Sep 01, 2021Identity technologies company HID Global says it aims to expand its geographic reach and grow its UHF RFID portfolio, along with hybrid Internet of Things (IoT) solutions, with its recent acquisition of Omni-ID (see HID Global Acquires Omni-ID). By bringing Omni-ID's products and development to HID's Identity Technologies (IDT) business area, the firm is continuing its expansion into identification technologies for people, places and things, according to Marc Bielmann, HID's senior VP and head of ID technologies.
That effort, Bielmann says, helps to extend HID's position as a leading component supplier for RFID and IoT applications. HID's strategy with the acquisition, he explains, is to increase its offering of IoT hardware devices for passive and active tagging, tracking, monitoring and alerting applications. Such applications are expected to serve several markets, including industrial, oil and gas, and transportation, in which rugged UHF RFID solutions are required.
Omni-ID makes RFID tags and Industrial IoT (IIoT) hardware devices The company, launched in 2007 in the United Kingdom, began manufacturing industrial UHF RFID tags directed at the above markets for challenging environments, including those containing heat, wind, dirt or explosives. The firms offers five passive UHF RFID product families: IQ, Flex, Fit, EXO and Adept. Each has different characteristics aimed at addressing a broad range of use cases, from printable on-metal labels to ultra-rugged hard tags. In addition to the passive UHF products, Omni-ID has a growing range of active devices based on BLE and LoRa technologies.
Omni-ID has offices in the United Kingdom, as well as sales headquarters in Rochester, N.Y., with other offices in China and India. In 2020, it began expanding its offerings to include complementary IoT technologies, such as Bluetooth Low Energy (BLE) and LoRa, along with GPS, according to Tony Kington, Omni-ID's CEO. The firm has also expanded its customer base with a focus in the logistics, industrial, energy and healthcare markets.
As more companies are using RFID technology with sensors, Omni-ID has begun to offer passive UHF temperature sensing to its RFID portfolio. Since last year, the firm has been developing active RFID tags, as well as hybrid technology solutions, in partnership with BLE companies Quuppa and Wirepas, which Kington predicts will complement the HID Location Services offerings.
Omni-ID's 170 employees will continue to operate as part of the unit within the IDT business area. For HID Global, that means additional engineers and key personnel with more than 15 years of RFID experience. In recent years, Omni-ID has seen what it calls significant growth in the logistics sector, with deployment of its UHF tags on returnable transport containers, plastic skids and metal frames that carry products, such as engines or gear boxes, from manufacturing plant to core assembly.
The company's tags are in use on roll cages, such as those from Container Centralen (see Flower and Plant Transporters Leverage RFID to Authenticate, Track Trolleys). "That whole [industrial] sector is very active," Kington says, "and we're seeing percolation outwards into the E.U. and U.S.," as well as in developing countries such as Bangladesh, which is seeing large-sale adoption in logistics and transportation. "It's almost an organic bubbling-up of technology adoption" in the past few years, he states.
In addition, Omni-ID has been addressing momentum in industrial applications within manufacturing sites to manage work-in-progress. The healthcare sector is also using the company's products for asset management at hospitals and clinics, as well as for sample identification and for condition monitoring—for instance, in coolers that store medicines, tissues or food.
Regionally, Kington reports, most new RFID and IoT adoption growth has been in Asia. "Asia Pacific has been incredibly strong for us," he says, while Europe and the United States have seen steady growth. Many products being offered address the same core issues that Omni-ID sought to address at the time of its founding. "The UHF RFID piece [of the IoT equation] is hugely valuable because of is relatively low price, but if you look more broadly, we are very excited about BLE and complementary technologies."
In addition to building BLE or LoRa IoT connectivity into its existing products, Omni-ID will be working closely with HID's IoT Services business unit. Kington describes Omni-ID's offerings as complementary to what HID already provides, stating, "There's very little overlap, so when you put our two portfolios together, there is a huge degree of coverage," in terms of leveraging RFID and other technologies.
With regard to the acquisition, Bielmann says, the combined development and portfolios will help HID to provide a one-stop shop built on the two firms' common technology bases. The companies have created what they call an "RFID powerhouse," Kington says. "It's very exciting to be a part of that," he states. "They [HID] have a broader portfolio and a rich background in LF and HF." As a combined entity, he notes, "In terms of agility, the ability to develop products at speed, and a core base of intellectual property, we're very strong."
Omni-ID's products will add a new offering to HID's IDT product portfolios, Bielmann says, and additional development is expected to follow. "Furthermore," he adds, "products with synergies from both HID and Omni-ID will be rationalized to bring improved features to customers and markets." Omni-ID has several new products that are currently undergoing pilots with customers.
These products, Bielmann reports, include sensor labels with Axon chips, Wirepas's compatible devices that will be released in the fourth quarter of this year, and Omni-ID's Asset+ product that combines LoRa, BLE and GPS. The latter is being tested by early adopters in North America for yard management. Going forward, Kington says, Omni-ID expects to take part in more BLE technology development with HID. "We've already started communicating with [HID's] IoT Services Group," he states, "that focuses on that technology,"