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Battery Supplier Deploys RFID to Manage Product Inventory
A major automotive battery maker is using Seeonic's SightWare-Seeniq system, installed on shelving, so that it can view whether its batteries need to be restocked at third-party locations, such as auto repair shops and parts dealers.
Mar 29, 2012—At four Minnesota stores, a major U.S. automotive battery supplier has added radio frequency identification technology to storage racks, making it possible for the company to view the locations of its products and replenish stock at the appropriate times, thereby enabling it to provide improved services to its distributors, dealers and retailers. The solution, developed and supplied by RFID technology company Seeonic, tracks RFID tags attached to consumer products placed on shelves or other retail fixtures, using RFID reader hardware known as SightWare. The SightWare system consists of interrogators, EPC Gen 2 passive ultrahigh-frequency (UHF) tags and Seeonic's Seeniq software, residing on a hosted server accessible on a software-as-a-service (SAAS) basis.
The battery company provides its products to auto parts stores, repair shops and other merchant locations. It sends drivers to replenish products as they are sold, and chose to trial the Seeonic solution in order to determine whether attaching RFID tags to its batteries, as well as installing an RFID reader module and antennas in storage or display racks at dealership sites, would provide greater visibility into when products were being sold at each location.
Bill James, Seeonic's business development VP, explains that although the SightWare solution works with any standard UHF Gen 2 RFID tag, in this case Seeonic needed to provide a tag that would be readable through metal, liquids, lead and acid, and that could sustain the type of environment found in the vicinity of automotive repair work, which can include dirt, varying temperatures or contaminants. Therefore, after reviewing a wide variety of tags, Seeonic chose UPM RFID's Frog 3D tags, each encoded with a unique ID number. The tag is applied to the top of the battery's case.
Seeonic is supplying the RFID hardware, which it installs in the racks (typically measuring approximately 8 feet high by 4 feet wide) already located on-site. The SightWare reader, consisting of a ThingMagic Mercury5E RFID reader module powered by a battery or an outlet connection, is attached to one of the rack's shelves, and is wired to as many as 32 antennas mounted on the rack's metal framework. Most racks can hold 15 to 24 batteries. The Mercury5E module remains dormant except to read the ID numbers encoded to the batteries' tags and forward that information to the cloud-based server via a Wi-Fi or cellular connection. For the battery deployment, James says, the interrogators were configured to perform reads three times daily. With each read, the data is received by the cloud-based server, and Seeonic software interprets the read data and displays it on a dashboard so that it can be viewed by authorized personnel working for the battery company.
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