Archive for June, 2010

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Wednesday, June 30th, 2010

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RFID in retail; do you believe?

Tuesday, June 29th, 2010

VDC Research analyst Drew Nathanson certain does. Check out the comments below from this week’s blog about RFID and the retail sector. It appears the time has come for RFID, with transponder volumes in retail exceeding 2 billion units by 2014.

From Drew’s blog:

“Back in the early days of RFID, in particular the beginnings of the EPC market, it was easy for the RFID community to perceive that the market was evolving much faster than it actually was due to highly pervasive media hype, rogue evangelism, a continued stream of account win announcements and an overselling campaign of the technology’s value proposition and business models. My mantra during those years was simply, “Don’t Believe the Hype.” The reality of the situation was that the RFID industry was still embryonic and not quite ready to live up to the image the media created.

We are in another round of hype and evangelism, but this time, it appears to be real. I’m specifically talking about the retail market for RFID. I’m a conservative analyst that invokes a logical, primary research dependent process to develop highly reliable estimates and forecasts. The only time I deviate from my conservative approach is when there is significant evidence that supports it…now is one of those times.”

VDC Survey: RFID decisions being made at the ops level; respondents will triple RFID spend in 2010

Tuesday, June 29th, 2010

There are some interesting changes occurring when it comes to buying patterns for RFID technology. Long considered an IT decision for many enterprises, more and more buying decisions are being made by operations executives.

In his annual survey on RFID operations, Drew Nathanson, practice director at VDC Research, notes that 19 percent of corporate influencers are now at the operations level. That number is up dramatically from 9 percent a year ago. Almost one-third of buying decisions are still made within IT, while 11.3 percent of decisions are made at the C-level, a number which is also dropping.

But clearly, the RFID spend is diverting from the IT department.

“That shifting to operations is huge,” says Nathanson. “This used to be about IT and how are we going to support this new data collection tool and what do with all this information? Now, the strategy has shifted to firm’s knowing they can support RFID in their infrastructure, so what are they going to do with it and who is going to run it and make sure they get the right solutions that provide the best overall return. And that falls to the ops people.”

Nathanson says that most CEOs and high-level execs are basing decisions on the recommendation of their manufacturing ops people, as long as IT can support the technology. In addition, 17.9 percent of corporate influencers are in the logistics/distribution/shipping and receiving area. In addition, most decisions re mad eat corporate headquarter locations.

In May, Nathanson revealed that the mostly tier one firms in the survey 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. What’s more impressive is that the same group of companies expect to spend almost $7 million apiece on RFID in 2011.

CORPORATE INFLUENCERS
Executive (CEO, President, Owner, SVP, EVP …) 11.3%
Manufacturing/Operations 19.0%
IT 32.7%
Logistics/Distribution/Shipping & Receiving 17.9%
Quality Control/Quality Assurance 2.4%
Security 7.1%
Compliance 3.0%
Product/Project Directors/Managers 6.5%
Other (Specify) _____________) 0.0%

Xerafy video demonstrates in-metal tag

Monday, June 28th, 2010

Pretty cool stuff. Xerafy recently created a new set of RFID embedded tag samples in partnership with , which will help people see how Xerafy’s unique RFID tag technology can actually be embedded into metal and still read. Check out the video here.

New Zealand supply chain, smart meters will gain from increased spectrum

Thursday, June 24th, 2010

Emerging smart meter deployments and supply chain applications that rely on RFID will both benefit from a move to make more radio spectrum available for new and emerging commercial technologies in New Zealand. The report in the New Zealand National Business Review states that (RFID) systems such as those used in supply chain management and radio mesh networks used for smart metering will both benefit from the changes. The full report can be read at this link.

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:

Aeronautics

  • 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

Automotive

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

Railways

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

Shipping

  • Securing containers
  • Assistance for transferring responsibilities in maintenance operations

Why the U.S. won’t fund RFID research

Monday, June 21st, 2010

For those of you that didn’t see last week’s newsletter, here is the lead story.

In March, Patrick Sweeney joined two dozen small business executives at the White House to watch President Obama sign a job stimulation bill for small businesses.

As he stood in the Rose Garden, Sweeney, the CEO of ODIN technologies in Ashburn, Va., thought about how nice it would be if more government funding was directed toward RFID and other technologies with game-changing potential for industry. Government-backed research grants could provide a much-needed additional push for RFID technology.

But as the European Union and other countries continue to heavily fund RFID research and pilot programs, U.S.-based RFID providers are mostly on their own. Sure, there are isolated government backed initiatives through NIST and the Department of Defense, but that funding doesn’t come close to matching the support technology providers receive overseas.

“It’s very disappointing,” says Kathleen Carroll, director of government relations at HID Global. “It’s interesting to me that Europe is ahead of us not only in looking at policy issues on RFID, but also in the implementation of RFID and in looking at different ways to deploy it.”

Most recently, the EU announced a plan to fund research to measure the return on investment for RFID when it comes to small and medium size businesses in Europe. That’s exactly the kind of initiative that would further drive RFID usage in the U.S. Earlier this year, Korea gave RFID a shot in the arm when it announced that more than 50 percent of pharmaceuticals in that country will need to carry RFID tags by 2015.

The EU project began in May and will run for two years, conducting tests at eight locations in six countries across multiple industries. The project’s goal is to allow SME’s to fully understand and leverage the potential benefits of RFID.

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.

In addition, the EU sponsored the recently-concluded two-year BRIDGE project, designed to address ways to resolve the barriers to the implementation of RFID and EPCglobal technologies. Those kinds of initiatives in the U.S. could help a host of small enterprises that believe RFID is out of reach do to pricing and scaling concerns.

“I don’t think we’ll ever see anything where the government funds technology research within private companies,” says Sweeney, whose company has numerous contracts with the DOD. “It’s a very different model between the U.S. and Europe. The whole purpose of the EU research is to figure how these solutions can scale and change the way small businesses work. The U.S. would never attempt to something that bold.”

In fairness, there are some examples of government working with the industry. When UMass-Lowell broke ground on its $70 million Emerging Technologies and Innovation Center this month, it did so with a stash of grant money, albeit from the state of Massachusetts, not the federal government. The Center’s primary focus will be on RFID technology.

And the Commerce Department has been fairly active working with the EU on RFID pilots, including the Lighthouse Project. Last year, SecureRF Corp. was awarded a Phase II Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) grant from the National Science Foundation to develop a secure RFID tag for the pharma supply chain. SecureRF received $500,000. Other SBIR grants have been awarded to RFID firms in the past.

But while European firms rely on federal money, most of the research centered in the U.S. originates in the DOD and at universities like MIT and the University of Arkansas, which both have thriving RFID labs. In fact, the number of universities with RFID programs is growing rapidly. Rutgers University recently launched an RFID center in a partnership with Tagsource.

“It absolutely has to happen at the university level,” says Michael Ohanian, the former president of Intermec Technologies who is still active as an industry consultant. “But we need collaboration with industry. If these universities don’t get some funding, they can’t do anything.” Ohanian points to the RFID Solutions Center in Dayton , Ohio, a collaboration with several universities that received federal and state funding, as well as private money from Alien Technology. “That’s the kind of collaboration and funding that you need,” he says.

In addition to university-sponsored research, the federal government will continue to fund projects through the DOD, which also partners with universities. UMass- Lowell recently received $4 million to advance nanomanufacturing research and development, mostly for applications that will protect soldiers from biological and chemical substances during warfare.

“There will continue to be a combination between academia and the DOD,” says Sweeney. “Historically, most of the big technology breakthroughs in the U.S. have come out of the DOD or NIST, the Internet and GPS being prime examples. That’s because those developments end up being breakthrough technologies that dramatically change the battle field, as opposed to something that will help a small business to run more efficiently.”

That’s something the U.S. government might want to examine further if it is to maintain its foothold as a leader in innovation, technology and business.

MIT Enterprise Forum RFID meeting

Monday, June 14th, 2010

A number of RFID enthusaists turned out for Monday night’s MIT Enterprise Forum featuring business leaders in the Auto ID and Sensing field. Stay tuned to this blog for editorial coverage of the event.

The panelists pictured in this photo (left to right) include Steve Miles, Research Scientist, MIT Senseable City Laboratory; Research Affiliate, MIT Auto-ID Laboratory; Prof. Charles Kochakian, Merrimack College RFID Training Center; and Prof. Ramaswamy Nagarajan, UMass Lowell Nanotechnology Center. The event was moderated by Michael Ohanian, former President of Intermec Technologies.

RFID saves the oil and gas industry millions

Friday, June 4th, 2010

Motorola and Field Technologies Online hosted an informative webinar on the use of RFID in oil and gas applications this week. The webinar speakers say that the increased visibility provided by RFID in extremely difficult working conditions can save the oil and gas industry tens of millions annually.

“Because I can see this information very quickly, it provides me visibility to where my assets are and visibility gives you a lot of great positive business benefits,” says John Rommel, senior manager of RFID channel development at Motorola. “RFID lets you know where your people are,  where your consumable materials are,  where your valuable assets are, what is inside containers and what has been inspected and not inspected. If you need a piece of drill pipe and it’s not on the rig and you need to shut down the rig until you get it, we all know the consequences of that.”

Konrad Konarski, co-founder of the RFID Oil & Gas Solution Group Consortium and president of Merlin Concepts & Technology, says that RFID is saving the oil and gas industry tens of millions annually. He points out that applications at the well site are the sweet spot, with RFID contributing toward $80 million in savings annually.

At the well site, for example, RFID allows workers to lower or remove pipes from a well and to associate them to that particular well. RFID documents how long a pipe has been in place in the well, how deep it was placed in the well, which then allows you to track inspection data and drill strength, and how much wear and tear that pipe has been exposed to.

“This type of technology, although not as prevalent as it should be, is growing within the sector and is bringing the industry into the next generation of identification,” says Konrad.

Another $80 million is being saved at laydown yards, huge storage areas for piping that needs to be carefully identified for various jobs. Throw in anther $50 million in savings for service centers, and the total annual savings could reach $210 million.

“Once a part is commissioned, it goes  to laydown yard – essentially stack of pipes sitting around,” says Konarski. “By looking at these pipes, you may not be able to identify one from another, but they are completely different and designed for different environments.”

Lockheed realigns Savi division

Wednesday, June 2nd, 2010

Interesting news out of Lockheed Martin today. The firm initiated several actions designed to reshape its portfolio and strengthen its performance over the long term, including realigning its Readiness & Stability Operations (RSO) and Savi Technology with Lockheed’s Simulation, Training and Support (STS) unit under Electronic Systems. The new line of business will be named Global Training and Logistics, a closer fit for the breadth of its products and services and the international scope of its business.

Read the full press release here.