-3 IC features.

Beyond the advantages of a global hardware platform, the key differentiating attributes of the ALR-9900+ over its ALR-9900 predecessor include a vastly improved receiver circuit design with multiple stages of configurable digital filters and high gain, low distortion amplifiers, resulting in a dramatically more sensitive receiver. This best-in-class design provides more read range margin, most advantageous for applications using ultra-high sensitivity tags in challenging environments at extreme distance or where tag backscatter signals are constrained due to sub-optimum conditions, including use with smaller item level tags which often have limited performance.

So much for free beer!

Tuesday, March 9th, 2010

Those complementary beers at the bar might be a thing of the past.  A new RFID- enabled solution from Clear View Technologies is designed to track alcohol so specifically that it can register changes in bottle weight by 1/20 of an ounce.

Although the alcohol monitoring system is far more ideal for expensive top shelf liquors than a bottle of Bud, it could also be applied to kegs of beer, for example, to confirm that revenue matches the numbers of beers dispensed.  A keg of beer yields about 165 12-ounce glasses of beer. (See, I did learn something in college!) At $3 apiece, projected revenue from a keg is $495. A bartender could find himself in hot water if he shows significantly less revenue on a key that is tracked with RFID technology.

According to Clear View Technologies, the alcohol beverage operations of nightclubs, bars, hotels, casinos and sports venues have historically suffered from inventory and margin loss far exceeding any other business sector. Studies have shown inventory losses up to $37 billion annually, with pouring costs averaging 25 percent across the industry, according to the National Restaurant Association.

Clear View Technologies says its RFID-enabled BarMaster solution will increase the value of the business and yield a return on investment many times over by immediately reducing losses due to theft, shrinkage, sales fraud and improper free-pour behavior, while reducing time spent on inventory.