RFID News Roundup

Zebra reveals field operations study results ••• Mühlbauer, PragmatIC announce partnership to provide RFID manufacturing solutions ••• NeWave Sensor Solutions, Smart Label Solutions recognized by Retail CIO Outlook ••• iDTRONIC intros HF-NFC RFID panel reader ••• Teslonix seeks commercialization partners for distributed RFID reader system ••• Semtech announces LoRa cloud geolocation service ••• Accruent, Tridium form IoT partnership for real estate, facilities lifecycle management.
Published: March 21, 2019

Presented here are news announcements made during the past week by the following organizations:
Zebra Technologies;
Mühlbauer, PragmatIC;
NeWave Sensor Solutions, Smart Label Solutions;
Accruent, and Tridium.

Zebra Reveals Field Operations Study Results

Zebra Technologies has announced the results of its latest vision study, “The Future of Field Operations.” The study reveals mobile technology investment is a top priority for 36 percent of organizations and a growing priority for an additional 58 percent, to keep up with rapidly evolving and increasing customer demand. The findings indicate investments will be made in disruptive technologies and enterprise mobile devices to enhance front-line worker productivity and customer satisfaction in field operations, including fleet management, field services, proof of delivery and direct store delivery workflows.

“Driven by the acceleration of e-commerce, along with customers’ heightened expectations and more focus within companies on differentiating service levels, the field operations industry is rapidly adapting the way it looks at its mobile technology investments,” said Jim Hilton, Zebra’s director of vertical marketing strategy for manufacturing, transportation and logistics, in a prepared statement. “Our study shows how growing challenges related to the on-demand economy drive organizations to adopt transformative, disruptive technologies such as augmented reality and intelligent labels to provide visibility and integrate business intelligence for a performance edge.”

The survey shows only one-fifth of organizations have a majority of their field-based operations using enterprise mobile devices. This number is estimated to reach 50 percent within five years, the company reports. Respondents indicated most organizations intend to invest in handheld mobile computers, mobile printers and rugged tablets. From 2018 to 2023, handheld mobile computer usage with built-in bar-code scanners is forecasted to grow by 45 percent, mobile printers by 53 percent and rugged tablets by 54 percent. The higher levels of inventory, shipment and asset accuracy provided by these devices is expected to increase business revenues, according to the study.

A key driver of productivity, efficiency and cost-savings in field operations is ensuring ruggedized enterprise devices replace traditional consumer models. Nearly 80 percent of respondents said they usually or always conduct a total cost of ownership (TCO) analysis of business devices prior to making a capital expenditure, while 32 percent said they believe consumer smartphones have better TCO than rugged devices. The survey reveals these TCO considerations when investing in new front-line enterprise technology: replacement (47 percent), initial device (44 percent), application development (44 percent) and programming/IT (40 percent).

Almost 40 percent of respondents said device management and support costs are important, along with customer service (37 percent), device lifecycle cadence (36 percent) and repair costs (35 percent). Such factors increasingly influence the purchase cycle, showing that those who do not provide clear value or cannot control these costs will quickly be overtaken by those who do. Seven in ten organizations said they agree that faster mobile networks will be a key driver for field operations investment to enable the use of disruptive technology.

Anticipated industry game-changers will be droids and drones, with more than a third of decision makers citing them as the biggest disruptors. The use of smart technologies, such as sensors, RFID and intelligent labels, also play a role in transforming the industry, the study indicates. More than a quarter of respondents continue to view augmented or virtual reality (29 percent), sensors (28 percent), RFID and intelligent labels (28 percent), and truck loading automation (28 percent) as disruptive factors.

Mühlbauer, PragmatIC Announce Partnership to Provide RFID Manufacturing Solutions

Mühlbauer, a supplier of RFID and smart label production and personalization solutions, and PragmatIC, a provider of flexible electronics, have announced a strategic partnership to deliver solutions that support the integration of PragmatIC’s flexible integrated circuits (FlexICs). The companies have been working together since 2018, building on Mühlbauer’s experience in inlay assembly to develop practical solutions for high-speed bonding of FlexICs.

PragmatIC recently announced its first ConnectIC products focused on HF RFID for smart packaging applications, including brand authentication and grey market avoidance. The qualification of Mühlbauer’s TAL15000 inlay for FlexIC assembly enables manufacturers to leverage their existing installed base to offer lower-cost RFID inlays. Coupled with the thin, flexible FlexICs, the companies report, this enables businesses to extend RFID solutions into a wider range of mass-market opportunities.

“Mühlbauer is focused on being the proven technology partner for the RFID industry,” said Gerald Niklas, Mühlbauer’s business-development manager for automation, in a prepared statement. “We see PragmatIC’s innovative FlexICs as a key enabler for the adoption of RFID in mass-market applications and we look forward to continuing our collaboration to deliver robust and durable RFID products at a fraction of current inlay costs.”

“We are very excited that Mühlbauer has qualified their TAL15000 system for high-speed bonding of our FlexICs,” said Scott White, PragmatIC’s CEO, in the prepared statement. “Their extensive knowledge and customer base will accelerate the adoption of our novel technology.”

NeWave Sensor Solutions, Smart Label Solutions Recognized by Retail CIO Outlook

NeWave Sensor Solutions has announced that it has been recognized by Retail CIO Outlook as a “Top-10 Merchandising Solution Provider” in 2019. This is an annual listing of 10 companies that are at the forefront of providing merchandising solutions and impacting the marketplace.

This honor was based on NeWave’s RFID technology, which utilizes a patented wave antenna designed specifically for item-level RFID. The antenna enables the company’s smartShelf to provide real-time retail shelf inventory via any smart device in order to prevent out-of-stocks and deter theft. The smartShelf system ensures planogram compliance and planogram optimization without recurring label tag costs, the company reports.

Smart Label Solutions (SLS), a long-time technology partner with NeWave, was also identified as a leading RFID solutions provider. SLS is NeWave’s in-market executional support partner for smartShelf and smartPORTAL. “We believe that smartShelf has outstanding potential to be the leading real-time on-shelf retail inventory availability system,” said Jeff Hudson, SLS’s CEO, in a prepared statement, “and we are very pleased to be a key partner in making that a reality.”

“We take pride in honoring NeWave Sensor Solutions as one among the Top 10 Merchandising Solution Providers 2019,” said Katie William, the managing editor of Retail CIO Outlook. “The evolving needs of today’s shoppers are drastically impacting the role that merchandising technology plays in helping retailers drive business value and gain market share. As a pioneer in retail merchandising for decades, NeWave Sensor Solutions continues to deliver the thought leadership and deep market expertise with smart shelf RFID technology to help retailers.”

Barry Burnside, a founder and board member of NeWave, added in the prepared statement: “We are very excited to be named to the 2019 Top 10 Merchandising Solutions Providers by Retail CIO Outlook. Our Smart Shelf technology is the first and only RFID system to provide real-time on-shelf merchandise availability without the need for item tagging. Traditionally, inventories were controlled by adding more inventory, to avoid an out-of-stock situation. That model grew to be highly inefficient, and retailers know that the system needed an overhaul and smartShelf has proven to meet or exceed those expectations.”

iDTRONIC Intros HF-NFC RFID Panel Reader

iDTRONIC has announced its BLUEBOX Panel Reader, a high-frequency (HF) Near Field Communication (NFC) RFID reader-writer module. The round module has a diameter of 28 millimeters (1.1 inches) and a thickness of 9 millimeters (0.4 inch). The integrated antenna transfers data with a maximum speed of 115,200 bits per second. The panel reader is suitable for many applications, the company reports, and is particularly suited to integration into existing access-control, employee-identification or process-automation systems, or for NFC data transfer.

The BLUEBOX Panel Reader is equipped with a 5 Vdc power supply; the device requires a 2.5-watt power supply for operation. An existing USB interface can read and write data in either a Virtual COM Port (VCP) or Keyboard Emulation (HID) mode, enabling integration into all existing Microsoft Windows systems.

The module is equipped with an RFID option of HF and NFC, operating at 13.56 MHz. The NFC frequency enables data exchange in near-field environments. The HF-NFC frequency supports the ISO 14443A/B and ISO 15693 standards, and can read and write to transponders of the MIFARE Classic, Ultralight, Ultralight C, DESFire, Plus, NTAG and NXP transponder types.

A software development kit (SDK) and configuration tool for Windows operating systems is provided, as well as an operating system-independent command protocol. Further adjustments of firmware and hardware are possible upon request and project basis, the company reports.

Teslonix Seeks Commercialization Partners for Distributed RFID Reader System

Teslonix has announced that it will be exhibiting at the RFID Journal LIVE! 2019 conference and exhibition, in booth #127. The event will be held at Arizona’s Phoenix Convention Center on Apr. 2-4. The company is seeking commercialization partners for its distributed RFID reader solution.

“Over the last 12 months, we have made huge strides forward, and at our test facility in Ottawa, where we have a proof-of-performance installation which demonstrates how, with 99 percent-plus read rates, we can enable RAIN RFID smart spaces with 75 percent [fewer] readers compared to conventional solutions,” said C. Paul Slaby, Teslonix’s CEO, in a prepared statement. “Having proven our technology meets market demands, we are currently seeking partners to help us bring this truly breakthrough technology to market and look forward to meeting prospects at RFID Journal LIVE! 2019.”

The Teslonix SmartKick is a device-connectivity platform designed to read and monitor large deployments of RAIN RFID tags. It requires less infrastructure compared with comparable solutions and at a lowest cost per square foot, the company reports. The system provides improved read rates and an efficient communication channel to deliver strategic inventory data to the cloud. Teslonix’s offerings utilize RFID technology to locate and read everyday items and connect them to the Internet. The firm’s technology adheres to the RAIN RFID standard.

Semtech Announces LoRa Cloud Geolocation Service

Semtech, a supplier of analog and mixed-signal semiconductors and algorithms, has announced the availability of its LoRa Cloud Geolocation service, which is compatible with the LoRaWAN protocol and almost any network server, the company reports. The geolocation service can be integrated with existing systems and is the first of a range of cloud-based services products that Semtech plans to offer to support Internet of Things (IoT) application development.

“Semtech’s new cloud-based geolocation service, accessed by a cloud API call, will simplify and democratize access to geolocation for all LoRaWAN-based devices,” said Richard Lansdowne, the senior director of LoRa cloud services within Semtech’s Wireless and Sensing Products Group, in a prepared statement. “This is the first of a new breed of fully supported commercial LoRa cloud services from Semtech that we will be providing as part of our overall strategy to simplify the development of Internet of Things (IoT) solutions, which leverage the unique low power, long range and flexible deployment benefits of our LoRa devices and wireless radio frequency technology. With a free usage tier to allow anyone to trial the service rapidly and easily, LoRa Cloud Geolocation also offers a simple and cost effect consumption-based pricing model.”

Throughout the past year, Semtech has trialed a free cloud-based geolocation service with hundreds of users—who, according to the company, have provided positive feedback regarding the service’s ease of use and performance. LoRa Cloud Geolocation was in beta testing this year with limited partners. During the coming quarter, many more users are expected to integrate the new service into their platforms. The cloud-based geolocation service was designed to support flexibility in deployment options, the firm explains, providing geolocation service availability to any IoT devices.

Semtech is currently onboarding early customers. General availability with signup via a new LoRa cloud services portal is expected this summer. Different pricing tiers will be made available for selection.

Accruent, Tridium Form IoT Partnership for Real Estate, Facilities Lifecycle Management

Accruent, a provider of physical resource-management solutions, and Tridium, a supplier of business-application frameworks, have established a strategic alliance to provide customers with Tridium’s experience in building automation and Accruent’s vx Observe IoT asset-monitoring solution.

Tridium’s Niagara Framework is a universal multi-protocol integration engine that enables applications to aggregate data from a variety of systems and equipment. Operational technology firms seeking open-protocol interoperability often utilize the Niagara JACE hardware and software solution offered by Tridium’s OEM and integration service partners in the building-automation sector. Recently, Tridium has forged partnerships to port the Niagara Framework to non-JACE devices designed for other uses and industries.

According to the companies, Niagara is well-suited for Accruent’s applications that utilize real-time data to help retailers, universities and hospitals transition from reactive asset maintenance to predictive maintenance, and to perform system-wide asset-control actions. Accruent has developed its own driver for the Niagara Framework that will be jointly marketed as part of this new business-development relationship. The alliance between Accruent and Tridium will focus on enhanced functionality and the co-marketing of Accruent’s solutions leveraging Tridium’s Niagara Framework.

“Strategic partnerships have allowed Tridium to build the largest community of systems integrators and app developers dedicated to operational technology in existence today,” said Ken Schmidt, Tridium’s global VP of sales, in a prepared statement. “This new alliance with Accruent, a leading cloud-based software company, marks yet another type of partnership that will accelerate growth in Niagara Framework deployments around the world, strengthening our market position and ability to invest in the performance, reliability and security of Niagara.”

“An immediate benefit of Accruent’s new alliance with Tridium is our instant ability to connect to hundreds of different device types already proven to interoperate through their Niagara Framework,” said Jim Peterson, Accruent’s senior VP of partnerships and emerging markets, in the prepared statement. “Accruent has always been device-agnostic in order to serve the broadest array of customers and use cases. For companies that are struggling with the issues of connectivity and data inoperability, this strategic alliance between Accruent and Tridium helps us remove that burden.”

Based on this non-exclusive partnership agreement, Accruent and Tridium will collaborate to bring new solutions to market and to cross-pollinate their sales channels. Tridium’s network of more than 2,000 resellers and systems integrators will now have the potential to become authorized Accruent partners, enabling them to provide Accruent’s IoT asset-management software to customers across a range of industries.