Making sense of all that IoT data
Friday, April 6, 2018

Making sense of all that IoT data

by Diana Hage

The ability to know where something or someone is located is core to many companies’ success. Having that level of granular information at one’s fingertips changes the way business managers can make rapid, data-driven decisions. Without a doubt, knowing where something is located is highly important, but actionable data about the asset is what everyone needs in order to make smarter business decisions.

That is why we created Visi-Trac Analytics. At its core, it is an asset management platform that empowers anyone to answer questions well beyond where an asset is with useful and actionable data. In addition to having all the analytical tools one would expect, such as dashboards, reports and key metrics, it gives businesses the ability to forecast, prevent disruptions, track the lifecycle of any item, and improve supply chain processes.

Visi-Trac Analytics allows users to run simple and complex analyses on large data sets or drill down to an individual tracked item with ease. Having the flexibility to rapidly create custom dashboards with our ‘Do It Yourself’, self-service dashboard, or letting Visi-Trac do the heavy lifting, is a hallmark of our system.

At the end of the day, being able to forecast, create reports, and analyze huge amounts of data simply allows for smarter decisions to happen more often. This is what makes Visi-Trac a true business intelligence tool.

Key Features

The capabilities are endless with Visi-Trac which transforms massive amounts of IoT generated data into actionable information.

Analytics Dashboards

Explore an array of visualization options, including geomaps, facility floorpans, charts, trend lines, asset tables, rack and shelf images, and custom data displays. Create your own dashboards with our easy-to-use, self service tools.

Diverse Data Sources

Visi-Trac supports multiple data capture technologies (barcode, RFID, RTLS and GPS) in one integrated platform. Bring all your critical data into a single enterprise view by connecting to a diverse range of data sources.

Alerts

Send and receive notifications when assets have crossed boundaries, exceeded thresholds, or an unexpected event occurs. Alerting options include email, SMS, lights and sirens.

Scalability

Visi-Trac has a highly scalable, distributed architecture with millions of assets under management and was designed for enterprise-scale deployments.

Deployment

Manage and deploy analytics in the cloud or on premise.

Benefits

Visi-Trac Analytics delivers:

Actionable Insights

Visi-Trac’s advanced analytics generate actionable information and business insights into any aspect of your business. Accurate, real-time data improves operational efficiencies, compliance and security.

Automation

Schedule automatic delivery of updated, personalized reports for every user, when and where they need it, including mobile devices.

Return on Investment

Visi-Trac Analytics enables managers to manager their assets with greater accuracy and frequency, increasing asset utilization and reducing capital expenditures.

Try Visi-Trac Analytics and improve your business operations today.
Visi-Trac Analytics data sheet


Planes, Trains and Automobiles
Thursday, March 22, 2018

Planes, Trains and Automobiles – How RFID is Transforming Transportation

by Diana Hage

In the transportation industry, accurate and reliable data, and tracking via radio frequency identification (RFID) has a wide variety of business critical applications. Here are some highlights of how RFID is being used in the airline, railroad, and automotive industries for improved efficiency and performance, better safety, and customer satisfaction.

In the Air

Delta has made better baggage handling a top priority. According to the airline, better baggage handling processes and technologies have already reduced mishandling rates by 68 percent over the past 10 years.

But Delta wants to maintain its industry-leading performance. So it has invested $50 million in RFID, which has replaced barcode scanning for tracking the 120 million pieces of baggage it handles annually.

Using RFID scanners, tag printers, and belt loader readers, airlines can enable hands-free and highly accurate scanning and tracking of baggage throughout the handling process. Belt loader sensors will flash green when a bag is being loaded on the correct aircraft or flash red when the bag requires additional handling.

Delta’s agents will also have the ability to take inventory quickly and pinpoint a single bag. If a customer misses a connection, their bag can be retrieved and retagged for a different flight.

RFID also enables app-based baggage tracking. Delta has already created an industry-first baggage tracking app, which allows customers to track the status and location of their baggage, and RFID will enable improved accuracy and transparency. RFID will be integrated for interactive baggage tracking using the Fly Delta mobile app.

On the Rail

RFID is also at the center of innovation in the railroad industry. RFID sensors and tags can be used to ensure the integrity and security of cargo in real-time: tagging and monitoring railcars, containers, and cargo. It can also be used to track and control train locations and positioning, as well as railcar movement and railway conditions.

RFID sensors can detect the position of a passenger train, the length of a platform, how many doors should be opened, and whether it’s safe to open them.

RFID offers a key advantage over optical sensors when it comes to reliability.  Unlike optical sensors which can fail due to dust, dirt, water, or debris obscuring them, RFID relies on the use of radio waves, which ensures reliable remote scanning in demanding environments.

RFID can also improve worker efficiency by providing cargo handling and railcar switching instructions, and it can provide real-time tracking, information, and alerts to enable timely maintenance and monitoring of railcars, equipment, and infrastructure.

On the Road

In the automotive industry, component traceability plays a huge role in quality assurance because it allows components to be tracked to the lot and vehicle level. This enables targeted recalls of affected vehicles so automakers can not only address quality or safety issues before they become a widespread problem, but also avoid the embarrassment and costs of a full-scale recall.

RFID offers greater accuracy and efficiency, particularly because there is no visual line-of-sight required to scan an item and because human error can be eliminated from the process.

RFID is also a perfect way to track and manage vehicles during manufacturing or through any stage of pickup, storage, repair, or delivery. We offer a vehicle tracking and management system which delivers real-time visibility into the location, arrival, departure, and status of all vehicles—making it a great RFID-powered solution for automakers, distributors, and even rental car companies.

Learn More About RFID for Your Business

RFID offers remarkable benefits in real-time tracking, monitoring, and management of everything from manufacturing processes and enterprise assets to inventory, shipments, and deliveries.

At RFID Global, we can help you evaluate the potential of RFID for your business and choose the right technologies to develop affordable and effective solutions.

We partner with Zebra Technologies, the world leader in RFID, to provide systems that boost efficiency, productivity, and profitability with world-class location and tracking capabilities.

Contact us now to learn more and arrange your free consultation. Call 703-648-1550 or email us at sales@rfidgs.com.

 


Improving the Travel Experience
Thursday, June 29, 2017

By Diana Hage

Delta’s announcement of its rollout of RFID for passenger baggage handling is aimed squarely at improving the customer experience of its travelers. Delta aims to reliably deliver every bag on every flight.  By providing  customers  with improved real-time tracking of luggage throughout the travel experience, it will provide peace of mind, convenience, and dramatically reduces one of the key aggravations of flying – the lost or misplaced bag.

Delta handles 120 million bags annually.  With RFID, customers will see their bags loaded on and off aircraft during their journey via the Fly Delta mobile app beginning in the Q4 2016.

For customers, RFID means much more than just consistent baggage handling. In the same way customers want information at their fingertips about flight changes, customers want clear visibility to their checked bags, according to Tim Mapes, Delta’s Chief Marketing Officer. RFID will soon be used to track bags on all Delta mainline and Delta Connection flights.

Today, when a customer misses a connection, agents on the ground manually scan each bag to find the customer’s luggage and ensure it is retagged for the new flight. With RFID, agents have the ability to quickly take inventory and pinpoint a single bag, improving the speed of reconnecting passengers with their luggage.  Luggage is rarely lost, the reality is that when it is misrouted, it is just somewhere inconvenient.

Better baggage handling processes and technology have already reduced the airline’s mishandled bag rates by 68 percent over the past 10 years, establishing Delta as the leading U.S.-based global airline for baggage performance.  RFID will take their service to a whole new level, further distinguishing Delta from its competition. And RFID is the technology to reunite travelers with their wayward bags faster than any other system in the market.


Your luggage isn’t lost – its just somewhere inconvenient
Tuesday, March 8, 2016

By Diana Hage

When you travel, arrive on time, and your bags are promptly delivered to the baggage carousel, you speed on your way to your destination without giving airline logistics much of a thought.  But what about trips that don’t go so smoothly?  Flight delays and lost bags are the top two complaints in the airline industry, per US Department of Transportation published studies.

Major airlines are acutely aware that misplaced bags are costly to track down and have a detrimental effect on customer satisfaction. RFID is a technology that can help reduce the $1 billion spent every year in chasing down lost luggage.  By keeping real-time tabs on where your bags are, airlines can provide passengers with peace of mind, goodwill and a positive customer experience.  And avoiding the approximate $100 spent on tracking down lost bags is good for the airline’s bottom line.

RFID will make it much easier for airlines to have visibility of their passenger’s luggage whereabouts, enabling them to get the right bag to the right passenger, saving money in the process.  So, your luggage isn’t really lost, its just somewhere inconvenient.  And RFID is the technology to reunite travelers with their wayward bags faster than any other system in the market.


IoT in the Supply Chain – $1.9 Trillion in Savings
Thursday, May 14, 2015

A recent study released by DHL and Cisco, the IoT Trend Report, forecasts more than 50 billion devices will be interconnected by 2020. The logistics and supply chain industry is predicted to realize $1.9 trillion in value as IoT solutions enable automated inventory and location awareness of in-stock and in-transit items.

The supply chain could realize $1.9 trillion in value over the next decade when networks expand their connections to distribution centers, warehouses, transportation and other elements throughout the supply chain.

“The Internet of Things is the connection of almost anything via sensor technology to the Web, and both DHL and Cisco believe this will revolutionize business processes across the entire value chain including supply chain and logistics,” stated Markus Kückelhaus, VP, innovation and trend research, DHL Customer Solutions & Innovation.

The logistics industry could achieve significantly higher levels of operational efficiency during the next decade as the IoT connects millions of shipments and provides real-time data as assets are moved worldwide.

Within the distribution center, connected pallets will be a driver for smarter inventory management. In transportation and shipping, tracking and tracing of goods will become faster, more accurate, predictive and secure. For last mile delivery, customers can provide an even faster, more reliable and cost-effective service.

According to Cisco, the IoT will generate $8 trillion in value over the next ten years from five primary factors: revenue and innovation; asset utilization; supply chain and logistics; employee productivity improvements; and enhanced customer experience.


Physical Asset Management in the Virtual World
Thursday, April 9, 2015

By Tom Manzagol

In today’s virtual and ever more interconnected world, where consumer electronics, related applications, and wireless networking make locating yourself, friends and family mere child’s play, it’s hard to imagine why our physical assets themselves are not as seamlessly connected to the evolving Internet of Things (IoT). The fact of the matter is that in many cases, they are, and these assets are becoming more connected on an exponentially increasing basis.

For IT assets in a data center or office, there are a wide range of software solutions that allow inventory of operational assets using their MAC and IP addresses. This type of software solution provides IT managers the ability to more accurately track utilization and presence of assets within a given network, which is a quantum leap from the manual accountability solutions of the past decade.

The problem becomes taking that detection-based solution to the next logical level, which is the physical extension of location to a pinpoint elevation within a rack, within a data hall, room, or building. This is where RFID comes in, allowing managers to bridge the gap between pinpoint and generic locations of high value assets. Pinpoint location is critical, because without the capability to direct technical resources to the correct server in the correct rack, with the correct elevation within a given data center, countless time is wasted finding assets that require immediate attention. The end result of increased time to service for that server is that the client could become frustrated due to denied or degraded service conditions.

Unfortunately, too often, the time spent searching for assets (which is significant) is often the only real cost considered, whereby the real potential cost to the company is loss of clients due to degraded resource availability.

Add to this the growing concern of physical asset security, because of vast amounts of financial, national security, healthcare and other personally sensitive information residing on millions of servers throughout the public and private sector, and the value of RFID quickly becomes apparent.

In the rapidly evolving Internet of Things, RFID has become the critical enabling technology connecting virtually any type of asset from the physical to virtual world. As I am writing this blog, there are millions of assets of all types, in virtually all environments, that RFID has been applied to bridge the virtual IOT gap, saving firms and government agencies millions of dollars in physical inventory, maintenance, operations, and even potential litigation costs.

Every year, this trend continues to grow exponentially, as more firms and government agencies discover the significant savings potential and expand the IoT infrastructure through RFID technology.


RFID in Broadcast and Data Center asset management
Monday, January 19, 2015

Register for the “Broadcast and Data Center Asset Management” webinar with RFID Journal on January 21, 2015 at 1:00pm EST!

REGISTER NOW

This webinar will feature Adam Seskin, Director Broadcast Engineering at DIRECTV, talking about his firm’s asset-management initiatives.  He will discuss DIRECTV’s goals for implementing RFID asset management, and explain why RFID was selected as a technology to better manage inventory, audits and asset utilization, as well as reduce costs. Learn how radio frequency identification is being leveraged to manage IT assets for maximum business value. In addition, gain a better understanding of how the technology can extend the visibility and control of such assets throughout the fixed asset life cycle.

Other speakers include Diana Hage, CEO, RFID Global; Chris Schaefer, Senior Director, Global Market Development with Zebra Technologies; and George Reynolds, Sr. Director, Strategic Accounts with Omni-ID.


Data Analytics Will Amplify ROI of RFID
Thursday, July 31, 2014

Guest Blog by Scot Stelter, VP, ChainLink Research

In its 2013 report, “Hunting the Nightmare Bacteria,” Frontline reported on the rise of antibiotic-resistant microbes.  Infections from these bacteria are often nosocomial, or hospital-acquired.  It’s a difficult problem – even the best-managed hospitals struggle with finding the source of nosocomial infections.  (See: KPC Outbreak at NIH.)  Microbes can be introduced to a patient’s environment via mobile equipment, hospital staff, other patients or even the particular path taken during patient transfer.

RFID has not solved this challenging problem – yet.  But the RFID data streaming from tagged assets, employees and patients carries far richer information than just raw serial numbers, and can be applied to this issue.  With the help of data analytics, RFID systems will eventually crack this problem by enabling hospitals to retrace steps and discover connections after the fact between staff, patients, locations and equipment.  In the meantime, solution providers and users are pioneering big data methodology in easier venues, starting with retail.

As I recently reported in the RFID Journal, retail is the cradle for RFID data analytics.  Retailers are mentally there already, having been applying data analytics to loyalty card data for the last decade.   For retailers, the basic value proposition for RFID is real-time inventory visibility, for which there is a well-established ROI based on the elimination of out-of-stocks.  Furthermore, RFID can deliver the inventory accuracy required for omni-channel, which is brick-and-mortar’s competitive response to Amazon.

Inventory accuracy, however, is now just the low-hanging fruit.

Though the data stream coming from multiple RFID readers is cluttered with random and periodic noise from many sources, by applying statistical methods it’s possible to peer through the haze to see meaningful activity.  Imagine knowing well in advance of sales which departments are hot – where items are being picked up constantly – and which are not.  Activity can be a leading indicator of sales, and the lack of activity an indicator of trouble.  The data is valuable because it’s predictive and it’s actionable.

The value goes beyond the department level – the data has SKU-level specificity.  Retailers don’t have to wait until the end of the season to know what styles will be on the clearance rack later.  With a moderate amount of analysis, the system could score styles, flagging slow movers for early action.  Yes, store managers can figure this out now, but it’s labor intensive.  People have enough to do already.

To minimize complexity for the user, analytics systems will employ methods like machine learning.  For example, maintaining a live, physical map of a store is impractical when associates are constantly repositioning displays, updating planograms and refilling depleted racks with new and different product.  But the RFID system can learn the planogram automatically:  the denim department is where the denim is.  The system recognizes a single blouse among the jeans as a misplaced item, and automatically sends a notification for store associates.  The blouse, which might never have found a buyer, is now back where it belongs.  If physical reference points are required, they’re easily provided by placing reference tags around the store.

Fixed infrastructure will be the best way to fully realize these benefits.  Handhelds have provided a low-cost hurdle for early adopters, but the benefits of fixed infrastructure are profound.  Fixed readers boost system reliability by eliminating dependence on employee training and process compliance.  They deliver the consistently rich stream of raw data that analysis software lives on.  Finally, unlike employees wielding handhelds, fixed readers provide real-time information 24/7.  With fixed infrastructure, RFID is not just a better way of reading barcodes, but rather, a way of knowing everything – about all the items – all the time.  Some call this “item intelligence.”

Financially, fixed infrastructure is economically feasible.  First, as I reported in the RFID Journal article, hardware costs continue to decline, having dropped by over 50% since 2009.  Second, advances in reader architecture, for example, Impinj’s new xArray system, which produces 52 separate antenna positions, will reduce the necessary reader count.  Finally, RFID as a Service (RaaS) models in which hardware is financed will enable retailers to use RFID on a monthly, pay-as-you-go basis.  This simplifies the ROI calculation for the retailer – if the monthly benefit is less than the service fee, it’s an easy decision.  As Zensar retail technology expert Stacey Shulman said in the RFID Journal article, “If the monthly cost for the service is neutral, why wouldn’t I do this?”


Innovations from RFID Journal Live 2014
Thursday, May 1, 2014

Guest Blog

By Bill McBeath, ChainLink Research

Exciting new developments from the RFID Journal Live! show, including NFC’s killer app (my prediction), the arrival of the 5-cent tag (really & finally!), passive RFID sensors, visual tags in manufacturing applications, and more.

NXP, Savior of NFC?

Many have wondered if NFC will ever take off, with some even predicting its demise as Apple repeatedly refused to include NFC in the iPhone. In spite of Apple’s ‘recalcitrance,’ it is projected there will be (thanks to Google) over 400M NFC-enabled phones in use by the end of this year. However, we still lack the ‘killer app’ that will drive really widespread usage (so far, payment is not that app). When I saw NXP’s demo of NTAG I2C, it struck me that this just might enable the killer app that NFC has been searching for.

Washing Machine of the Future

Imagine a washing machine with the sparsest possible front panel—perhaps just a power button and a single LED—and an NFC-enabled phone which provides the user interface for the machine. The implications and possibilities are far-reaching. With this setup, the washing machine has the full intelligence of the phone at its disposal, as well as integration with all the data and apps on the phone, and use of its network connection. For example, the phone could make available to the user the complete, detailed owner’s manual, always up-to-date, customized to this user’s machine, including instructive streaming videos. Try doing that on the front panel of a washer! The development tools, OS resources, and developer population are much more powerful for phones than for embedded processors and proprietary displays.

The phone also allows instant and deep personalization, recognizing who you are and saving any depth of settings and options you care to set up. It makes registering the washing machine with the manufacturer nearly effortless—just a tap and it can pull all the necessary information from the washer and your phone. If there’s a problem that needs servicing, it can report the exact serial number, service history, warranty information, current configuration (including revision numbers of all firmware and hardware), and run diagnostics—all just with a tap and press of a virtual button. It might notice that the firmware is out of date and auto-download that, saving a trip by the technician. If necessary, it can schedule a service call, synching with the owner’s calendar on the phone.

The washer manufacturer could offer the customer a replenishment service for supplies they use with the machine, delivering laundry detergent and other consumables as needed, customized to their specific clothing, machine, and usage patterns (as measured and monitored by the machine itself), providing convenience for the owner and an additional ongoing revenue stream for the machine manufacturer. And it reduces the cost of the machine by eliminating the expensive display and multi-button control panel and WiFi or Bluetooth, using instead a $0.30 NTAG I2C part.

This same paradigm could be used for just about any machine or control panel, whether it is a NEST-like HVAC controller, a kiosk at a retail store, any home appliance, TV and stereo systems, home automation, office equipment, vending machines, museum exhibits, hotel room equipment (TV, coffee maker, clock, etc.) and much more, such as wearable devices where a display space is limited and/or they can’t afford the current consumption of Bluetooth LE.

NTAG I2C in a Nutshell

So what exactly is this NTAG I2C device from NXP? It is an NFC tag with EEPROM memory (1Kbyte or 2Kbyte), an SRAM memory buffer (for unlimited bi-directional data transfer), and an I2C bus connection1 (see Figure 1 below). The tag’s antenna can harvest RF energy from the NFC reader to power the NFC tag, memory, and a (low-power) microcontroller attached to the I2C bus, so it can run even when there is no power to the machine it is embedded in. NXP has sent samples to select customers and is about to go to general release of the NTAG I2C.

Figure 1 – NTAG I2C High Level Diagram (Source: NXP)

It was not a surprise to me that NTAG I2C won the “Best in Show” Award for 2014 RFID Journal Live. It has the potential to make NFC-enabled phones an indispensable device for interfacing with your appliances, home, car, office, hotel systems, venues, and entertainment environments. If that happens, maybe we will finally see NFC in the iPhone!

The Arrival of the 5-cent Tag

Ever since Sanjay Sarma published his paper “Towards the 5¢ Tag” over 10 years ago, people have asked, “Where’s our 5-cent RFID tag?” The folks from Tageos have an answer. They create tags by depositing the antenna directly onto paper,2 without the need for the PET plastic backing traditionally used in inlays. The process creates an antenna which is 4-8 microns thick with extremely straight and fine lines. They pick and place the RFID chip using traditional equipment and methods, apply glue and a backing sheet and voila, you have a label. This approach eliminates the conversion step where you sandwich the PET (plastic sheet) between two pieces of paper, saving money on both the cost of the PET sheet and the conversion process. The result is a tag that costs about 20%-30% less than traditional tags. Tageos said they sell their tags for “well under five cents” in high quantities.

One interesting application for Tageos is tamper-evident applications, such as storing the VIN # on an automobile. Because the tag is so thin, if someone tries to remove the tag, it will tear and destroy the tag.

The extreme thinness of the antenna increases the Q factor (relative to the thicker etched antennas), making the tag’s bandwidth peak higher, narrower, and more sensitive to detuning. As a result, in many circumstances they will get perhaps 10%-20% less read distance than an equivalent etched aluminum antenna. However, for many applications, such as use with a handheld reader, this is not a deal-breaker.3 It should be noted that Tageos is working on methods to increase thickness of the deposited aluminum. This is technically challenging, but if they succeed it should bring the performance closer to that of etched antennas, while retaining the cost advantage. If they can come near or equal to the performance of traditional tags, it will truly be a disruptive solution, enabling many applications where tag cost previously prevented enough of an ROI from being realized.

 

RFMicron

We also got to see RFMicron, who makes some really impressive passive RFID sensors (see “Innovations from the Chip Makers”). They continue to refine their technology and have added to the types of sensors and specific applications they support. One of the more exciting and promising of these is tire pressure monitoring. The US, Europe, and much of the rest of the world require all cars and light trucks to come equipped with a Tire Pressure Monitoring System (TPMS). This adds significant cost to each vehicle (in the range of $50-$200). RFMicron could replace those sensors and the electronics with a much less expensive passive RFID system. It seems like this could be a no-brainer for automobile manufacturers—a more capable system for a significantly lower cost. And once you have a UHF RFID reader in the car anyway, you can have passive RFID sensors and tags throughout the car for all kinds of purposes, at very low cost. There are over 80 million new vehicles built and sold each year. If RFMicron is able to penetrate this market substantially, it could take them pretty quickly from being a small startup to being one of the largest RFID hardware makers. And that is just one of the application areas they are pursuing. This is a company to watch!

 

Omni-ID

Omni-ID continues to show their prowess in manufacturing applications and the differentiation of their visual tag (see The Value of Dynamic Visual Tags). They created the View 10, their largest visual tag yet, with a 10” display, five capacitive touch buttons, WiFi connectivity, the ability to sense infrared beacons, and of course UHF RFID. And they made it thin enough (about 13mm ≈ ½”) to be able to directly replace the “traveler sheets” (standard 8½ X 11 paper documents that travel with the vehicle or complex machine as it moves through the assembly process) that are commonly used in complex manufacturing environments. It can slide right into the existing document holder. A great example is how Detroit Diesel (a Daimler company) is using them. Their Freightliner truck engine plant produces a new engine every 2½ minutes. Like most automakers, Detroit Diesel used to print a “build book,” up to 60 sheets for every truck engine they make, describing exactly how it should be built. These were printed offsite by a third party and arrived each morning on a pallet. These were based on decisions made a week earlier, so Daimler had a crew of employees that did nothing but go through and markup any changes to the build instructions that had occurred since the build books had been printed, as well as manually matching every book to every engine being “born”—leading to costly errors.

Using Omni-ID’s View 10, all those changes are automatically updated—even changes made at the last minute—which is tremendously useful in complex, dynamic manufacturing environments. It also saves a tremendous amount of paper and printing costs, as well as the labor to manage them. Plus, it allows the exact location of each engine to be tracked, recording what has been done and remains to be done. Detroit Diesel is also installing View 4 tags4 for parts replenishment and using Omni-ID’s passive tags for dunnage (RTI5) tracking.

Another major auto manufacturer is using the View 10 in their transmission plant. In that plant they make over 100 million gears each year—nearly 50 different types (SKUs) of gears that go into these transmissions. Each gear has many fabrication steps such as machining, grinding, etching, polishing, and more. For some of these steps, it can be very difficult to tell just by looking whether a gear has gone through the step or not. They had no visibility into the status of each cartful of gears. If all the polishing stations were busy, a worker might leave the cart there and return to other tasks. That cart might not get noticed for hours and other workers were not sure of the status. They managed this situation using runners with radios going around finding stuff. Now they can keep track of the exact disposition of each cart; any worker can see the status and next step on the visual display. Further, the system can tell the worker specifically where to take each set of gears—“take to etching machine #42.” Now they are able to track the path of every gear going through the plant, analyze all that data, spot the inefficiencies, and optimize their operations.

Omni-ID continues to learn from their experiences as their devices are used in manufacturing environments and they continually refine those devices. For example, they learned that the device needed to be thin enough to fit in the slots that typically hold paper documents. They also worked on improving battery life and charging. The V10 battery lasts about two weeks, rather than having to be recharged every shift. It is recharged using an inductive charging coil; you just drop it into a slot instead of plugging it into a charging station (where pins can get all gummed up or broken).

Omni-ID said that savings on paper and printing alone can usually bring a payback period of 12-18 months. The other benefits are sometimes harder to quantify, but are often much larger. Besides their focus on developing solutions specifically for the manufacturing market, Omni-ID continues to deliver solutions through partners across manufacturing and many other key vertical markets that they have historically served, including IT data centers, Oil and Gas, Healthcare, Government and Defense.

RFID Global

RFID Global continues to do very well in IT asset tracking, healthcare, and other sectors, with a number of application-specific capabilities. For example, they have a product master database containing the names of over 70,000 different types of IT assets that their customers track. This helps ensure consistency and avoid errors that occur with free-form typing of asset types. Their application, Visi-Trac, can run on a handheld and includes embedded analytics, such as counts of asset types and dwell times for mobile assets.

Visi-Trac is also good for tracking materials, not just assets. For example, it is used on construction sites, using outdoor tags with GPS to track material in a yard. It is also used for tracking scaffolding inspections, to make sure they are inspected regularly as required by law. It is being used on offshore oil and gas to support marine logistics. With all of these, you can view assets on a map, click on the asset icon, and see a description of the asset and other relevant information.

RFID Global continues to enhance their core asset management capabilities. They have added Visi-Trac Audit manager, the ability to conduct inventory, show rack positions anywhere in the data hall, and color code each item with the current status, indicating what work has been completed and remains. They can create audit remediation reports to note what was missing and a list of remaining actions. RFID Global has been doing well and their future looks bright.

Impinj Monza R6

Impinj announced their Monza R6 passive UHF chip, which is optimized for high-volume applications as in retail and supply chain. It has an impressive list of new functionality and performance, such as excellent read sensitivity, rapid encoding, and auto-tuning. We’ll cover this in more detail in another article soon.

 

The Best Is yet to Come

I’ve only scratched the surface on all the new developments shown at the conference. RFID is really hitting its stride and is an exciting sector to be in right now.

______________________________________

1 I2C (Inter-Integrated Circuit), is a widely adopted multimaster, serial, single-ended computer bus invented by NXP that has become a de facto standard for attaching low-speed devices. — Return to article text above

2 They use high temperature vacuum deposition. Inside a chamber with vaporized aluminum, they place two masks on the paper—one to prevent the paper from catching fire (remember the aluminum is hot enough to be melted into a vapor) and the other to outline where the aluminum should be deposited to form the antenna. — Return to article text above

3 In other applications where read distance really matters, especially where the type of material on which the tag is mounted causes substantial detuning, the traditional approach (etched antenna) may be worth the higher tag cost. — Return to article text above

4 Omni-ID’s 4” visual tags — Return to article text above

5 RTI = Returnable Transport Item — Return to article text above


To view other articles from this issue of the brief, click here.


Motorola Exits Stage Left; Zebra Picks up the Mantle
Monday, April 21, 2014

Guest Blog

By Mark Roberti, RFID Journal

The first thing I thought of when I received Motorola’s press release announcing it had sold its enterprise division, which includes its radio frequency identification business, to Zebra Technologies (see Zebra Buys Motorola Solutions’ Enterprise Business), was Paul Saffo’s presentation at RFID Journal LIVE! 2005. Saffo, a renowned futurist, gives advice to the likes of Bill Gates regarding where technology is going. At our event, he explained the hype cycle and said it takes time for a new technology to mature. “As a result, many of you vendors in the audience,” he predicted, “will exit the market just as it is about to take off” (see Futurist Paul Saffo Discusses the Adoption of RFID Technology at RFID Journal LIVE! 2005).

I believe Motorola is making a huge mistake. I recognize that the company conducted a strategic review and found that its enterprise division, which sells mostly bar-code and RFID equipment, did not gel with its government division, which sells communications equipment to first responders, police forces and the like. That is a reasonable decision—though one wonders why the previous CEO, who purchased Symbol Technologies in 2006 (see Motorola Acquiring Symbol), didn’t see that logic.

The leaders of Motorola’s enterprise division understand RFID‘s potential and the revenue it will generate. It appears, however, that the higher-ups didn’t see the potential. It’s hard to imagine that any company would sell a division that is about to see enormous growth, regardless of the fit. Every publicly traded company wants to see an engine for rapid and sustained profits.

I’m sure the folks who engineered the deal would say that people like me have been claiming RFID is about to take off for years. That’s true. And it might still be a few more years before sales of Motorola—I mean, uh, Zebra—readers explode. But explode they will. Going back to Paul’s Saffo’s presentation, he also said: “Everyone overestimates the short-term potential of a new technology and underestimates the long-term potential.” He pointed out that in the early 1980s, IBM estimated the total market for personal computers to be about 60,000 units annually. PC sales peaked at 95 million during the fourth quarter of 2011.

Motorola’s loss is, of course, Zebra’s gain. The challenge for Zebra, if the deal closes, is to let the world know that Motorola handheld and fixed readers are now Zebra readers. Motorola built the best-known brand in the industry after it purchased Symbol. Zebra can’t assume that just because it purchased Motorola’s business, everyone will know that and flock to Zebra for readers. It needs to establish in the RFID technology buyer’s mind that Zebra is now the go-to company for fixed and handheld readers, the way Motorola did.