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Inventor-e Launches Hybrid Auto-ID Solutions

The U.K. company is offering its Smartie tags and iSite readers, along with apps and software to manage deployments that can combine Bluetooth beacons with EPC and NFC passive RFID tags.
By Claire Swedberg
Jul 01, 2016

Sometimes, a multitude of technologies is the best way to track assets or individuals within facilities or in the field. RFID tags or Bluetooth beacons alone, for instance, might not enable a company to easily monitor the locations of assets as they are taken from a factory, warehouse or office and loaded into a van, as well as identify where they were removed from that vehicle and why. But beacons, together with Electronic Product Code (EPC) and Near Field Communication (NFC) passive RFID tags, can be deployed to enable a wide variety of data-collection methods to determine where an item or person is going within a building, across a parking lot and inside a vehicle. That data can then be made available via an app or hosted software.

U.K. company Inventor-e has built an assortment of flexible solutions combining all three technologies. A variety of users, including managers of hospital supplies, facilities-management companies and shipyard operators, have deployed Inventor-e's SmartStores solution to manage items that their employees use. In addition, several businesses have begun trials of the company's SmartVan stock-management solution across their vehicle fleets.

The iSite, which combines an EPC Gen 2 UHF RFID reader, a BLE radio and three pairs of antennas, is sized to replace a standard ceiling tile measuring 60 centimeters by 60 centimeters.
Inventor-e first opened for business in 2001. The firm launched an industrial vending solution known as iVend, using electronic kanban technology based on weight sensor data. Current customers for that vending solution include aerospace and global consumer goods manufacturers.

More recently, the company added RFID technology to its offerings, says Dean Henry, Inventor-e's CEO, in order to provide a more automated method of collecting data about items such as health-care supplies and expensive assets, including oscilloscopes and medical instruments. The solutions using RFID have consisted of Inventor-e's own ultrahigh-frequency (UHF) RFID readers to track the movements of tools, consumables and assets as they are moved into or out of key areas, such as cabinets or across a specific site. The company is now incorporating beacon and NFC readers into its receiver devices to provide further flexibility, by collecting BLE-based location data in some cases—such as the movements of tags at a distance—while using EPC UHF RFID in other cases requiring more specific location data (within a zone, for instance) or NFC for cases in which a user needs to identify a single tag at close range.

This summer, the company is releasing its Smartie tag to enable asset tracking within vans or emergency vehicles. The Smartie contains an NXP Semiconductors NFC RFID inlay and a Bluetooth Low Energy (BLE) beacon that supports both the iBeacon or Google Eddystone specifications. Inventor-e also employs passive EPC Gen 2 UHF RFID inlays made with Impinj chips.

To track assets and tools loaded into a van, a user attaches a Smartie tag to each item. The Smartie can also be worn as a badge by drivers or other personnel. A driver can utilize his Android-based smartphone, running Inventor-e's SmartStores app, to identify each tagged item via the smartphone's NFC or BLE radio, and display an alert in the event of a problem, such as an expected item's tag not being read within the van. The app also comes with a SmartSearch function enabling users to locate any assets or consumable items across the entire enterprise.

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