The RFID Journal Live! Conference demonstrated the health and maturity of the RFID market and its relevancy to so many sectors.
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Solutions on the Rise
The RFID Journal Live! Conference demonstrated the health and maturity of the RFID market and its relevancy to so many sectors. Of course, tag and reader performance are also part of the differentiation story from the hardware producers, but demonstrations of mainstream business applications abounded. The diversity among applications was also critical, exhibiting how RFID is used today in vital business applications.
Service, MRO, and Maintenance
The ‘Best in Show’ application I saw was from Globe Ranger. Their demonstration of service management in motion showed the process in 3D and in motion—from diagnostics, inventory management, labor management, sourcing and procurement, epedigree, compliance, and repair, to data and document management utilizing all the latest in RFID, visual, and touch technologies. Immersed in work-in-process, no keyboard was ever used. Yet all the granular data was available, entered, transacted, and displayed.
On the service front, Dolphin RFID’s Maintenance solution is a brilliantly architected service solution that incorporates Android and also any frequency NFC, UHF, bar-coding, etc. With it, the mobile worker is connected to the cloud application. Mobile today includes all the scanning, communications, and end-user functions on the smart phone. With applications in asset management, tracking and other functions, Dolphin has been able to blend these into a more sophisticated service solution that can work for both large and mid-size workforces.
Although headquartered in India, Dolphin has a US base in San Diego and boasts an extraordinary customer base including global companies like Verizon, Wells Fargo, and many behemoths from India such as Tata, Mahindra, India’s DoD, and more.
The Internet of Things
The internet of Things was also a hot topic. Zebra has developed a solution, Zatar, which competes in the market with solutions like ThingWorx or Savi’s Savi Insight. With a beautiful UI based on an open platform, Zatar integrates with Apple’s iBeacon1 as well as Zebra competitors such as ThingMagic, Impinj, and others.2 Literally, right on the heels of Live, Zebra announced their desire to acquire Motorola Solutions. (It’s a good thing they waited till after the show.) Read more about that in Eating the Elephant in One Gulp, in this issue of the brief.
HID, known as a premiere tag producer, has developed a tag registry called Trusted Tag™ Service. Rather than being part of the Wild West on the internet, this service allows firms to securely validate unique things and/or people and associate them with locations or other read points. Applications that can leverage this are anti-counterfeiting, labor-management/time-management applications, promotion management, access control, and more. HID emphasized that they are not getting into the software application game. Trusted Tag™ allows their customers to have their own proprietary application, but have a global service that can assist with the challenge of diverse multi-location people and assets.
Retail, of Course
Retail is the topic for RFID UHF right now. And leading the charge are Checkpoint, Motorola Solutions, TAGSYS and Tyco Retail Solutions (in alphabetical order). Though tough competitors, there is some differentiation here. Luxury challenges such as authentication are still big topics and often use dual NFC/UHF or HF/UHF tags. Private label retailers are going end-to-end with tagging and cloud visibility solutions. TAGSYS boasts major luxury brands in its customer base. But source tagging in other segments is not as strong.
However, retailers are moving ahead with chain-wide deployments. Checkpoint’s new message is Merchandise Visibility, which focuses on rich solutions including software (partners) and multi-technology (tags, packaging, handhelds, and in-store illumination) approaches to achieve both Loss Prevention and Inventory Management. Checkpoint’s current poster child is Kohl’s all-stores-6-months roll-out including blue jeans.3 For Tyco, it is Saks, Macy’s, and Bloomingdales. Merchandise display is one of the big hits here, increasing sales, ensuring all selections are on display, and increasing the salesperson’s time with the customer. Talking to salespeople in my local store, they said they “loved the system” and training was a snap, requiring almost no time.
The major players in retail from chips, tags, and solutions report a huge upsurge in RFP/RFQs from retailers and brand companies for new projects. And gladly, there are many other sectors where RFID use is on the rise.
1 Note: IOS applications and Apple, in general, did a very poor showing at the conference due to the lack of NFC and other applications. Overall, this tech-giddy community felt Apple has been left behind in the cool category as well as the heavy lifting business applications these days…. -- Return to article text above