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Awards Honor RFID Innovators

At the RFID World conference today in Dallas, Texas, five organizations and individuals were announced as winners of the first annual RFID Excellence in Business Awards. This article lists the winners, as well as key trends that emerged from the 96 entrants.
Mar 27, 2007This article was originally published by RFID Update.

March 27, 2007—Winners of the inaugural RFID Excellence in Business Awards were announced earlier today at the RFID World exhibition and conference in Dallas. Consulting firm RFID Revolution created the awards in cooperation with the show management to honor companies for their innovation and leadership, and for the quality of business results they achieved from RFID or RTLS systems.

"There is so much good that can come from RFID, both business and societal benefits, but unfortunately sometimes people lose sight of that," RFID Revolution founder Leslie Downey told RFID Update. "RFID can do so much more benefit than harm. This awards program has really amplified that to the RFID community."

The winners and categories are:
  • Mercy Medical Center (Des Moines, Iowa), WaveMark, and Edwards Lifesciences for Excellence in RFID Implementation. The 917-bed Mercy Medical Center hospital installed a high frequency (13.56 MHz) RFID system to track equipment and supplies in its catheterization lab from when they are received and throughout their storage and use. Approximately 90 percent of the data collected for receiving, inventory management, and restocking is now captured automatically, which saves the hospital countless labor hours. Improved tracking also helped the hospital reduce high-value item inventory by 30 percent, improve charge capture, and provide data to support material purchase negotiations.
     
  • Evidencia and Rio Blanco for Excellence in RFID Pilot. Rio Blanco is a Chilean avocado grower that used RFID and temperature sensors to help manage cold chain logistics from its fields to the Valparaiso harbor and on to Los Angeles. Temperature monitoring began by taping 13.56 MHz tags integrated with temperature sensors directly to avocados while they were still on trees. Temperatures were also monitored and recorded as the produce made its 6,000-mile journey from Chile to Los Angeles. The trial achieved 100 percent read rates at 4,000 time and location collection points over three weeks. The data helps the grower validate the quality of its produce and holds its logistics partners accountable for meeting their cold chain commitments. One of the vendors involved in the pilot reported it has since sold similar systems to ten other Chilean growers based on the positive results Rio Blanco attained.
     
  • The World Wildlife Fund (WWF) and Texas Instruments won the Most Innovative RFID Application. WWF is using RFID tags to track white lipped peccaries (a type of wild pig) in the Amazon as part of a program to protect the species and its habitat. The WWF is conducting a five-year study of peccary behavior. Scientists applied ear tags to the animals and installed readers near salt and mineral licks to capture data on visitation habits. The low frequency passive RFID system that was developed costs up to 100 times less than GPS technology typically used for such studies, is less intrusive to the animals, and was judged 30 percent more effective for identifying individual peccaries than other animal ID systems.
     
  • ADASA won Excellence in RFID Technology. The company makes the PAD3500 tag encoder, an extremely slim handheld device that can encode RFID smart labels, eliminating the need for a printer/encoder. The device gives users the flexibility to encode labels after they are printed, and can also be used to encode other types of RFID tags. It also enables mobile tag encoding, which is quite valuable given that to date no mobile RFID printer/encoder has been released.
     
  • Dr. Chris Diorio of Impinj was named RFID Visionary of the Year. Diorio, Impinj's co-founder and chief technical officer, is also an associate professor at the University of Washington and served as co-chair of EPCglobal's Hardware Action Group. Diorio was honored for his technical contributions to the EPC Gen2 standard, leadership in guiding representatives from 43 companies involved in the standard development, market education and development efforts around Gen2 and the use of near-field UHF for item-level tagging, and for driving Impinj's own Gen2 technology and market leadership.
The winners were selected from 96 entries received between December, 2006 and February, 2007. There was a separate panel of judges for each category. Entries were judged on the value the system or technology created, documented results, innovation, and other factors. Summaries of all the winners along with the judges' comments and information about other entrants will be posted on the award program web site.

"We felt strongly that we should recognize organizations and projects that share RFID data," said Downey. "Data sharing is often a stumbling block in RFID implementations, but it's very important to the value, so we placed heavy emphasis on it.

"The awards program drew a huge range of applications, from wildlife tracking in the Amazon, to more efficient handling of prison inmate phone calls, to hospital garment tracking, to plain vanilla supply chain applications," she continued. "The results will give many people a lot of insight into the very real productivity improvements and other benefits that RFID yields in a variety of settings."

Downey recognized several commonalities and trends among the entrants. First and foremost, many companies are achieving real business value from RFID implementations. She noted there were examples of positive ROI from all types of RFID technology: low frequency, high frequency (13.56 MHz) and UHF (including Gen2) passive tags, 2.45 GHz systems, and various types of active and RTLS technology.

Many entrants noted the outstanding read performance and reliability they are getting from Gen2 technology. "It was very clear from the entries that Gen2 is providing excellent results," said Downey. "People are almost taking it for granted."

Companies who started using RFID to meet customer compliance tagging requirements are also realizing ROI from their efforts. "Several entrants found that once RFID infrastructure was in place to meet their customer requirements, they were also positioned to receive many potential benefits themselves," said Downey. "One company said it had greatly improved its inventory handling efficiency and reduced its picking errors.

"Another company found that to keep its total costs down as much as possible, it was better to fully integrate its printing/encoding operations with its ERP system, rather than doing straight slap-and-ship. Integration made for a more streamlined process, with less exception management and lower total cost to the organization."

"When it comes to ROI, it is clearly better to be the receiver of tagged goods [than the supplier]," said Downey. "Companies doing compliance tagging are learning to take advantage of this by using RFID in receiving operations at their own facilities. Whether you are a retailer or a manufacturer, with RFID you can save hours in receiving time."

"The vast majority of results would be highly repeatable across many businesses," she said. "A great many of the entries were about tried-and-true asset tracking, and most of these provided full payback in less than a year. But a significant number of entries centered around multi-partner applications and data sharing. Many of these systems were achieving payback -- and pretty impressive payback -- from more efficient supply chain management, stemming inventory loss, monitoring promotion execution, and reducing retail out-of-stocks. The lesson is: Yes, there is ROI in RFID, no matter where you are in the supply chain."
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