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RFID in a Day Attracts Label Companies, Brands

SMAG Graphique is showcasing how RFID technology can be used for its label-converting equipment customers, as it recently released two new converting machines for UHF RFID-enabled product labels.
By Claire Swedberg

SMAG contributed its own equipment for the live demonstrations, Cardoch reports, with the inlays embedded and encoded. Additionally, he says, "We gave seminars to distributors and customers about intelligent labels and RFID technology itself, including what it is and how they can benefit from having the product in their portfolio." The firm also demonstrated ways in which its customers, such as brands and retailers, can use intelligent labels.

Of those in attendance, Cardoch says, approximately 40 percent had some familiarity with RFID but needed to know more. The other 60 percent, he notes, had little to no experience with the technology. That group included brand owners that would be using the RFID-enabled labels, as well as converting companies looking to expand their product offerings.

RFID technology deployment is taking place most commonly among high-value brands, Cardoch says. "There is a lot of demand for traceability today," he adds. By building RFID directly into labels, brands can manage the locations of products on a single-item level, throughout the supply chain, without applying additional tags directly to products (which could spoil the aesthetics). In some cases, these companies hope to gain not only visibility but also marketing analytics, in order to better understand where a product goes, when this occurs and how it is selling in specific locations and with certain demographics.

SMAG's converting machine can also enable the insertion of NFC 13.56 MHz labels, compliant with the ISO 14443 standard, which can be used for authentication and are readable with iOS- or Android-based smartphones. Encoding functionality is currently only available for UHF tags, Cardoch says, though the company is conducting research into the potential inclusion of NFC technology for encoding. Thus far, he reports, the greatest interest lies in UHF labels, which enable supply chain members to locate and track goods as they are moved from the point of manufacture to stores.

"NFC is one-to-one technology," Cardoch says, meaning the short read range requires an RFID-enabled device like a mobile phone to be within millimeters of a single reader to capture a tag's unique ID. "UHF is one-to-many, and that speed of communication is what our customers want." The greatest interest for the UHF-enabled labels, he adds, lies in the retail supply chain, pharmaceuticals and baggage tracking for airlines.

The objective of the RFID in a Day event, the company explains, was to promote the technology to help its customers compete as RFID-based intelligent labels proliferate. Cardoch reports that feedback from the event was positive, stating, "They were all engaged and interested in learning more," and were ultimately taking steps to implement the technology. "We were surprised to see how much interest there was."

Some companies are investigating the use of tags with dual functionality for both UHF (for inventory management and supply chain tracking) and NFC (to engage with customers via their smartphones). SMAG's factory and headquarters is in France, and it also maintains offices in Calgary, Lithuania and Bogotá, Colombia, in its efforts to reach a global market.

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