RFID News Roundup

SML, Microsoft collaborate to provide item-level retail RFID solutions; BSN intros RFID-based anticounterfeiting system, implements PragmatIC flexible ICs; CoreRFID provides Serco with access cards for railway service; Onset releases BLE temperature loggers; Advantech selects BehrTech wireless connectivity software for its IoT sensor platform; NFC Forum certifies Infineon's NFC Type 4B tags; The Foschini Group deploys RFID solution from RIoT Insight.
Published: June 27, 2019

Presented here are news announcements made during the past week by the following organizations:
SML, Microsoft;
BSN, Baoshen Group, PragmatIC;
CoreRFID, Serco;
Advantech, BehrTech;
the NFC Forum, Infineon Technologies;
The Foschini Group, and RIoT Insight.

SML, Microsoft Collaborate to Provide Item-Level Retail RFID Solutions

SML, a provider of item-level RFID solutions for the retail market, has announced the results of its collaboration with Microsoft. The combination of SML’s Clarity application platform and Microsoft Azure enables thousands of retail stores around the globe to enhance inventory accuracy above 98 percent, the company reports, resulting in increased sales and improved customer service.

SML is a technology partner for global brands that are using RFID technology to perform frequent stock counts and streamline the receiving and replenishment of goods. Auburn University’s RFID Lab has found that in order to achieve the same accuracy manually, it would take employees approximately 154,000 hours to read 100 million barcodes, which not be practical.

Due to the time required to manually count stock, many retailers only perform counts once a year, leading to inventory accuracy of less than 70 percent. With item-level RFID technology, SML says, accuracy increases to approximately 98 percent. Using Clarity, retailers are counting 100 million items every week within less than 6,000 hours. This is 1/25th of the time required for manual counts, making it feasible to perform frequent stock counts of entire stores.

“Item-level RFID is changing the way retailers are running their business in order to better compete,” said Dean Frew, SML’s CTO and senior VP of RFID solutions, in a prepared statement. “We are seeing more and more retailers experiencing the benefits using RFID technology. By delivering this capability on Microsoft Azure, we’ve been able to provide scalable, high performance and simple solutions leading to disruptive business results for retailers.”

As a result of SML’s RFID solutions being delivered on Azure cloud technology, these technologies become more accessible to thousands of retail stores around the world. “We are able to deliver some of the most exciting results that we have been part of in the retail sector and they are clearly helping retailers transform their businesses,” said Shish Shridhar, Microsoft’s director of global business strategy for retail and consumer goods, in the prepared statement. “It’s pretty clear that this technology combination will be the default standard on how retailers manage their inventory and deliver improved customer service.”

BSN Intros RFID-based Anticounterfeiting System, Implements PragmatIC Flexible ICs

BSN, part of the Baoshen Group, has announced that Eprint, its RFID solution aimed at combatting counterfeit products in all markets and providing for consumer-engagement solutions, works like NFC RFID but will be available at a lower price than that of current solutions. Eprint tags are based on a printed electronics integrated circuit (IC), and thus do not require a silicon chip, the company reports. The removal of the need for silicon chips allows for a reduction in prices, BSN explains, and offers a disruptive alternative to current NFC RFID solutions.

Eprint ICs will be embedded in BSN’s RFID labels and can be read by a smartphone. Utilizing 5G data communications, Eprint applications allow consumers to use their phones to authenticate and validate products within one or two seconds. Customers can enhance their shopping experience since they can read Eprint labels on their phones and trigger YouTube videos displaying the key features of any product.

“Fake products, known as counterfeit items, are growing at an alarming rate,” said Philip Calderbank, an RFID consultant with BSN, in a prepared statement. “You will find an amazing number of counterfeit items in many markets, such as pharmaceuticals, luxury goods, baby formula, electronics, hair products and cosmetics. In fact, counterfeit drugs can run as high as 40 percent of the total sales in some countries. The consumer is becoming increasingly aware that the product that they buy on-line, or even in-store, may not be the real thing. This becomes serious when a mother is buying formula for her baby, or a doctor is injecting medicine in the field. Even in the USA, it is now estimated that counterfeit drugs may account for more than 1 percent of all medicines.”

“RFID has always been considered as an ideal solution to employ in anti-counterfeit applications, but up until now it has been an expensive option,” Calderbank said in the prepared statement. “The same can be said where a brand is looking to engage the consumer with product information and promotions. QR (barcodes) have been tried but were found to be too difficult to use for most consumers. With Eprint the consumer will simply be able to tap their phone onto a product label and all relevant product information will appear on their screen”.

In other news, PragmatIC, a provider of flexible electronics, has announced that BSN has placed an order for its recently released ConnectIC products. “We are delighted to build a relationship with Baoshen Group,” said Scott White, PragmatIC’s CEO, in a separate prepared statement. “This new order for our novel ConnectICs re-enforces the attractiveness of our solutions to global companies who are enabling brands to protect their marque and connect with their customers.”

ConnectICs are targeted at such market segments as food and beverage, personal and home care, pharmaceuticals and health care. With a thin and flexible form factor, they are suitable for plastic or paper inlays which will be imperceptible when added to labels or packaging, the company indicates. They feature integrated energy harvesting and are designed for use with single layer antennas.

“We see rapidly growing demand in Asian markets for solutions to protect brands and consumers from counterfeit products both in store and online,” Calderbank said in the prepared statement. “PragmatIC’s ultra-low-cost technology will enable us to roll out solutions to a much wider range of market segments than possible with conventional electronics.”

CoreRFID Provides Serco With Access Cards for Railway Service

Skelmersdale-based CoreRFID has supplied United Kingdom-based outsourcing company Serco with 100,000 RFID access cards for its Caledonian Sleeper railway service. The cards will provide passengers with access to rooms, the company reports, and will improve security on routes between London and Scotland.

The cards are reusable and replace paper-based RFID tickets, which were judged to not be as cost-effective in the long term. “Our knowledge and experience on similar work in the hotel industry helped us to meet the challenges of this project,” said Munzi Ali, CoreRFID’s technical director, in a prepared statement. “Serco had specialist locks provided by a Spanish company and needed cards which were compatible. Consultancy is a big part of the larger projects we undertake and we were able to solve the issue with Serco.”

The Caledonian Sleeper service, operated by Serco as a standalone franchise, can trace its origins back to 1873. It serves a number of destinations in Scotland, including Inverness, Aberdeen, Fort William, Glasgow and Edinburgh, en route to and from Euston Station.

“Our new trains are designed to improve every aspect of the guest experience. We strive to deliver a hotel experience and a major part of that is having keycard entry for rooms,” said Graham Kelly, the guest experience director at Serco Caledonian Sleeper, in the prepared statement. “We’ve only been running our new trains for a few weeks but the feedback from guests on the keycard has been excellent, with CoreRFID’s solution proving extremely effective.”

“RFID solutions can provide real benefits in efficiency, costs and in this case significantly cutting down on waste,” Ali added in the statement. CoreRFID’s clients include ICL, the London Underground and Thomas Cook.

Onset Releases BLE Temperature Loggers

Onset has announced that its HOBO MX2200 Series water temperature loggers offer convenient wireless setup and downloading to Onset’s TidbiT and Pendant water temperature loggers.

These new models feature Bluetooth Low Energy (BLE) to deliver high-accuracy temperature measurements to a user’s iOS- or Android-based mobile device, the company reports, eliminating the need to take a laptop or shuttle into the field.

With a rugged case design, expanded memory, and both temperature and temperature/light models, these loggers are suitable for measuring temperature in streams, lakes, oceans and soil environments.

Features include convenient wireless setup and download via BLE, a large memory capable of storing 96,000 measurements, mounting tabs to facilitate deployment, a water-detection feature to conserve battery life and a user-replaceable battery (MX2201, MX2202 or MX2203). The loggers work with Onset’s HOBOmobile app.

Advantech Selects BehrTech Wireless Connectivity Software for Its IoT Sensor Platform

BehrTech, a provider of wireless connectivity for the Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT), has announced that Advantech has selected its MYTHINGS wireless connectivity platform to enable long-range, robust and scalable IIoT connectivity with its standardized M2.COM sensor platform.

As an alternative to LoRa and Sigfox, the MYTHINGS Module for M2.COM is an off-the-shelf wireless module featuring the ETSI-standardized MIOTY (TS-UNB) by BehrTech for low-power wide area networks (LPWANs). With TS-UNB (Telegram Splitting Ultra Narrow Band) technology at its core, this module is intended to combat the interference, mobility and capacity challenges experienced by legacy wireless technologies. The MYTHINGS Module for M2.COM is designed for large-scale industrial and commercial IoT deployments requiring reliability, vast network capacity and ultra-low-power consumption at lower data rates.

“At BehrTech, we’re focused on creating technology solutions that accelerate production-level IoT deployments enabled by industrial-grade wireless connectivity,” said Wolfgang Thieme, the firm’s chief product officer, in a prepared statement. “Bringing together TS-UNB, the next generation LPWAN, and the open M2.COM standard provides a versatile plug-and-play wireless connectivity needed to drive widespread adoption of industrial IoT applications.”

The MYTHINGS Module for M2.COM is compatible with Advantech’s WISE-DB1500 evaluation carrier board, enabling the rapid development and testing of sensor nodes. The WISE-DB1500 board provides a built-in humidity or temperature sensor, an SD card socket and a micro-USB port, alongside various I/O interfaces.

“Our M2.COM module platform provides the standardization and certification needed to minimize the costs and deployment time of IoT projects,” said Charlie Wu, Advantech’s product manager, in the prepared statement. “Now with the MYTHINGS Module for M2.COM, customers will have the added value of selecting a standardized wireless connectivity protocol that enables the development of flexible, scalable and robust sensor networks in demanding industrial and commercial environments.”

NFC Forum Certifies Infineon’s NFC Type 4B Tags

Near Field Communication (NFC) tags are undergoing a renaissance, according to Infineon Technologies, as users are increasingly tapping smartphones on tags to access digital information and services. Yet reliable data exchange remains one of the major challenges for a positive user experience.

Infineon says it enables seamless connectivity by providing handset manufacturers with reference tags for interoperability testing with all types of internationally standardized NFC protocols. Infineon’s latest NFC reference tags, which are based on the SECORA Pay security solution, have been approved under the NFC Forum‘s Certification Program. This confirms compliance for Infineon’s Type 4A and Type 4B tags.

The Type 4B Tag is the first product certified worldwide by the NFC Forum that supports the contactless Type B protocol. It was introduced this week during an NFC Forum Member Meeting held in Stuttgart, Germany. Infineon has been a principal member of the international industry association since 2005.

To date, NFC tags have been generally limited to use cases for which security is not deemed critical, such as sharing URLs or exchanging business cards. However, they offer a host of benefits beyond general information sharing and can be combined with security-critical payment applications. Their appeal is further increased by native support among a growing number of smartphone operating systems.

Users can activate services via NFC connectivity without having to open an app, and can thus instantly connect a mobile handset to smart devices like wearables or access-shared services such as street scooters. This intuitive connectivity makes everyday digital transactions easier for consumers, without compromising security. NFC allows wireless communication between two electronic devices within a distance of approximately 4 centimeters. NFC tags use this technology to exchange data and enable contactless payments using smart cards or mobile handsets.

The NFC reference tags are based on Infineon’s SPA1.1 module, a new packaging solution. They come preloaded with NFC Data Exchange Format (NDEF) files so developers can test a wide variety of smartphones for compliance with ISO/IEC 14443 Type A and Type B. Type A and Type B NFC tags are available in pairs and can be sourced online via Infineon’s security partner, Universal Smart Card.

The Foschini Group Deploys RFID Solution from RIoT Insight

RIoT Insight has announced the implementation and continuing rollout of its RIoT RFID solution with The Foschini Group (TFG), based in Cape Town, South Africa. The company exhibited at this week’s RFID Journal LIVE! Retail conference, held in Chicago, Ill., in conjunction with RetailX.

TFG comprises more than 4,000 stores across 28 brands in 32 countries on five continents. TFG Africa represents the most significant market for the company, accounting for more than 2,650 locations, followed by TFG London with 935 retail outlets throughout Europe, and TFG Australia with more than 447 outlets in the Asia-Pacific region, Australia and New Zealand.

“Click and collect has become critical in our business,” said Brent Curry, TFG’s CIO, in a prepared statement. “When we look at true omnichannel, we believe that we need to fulfill customer requirements from anywhere, anyhow and from anyplace. For that we needed to have stock accuracy in our stores, as well as our distribution centers.”

To achieve this, Curry said in the prepared statement, “The group has adopted a digital transformation program, and it’s been driven from the board down to all of our brands, locally and abroad. One of the key drivers within this program is RFID, which was mandated by the board as being critical to meet the objectives of our digital transformation to support our omnichannel strategy. And we wanted a quick rollout of RFID of 24 months for all our brands.”

Following a multi-vendor live trial selection process, TFG selected RIoT Insight as its in-store RFID solution vendor, based on the solution’s fit and scalability, as well as RIoT’s ability to tailor solutions to meet the unique needs of its business and brands. This rollout is now under way at 500 stores, at a rate of 40 per week. The implementation involves brands in almost every format and retail segment, from sporting goods to fashion, footwear and general merchandise, all managed at scale on the RIoT platform.

RIoT deploys centrally from the cloud or on-premises, providing a continuously updated ledger of inventory by location or store, and enabling 99 percent-plus inventory accuracy to drive omnichannel sales and a great customer experience. According to the company, the RIoT inventory API scales to thousands of stores and millions of SKUs and can be integrated with any existing digital, OMS and ERP solutions. In addition, the RIoT Insight dashboard empowers real-time inventory analysis, decision making and visualization.

In stores, the RIoT platform supports both handheld and overhead RFID readers and sensors. The platform can be integrated with an existing point-of-sale system as a basis for checking and maintaining continuous accuracy between inventory scans. As a result, the firm reports, the operational and compliance burden is minimized, allowing rapid deployment to stores and speeding up time to benefit.