RFID News Roundup

Alien Technology introduces new Higgs4-based inlays ••• Many RFID-adopting retailers report more than 5 percent improvement in gross margins ••• Kereon to distribute Tageos RFID labels in Latin America ••• Onyx unveils Enterprise Beacon ••• A2B Tracking Solutions, Impinj partner on asset-tracking solutions ••• Identiv launches new service for developing Internet of Things products ••• URevu announces customer-service app using wearable beacons.
Published: January 29, 2015

The following are news announcements made during the past week by the following organizations:
Alien Technology;
Kurt Salmon;
Tageos, Kereon;
A2B Tracking Solutions, Impinj;
Identiv; and

Alien Technology Introduces New Higgs4-Based Inlays

Alien Technology has announced its largest rollout of new ultrahigh frequency (UHF) RFID inlays made with the company’s Higgs4 chip, compliant with the EPCglobal Gen 2 (V1.2.0) and ISO 18000-6C standards.

ALN-9714 Bio

The ALN-9714 Bio inlay is designed for use in pharmaceutical applications, especially glass vials or ampules containing fluids or powders. It features a small form factor—15 millimeters by 17 millimeters (0.59 inch by 0.67 inch)—and offers read-write distances compatible with usage in pharmaceutical production facilities and handheld reader usage for logistics and supply chain.

The ALN-9741 Doc inlay measures 95 millimeters by 8 millimeters (3.74 inches by 0.32 inch), the company reports, and is designed for use on paper products, such as documents and file folders, for which tags may be used in close proximity to each other. This tag is dielectrically matched to paper, cardboard and similar printed stock. The thin outline is designed to make the inlay extremely tolerant to close placement of multiple tags, minimizing the risk of the tags shadowing or detuning each other. Together, these properties make this inlay suitable for use on documents or files that are tightly packed together with many tags in close proximity to each other.

The ALN-9730-E Squiglette-E inlay is a narrower version of Alien’s general-purpose Higgs4 Squiggle model. The E version is a new design of the ALN-9730 Squiglette that is specially tuned for the most challenging applications, using the European UHF RFID frequency band (865.6 to 867.6 MHz). According to Alien, the new design features narrower antenna lines, different coupling, an inner loop that meets the main antenna with a larger common area, and other differences that impact a tag’s behavior.

ALN-9741 Doc

Additionally, Alien is introducing several new product variants of existing tags, including narrow and rotated versions of the previously announced ALN-9720 HiScan RFID inlay (which Alien says is particularly effective with handhelds or other lower-power readers) and re-pitched version of the ALN-9728 GT inlay. The original pitch version continues to be supported, while the new ALN-9728-35 offers the tighter 35-millimeter pitch useful to some converters.

The new inlays and variants are part of the company’s lineup of 15 inlay products, and all are available today.

Many RFID-Adopting Retailers Report More Than 5 Percent Improvement in Gross Margins

RFID continues to gain traction among retailers, according to a new study from global management and strategy consulting firm Kurt Salmon. In a survey of 50 U.S. soft lines retailers, almost one-third, or 32 percent, reported that their companies had adopted radio frequency identification. The study, conducted in July and August 2014, surveyed retailers that met a minimum revenue threshold of $500 million in revenue in the basics, fashion or accessories merchandise categories.

Survey respondents indicated that the most significant benefit was through back-to-front accuracy, with 40 percent reporting more than a 5 percent improvement in gross margins. Respondents also reported use cases including omnichannel fulfillment and shrinkage reduction, with benefits ranging from less than 1 percent to more than 5 percent.

In addition, the study found that 66 percent of respondents reported not using RFID at this time. However, 15 percent of non-users plan to pilot RFID within the next 12 months, while 18 percent of non-users are considering RFID pilots sometime in the future. The barriers to adopting RFID, according to respondents who have not yet implemented the technology, include management being focused on other priorities (47 percent), prohibitive costs (18 percent) and legacy inventory-management system (18 percent). Retailers with annual revenues of more than $1 billion were 4.3 times more likely to have implemented RFID (41 percent) than those with revenues between $500 million and $1 billion (17 percent).

According to Kurt Salmon, many early adopters of RFID have been companies in categories for which retailers could achieve the targeted return on investment (ROI) through gains in inventory accuracy alone. For the most part, these are categories characterized by complex assortments (style, color or size) and low substitutability (such as denim), for which RFID can enhance back-room to front-of-store inventory accuracy and replenishment.

The study found that “backroom to front-of-store inventory accuracy and replenishment” was the most commonly cited use case for RFID tagging in the basics, apparel and footwear categories. The top cited use case for basics undergarments and intimates was to reduce out-of-stocks.

As with basics, “backroom to front-of-store inventory accuracy and replenishment” was the top cited use case for RFID in the fashion apparel and footwear categories. According to the consulting firm, fashion retailers place a high priority on inventory accuracy since they often hold fewer products on the floor and may miss sales opportunities if replacements remain in the back room. Reducing out-of-stocks was the top use case cited for the fashion undergarments and intimates categories.

The respondents who indicated a desire to pilot RFID within the next 12 months reported various reasons for wanting to do so: 68 percent cited a need to reduce time and labor costs via automated inventory reports, 64 percent wished to reduce shrinkage, 64 percent hoped to support omnichannel fulfillment (shipment from store and pick-up from store), 61 percent sought to improve back-to-front replenishment and 54 percent wished to decrease store out-of-stocks.

The study also found that several retail segments, including department stores and specialty brands, are experimenting with interactive retail strategies, including smart fitting rooms and magic mirrors that read products and deliver targeted and supportive media content to mimic an online shopping experience—with personalized recommendations and coupons—in stores.

Kereon to Distribute Tageos RFID Labels in Latin America

Tageos, a French RFID label manufacturer, and Kereon, an RFID distributor and systems integrator in Colombia, have announced a partnership for the distribution of Tageos 100 percent paper-based, ultrahigh-frequency (UHF) RFID labels in Colombia and surrounding regions. The partnership will allow Tageos to reach a growing demand for RFID labels in South America, according to the two companies.

With Tageos’ comprehensive portfolio of UHF RFID labels and tags, the companies report, Kereon will be able to offer RFID consumables at a lower price, and provide more cost-effective RFID solutions to their customers.

“We are excited to see Tageos landing in Colombia with its lower-cost and environmentally friendly RFID products,” said Roberto Rossetti, Kereon’s president, in a prepared statement. “We are persuaded that this collaboration will drive new opportunities in Colombia and Latin America.”

Onyx Unveils Enterprise Beacon

Onyx Beacon, a provider of Bluetooth beacons, has announced the release of its Enterprise Beacon, which is designed to let businesses scale beacon deployments without worries of battery life or security concerns.

Onyx Enterprise beacon

The Enterprise Beacon, which measures 134 millimeters (5.3 inches) in diameter and 25 millimeters (1 inch) in thickness, has a waterproof enclosure and is powered by 4 AA batteries, enabling a battery life of up to four years, depending on the frequency and power settings. The batteries can be easily replaced. This, the company says, addresses one of the main concerns regarding battery life, especially when larger deployments of beacons are needed. The Enterprise Beacon can be powered by an external source, such as an USB outlet.

Onyx Beacon’s product portfolio includes hardware and software, such as mobile software development kits (SDKs) for iOS and Android, as well as the cloud-based Beacon content-management system (CMS) and an OnyxBeacon beacon management app for iOS mobile devices, designed to enable “mobile developers to create innovative ways of providing the ultimate contextual experience to their end users,” according to Bogdan Oros, Onyx Beacon’s CEO. The Enterprise Beacon comes with a built-in temperature sensor that can be used, for example, to monitor temperatures in highly secure areas requiring certain temperature settings. If a threshold is reached, the beacon can be programmed to issue an alert, Oros explains. A retailer might rely on the beacon’s temperature sensor to monitor weather conditions, he says, and if the temperature reaches a certain level, that could trigger advertisements for cold refreshments or ice cream. The Enterprise Beacon also comes with an optional buzzer that could be used in conjunction with a smartphone transportation app, for instance, to notify visually impaired people when a certain bus is in the station.

The Enterprise Beacon can be pre-ordered now, for shipment in March 2015.

A2B Tracking Solutions, Impinj Partner on Asset-Tracking Solutions

A2B Tracking Solutions has announced that it has integrated Impinj‘s RAIN RFID reader technology into A2B’s automatic identification solutions, which are designed to identify, mark and track assets around the globe. Leveraging data captured by Impinj’s ultrahigh-frequency (UHF) EPC Gen 2 RFID products, A2B’s solutions can provide enterprise visibility and control of assets, A2B reports. Impinj’s RAIN RFID products will be delivered with A2B’s solution.

A2B’s tracking software solution integrates RFID tags and hardware with cloud-based software, and can also include mobile computers and fixed readers. The readers and antennas capture tag data, which is processed through middleware that filters and aggregates the raw data and makes it meaningful for the software. The cloud-based software renders a visual representation of each asset’s location, notifying a user if an asset has left its designated location. Other features include the ability to update asset records with lifecycle events or custody assignments.

A2B also offers a mobile solution that includes an application installed on a mobile device, which is used to commission assets and perform checkouts, maintenance and transfers. The mobile devices can read UHF RFID tags and 1D and 2D bar codes, all from a single device, as well as capture electronic signatures. Additionally, the company notes, it can be used standalone or synchronized with A2B’s RFID Asset Management software, in which data is collected, managed, monitored and analyzed. The communication is a fully encrypted synchronization process that will pass information from the mobile device to the cloud.

“Our customers are looking for a one stop integrated solution with a vendor who can implement a reliable RFID asset tracking system including tags, readers, and software with the confidence that it will provide them with the asset visibility they need to manage their organization,” said Peter Collins, A2B’s president and CEO, in a prepared statement. “We’ve partnered with Impinj to provide a key component of our RFID solution, one that demands a global market leader who has a proven track record of delivering high quality products that regulated environments such as defense and energy can rely on.”

Identiv Announces New Service for Developing Internet of Things Products

Identiv a provider of passive RFID inlays and tags, RFID readers and related software and services, has announced the launch of Identiv Labs. The new entity, aimed at partnering with customers ranging from Fortune 500 companies to startups, is intended to accelerate their products into the connected world of the Internet of Things (IoT).

Acting as a design hub, Identiv Labs will enable customers to speed time to market for new products, Identiv reports, by providing a complete service, including design, prototyping and manufacturing. The team consists of experts in all areas, from microchip design to embedded manufacturing, mobility and cloud services.

“Identiv Labs is our idea incubator. It serves as an in-design platform for customers to quickly partner with Identiv experts and cost effectively innovate new or improve upon existing products in a rapid turnkey process,” said Jason Hart, Identiv’s CEO, in a prepared statement. “When an organization seeks to improve its product offering through mobility, enhance its experience with trusted Internet connectivity, or safeguard user and product identity, Identiv Labs can make it a reality.”

Product owners are invited to engage with the Identiv Labs team to partner on new innovations or existing products. Identiv Labs will provide an advisory team to bring new ideas for the connected world to life.

URevu Announces Customer Service App Using Wearable Beacons

Startup uRevu has announced a new beacon-enabled app designed to let in-store customers rate sales clerks and other personnel in real-time using their smartphones. Taking a page from the playbook of such social-media sites as Yelp, where customers can rate businesses online, uRevu’s patent-pending technology will let customers actually send employee-specific comments directly to the company, in real time. This process, according to uRevu, makes employees instantly accountable for their actions, thereby immediately improving customer service.

The uRevu_app

URevu is a real-time, on-location, customer-employee rating mobile app. An employee-worn Bluetooth beacon sends a Bluetooth signal to a customer’s smartphone, allowing the worker to be easily identified and rated. The goal is to provide businesses with the benefit of immediate positive effect of employee accountability, enable them to quickly respond to customers’ employee complaints and compliments, avoid having negative comments appear on social media in the first place, and efficiently monitor the performances of employees and respond as needed.

For now, uRevu is using Gimbal‘s Bluetooth beacons. The company hopes to develop a Name Tag Beacon that a business’s employees would wear, and uRevu is working with Gimbal to determine if that is possible. Other options that uRevu is considering for beacons include Estimote‘s Sticker beacons.

The app has been tested and will eventually be available at the Apple App Store for use by test clients, according to Reja Sabet, one of uRevu’s co-founders. It is expected to be made commercially available within a few weeks, Sabet says, and will initially only be for iOS devices, though Android is not far off. Moreover, the company plans to launch a crowdfunding on Fundable.com next week.