Big RFID Deployments and Better RFID Products

By Mark Roberti

Entries for the 2015 RFID Journal Awards were outstanding, indicating that the RFID industry is maturing rapidly.

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February and March are the busiest months of the year at RFID Journal. That’s when we have all of our deadlines for materials for RFID Journal LIVE!, the major conference and exhibition we hold every April. There are a lot of things to produce, including signs, the program guide, the stage and other structures. It’s a crazy period—and it’s also an exhilarating time. It’s when we get to interact most with our readers and the companies selling radio frequency identification hardware, software and services, so we get a chance to take the temperature of the RFID industry.

One way in which we get a sense of what’s happening across the industry is reading the RFID Journal Awards submissions. The deployments have been getting better, larger and more sophisticated every year. This year was no exception (see Finalists Unveiled for Ninth Annual RFID Journal Awards).

Take, for example, the finalists in the Best RFID Implementation category. DIRECTV is using RFID to track 200,000 pieces of broadcast equipment, dramatically reducing the amount of time needed to perform inventory counts (see DIRECTV Uses RFID to Cut Inventory Time From Years to Months). And Interstate Batteries has deployed RFID-enabled smart racks at some 2,000 dealer locations to monitor inventory, improve replenishment and reduce fuel costs (see RFID Brings Greater Efficiency, Product Visibility to Interstate Batteries).

In addition, Royal Wolverhampton NHS Trust is using an active RFID-based real-time location system to track assets, as well as patient and staff interactions with those items, in order to reduce the spread of infection. The firm is also employing the system to monitor hand-hygiene compliance, improve bed turnover rates and alert personnel if certain situations arrise, such as a patient leaving the building (see New Cross Hospital Boosts Hand Hygiene, Efficiency via RTLS).

If you think RFID is still a relatively unproven technology, you should check out the finalists in the Best Use of RFID to Enhance a Product or Service category. Clarisonic, owned by L’Oreal, has embedded Near Field Communication (NFC) technology in the handle of its Smart Profile skin-cleansing device to interrogate the attached brush and set up specific treatment protocols dependent on brush type. This is one of the first examples of RFID being added to a popular consumer product to enhance that product.

Kuehne+Nagel, also a finalist in the Best Use category, is employing active RFID temperature sensors to monitor pharmaceutical and health-care products during intercontinental transportation. It offers the service to any customer shipping temperature-sensitive products. And RSH Energy is using RFID to enhance pipeline construction by identifying sections of pipe, their unique characteristics and their GPS location.

There are a lot of other great end-user deployments in the other categories, but one of the things that really warmed my heart this year was the large number of exhibitors that submitted entries for the Best New Product award (formerly called Best in Show), as well as the high quality of those products.

There were a number of passive RFID sensors, which I find encouraging. Years ago, many people—including me—envisioned low-cost moisture sensors being put into the walls of new buildings to report when unacceptable levels of water were detected, so that a leak behind a wall could be quickly detected and fixed before too much damage occurred. Such sensors are now here.

Farsens was selected as a finalist for its battery-free RFID sensor tags capable of monitoring voltage levels in AC circuits, and Phase IV Engineering was picked for its passive ultrahigh-frequency (UHF) RFID strain sensor and battery-assisted strain/temperature sensor and logger. Passive sensors open a whole new world of opportunity for companies to monitor the conditions of the facilities in which they operate, or the assets on which they depend.

That’s not to suggest that a sensor will win Best New Product. There were other great products as well, including NXP Semiconductors‘ passive UHF chip that supports high-level encryption and Zebra Technologies‘ athlete-tracking solution, which provides coaches, teams, media and leagues with unprecedented performance and playing statistics.

Clearly, things are heating up in the RFID industry as early adopters prove the technology’s value across many industries, and as RFID companies create innovative new products to meet their needs. If you seek a solution to your business problem, I encourage you to attend LIVE! 2015, being held in San Diego on Apr, 15-17—I’m confident that you will find there what you need.

Mark Roberti is the founder and editor of RFID Journal. If you would like to comment on this article, click on the link below. To read more of Mark’s opinions, visit the RFID Journal Blog, the Editor’s Note archive or RFID Connect.