Broadening RAIN RFID Deployment with Lifelong Company Identification Numbers

By Aileen Ryan, President and CEO of RAIN Alliance

It’s fair to say that RAIN RFID technology has well and truly arrived—in 2023, the RAIN RFID industry shipped approximately 45 billion tag chips, a growth of 32% year-on-year.

This growth shows how organizations of all shapes and sizes across the world are deploying RAIN RFID to make their operations run more efficiently. With expectations for the RAIN RFID industry to connect trillions of items to the internet in the coming years, however, it’s important that companies are able to uniquely identify their own RAIN RFID tags in ever-busier read zones.

To address this need, RAIN Alliance members created the Company Identification Number (CIN) in 2022, as part of the RAIN Alliance ISO Numbering System. Additionally, the RAIN Alliance Board recently approved a revised structure for the CIN program, adding the option to purchase a perpetual CIN assignment. This eliminates the need for annual renewals and allows organizations to frontload their investment, delivering more options for companies when it comes to deployment.

Growing Adoption of RAIN RFID

RAIN RFID is enabling different industries to identify, locate, authenticate, and engage with items—be that a t-shirt, suitcase, tire or medical instrument. Businesses benefit from the resulting cost, productivity and efficiency gains, whether they deploy hundreds or millions of RAIN RFID tags a year.

Organizations are increasingly exploring ways to use the technology to drive greater transparency, traceability and sustainability across their organizations. Use cases include tracking airplane safety equipment, improving retail inventory visibility and accuracy, or tracking a tire’s lifecycle. This variety of RAIN RFID usage shows the versatility of the technology, however, for any deployment to be successful or new use case to be explored, tags must be uniquely identifiable right from the start.

The proliferation of RAIN RFID applications across multiple industries means there are more tags out there, with many increasingly attached permanently to items—partly because of use-cases such as circular economy, anti-counterfeit, traceability in the food industry and partly because of legislation such as the EU’s Digital Product Passport, which requires data to be collected, stored and easily shared throughout a product’s lifecycle. As a result, tags sold in 2024 are likely to still be in use in years to come.

This contrasts with previous years, when shipped RAIN RFID tags were detached after the sale of a product and were therefore removed from circulation. It’s this exponential effect of more chips shipped each year which are attached for much longer durations which is the most critical driver for CINs and other unique numbering systems.

Ensuring Unique Tag Encoding

RAIN RFID tags must be properly encoded with unique identification numbers using a standards-based “Numbering System” such as GS1 and ISO to ensure individual items can be identified, located and authenticated. Use of these controlled numbering systems helps to eliminate tag clutter; support interoperability; ensure efficient use of memory space; and quickly and efficiently resolve tag data to gain additional item information when desired.

The CIN is a unique identifier which forms part of the RAIN Alliance ISO numbering system. The CIN is used as a prefix on a RAIN RFID tag ID to enable efficient filtering between one company’s tags and those that belong to others.

There are four lengths of CINs available, covering deployments of a few hundred tags to hundreds of millions. Previously, companies had to pay for their CIN each year, in a subscription-style service. However, with reasons for RAIN RFID adoption diversifying, it is important to ensure choice when it comes to the deployment of the technology.

Providing Choice with Lifelong CINs

Based on the success of the RAIN Alliance’s CIN program and feedback from participating companies, the Alliance’s Board of Directors recently approved a revised structure. This added the option of a lifelong CIN assignment, eliminating the need for annual renewals as the identifying prefix for a company’s tag IDs will remain the same in perpetuity.

Other benefits of a lifelong CIN include: removal of the risk that another company may be assigned the same number in the event for any reason a subscription lapses; frontloading investment for companies by purchasing a lifelong CIN, with long-term savings made as there is no longer a need or cost to renew each year.

Of course, an annual subscription-based model will remain the best option for some companies, however, the lifelong CIN provides wider choice. This works both for companies deploying RAIN RFID for the first time, as well as those already paying an annual fee who can switch over to the new option if it works best for their business.

CINs form a key component of ensuring collision-free identification of an organization's RAIN RFID tags. This is especially important as the number and size of RAIN RFID deployments continues to grow, tag read range increases as technology develops and tags are in circulation for longer.

The addition of a lifelong option to the RAIN Alliance CIN program delivers more choice to organizations deploying RAIN RFID, ensuring their tags are uniquely and properly encoded no matter which model works best for their business needs.

Aileen Ryan’s executive career spans software and hardware engineering, strategy and commercial operations with a variety of technology firms and industry associations including Siemens, TM Forum, Huawei and Motorola.
She joined the RAIN Alliance in October 2022 from a senior position at Siemens, having played a pivotal role in the strategic acquisition of UltraSoC Technologies where she was Chief Strategy and Chief Operating Officer. She also spent a decade at the TM Forum, a global industry association, in various roles including Chief Operating Officer where she led the growth and transformation of the organization including restructuring, re-skilling, and re-designing its portfolio of services. She is widely recognized as a leader in the global communications industry and was named by Silicon Republic as one of the top 25 Irish leaders in the Sci-Tech world, and by IT Security Guru and KPMG as one of the most inspiring women in cyber security in 2021. She holds an M.B.A., an M.Sc. in Computer Science, and a Bachelor’s degree in Electrical Engineering and has completed advanced executive business studies at the University of Cambridge and the Stanford University Graduate School of Business.

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