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Japanese Retailers Trial UHF E-ink Paper Label

The new RFID-enabled label with e-ink paper, developed by E Ink Corp. and Fujitsu Semiconductor, is intended to boost logistics efficiency in Japan's convenience store market.
By Claire Swedberg
Oct 23, 2018

Aiming at improving logistical efficiency and accuracy, while reducing paper use for Japanese convenience retailers, two technology companies have created an electronic ink smart label that displays data which can be updated via UHF RFID transmission. The tags require no battery, instead using energy culled during RFID interrogation to capture, store and display e-ink data. E Ink Corp. and Fujitsu Semiconductor together announced their newest solution this month for boosting convenience store logistics. In the long run, they claim, the solution can be used not only for logistics tags, but also for e-paper badges, ID cards and electronic shelf labels.

The technology, which will be offered for solution providers in the form of a reference design board, is being trialed in a prototype version by several Japanese retailers. Toppan Printing is creating the tags using Fujitsu Semiconductor's UHF FRAM RFID LSI inlay.

E Ink Japan's Naoki Sumita
E Ink spun off from MIT Media Lab in 1997 with the first e-paper technology. The company makes display products globally for brands and manufacturers. In 2009, the firm was acquired by Taiwan's Prime View International, whose products include e-readers, electronic shelf labels, e-notes, e-paper mobile devices and digital signage.

Convenience stores are ubiquitous throughout Japan, offering everything from beauty and health aids to snacks. Averaging about 100 square meters (1,076 square feet) in size, these neighborhood stores are nimble enough to change their inventory to meet the shifting demands of local consumers within a matter of days. Therefore, inventory moves at a fast pace from distribution centers to these small store fronts.

As convenience stores become ever more popular, there is also a shortage of labor to manage logistics. "Due to a lack of manpower, the industry is under pressure to optimize their overall logistics operation," says Naoki Sumita, E Ink Japan's president. By making it possible to update tag information as a product moves through the supply chain, he explains, warehouse and other logistics employees will spend less time checking inventory, scanning bar codes or manually entering information. Additionally, the goal is to reduce paper waste. "This RFID tag will be a replacement of the existing paper label," he states, "which will contribute to the reduction of paper usage."

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