Archive for April, 2010

Final thoughts on RFID Live

Thursday, April 22nd, 2010

Bumped into industry analyst Michael Liard on the flight back to Boston following RFID Live last week. It’s always great to get post-show opinions from the experts, so I thought I would share our conversation.

But before I get there, my first impression of the show was just how much things have changed since last year. Live was simply depressing last year. It wasn’t the show’s fault, but the economic time we were in. Nothing was happening. We’re not out of the hole, but things are certainly trending up, especially in RFID. The tech sector continues to rebound, as witnessed by financial results this week from Apple and Microsoft, which reported record earnings on Thursday.

In general, the product news and partnerships that came out of Live this year were of high value for the industry.  It was interesting to see vendors sharing booth space and collaborating on RFID solutions during presentations and panel discussions. The partnership between ODIN and Savi is one great example.

“We witnessed ecosystems of partners sharing booth/exhibit space to demonstrate and showcase total solutions while others shared presentations, panels, and press releases as collaborators on market messaging,” said Liard, RFID practice director for ABI Research. “It was good to see an emphasis on partner-based end-to-end solutions in several conversations, conference sessions, and on the show floor.  And, according to many exhibitors and ‘non-end-user’ attendees, end user traffic, interest, and awareness levels were high.”

Liard noted that RFID Live also demonstrated a growing emphasis on RFID as a complement to other auto ID, sensing, and location input technologies that can be integrated into enterprise operations.

“Within RFID technology itself there are several types of technologies than can be leveraged together: passive, active, and/or semi-active (battery assisted passive),” says Liard. “Each has its unique features and capabilities to satisfy specific end-user requirements and business objectives. And, RFID is increasingly converging and co-existing with other technologies such as barcode, sensors, Wi-Fi, WLAN, cellular, GPS, M2M, etc.

“In addition, some of the market messages communicated at RFID Live provided further evidence that an increasing number of ISVs, platform providers, and systems integrators have adopted a technology agnostic approach to solutions development. In my opinion, embracing the ‘RFID is not a silo viewpoint’ and enabling partner-based end-to-end solutions are critical to pushing the RFID industry forward.”

Let us know your thoughts on the show!

Savi and ODIN announce partnership; is there more to the deal?

Thursday, April 15th, 2010

I just returned from a press conference with ODIN technologies and Savi, who are partnering to offer the first and most comprehensive software platform leveraging both passive and active RFID technologies.

Here’s the big question. If ODIN and Savi are such a great match, why not merge? The deal makes me wonder if the first contact Savi made with ODIN was in the form of a buyout offer.

But it’s probably not the right time for ODIN to sell. For starters, the company is on fire, having announced five deals in six months, including renewing its contract with Airbus and an asset tracking solution with Dell Direct. So it’s easy to see why ODIN founder and CEO Patrick Sweeney would rather go along for the ride, especially as the RFID sector heats up once again.

Additionally, it’s a good bet that ODIN would fetch far more value in a few years when it is viewed as more of a software firm than a services provider. Then, don’t be surprised if a company like IBM or Motorola were to scoop up ODIN. Also, don’t be surprised to see ODIN file for an initial public offering in 12-18 months if current increases in revenue remain constant.

Check back for more in-depth coverage of the ODIN-Savi partnership and what it means to the industry.

Airbus outlines process improvements from RFID

Wednesday, April 14th, 2010

Carlo Nizam, head of value chain visibility and RFID for Airbus, provided updates on several RFID initiatives at today’s general session at RFID Live. RFID has greatly helped Airbus at several of its European operations. In Hamburg, Germany, Airbus turned to RFID to keep track of 800 container shipments. Airbus utilizes just-in-time manufacturing, so there is typically little or no reserve stock for many parts.

“We needed to make sure each container was delivered to the right place, the first time and every time,” said Nizam. By using RFID and installing 100 readers at the facility, Airbus was able to reduce the number of containers by eight percent. “That pays for the project and puts money back in our pockets as well,” said Nizam.

Airbus is also using RFID to provide visibility for tool management. The manufacturer uses more than 500,000 tools company wide, and each tool is required to be booked-in and booked-out when in use. Lost tools need to be hunted down, often a laborious process. In addition, tools need to be repaired and calibrated, which is done manually with bar codes.

“Visibility is not reliable and we don’t know how many times a certain tool has been used from a calibration standpoint,” said Nizam. “So we repair them every four months regardless of how often they are used, and that costs lot of money. Using RFID allows us to book-in and book-out tools and to use more of a fixed time basis for repair and calibration based on a usage basis.”

The solution, which helps to manage the mandated tool maintenance schedule, was initially used to tag tens of thousands of tools at an Airbus plant in the UK, and is now being duplicated at plants around the world.

Nizam said Airbus’ most exciting RFID project centers around using active ultra wideband RFID technology to track work in progress at plants around the world.

“We want a real-time view of our work in progress across multiple sites across the world,” he said. To achieve that, Airbus is adding active tags onto major component assemblies. By knowing where components are at all times, Airbus can quickly track work in progress and measure delivery needs for each plant in real time.

“By having all this information we can compare it against the targets we set in our software programs,” said Nizam. “Should there be too much inventory or a process violation, it is flagged in real time.”

The system is not complete yet, but is on target to be live in June.

Impinj readers certified for Mexico’s electronic vehicle registration program

Wednesday, April 14th, 2010

The Mexican government has certified Impinj’s Speedway Revolution reader for purchase by state agencies and the automotive industry in compliance with the electronic vehicle registration initiative of the country’s public vehicle registry, Registro Publico Vehicular (REPUVE). All cars, trucks, buses and other public vehicles — as well as auto manufacturers and importers — must participate in the countrywide vehicle identification program, which requires Gen 2 tags to be placed on all new vehicles by July 2010.

Mexico’s EVR program aims to tag all 25 million vehicles in the country by the end of next year. RFID 24-7 reported on the program last month.

The Speedway Revolution reader, featuring patented AutopilotTM technology, will encode the required sanctioned Gen 2 tags placed on vehicle windshields. In addition, Mexico-based label stock converter Digilogics is developing software to exploit the unique capabilities of the Speedway Revolution reader for uses beyond the REPUVE REPUVE program, including in warehouse management systems (WMS) and other critical business processes.

“Many potential customers contacted Digilogics because they were not satisfied with the quality and performance of currently available RFID reader products,” said Luca Pastorello, partner at Digilogics. “Impinj’s Speedway Revolution delivered the performance and reliability necessary for the demanding requirements of this project across the entire spectrum of users, including automotive manufacturers, state data and verifying centers and installations on roads and motorways.”

RFID tracks attendees at RFID Live event in Orlando

Wednesday, April 14th, 2010

Just arrived at RFID Live in Orlando, where my RFID-enabled conference badge will track my whereabouts at the show and help exhibitors track visitors to their booth and educational session speakers to see who attended their track. UPM Raflatac and Lygase RFID Solutions introduced the new system, which provides real-time, instantly actionable information on attendee behavior and other key variables.

The Smart Events™ system solves critical business challenges for four key groups of event stakeholders, including venue owners, exhibitors, event organizers and attendees. Venue ownersd are able to use the technology to track employees and assets, reducing the theft of valuable items.

Event organizers can provide exhibitors with real-time data or end-of-day performance reports, generating new fee streams while making a powerful business case for high cost corporate sponsorships and exhibitor packages. In addition, the solution allows event organizers to provide onsite security at a reduced cost.

Exhibitors can elect to pay for access to unprecedented event data such as the number and corporate affiliation of their booth visitors, the times of day or portions of their booths that were busiest and  booth dwell times. Lead capture reports are generated with scores, which provide sales personnel with quantifiable data so they can determine the prospects with whom to follow up with highest priority.

So I guess it’s no longer possible to escape from conventions any more. Maybe my badge will track my time when I duck out of the show for a mid-day run!

Conair commits to 20 million tags

Wednesday, April 14th, 2010

Invengo has signed a contract with USA ID, a division of consumer product giant Conair, to provide at least 20 million RFID labels per year. The contract represents the biggest deal yet for Invengo outside of China, and will help Conair and Invengo launch new services for apparel and garment tracking.

Invengo will design and manufacturer the labels for worldwide distribution. The current inlay design utilizes the Impinj Monza 3 chip, but plans are being drawn up to convert to Impinj’s new Monza 4 chip, unveiled in February.

The inlay was developed by Invengo with outline designs provided by USA ID. The labels will be manufactured at Invengo’s headquarters in Shenzhen, where they will then be distributed around the world.

Conair is a leader in RFID adoption, and its own subsidiary, USA ID, was formed to design RFID best practices for the Conair supply chain. Conair has been using tags from this unit on its own product lines — including Cuisinart, Conair and Waring Pro — for several years. RFID has helped Conair’s supply chain to become more efficient and secure from the point of manufacture to the retailer.

USA ID offers RFID inlays and tags to other suppliers, manufacturers, and retailers worldwide.

“Conair has always viewed the use of RFID as a key technology, which is set to bring major cost savings and security benefits to the logistics and inventory tracking processes,” says John Mayorek, president of Conair/USA ID. “It did not take us long to prove the benefits of RFID tagging within our own Conair operations, and to decide to open our own subsidiary focusing on RFID. From there we looked to develop a tag that would fit the performance and price targets required for tagging products that would move across the globe; from the point of manufacture to the retail store point of sale.

“Although USA ID is more than capable to manufacture its own RFID products, we still felt that it would be prudent to work alongside an established global RFID manufacturer such as Invengo. We were seeking a company that could point to a solid financial record, displayed evidence of strong RFID innovation, could work to very high quality standards, and was able to produce the products to the performance levels and in the quantities that we need and demand.”

Major deals on tap for RFID Live show

Tuesday, April 13th, 2010

As I prepare to head to sunny Orlando for the annual RFID Live event, it seems like the industry is healthier than ever. In the days leading up to the event, I’ve been privy to some embargoed announcements that will have a major impact on the industry. The announcements are more plentiful than ever, reach across broad industry platforms, and for the most part are of major significance, as opposed to the fluff releases typical with many conferences.

Stay tuned to the RFID 24-7 blog over the next few days to keep updated on these announcements and other major happenings at RFID Live. Many of these qualify as ground-breaking deals.

Wednesday morning we’ll bring you news of a multi-million tag deal in the consumer goods sector. That announcement will be followed by a game-changing software licensing agreement on Thursday.