Archive for December, 2010

Here’s why Best Buy should re-consider item-level RFID tagging

Thursday, December 30th, 2010

 I’m not sure why Best Buy has de-emphasized its item level tagging program, but here’s one reason why execs at the electronics chain should seriously think about pursuing it again. It’s called greater inventory visibility.

The day after Christmas I arrived at Best Buy to return a 26-inch Samsung flat screen that came out of the box on Christmas Day with a one-inch gauge across the screen. (that’s a discussion for another day, but what happened to quality checks?)

My Best Buy store associate quickly advised me that “our inventory is so messed up” and then, after waiting several minutes, informed me that they had no more TVs of that model in stock. Given their hazy-at-best inventory visibility, I couldn’t help but think that the model I needed was buried in the stock room somewhere.

Their suggestion was to drive about 15 miles to their nearest store. “It looks like they have three or four in stock,” the associate told me. Again, not an overwhelming vote of confidence for their inventory management system. With a blizzard about to hit the Boston area, driving 15 miles wasn’t an option anyway. So I asked the store manager to replace the damaged unit with the next model up, which features newer LED technology. He agreed to do so, although it cost me a few more bucks.

So here’s the Best Buy gain id RFID had been in use. For starters, the entire returns process would have been seamless. The 10 minutes or so that the store associate spent locating inventory could have been spent serving customers on the day after Christmas – a very busy buying day. That likely equated to lost revenue. And if the store associate could have guaranteed  me that the item was in stock at another store, I may have made the drive there. Instead, they sold me a highly discounted TV at a loss.

Survey: Medical device manufacturers pursue RFID technology

Tuesday, December 28th, 2010

When it comes to content creation to drive traffic to the web, nobody understands it better than ODIN. The firm just completed a survey of major medical device manufacturers, which revealed some interesting trends about RFID adoption. The best news? Just over 60 percent of respondents say that they expect to start their next RFID project within six months. Click here to visit the ODIN blog and to view the survey results.

Impinj RFID solution helps French jewelry chain CLEOR improve inventory accuracy

Tuesday, December 21st, 2010

RFID is proving to be a gem of a solution for French jeweler CLEOR, which has implemented RFID to improve its supply chain and all facets of its retail operations. The system powered by Impinj is in place throughout its 50 stores, which move nearly one million pieces of jewelry a year. The extremely scalable project took just eight months from tag selection to deployment in the first 10 stores.

The chain-wide “Powered by Impinj” RFID solution has significantly improved inventory accuracy and supply chain efficiency.  Since implementing RFID, the company has benefitted from reduced out-of-stocks, decreased stock levels, lower operating costs and measurably increased sales volume. Specifically, an inventory control process that used to require four days now requires only four hours and reduces damage by eliminating physical handling of jewelry.

“System integrators once viewed jewelry as difficult to tag with RFID, but Frequentiel and Tageos have overcome the challenges typical of reading small metal objects to deliver an elegant solution for CLEOR,” said Scot Stelter, senior director of marketing at Impinj, Inc. “We expect this market will grow rapidly now that our partners have demonstrated a solution with compelling ROI.”

The RFID solution developed by Frequentiel, a systems integrator, and Tageos, a manufacturer of RFID labels and antennas, employs multiple read points throughout the supply chain including:

  • Shipment Receiving: Impinj Speedway® Revolution readers with Tageos Cube antennas read incoming bags, each containing 100 pieces of RFID tagged jewelry.  The automated shipment receiving process dramatically reduces time spent inspecting jewelry at the DC/warehouse, resulting in considerable cost savings and increased inventory accuracy.
  • Delivery Verification: Store employees verify receipt of jewelry packed in small plastic bags using Speedway Revolution readers and Tageos mat antennas.  The RFID solution decreases time spent verifying stock delivery and increases store inventory accuracy.
  • On-Shelf Inventory: Employees use handheld readers based on Impinj Indy® reader chips and Tageos paddle antennas to frequently inventory items on store shelves in only four hours.

Click here to review a case study outlining the challenges faced and solutions created by Frequentiel, Tageos and Impinj.

Fujitsu and Boeing form strategic alliance; RFID will assist in aircraft maintenance services

Monday, December 20th, 2010

Boeing, a longtime leader when it comes to introducing RFID to the aviation sector, will roll out a new system for airlines that will allow them to utilize RFID when it comes to conducting maintenace operations and other procedures on planes. Boeing plans to launch the service in the first quarter of 2012.

Boeing has established a strategic alliance with Fujitsu to develop the service to enable greater efficiency in aircraft maintenance operations, relying mostly on RFID technology and contact memory buttons (CMB). Airlines will be able to use these technologies without needing to retrofit their own fleets.

By using RFID, airlines can lessen costs by reducing inventory and manual data entry errors without having to create new processes. For example, Boeing has already proven that RFID can be used to test and inspect the oxygen devices that are embedded above each passenger seat. And at the AIM Expo event held in Chicago in October, Boeing’s Ken Porad noted that maintenance personnel can inspect all of the life jackets stored under passenger seats in about six minutes. Previsouly, it took two people one hour to check all of the floatation devices on a single plane. That’s just one of more than 200 use cases that Boeing has identified for use in airline production and maintenance.

Click here to read about RFID 24-7’s previous coverage of RFID in the airline industry.

Under the new alliance, Fujitsu will provide Boeing with a globally-shared platform that includes automated identification technology devices, device readers, software applications and a system integration and deployment service. Boeing will tailor solutions for each customer’s needs, integrate those solutions into the customer’s operational environment and establish a long-range plan that will expand automated identification technology solutions across the customer’s enterprise. The service will be available for Boeing and non-Boeing fleets and will be rapidly adaptable to any customer.

“We have been working with Boeing for more than five years to promote RFID implementation in the aviation industry and we are very excited to start this project jointly,” said Mitsutoshi Hirono, corporate vice president, Fujitsu Limited.

The Boeing Transformation Service will enable customers to better manage aircraft components, equipment, and materials by retrofitting them with automated identification technology devices, allowing automated data management and highly visible supply chain related maintenance processes. Prior to the launch of the new service in early 2012, the service will undergo three phases of beta testing through deployment with a launch customer.

“We see an opportunity for the aviation industry that surpasses past expectations,” said Per Norén, vice president, Boeing CAS Information Services. “Airline customers will greatly improve their operation efficiency from this service as a result of Boeing and Fujitsu entering the market together.”

In the not to distance future, Boeing will likely embed as many as 3,000 RFID tags on each airplane it manufactures. Boeing has 52 different RFID projects running at its facilities in Long Beach, Calif., Seattle, Philadelphia and St. Louis, where Boeing makes F18s. The RFID pilots involve shipping and receiving, managing tools, work in process, managing assets and much more.

One of Boeing’s most successful pilot’s to date involves a refrigerated RFID cabinet that stores the sealants it uses during the manufacturing process. RFID solved a major pain point for Boeing in that mechanics usually reached for the freshest tube of sealant, meaning that tubes with older dates were thrown away. It’s similar to reach for the freshest dated milk when grocery shopping.

By affixing an RFID tag to every tube if sealant, Boeing is able to track each one, curing dating problems and saving thousands of dollars associated with throwing away expired product. In addition, RFID assures that the proper product is used during installation.

“The whole process out of control,” says Porad. “By using RFID tags it took the human intervention out. The ROI was within one month. It’s been a fantastic solution for us, and we are replicating that for every storage freezer at Boeing’s facilities.” 

Click here to read about Airbus’ use of active ultra wideband RFID to track work-in-progress.

Latest issue of RFID 24-7

Wednesday, December 15th, 2010

West coast retailer prepares to deploy active
RFID-enabled customer loyalty cards
full article

The holiday shopping season is here, and long lines are a staple at stores everywhere. Imagine how nice it would be to breeze through the checkout counter with no delays, as store clerks scanned all of your items with a single swipe of their RFID reader, and you paid for them with a simple swipe of your mobile phone.

A host of consumer-facing changes are making their way into the retail world, mostly driven by RFID and even 2D bar coding. Retailers continue to embrace item level tagging, allowing a stack of goods to be scanned with a single swipe of a reader, rather than scanning the bar code of each individual item. And a number of apps go way beyond the checkout counter, and include unique ways to engage customers.

Early next year, a west coast retailer will begin piloting RFID-enabled customer loyalty cards. The first-ever, credit-card-sized active RFID tag is readable at more than 20 feet when placed in a wallet, and will be piloted at several stores in California. “The return-on-investment is very compelling right now,” Jayant Ramchandani, the COO of solution provider Novitaz, told a gathering at the MIT Enterprise Forum in Cambridge last month.

Click here to read the full article.

NASA deploys RFID for flight inventory
system on the International Space Station

NASA’s Johnson Space Center intends to purchase 41 RFID readers and other associated peripherals from A.C.C. Systems Inc. for a space flight inventory system on the International Space Station.

Read the official press release

ODIN acquires Reva Systems; deal adds
scalability and intelligence in RFID software

ODIN was mostly interested in Reva’s passive RTLS software solution for healthcare assets and personnel, which leverages inexpensive UHF technology and will be added to ODIN’s healthcare RFID portfolio.

Read the official press release

Checkpoint intros “RFID-out-of-the-box”
solution for merchandise visibility

The solution can be deployed without impacting retailers’ IT systems or networks, and also minimizes the impact of RFID on store operations during pilots to prove ROI from the technology.

Read the official press release

Silent Partner Technologies seeks
distributors for RFID related products

SPT expects to announce several partnerships soon, and projects that its RFID product branding will grow rapidly.

Read the official press release

HID Global fuels e-passport and
e-ID adoption throughout Europe

HID’s e-government RFID reader technology is being deployed in France, Germany, Italy, Netherlands and Spain to help create a more robust identity-checking infrastructure in Europe.

Read the official press release

RFID TagSource launches AeroTag
specialty tags for aerospace and defense

New high memory tags are designed to support Air Transport Association standards and carry 4 kilobytes of memory.

Read the official press release

Massive retail rollouts will spur 2011 RFID
systems revenue growth of 16% or more

According to ABI Research, global RFID system markets (excluding immobilization) are expected to reach almost $5.3 billion by the end of next year, a year-over-year growth in excess of 16%.

Read the official press release

U.S. Department of State adopts ODIN’s
EasyArms RFID-based weapons tracking

Automated weapons tracking solution leverages RFID to improve the accuracy and speed of weapon logging while also enhancing asset security at a key government armory.

Read the official press release

Tetherball takes third place in
RFID tag design competition

The top designs in the 2010 Best MIFARE Card Design Competition, hosted by NXP Semiconductors, were featured at NXP’s booth during last week’s CARTES & IDentification show in Paris.

Read the official press release

VDC Research Group reveals Top 5 trends
for the RFID solutions market in 2011

Solution convergence, item-level retail tagging and expanding asset tracking features are just part of VDC’s predictions for the RFID marketplace in 2011.

Read the official press release

ODIN purchases Mass.-based REVA Systems

Thursday, December 9th, 2010

M&A activity in the RFID sector will likely heat up significantly in 2011, but ODIN technologies got a head start on the action Thursday when it acquired Massachusetts-based REVA Systems, a developer of RFID network infrastructure products.

ODIN CEO and founder Patrick Sweeney wouldn’t reveal the purchase price in a story in the Boston Globe, saying only that it’s “a mostly stock deal, with a little bit of cash.”

ODIN has reportedly received numerous buyout offers itself, but Sweeney — who has founded and sold businesses in the past — has resisted selling. While RFID 24-7 has speculated in the past that ODIN was a potential acquisition target, this deal would suggest that Sweeney has bigger plans. If a buyout were to occur, it is likely at least two years away. That’s about how much time it would take ODIN to digest REVA and allow it to add significant value to the firm.

REVA is the second Massachusetts-based RFID company to be gobbled up this quarter, following the October buyout of  ThingMagic by Trimble.

More from the Boston Globe story:

And just today, another acquisition closed: Virginia-based ODIN Technologies, a small firm that sells RFID-related software and services, is buying Westford-based Reva Systems — once more, for an undisclosed sum. Reva had raised about $35 million in funding, much of it from North Bridge, Charles River Ventures, and Cisco.

Patrick J. Sweeney II, ODIN’s founder, says that Reva will become his firm’s Massachusetts office, and he’ll retain about ten members of Reva’s technology team. While Reva’s chief executive, Bruce Berger, installed just last year, won’t stay after the acquisition, Sweeney tells me that co-founder Ashley Stephenson and technology vice president Scott Barvick will. Sweeney also plans to hire more engineers (Java developers specifically) in Massachusetts.

Sweeney says that ODIN primarily puts together RFID systems for clients in healthcare, government, and financial services. He found Reva appealing for the real-time location system it developed using inexpensive, “passive” RFID tags, which don’t require a battery.

VDC study: RFID growth will start to shift to new accounts in 2011 and beyond

Thursday, December 9th, 2010

It’s no surprise that more than three-quarters of total global RFID revenues in 2009/2010 came from established accounts that have been evaluating or piloting RFID technology for at least 18 months. However, as RFID continues to expand, it looks like a shift in those consumption habits will start to occur late in 2011 and into 2012.

According to Drew Nathanson, Director of Research Operations at VDC Research, the shift in consumption to newer users of the technology will be a function of favorable pricing, increased packaging of solutions and availability of off-the-shelf solutions, more benchmark and performance metrics, enhanced standards, and improved business models.

That’s just one of the predictions made by VDC analysts for trends expected to shape the RFID and auto-ID industry in 2011. This has been a banner year for the AIDC market, with many RFID suppliers experiencing double-digit growth. Nathanson expects more of the same in 2011.

Here’s a look at the other VDC predictions. Be sure to comment below and let us know what you think!

Adoption of Item-Level Tracking in Retail Continues to Surge

VDC expects item-level tracking applications in retail to continue to expand rapidly in 2011, as the solution is adopted in new accounts, scaled and expanded in existing accounts and embraced globally. Growth will also be further driven as RFID continues to migrate toward the point of manufacture. Click here to read more about item level tagging at the retail level.

Asset Tracking Applications Go Beyond Location

Asset tracking solutions will continue to expand beyond just providing the location of an asset. They will increasingly be leveraged to provide more information about the asset—its environment, movements and users—as a means to support and enhance business processes, increase asset utilization, support compliance and minimize costs. Click here to read more about RFID and asset tracking.

Authentication and Anti-Counterfeiting Emerge as Leading Applications

Product authentication and anti-counterfeiting applications are anticipated to grow quickly and expand into a broad range of verticals over the next 3-5 years as companies look to create a more secure supply chain. These applications are expected to extend the functionality of existing systems beyond track and trace to protect brands, further improving ROI. Click here to read about RFID 24-7′s coverage of authentication and anti-counterfeiting.

Solution Convergence Will Provide Key Benefits

Although there may be overlap in functionality and capabilities, the convergence of RFID, barcode and other AIDC solutions will provide the end-user more actionable business intelligence with little disruption to existing solutions and processes. The combination of these technologies will be particularly beneficial for applications and environments, such as supply chain and inventory management.

Hiroshima Rose Nursery deploys RFID to increase customer visibility for thousands of rose plants

Tuesday, December 7th, 2010

The Hiroshima Rose Nursery has turned to battery-assisted passive (BAP) RFID technology to track thousands of high-value rose bushes.

The nursery, which grows about 500 types of roses, requires accurate real-time inventory and location data, primarily for customer inquiries. In order to provide instant plant visibility, the nursery tagged thousands of plants with PowerID PowerG tags, installed ceiling-antennas, and connected the latter to standard RFID readers in the nursery’s greenhouses to provide instant plant visibility. With the system in place, customers are now able to log on to the nursery’s portal and check inventory and plant status in real-time.

PowerID, a provider of BAP RFID technology, worked with Honest, an auto ID system integrator and software vendor in Japan to design the system to track the high-value rose plants. Honest purchased the tags from PowerID’s Tokyo-based partner and agent, Japan21. A major requirement for the tags was that they could be read from 20 meters.

Honest expects to deploy the same system in other rose nurseries and envisions other agriculture customers requiring similar systems for real-time location of inventory. 

“We are delighted that our BAP RFID tags are being successfully used in an RTLS application at the Hiroshima Rose Nursery,” said Erez Kahani, CEO of PowerID. “We are also happy that our partnership with Japan21 continues to flourish and bear fruit, and we look forward to continued traction in the Japanese market.”

RFID is being used more and more in the agriculture industry, including tracking millions of reusable portable trays that transport flowers from nurseries to retailers. In addition, RFID is being used to track Koa plants in Hawaii.

NXP tags help to authenticate parts in equipment like printers, vacuums and water purifiers

Thursday, December 2nd, 2010

 NXP and austriamicrosystems have developed the first in a range of RFID-based solutions for product authentication in embedded consumer applications such as printers and water purifiers that frequently require replacement parts. Through the use of RFID, manufacturers can track the use of non-certified replacement parts like ink cartridges, possibly leading to the voiding of product warranties.

Chris Feige, NXP’s general manager for tagging and authentication, says that brand owners now have one-stop-shopping ability for embedding RFID systems into consumer products, even in cases of very demanding requirements on cost, performance and physical space. “Such RFID-enabled authentication of consumable products leads to revenue, brand and end-user protection,” he says.

The solution targets applications where authentication of consumables plays an important role, such as ensuring product quality and consumer safety for items such as vacuum cleaner bags, water filters, and beverage concentrates. By utilizing RFID technology, equipment manufacturers can warn users about health risks and the threat of product malfunction when non-authentic parts are used. In cases when an end user ignores warnings and willingly utilizes unauthorized consumables, the equipment manufacturer would have the option to void equipment’s warranty.

Besides low power and low complexity, the authentication systems require very low external code load, meaning it is easy to use a host controller or a low-end microcontroller. NXP’s G2iL and G2iL+ products — in addition to offering password protected features, privacy commands and anti-tampering functions — also offer high chip sensitivity which leads to high read reliability even with extremely small tags. And with austriamicrosystems’ reference designs for Ultra Low Cost EPC Gen 2 compliant UHF RFID reader systems with lowest reader BOM, applications that have previously been out of reach due to cost restraints now become addressable.

“The cost versus performance considerations for embedded applications in consumer products mean that we are the only real choice on the market at the moment,” said Kambiz Dawoodi General Manager Consumer & Communications, austriamicrosystems. “This collaboration with NXP means we now can also provide a solution with the most competitive tag silicon on the market.”

The solution is on display at the RFID/USN Korea 2010 being held this week.