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RFID News Roundup

SAP customers that use auto-ID systems like RFID see operational efficiency gains; Qantas signs four-year deal with Unisys for RFID-enabled Baggage Reconciliation System; Connexall connects patients' comfort, safety and well-being at Disney Cancer Center; Toppan Printing develops NFC-compliant IC card with full-color LCD; Garner Transportation and National Center for Manufacturing Sciences pick I.D. Systems solutions.
Oct 28, 2010The following are news announcements made during the past week.

SAP Customers That Use Auto-ID Systems Like RFID See Operational Efficiency Gains
According to a recent study conducted by the Aberdeen Group, SAP-enabled enterprises that integrate radio frequency identification and other automatic-identification and item-level serialization data with their businesses cite improved time-to-information (defined as the percentage of time that critical operational data is available to a decision-maker in time to take a required action), gross margin return on investment (ROI) and labor costs. The study, entitled "RFID-Enabled Process Visibility for SAP Enterprise Customers: From Track-and-Trace to Sense-and-Respond," finds that companies using SAP for business process management and intelligence are adopting RFID and other item-level serialization technologies to improve efficiency. Moreover, the study noted, by integrating auto-ID data into their SAP platform, these firms see dramatic improvements in management effectiveness, employee productivity and customer satisfaction. Aberdeen compared SAP customers that use auto-ID solutions with those that do not, and found that auto-ID users, in aggregate, experienced adequate time-to-information more than 83 percent of the time, increased gross margin ROI by 20 percent year-over-year, and decreased labor cost by 1.4 percent year-over-year. Those not using automatic-identification technologies, on the other hand, experienced adequate time-to-information 55 percent of the time, increased gross margin ROI by 5 percent year-over-year, and decreased labor cost less than half a percent year-over-year. The study also examined which types of auto-ID solutions were used, and the factors that went into those decisions, and found that 76 percent of respondents placed a high priority on adherence to industry standards, such as EPC and ISO 18000-7. In addition, 81 percent of SAP-enabled auto-ID users apply tags in multiple operating environments and across multiple layers (items, cases, palettes, containers and transport vehicles), and 97 percent involve knowledgeable consultants or systems integrators in the building and implementation of their solutions. A complimentary copy of the full report is available from Aberdeen's Web site.

Qantas Signs Four-Year Deal With Unisys for RFID-enabled Baggage Reconciliation System
Unisys'Australian division has announced that it is providing an RFID-enabled Baggage Reconciliation System (BRS) to Australian airline Qantas. Using the solution, Qantas has introduced the nation's first self-service baggage check-in facility—part of the airline's Next Generation Check-in initiative, designed to streamline and speed up a passenger's journey through the domestic airport. The new BRS, which employs RFID technology to track and verify luggage, will be put into use when the initiative is implemented at the Qantas Domestic Terminal, located in Sydney. The airline unveiled its first Next Generation Check-in initiative at Perth's airport in July 2010, as part of a trial (see Qantas Launches Its Next Generation Check-in System). This, Qantas reported, is being followed by the system's installation at its Sydney terminal later this year, and in Melbourne, Brisbane, Adelaide and Canberra in 2011. Under the terms of the four-year deal, signed in the second quarter of 2010, Unisys is providing systems integration, implementation and rollout services, as well as application hosting and support for the BRS, at the Unisys data center in Sydney. With the Sydney launch of Next Generation Check-in slated to take place in November, Q Bag Tags—reusable RFID-enabled bag tags containing passive ultrahigh-frequency (UHF) EPC Gen 2 RFID inlays—will be provided to Platinum, Gold and Silver Qantas Frequent Flyer members, for use as part of a premium service, thereby eliminating the need for these passengers to print a traditional bar-coded bag tag each time they fly.

Connexall Connects Patients' Comfort, Safety and Well-Being at Disney Cancer Center
Connexall, a provider of enterprise middleware for health-care alarm management, lean-enabling workflow automation and comprehensive reporting, has announced that its middleware is being used to support an RFID deployment intended to help improve patient satisfaction at the Roy and Patricia Disney Family Cancer Center, which opened in February 2010 at the Providence Saint Joseph Medical Center, in Burbank, Calif. (see 2010 RFID Journal Award: RFID Helps Heal Body, Mind and Spirit). The system, which leverages passive EPC Gen 2 RFID tags, is aimed at reducing patient anxiety. Connexall is providing a unified communications platform for devices, building-management software and patient-data systems. The RFID deployment includes ThingMagic's EPC Gen 2 interrogators that read the RFID-enabled ID badges of patients entering or leaving specific areas. Reva Systems' TAP technology then processes and interprets this information, determines a patient's location and notifies AeroScout's MobileView software. MobileView acts as the solution's aggregation and information distribution point, associating each badge with a specific individual, maintaining a rules-based event engine and issuing alerts to the appropriate staff members. Connexall's software consists of a software engine that integrates any type of event-triggered communications point with existing wired and wireless networks and business systems, using a range of interface options. When a person or system—such as MobileView—triggers an event, Connexall utilizes customer-defined business rules to immediately relay the correct information to the proper personnel through almost any device. That means the RFID data can be used to maintain patient room-temperature preferences through a Johnson Controls P2000 building-management system, or to notify employees (via text messages on IP phones) that a patient is ready for treatment. "We designed every element of the center to help alleviate stress," said Ray Lowe, the regional director of IS operation for Providence Saint Joseph Medical Center and the Disney Cancer Center, in a prepared statement. "Everything happens behind the scenes, invisible to patients, but the experience the RFID solution enables us to deliver has a strong impact on each patient's mood and state of mind."

Toppan Printing Develops NFC-compliant IC Card With Full-Color LCD
Toppan Printing Co., Ltd. has announced it has developed a Near Field Communication (NFC)-compliant contactless IC card with a high-definition, full-color liquid-crystal display. The card is currently a concept model for next-generation IC cards, and the company aims to begin producing it next year. By mounting a display and building a battery into the IC card, Toppan indicates, it will be possible to check the information encoded to the card's memory with just the card alone, compared with existing contactless IC cards in which an RFID interrogator must be used to access a card's data. With this IC concept card, Toppan asserts, it will be possible to instantly display any data stored on the IC, such as a cardholder's balance of funds, points or coupons. The card's built-in high-definition, full-color LCD makes various applications feasible that were impossible with previous IC cards, such as advertising campaigns utilizing colorful designs, and amusement applications, such as games. According to Toppan, the card is compatible with the ISO 14443 (A and B) and FeliCa specifications. Control keys are also installed on the card, enabling simple switching between screens. The card will weigh approximately 25 grams (0.9 ounce) and feature a 2.2-inch LCD with a resolution of 320 by 240 dot.

Garner Transportation and National Center for Manufacturing Sciences Pick I.D. Systems Solutions
I.D. Systems has announced that Garner Transportation Group, a truckload carrier in the Midwest, has purchased a VeriWise Track & Trace system from I.D. Systems' Asset Intelligence division. Garner will deploy the system across its entire fleet of dry vans, for an initial contract term of five years. The solution incorporates VeriWise wireless sensor devices, each of which stores a unique ID number linked to trailer data in the company's back-end server. It also contains a GPS unit to track the trailer's location, a CDMA cellular transmitter to transmit the ID number and location to cellular towers at regular intervals, and motion, cargo and door sensors. "Garner is committed to investing in technology that helps us better serve our customers," said Garner's president, Sherri Garner Brumbaugh, in a prepared statement. "The VeriWise Track & Trace system enables us to gain real-time visibility of our dry van fleet, eliminate manual yard checks, and improve our dispatch efficiency. That translates into more timely, controlled deliveries for our customers, and almost a 10 percent increase in fleet utilization for us." The system appealed to Garner, she explained, because the sensors can be mounted externally on the dry vans but not on the roof, where it would be subject to damage. Installation, she added, takes less than 15 minutes. In addition to the Garner announcement, I.D. Systems also reports that it has entered into an agreement with the National Center for Manufacturing Sciences (NCMS) to deploy I.D. Systems PowerFleet Wireless Vehicle Management System on a fleet of material-handling equipment at the Red River Army Depot, an installation of the U.S. Army's Tank-automotive and Armaments Command (TACOM) under the U.S. Army Materiel Command. Funded in part by the U.S. Department of Defense (DOD), NCMS is a nonprofit organization that forms partnerships between the DOD and private industry under the Commercial Technologies for Maintenance Activities (CTMA) program. NCMS facilitates the development, deployment and validation of innovative commercial technologies that provide operational benefits and cost savings for the DOD's maintenance activities. I.D. Systems' PowerFleet Vehicle Management System (VMS) leverages active RFID tags, known as Vehicle Asset Communicators (VACs), to help a company manage its fleet of industrial trucks. Each VAC has a GPS unit attached to it, in order to track a vehicle's location. That location information is then communicated via a 900 MHz signal to I.D. Systems' interrogators and antennas, which can be affixed to buildings (a reader is typically installed indoors, with the 6-inch-wide, external antenna mounted outside, on a facility's exterior). The VACs offer a read range of between a half-mile and a mile, I.D. Systems reports. "Maintenance is a significant strategic focus for the DOD, as an essential element of materiel readiness, and maintenance operations absorb a significant percentage of the defense budget," said Greg Kilchenstein, of the Office of the Secretary of Defense for Acquisition, Technology and Logistics, in a prepared statement. "We are pleased that one of the Army's primary maintenance depots will have access to a technology that has had proven success in the commercial sector to reduce maintenance costs, improve safety, and increase productivity in material handling operations." Commercial companies employing the PowerFleet VMS include bottled-water company Nestlé Waters North America (see RFID News Roundup: Nestlé Waters North America Manages Fleet With Active RFID).
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