Posts Tagged ‘RFID’

Wall Street Journal: RFID will simplify the airline experience for travelers

Monday, May 23rd, 2011

We’ve covered a lot of developments in the aerospace sector when it comes to RFID and how the technology will benefit the airline industry. Airbus, which is scheduled to deliver its new A350 line beginning in 2013, says that each new plane will include from 3,000 to 10,000 RFID tags to simplify maintenance and safety checks, saving airlines thousands of hours in labor.

An article in today’s Wall Street Journal looks at some of the consumer-facing benefits that flyers can look forward to. Some, like RFID-enabled check in at airports, are currently in the pilot stage. Others, like using RFID to track the progress of trips from start to finish, are longer term projects. Either way, just the idea that RFID is going to greatly enhance the consumer travel experience is exciting news.

An excerpt from the WSJ article:

Qantas Airways Ltd. has gone a couple of steps further with a pilot program in place for domestic flights at four airports in Australia. The program allows travelers to check-in in seconds at a kiosk that reads an RFID, or radio-frequency identification, chip in their frequent-flier card. At that moment, flight details, including a gate number, are sent to the traveler’s smartphone. At the gate, passengers can simply have their card scanned again and board the plane.

Farther down the line, technology will emerge to manage every aspect of a trip, from door to door, says Brian O’Rourke, who leads the global airline team at International Business Machines Corp., which is working with Qantas on its RFID technology. “In a decade or two, there will be smart analytics around your travel itinerary that will do everything from recommending the best transport options to and from the airport to being able to update the airline, the driver, the hotelier and the rail company on the status of your flight and other travel,” he says.



Boeing and Alaska Air to pilot RFID maintenance solution

Tuesday, May 17th, 2011

The aerospace industry is strongly pursuing RFID technology for a variety of reasons, including tracking work-in-process, improving productivity and maintenance procedures. On Monday, Boeing, Alaska Airlines and Fujitsu announced that they will partner on a solution to speed up onerous maintenance and safety checks on Alaska Airline aircraft. The pilot program, which will be deployed in Q4,  will document the time savings involved in using RFID to perform normally tedious safety and maintence tests in the cabin of aircraft. The program, called Component Management Optimization,  utilizes RFID tags that store part numbers, serial numbers and maintenance history, which can be updated constantly to create an electronic record that travels with the airplane. When the program is certified, it will be available for use on Boeing and non-Boeing airplanes.

“Our partnership with Boeing reflects our vision of being on the leading edge of the best technology applications that we believe will shape the future airline operations environment,” said Fred Mohr, vice president of maintenance and engineering at Alaska Airlines.

Click here to view a short video about the application.

Click here to view RFID 24-7′s previous coverage of the Boeing Fujitsu announcement.

Click here to view RFID 24-7′s past coverage on RFID and the aerospace sector.

Optimism high at RFID Live; new solutions and innovation drive the industry forward

Thursday, April 14th, 2011

The annual RFID Live show is set to conclude in Orlando today, with an onslaught of new product announcements, the unveiling of new applications and solutions, and unforeseen optimism for the industry moving forward.

Activity in retail, aerospace and medical/healthcare is expected to skyrocket as new applications unfold in those sectors. Execs from Macy’s, Walmart, JC Penney and Dillard’s participated in a panel discussion to provide an update on the Item Level RFID Initiative, a joint effort to accelerate item level retail tagging. Some industry execs marveled that the four panelists joined together on the same stage to discuss RFID best practices when collaboration among competing retailers was unheard of just two or three years ago.

“We are rapidly moving to a world where everything in the Internet is connected, and the key element to that is RFID,” Gene Delaney, executive VP at Motorola, said in a keynote address. “Companies that convert data and filter information and get it into the hands of the right person at the right time will be able to make real-time decisions that can change the competitive landscape.”

Avery Dennison’s Jack Farrell kicked off the event’s opening day by elaborating on the company’s shipment of its one billionth tag last week, and pointing out that RFID is in the early stages of a very strong growth cycle. “We are seeing exceptional growth,” he says. “It’s across the board and it speaks well of the continued momentum behind RFID when you have large companies rolling out the technology because very simply — they know it will make them money.”

Farrell, vice president and general manager at Avery Dennison, said Avery is seeing the biggest growth in the retail apparel item level tagging, but “in three or four years it’ll be something else, whether a pharmaceutical application or authentication of consumer products.”

The show revealed a host of innovation occurring in the industry, from recent new chip announcements from Impinj and Alien Technology, to the tiny on-metal tags being developed by Xerafy for use on medical tools and other high value assets. While Alien says retail represents its biggest business sector, the company has signed five deals for bag tags at airports in Europe in the last 12 months, and has also seen increased activity in vehicle tracking in Mexico, Turkey, Thailand and parts of China.

German retailer Gerry Weber announced that it recently concluded spending an investment of about $2.7 million Euros to roll out RFID, and expects payback in two years. The investment does not include tags costs, which totaled approximately $2.8 million (U.S.) to tag about 28 million items.

One of the biggest examples of a game-changing application was ODIN’s announcement that it is partnering with the Mayo Clinic to commercialize a solution designed to automate tracking and data entry in pathology labs.

The solution could revolutionize the way that specimens are tracked as they move from one step to another at medical facilities. ODIN estimates that the average industry error rate of 10 percent could drop dramatically once the solution is introduced.

“The people at the Mayo Clinic are stunned that this is still a paper-based system,” says ODIN CEO Patrick Sweeney. “Each time a product comes into the lab, it gets re-labeled. One specimen might get re-labeled five or six times, and so it could be mislabeled during the process.”

“Pathology labs almost universally receive paper requisition forms with accompanying specimens for accessioning into the laboratory information systems,” says Schuyler Sanderson, a Mayo Clinic pathologist who has been championing RFID for AP specimen management at Mayo. “These paper requisition forms are typically filled in by hand from nursing staff and clinical providers. This practice represents a major source of specimen labeling errors, all of which have the potential for … adverse outcomes for patients.”

Mayo has been researching the RFID solution for four years, and hired ODIN last year to commercialize the solution. Mayo has already begun to roll out the solution at 42 labs in North America. Sweeney says that the average size lab could expect to pay about $500,000 for a solution, but could save $1-2 million per year, half from soft savings like labor costs and the other on material savings. ROI is expected in 12 months or less.

Sweeney expects the automated solution to become the norm for the medical industry. “You’ve got chain of custody, pedigree and accuracy through the whole system,” he says. “Mayo is committed to commercializing its IP around RFID and automating what they see as rudimentary processes. The ROI is significant but more importantly it just takes eliminating one error (and saving a life) to make this worthwhile. Now that the technology is out there that can prevent errors, medical facilities are at a liability risk not to use it. So we see it as a huge market opportunity.”

The solution clearly represents an example of how RFID can help to improve patient treatment and potentially save lives.

There are fun things we do at ODIN, like the social media applications with Vail Resorts,” says Sweeney. “Then there are things that are changing the world and this is an application that is changing the world.”

Sweeney also provided an update on his firm’s revenues, noting that sales increased 30 percent in the first quarter of 2011 over the same period last year. He expects healthcare to represent 50 percent of ODIN’s revenues in 2011.

Look for more coverage of this week’s show in next week’s issue of RFID 24-7.

Auto manufacturers consider high memory tags for maintenance, warranty program

Monday, April 4th, 2011

In an effort to capture new customers and increase sales, luxury automakers are tempting consumers with free maintenance programs. Volvo, for example, is pushing a feature that covers all maintenance costs for the first five years of new vehicle’s life.

In an effort to manage these programs, manufacturers are investigating high memory RFID tags like those being embraced by the aerospace industry.

Aside from Volvo, automakers like Jaguar, BMW, Audi and Lexus could all be turning to high memory tags in the next several years. Tego, a provider of high memory RFID tagging solutions, expects that the auto industry will be one of its major markets in three to five years. Tego CEO Tim Butler says the auto industry could consume tens of millions of high memory tags as manufacturers target better efficiencies for process control, production control, supply chain management, car distribution and managing maintenance programs.

“Initially we’ve seen interest from some very high-end auto manufacturers who do a lot of maintenance for automobiles,” says Butler. “Lately we’re seeing interest from the larger automotive companies as well.”

Butler expects Tego will ink at least one automotive deal within the next six months. He sees the automotive sector emerging as one of Tego’s top five markets down the road. The industry is looking at tags with 4 and 8 KBytes of memory to keep track of production numbers, VIN numbers, part numbers and supply chain information. Tags would be placed on car bodies or on any type of metal parts, and would travel with the car for its entire life cycle.

Manufacturers are also considering high memory tags for configuration management and to record product lifecycle data by tracking manufacturing information, product testing and any repairs that are conducted throughout the life of the part.

“The high-end auto manufacturer’s assets are very high value,” says Butler. “So they are also looking at this from an anti-counterfeiting perspective to make sure parts are actually genuine OEM parts.”

Aside from aerospace and automotive, Butler says that the railroad, chemical, and oil and gas industries are all looking at adding intelligence to high value assets by utilizing high memory tags. However, the aerospace sector is far ahead of other industries. Initial reports of the airline industry using hundreds of thousands to millions of high memory tags have been pushed out another 12-18 months. Aerospace manufacturers will likely use the next 12 months to get their high memory tagging programs in gear, and then fully ramp up tagging during 2012.

And while Airbus is on record that each of its new A350 aircraft will carry 3,000 RFID tags, it’s entirely possible that each new plane could carry up to 10,000 tags as Airbus starts to identify other use cases. The A350 is scheduled for delivery beginning in 2013.

“It’s the same thing you see in automotive, but they are two years ahead of the game,” says Butler. “They’ve done their due diligence and are starting to see where the applications fit and other use cases, so tagging starts to extend itself out.”

While aerospace has clearly defined the ROI for most use cases, there is still a disconnect when it comes to return on investment for auto, primarily because of the misconception that users must spend millions on back end systems to accommodate RFID. While some infrastructure costs are needed, Butler stresses that they don’t need to invest multi-millions on IT systems on the back end when they have the information needed on the asset.

“I can have someone with a handheld reader and a laptop out there getting the information without having to acquire all this back end [infrastructure], and then I can use those back end systems more efficiently,” he says.

“The conversation we have with people is that this is no different from 25 years ago when PCs were coming along and it took people a while to understand the impact of distributed data. In this instance, it’s just distributed data for assets. The value points and implications for new applications and efficiencies is just beginning, and people are just starting to realize this.”

The other area where high memory tags are just scratching the surface is with the concept of putting applications onto the tags. With the additional memory of Tego’s tags, enterprises could use the same model available today on an iphone to have downloadable apps.

“Our 32 KByte tag is just the beginning,” says Butler. “We think there will be the ability to store a lot more information and provide more functionality.”

The auto industry continues to work on standards for RFID tagging. The Automotive Industry Action Group (AIAG) is involved with a global standardization effort and recently unveiled RFID standards for returnable containers. AIAG is working with Europe’s Odette International Ltd. and the Japan Automotive Manufacturers Assoc., on global standards for item level tagging of parts. The standards will identify memory and read range requirements.

Larry Graham, a principal at LG AutoID LLC, works closely with the AIAG standards body. He says the regs should be ready in June, although the natural disaster in Japan could delay the standards.

“The big thing that is helping all of this is having the Gen 2 tag to build standards around,” says Graham. “Whether you use a tag for retail or industrial, we’re all leveraging that same tag design. So by doing things in a standardized way, we get volumes up and drive costs down. Traceability is becoming much more important for us. You’re talking about extending warranties, and usually suppliers are a partner in that warranty. All of this is going to enhance the as-built record for a vehicle.”

Smartrac posts record year with sales of EUR 180M; expects more strong growth for 2011

Thursday, March 31st, 2011

It’s becoming clear just how strong a year 2010 was for the RFID sector. It’s been widely reported that tag manufactures couldn’t keep up with demand in 2010, as the economy rebounded and companies began implementing RFID trials and production deployments in earnest.

Publicly traded Smartrac N.V., a manufacturer of RFID transponders based in Amsterdam, shed some light on the industry growth when it reported its financial figures for fiscal 2010 earlier today.

The firm grew sales by a robust 41 percent in 2010, reaching EUR $180.1 million. The company expects more normalcy from the market this year – albeit still double digit growth – to push sales to EUR $200M.

“The year 2010 was an exceptional one for SMARTRAC,” said said Dr. Christian Fischer in a release. “We have accomplished several strategic milestones and shaped the foundations for the future of our company,” said Dr. Christian Fischer. “However, we are also aware of the fact that certain challenges remained unsolved in 2010 and will require our full attention in 2011. For 2011, we expected Group sales to grow to EUR 200 million. In terms of profitability, we are working hard to achieve Group EBITDA margins which come back closer to past levels.”

Click here to view the full earnings report.


NY Times: Improved global supply chain visibility helps firms to better deal with crisis in Japan

Wednesday, March 23rd, 2011

The unfortunate disaster in Japan is serving as a major test for the global supply chain. As the world’s third largest economy, Japan produces millions of parts for the electronics, automotive and computer industries. Lots of that production is on hold following this month’s earthquake, tsunami and resulting nuclear crisis.

It’ still too early to gauge how supply chains around the world will be impacted by the ongoing crisis, but an article in the New York Times over the weekend provides some outstanding insight into how companies are dealing with potential supply shortages.

The article credits RFID and other technologies as providing much greater supply chain visibility than in previous supply chain disruptions:

From the article:

The ability to manage these complex networks, experts say, has become possible because of technology — Internet communications, RFID tags and sensors attached to valued parts, and sophisticated software for tracking and orchestrating the flow of goods worldwide.

That geographic and technological evolution, in theory, should make adapting to the disaster in Japan easier for corporate supply chains.

Click here to read the full New York Times article.

RFID TagSource inks R&D agreement with FAA; high-memory tags take off in aviation apps

Wednesday, February 2nd, 2011

RFID TagSource has signed a cooperative research and development agreement with the Federal Aviation Administration that allows the firm to use the FAA’s laboratory facilities and resources at the FAA William J. Hughes Technical Center in New Jersey.

The collaborative research will eventually help to enhance flight safety and maintenance operations by storing maintenance history information directly on aircraft parts by using RFID TagSource’s new high memory passive RFID tag. The AeroTag, unveiled in November, stores information on a small chip that tracks the pedigree of flight certified parts and improves inspection operations.

The FAA agreement is an indication of the capabilities that RFID TagSource has developed for RFID in aerospace and defense. Last year RFID TagSource worked with Boeing on the Air Force ARAI program where specially designed RFID tags were attached to an Air Force F-16 and tested at Edwards Air Force Base in California.

“This work supports the mission of the aerospace industry to continually improve flight safety and operational efficiency,” said Kevin Donahue, managing director at RFID TagSource. “The resources available to us at the FAA Technical Center have really helped speed up our development efforts. This is a fantastic opportunity and exciting time for our company.”

RFID TagSource is a tag supplier for the Airbus A350, which is currently under development. Airbus is requiring that most parts be tagged with RFID tags. Airbus expects that up to 3,000 aircraft parts will be tagged on each plane, with 2,000 of these tags being high memory tags carrying 4 kilobytes or more of storage.

“The Airbus program is very real and it’s very far along,” said Donahue. “They are actually in the process of having [RFID tagged] parts delivered.”

Airbus will use the RFID tags to maintain maintenance records and parts history. When it comes time to check the history of part, maintenance personnel can rely on a hand-held RFID reader to obtain the full history of an A350 part. Donahue says that the Airbus requirement for read performance using a handheld unit is a minimum 20 inches globally, but that RFID TagSource is exceeding that requirement, in some cases reaching 24 inches or more.

While Airbus will use up to 3,000 RFID tags per plane, actual tag consumption will likely be up to 10 times that number for each plane, as all spare parts stored at global distribution centers and warehouses will also carry tags.

In November, RFID TagSource announced the development of the AeroTag family of high memory passive RFID tags, developed within the guidelines put forth by the Air Transport Association (ATA). The tags meet ATA Spec2000 and SAE-AS5678 specifications. With 4 kilobytes of memory and a lightweight rugged design, the tags are particularly well suited for manufacturers supporting the Airbus A350 XWB RFID initiative.

“The AeroTag has been designed to address an identified need for storing maintenance history information directly on aircraft parts,” said Donahue. “There are a number of initiatives underway in the aerospace industry that cannot be supported using generally available lower memory tags. The combination of our new high memory and our partner’s lower memory offerings has RFID TagSource uniquely positioned to serve the broad set of needs for RFID technologies across the aerospace and defense industry.”

Click here to view RFID 24-7′s previous coverage on RFID and aerospace.

The new AeroTag product line features integrated circuits from Tego, a provider of high memory passive RFID chip solutions that meet the ATA Spec2000 spec. AeroTags outfitted with Tego silicon can be configured to store up to 32 kilobytes of data.

Last year RFID 24-7 reported that the airline industry could consume hundreds of thousands of high memory RFID tags within 12 to 18 months, possibly reaching the millions depending on the applications and use cases that manufacturers adopt.

“Right now we have just the specific applications for flyable tags but there are additional applications that companies are looking to expand into,” Tego CEO Tim Butler told RFID 24-7. “Going forward, we think the projections that call for the industry to use many millions of tags over the next three to five years is a very viable estimate.”

Retail RFID guru Zander Livingston pursues RFID riches with Truecount Corp.

Monday, October 11th, 2010

During his six years at clothing retailer American Apparel, Zander Livingston saw RFID boost sales by at least 15 percent in stores where item level tagging was implemented. In addition, he witnessed production increases of 75 percent for functions like inventory management and receiving.

It’s no wonder that Livingston has fled retail for RFID riches. With the technology exploding at the retail level, Livingston has formed his own firm, Truecount Corp., which will focus exclusively on end-to-end solutions for the retail supply chain.

The Dorset, Vt.-based firm hopes to ride the unprecedented growth of RFID at the retail industry — especially with apparel retailers. RFID is expected to represent more than a $6 billion industry by the end of the year. (Click here to read more about RFID’s explosive growth in the retail sector.)

“Throughout my six years in this industry, I have experienced first-hand the dramatic results RFID can achieve for retailers, and am impassioned by the possibilities for item-level RFID for retail,” says Livingston, who will serve as CEO of the company. “I am happy to know that my contributions at American Apparel were significant in shaping the state of RFID in retail today.”

According to Drew Nathanson, senior RFID analyst and director of research operations at VDC Research Group, Inc., more than 400 million tags will be consumed by retailers in 2010, a number that jumps to 800 million in 2011. By 2014, he projects 3.4 billion tags will be used in retail, including item-level tags, as well as tags used for smart courtesy cards and access control.

Livingston says that Truecount will combine a powerful, integrated software platform with consulting, training and implementation services to give retailers greater control over assets. He says that says a primary motivation for founding Truecount was “the great opportunity” to take advantage of the lack of strong retail software solutions in the RFID space.

Livingston has formed Truecount as a partnership with software industry executive Jordan Lampert, and enterprise architect Paresh Yadav. Although no customer names were unveiled in the firm’s press release, company execs say they are being pursued by major store brands and are working with a category-leading retailer on the upcoming launch of their RFID solution.

“The pilot periods have ended. RFID has proven its value with impressive ROI results,” says Lampert. “Current economic conditions are actually accelerating the growth of RFID by creating new challenges for retailers. Businesses at all levels are being forced to reduce staff at a time when they need to control shrinkage and balance inventory as never before.”

“Apparel item-level tagging is driving the industry,” Bill Hardgrave, founder and director of the RFID Research Center at the University of Arkansas, told RFID 24-7 in a recent story. “There is just tremendous movement there and we’ll see substantial quantities by year end. On the passive UHF side, we’ll see numbers by the end of the year that we’ve never seen before.”

ClearCount Medical closes $5M in funding

Tuesday, September 7th, 2010

ClearCount Medical Solutions, an innovator of patient safety solutions for operating rooms, has received a $5 million shot in the arm from Draper Triangle Ventures and other existing investors. The Series B financing will allow the company to drive market penetration and research and development of its RFID-based solutions for hospital patient safety applications.

ClearCount has developed an FDA-approved sponge counting and detection solution that was recently put into use at VA Pittsburgh Healthcare. The RFID-based platform uniquely identifies each sponge so that they can be easily counted and detected, avoiding having surgical sponges left in patients after medical procedures.

“Thanks to the strong backing of our investors, this past year ClearCount completed a valuable distribution deal, signed major new customers and introduced an important new product that is making surgical procedures safer every day,” David Palmer, CEO of ClearCount Medical Solutions, said in a release.

“ClearCount’s patented RFID technology and offerings are more relevant than ever,” said Mike Stubler, Managing Director of Draper Triangle. “As improving the quality of healthcare continues to be a national focus, solutions that can also impact the efficiency and value a hospital offers its patients are sure to be adopted.”

Retained sponges are the most frequent and dangerous of retained surgical items, a “Never Event” resulting in non-payment to hospitals and significant risk to patients. A large multi-center trial recently demonstrated that as little as a 30-minute surgical delay can nearly double the risk of infectious complications, so clearly every minute counts.

The company was also featured recently in the Wall Street Journal. Click here to read the article.

Free RFID trial intended to jump-start RFID in medical device sector

Monday, August 23rd, 2010

Medical device companies have no excuse not to at least trial RFID technology. Raftar, a provider of RFID and mobile application based logistics and distribution solutions, today announced a “risk-free” way for medical device companies to prove that RFID can streamline sales and distribution operations for their business.

During the limited time offer, Raftar will deliver a full bundle of RFID  services – including its RFID-based warehouse and mobile, field service automation software — and will manage the entire 90-day pilot process from implementation and training through to successful completion. The RFID solution provided by Raftar will utilize Impinj high performance Monza® tags and Speedway® readers.

The “risk-free RFID” pilot will enable qualified companies to deploy an RFID-based case scheduling and inventory management and tracking solution that extends from a selected warehouse location to the point of consumption at the hospital in the field, with no up-front investment.

After the 90-day pilot, participating companies will have the option to discontinue the program with no obligation or deploy a fully functional production system, supported by a robust business case and real-world performance benchmarks.

“The driver here is to remove the uncertainty surrounding RFID in the medical devices industry,” said Ismail Nalwala, Raftar’s President and CEO. “Strong evidence exists globally that our technology can create dramatic operational efficiencies by slashing order processing times from 30 minutes to seconds and to help sales and customer service reps drive better service results for hospital and surgeons. The financial benefits continue through to inventory reduction and extend to better quality through order accuracy and item-level visibility. With the ‘Risk-Free RFID’ Pilot program, Raftar hopes to remove the uncertainty and enable companies to get practical experience with our solution and RFID and formulate a go-forward strategy.”

“We are excited that Raftar is exposing more medical device companies to the benefits of the latest RFID technology. In 2010, we’ve seen a surge in the use of UHF RFID technology and rapid growth in the variety of RFID enabled devices,” said Kerry Krause, vice president of marketing for Impinj. “Raftar’s software solutions and medical device industry domain expertise combined with Impinj’s hardware offerings, provide an optimal solution for accurate item-level counting of loaner kit items, including metal implants and instruments.”