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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

Inventor-e's cloud-based software-as-a-service (SaaS) solution, known as Sourcerer, can then provide data to a company across a fleet of vans, identifying which vehicles are missing items, when those assets went missing and where a particular van was located when a specific item was no longer detected. This same platform integrates Inventor-e's suite of vending, asset-management and supply-tracking solutions in one central location, thereby providing an enterprise view of assets, supplies and transactions.

For instance, if a driver wanted to document which items he places into or removes from the van, he would first sign into the smartphone app to identify himself and select from available actions. He could then use his smartphone's NFC radio to read the NFC RFID inlay of each item's Smartie tag, thereby creating a record of those actions, which would then be stored in the app. (Such an application leverages the Smartie tag's NFC technology instead of its beacon, since NFC has a read range of only a few inches, thus enabling the user to identify only the items he is loading or removing.)

The iVend RFID solution can track the movements of tools, consumables and assets as they are placed into or removed from a storage cabinet.
The driver could then use his phone's Bluetooth radio to conduct a van-wide inventory count of all items onboard his vehicle, with the app issuing an alert if anything is discovered to be missing. The Smartie tag's beacon has a read range of approximately 30 meters (98 feet). The software could match the NFC reads with the BLE reads and determine whether the missing item was deliberately removed, and by whom, during the time of the NFC read. The software could also document the reason that an item was removed, provided that the driver had taken the time to manually enter that information into the app. According to the company, the Smartie tag is expected to become commercially available later this summer.

In addition, the company developed a device called the iSite, which combines an EPC Gen 2 UHF RFID reader with a BLE radio. The device is powered via an Ethernet cable and can be installed in the ceiling of an office or other facility, inside a cabinet or within an emergency van. It can then begin collecting data in real time, based on UHF RFID tag reads, as well as any beacon transmissions. The iSite's RFID reader typically has an 8-meter (26.2-foot) read range, while its Bluetooth radio can pick up the beacon transmissions of a Smartie tag located as far away as 30 meters (98 feet). The iSite is sized to replace a standard ceiling tile measuring 60 centimeters by 60 centimeters (23.6 inches by 23.6 inches). This product has been installed at several locations, Henry says, including a medical instruments manufacturer in Wales.

If multiple iSite devices are installed across a site, each device can be used to create a zone in the Inventor-e software to identify where a specific Smartie-tagged item is located, using the RFID reader to provide a higher level of location granularity, or using the BLE radio to establish a larger read zone. For instance, if Smartie-tagged assets are distributed throughout a facility, the UHF RFID reader in iSite devices can identify a particular object's location within the building, while the BLE radio could continue to track the tagged item if an individual were to remove it, all the way out to a vehicle parked outside. If an iSite device were also installed within a van, the system could monitor an asset's movement from inside a facility into that specific van, and then out of that vehicle, without a break in coverage.

The variety of technologies built into the iSite, Henry explains, "can all be talking to our software independently." The software then links and compares the data to provide analytics, alerts and other useful information.

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