Archive for May, 2010

RFID expected to grow for tracking and reducing carbon emissions

Thursday, May 27th, 2010

I’ve posted this week’s lead story from RFID 24-7 for those of you who don’t receive the newsletter.

As more focus is placed on environmental issues following the tragic oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico, several use cases are developing for RFID to track carbon usage, an ugly byproduct of the U.S.’ addiction to fossil fuels. In addition, RFID is actually decreasing carbon emissions in many cases. RFID is being used to help commercial buildings attain important LEED accreditation from the U.S. Green Buildings Council (USGBC). Home builders rely on RFID-tagged lumber to assure that wood used for flooring and other uses is from sustainable forests. And Wal-Mart sees RFID as a technology that can enable green stores.

But the transportation sector is emerging as the real sweet spot. The technology is credited with reducing carbon emissions by 25-30 percent when applied to idling cars waiting to exit parking lots and garages. The asset tracking market for vehicle fleets also carries excellent potential for monitoring and reducing carbon emissions.

“Over the next couple of years I think you’ll see more and more of these green programs emerging around RFID technology,” says Andrew Nathanson, director of research operations at VDC Research.

Nathanson expects the transportation and logistics industries to lead in this area.

This week, Denver-based TransCore announced a partnership with Toledo Ticket Co. to develop an RFID-based hang tag for wireless access control at entry and exit points of parking facilities. By using RFID for parking and security access control, vehicles enter and exit parking garages without stopping, improving access and limiting traffic tie-ups. The resulting reduced idling decreases carbon emission output by up to 30 percent.

TransCore has a calculation tool on its website that allows parking lot operators to determine how much carbon emissions they can eliminate by using the technology. For example, a parking garage that moves 1,000 cars a day by using a card insert system to enter and exit a lot would account for 23,980 pounds of CO2. By switching to the TransCore RFID-based system, almost 6,000 pounds of CO2 could be eliminated, equal to burning about 300 gallons of gas. By having the technology up and running at multiple lots nationally that account for 100,000 cars, RFID could eliminate about 30,000 idling hours a day, and eliminate just under 600,00 pounds of CO2, a savings of 600,000 barrels of oil.

“This is pretty interesting stuff,” says Nathanson. “With parking garages and parking lots, you are talking about decreasing idling time and faster and more efficient throughput. The result is a reduction in the overall carbon footprint.”

Wal-Mart expects to take advantage of the greater supply chain visibility provided by RFID to green its entire business, from sourcing to the store floor.

“Because RFID enables more visibility in the supply chain, you know where items are and where the bottlenecks or inefficiencies are,” says Tim Newsom, sales and marketing director, tags and labels, for NXP. “Once you remove those, you can get more product on the truck and use the fuel for getting that product to the consumer more efficiently and reduce carbon emissions. Wal-Mart understands that having better visibility in their supply chain allows them to be more efficient in supplying goods to the consumer, which reduces carbon emissions and the amount of waste.”

Office building complexes are using RFID-enabled parking lots to gain points as they pursue LEED green credits. The Molasky Corporate Center is the largest privately owned environmentally friendly building in Las Vegas, with Gold certification by the USGBC.

The building’s commitment to the environment includes the use of 150 rooftop solar panels to generate a portion of the building’s electricity, implementing recycling programs and minimizing water use. In addition, the office facility recently upgraded its parking lot to include the use of TagMaster’s Automatic Vehicle Identification (AVI) system. Sentry Control Systems installed the LEED-compatible parking system for the six-level, 1,450-space parking garage with TagMaster Readers to help reduce total carbon emissions.

The use of RFID is expected to grow dramatically when it comes to tracking carbon footprints in the supply chain as well, especially for items like apparel and electronics that are manufactured overseas and have elongated supply chains. This week NXP Semiconductors joined the European Supply Chain Institute’s Supply Chain Carbon Council, which has initiated a multi-year program promoting the application of RFID and NFC to accurately track emissions through the supply chain at the product level. The program will also highlight the application of supporting data management technologies.

Chris Feige, general manager of tagging and authentication at NXP, says that tagging printed circuit boards, for example, would enable businesses and consumers to clearly determine the environmental footprint of consumer electronic products. “Based on our advanced RFID and NFC IC solutions, we can provide substantial system know-how to further improve the visibility of product emissions in the supply chain on a global level,” he says.

Nathanson also expects heavy machinery manufacturers like Caterpillar to benefit from RFID by using the technology to monitor the overall performance of their engines and equipment in a closed loop system. By improving its visibility into the maintenance of the huge tractors that are traditionally big pollution contributors, Caterpillar can improve its overall environmental platform.

“If you are able to track that equipment and you can assure that your maintenance records are updated and that they link to the overall carbon output, the company can send a strong message to the consumer that they are environmentally sensitive,” says Nathanson. “It’s an add-on benefit from all the cost savings they get from the operational side of things.”

RFID will help to measure carbon footprint for individual items

Thursday, May 20th, 2010

Ever wonder about the carbon footprint of the pair of imported shoes you just purchased? Or the Chilean grapes you bought at the fruit store? Well, RFID is playing a greater role in carbon tracking, a movement that is bound to gain steam in the wake of the incredulous oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico. The U.S. government is already considering carbon taxes and carbon cap-and-trade programs for corporations, and is likely to accelerate that effort in the wake of the environmental disaster in the Gulf sparked by the U.S.’ still insatiable desire for oil.

This week, NXP signed on as a sponsor for the European Supply Chain Institute (ESCI) Supply Chain Carbon Council. Established in 2007, the Supply Chain Carbon Council works in partnership with global innovators from the technology and strategic advice sectors to tackle the issues surrounding carbon emissions management and reduction.

NXP’s involvement marks the start of a multiyear research and development program promoting the application of RFID/NFC applications to accurately measure the carbon footprint of individual products, as well as allowing for effective carbon labels. The program will also highlight the application of supporting data management technologies.

The program will highlight the ability of RFID and NFC-enabled applications to bring a high level of visibility to a product’s emissions output at all stages in the supply chain. ESCI leaders hope to eventually use the solution on a global scale.

“To have an interrogatable label on all products that gives the true real time emissions footprint’ of the product is invaluable to business and ultimately the consumer,” says John Connors, CEO of the European Supply Chain Institute.

VDC survey reveals outstanding growth for RFID

Wednesday, May 12th, 2010

Some great news came out of VDC Research’s RFID webcast today. The mostly upbeat presentation predicts good times ahead for RFID. Specifically, respondents in the survey — mostly tier one firms — said they spent an average of $1 million apiece on RFID technology in 2009. This year, that number is expected to grow to an average spend of $3.5 million per company, as firms expand the technology out to their entire value chain.

“That’s a tremendous uptick,” says Drew Nathanson, practice director at VDC.

What’s more impressive is that the same group of companies expect to spend almost $7 million apiece on RFID in 2011. “What you are seeing here is that scale is happening, and a lot of these applications and deployments that have been scaling at a slower pace are starting to pick up,” says Nathanson. “And the biggest companies have put budgets aside so they can scale this through the value chain.”

The other exciting aspect to the RFID growth story is that although existing customers make up a large majority of RFID sales, new customers are picking up steam and converting pilots into major deployments. By 2012, these new accounts will represent enough new business to provide momentum for the industry for many years.

“This is exciting,” says Nathanson. “This is the first time we’ve seen data tell us that new accounts will outweigh existing accounts, which means RFID is expanding into other markets and other parts of the value chain.”

Check back at RFID 24-7 for more outtakes from the VDC survey.

More on RFID use in the forestry sector

Tuesday, May 11th, 2010

A lot of readers contacted me for more details about last week’s story on tagging Koa trees in Hawaii. Now that Darrell Fox, COO at Hawaiian Legacy Hardwoods, has returned from the remote Koa plantation in on the slopes of Mauna Kea, I was able to get some answers about tagging methods.

As for how the tags are applied to the Koa trees, Fox says tags are actually embedded in tree stakes when seedlings are still in the nursery, rather than boring holes into the trees. The tree stakes are attached to the tree’s root ball in the nursery, and grows into the root structure. When the tree is old enough to be field planted, the RFID portion of the stake is just above ground level.  The firm is using UHF tags from Confidex with a 20 foot read range.

When the Koa trees reach chest height in several years, HLM will write a new tag with duplicate EPC code info and tag that tree at chest height. This time, the encapsulated tag will be placed on the outer bark on the tree surface. “We don’t want to read a tag through 12 inches of lumber,” says Fox.

Numerous use cases are developing for RFID in the forestry sector. In countries where illegal logging is common, trees are being tagged with RFID by drilling a hole and burying the tag in the tree. If those trees show up at the logging mill, officials know they are from an illegal logging operation.

Fox actually got the idea to tag Koa trees from the Precision Forestry Division at Oregon State. The group embraced RFID for a botanical walkway on campus that features a variety of historic trees. The university used to print out brochures about the trees for visitors taking tours. Now, RFID tags embedded in the trees communicate information to handheld readers that are passed out to visitors at the botanical walk.

RFID is also providing a big boost to the sustainable housing movement. As more home owners request green home construction, the logging industry can use RFID to prove that wood products were produced from sustainable forests and possess a proven chain of custody. Groups like the Forestry Stewardship Council are promoting ecologically sound forestry practices, and many home builders are required to use certified forest products.

“The green housing movement has been the biggest push for forest certification programs,” says Fox. “By using RFID technology from seedling to grave, it allows us to comply with any future forest certification requirements and to provide a sustainable product people can cont on.”

Lastly, RFID is aiding in sustainable forestry in the Pacific Northwest and in parts of South America where helicopter logging is common. In this case, workers in the forest tag specific trees selected to be harvested or thinned in heavy forests. By using active RFID tags, heli-pilots are able to locate the tree from the air, drop in labor and machinery to cut the tree, and haul it off through the air. Helicopter logging is very low-impact and avoids building logging roads and damaging delicate soil structures.

Koa tree article feedback from around the globe

Monday, May 10th, 2010

Received some great feedback from last week’s article about the use of RFID to tag individual Koa trees on a plantation on Hawaii. The RFID tree tracking database being developed by Hawaiian Legacy Hardwoods (HLH) will allow investors in the HLH Koa reforestation project to track and monitor the progress of their investment in real time. The company embedded about 20,000 RFID tags into its new crop of trees this year, and looks to increase that to 100,000 trees during the next growing season. Within two years HLH will tag at least 250,000 new trees as it moves toward planting 1.3 million Koa trees.

One comment comes from David Ong, Managing Director of  Tripro Technology Sdn Bhd. His firm is working on a pilot project to help to create a RFID system to assist the Malaysian Forestry Department to track and manage its forest inventory. “With the availability of this new RFID application, it will indeed accelerate our objective,” he says.

And the folks at I.D.ology in Wisconsin wrote to tell us that while they have been busy with tagging and micro-chipping cattle to deal with food safety concerns, they have also come up with programs to tag field crops and link the crop to a GPS originated, location specific, date and time stamp to accompany fertilization and harvesting data.

Looks like Hawaiian Legacy Hardwoods won’t be the “only ones on the planet” doing this for long!

Keep the feedback coming!

RFID will track Koa tree data at Hawaiian tree farm

Wednesday, May 5th, 2010

Tree huggers will clearly love this one. In a first-of-its kind application, Hawaiian Legacy Hardwoods (HLH) is in the process of implementing an RFID tree tracking database so that investors in the HLH Koa reforestation project can track and monitor the progress of their investments in real time. About 20,000 trees have already been tagged.

The RFID-based system, combined with sophisticated GPS technology and a plantation-wide mapping system, will soon allow investors to use tools like Google Earth to drill down on their specific sustainable lumber investment from space and to pinpoint their specific stand. HLH is way out in front of the industry on this one; company executives expect the rest of the industry to follow suit within the next 10 years.

Each Koa tree planted will be equipped with an RFID tag, meaning that each individual tree is equipped with its own computer signature, which will track ownership, growth, maintenance, lumber-yield and pedigree for the tree owner. The GPS / GIS system will locate each tree by an exact set of geographic coordinates, allowing the tree owner to locate their trees on maps and by satellite imagery.

Trees must be ordered in lots of 100. The current pre-planting price is $6,639 per 100 trees for Koa. One of the reasons for the minimum order is the very nature of the forestry management process. Trees must be pruned and thinned with only the best trees growing to full maturity. With a small number of trees this process can create statistical anomalies in yields.

“This high-tech program will give a level of comfort to forestry investors that has never been available before now,” says Jeff Dunster, CEO of Hawaiian Legacy Hardwoods.

The HLH project provides the unique opportunity for individuals and institutional investors alike to invest in Koa trees as a sustainable commodity by purchasing specific units (100 Koa trees per unit).  HLH has made it possible for this investment opportunity to be accessible to a wide range of investors and investment vehicles including trusts, IRAs and 401Ks.  While this is a 25-year project, profits are realized along the way through thinning and harvesting. HLH is currently offering tree lots for the 2010 planting season.

The HLH Plantation is located 34 miles north of Hilo, above historic Umikoa Village on the slopes of Mauna Kea. The 2,700-acre sustainable forestry project will support the growth of 1.3 million rare tropical hardwood trees, primarily Koa, indigenous only to Hawaii.

EU-funded project will demonstrate RFID use cases for small business

Wednesday, May 5th, 2010

Last month, RFID technology got a boost when the Korean government indicated that it will require half of all pharmaceuticals to carry RFID tags by 2015. Now, RFID is getting a shot in the arm from the European Union.

The EU is funding a project in six countries to measure the return on investment for RFID at small to medium sized businesses. The project will roll out this month and run for two years, conducting tests at eight locations across multiple industries. The project’s goal is to allow SME’s to fully understand and leverage the potential benefits of RFID, which allows real time data collection without physical or line of sight contact.

The project is being managed by UEAPME, the European craft and SME employers’ organization. Dubbed the “RFID-ROI-SME” project,  the goal is to boost the adoption of RFID technology by wide SME communities, while at the same time creating business opportunities for innovative RFID solution providers in the EU.  Benefits will then be disseminated to wider SME communities in the form of case studies, best practices and blueprints.

“The potential benefits of RFID technology are vast and stakeholders are becoming more and more aware of these,” says Sebastiano Toffaletti, coordinator of the project. “However, the adoption of RFID on a large scale by European SMEs has not materialized yet. The goal of our project is to facilitate this transition, by raising awareness of the potential benefits with practical examples across different countries and sectors. Not only for individual companies, but also for the European economy as a whole is it important to remain at the forefront of this technological change.”