RFID News Roundup

By Rich Handley

Sensormatic Solutions offers RF-based EAS technology for retail; Balluff intros new handheld UHF RFID reader; Avery Dennison opens European intelligent labels hub; Altizon showcases IIoT manufacturing solutions; AtomBeam Technologies joins LoRa Alliance; IIoT study compares BehrTech platform against LoRa LPWAN; Simbe Robotics raises $26 million in Series A funding.

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Presented here are news announcements made during the past week by the following organizations:
Sensormatic Solutions;
Balluff;
Avery Dennison;
Altizon;
AtomBeam Technologies, the LoRa Alliance;
BehrTech;
Simbe Robotics, and SoftBank Robotics.

Sensormatic Solutions Offers RF-Based EAS Technology for Retail

Johnson Controls has announced that Sensormatic Solutions, its retail solutions portfolio, has unveiled a new line of Sensormatic Essentials radio frequency-based anti-theft solutions as a portfolio complement to its existing Acousto-Magnetic (AM) and RFID-based electronic article surveillance (EAS) technologies. This visual deterrent provides wide exit coverage to support various storefront entrances, the company reports.

Retailers can choose from a range of RF sensors and labels to suit specific product categories. The RF portfolio will leverage Google’s cloud-based Sensormatic Shrink Management as a Service (SMaaS) platform for improved equipment uptime and data analytics, to help companies reduce shrink, combat organized retail crime, and improve sales and staffing efforts. Dashboards are designed to help retailers identify problems and make data-driven decisions to address them.

Shrink is a major concern for retailers worldwide, reaching nearly $100 billion globally last year. According to the company, many retailers are now optimizing their physical stores to ensure operational controls are in place for threats to their bottom line.

“In today’s changing retail landscape, retailers recognize in-store technology investments are key to driving better business outcomes,” said Bjoern Petersen, Sensormatic Solutions’ president, in a prepared statement. “For more than 50 years, we have continued to enhance our innovative portfolio with new offerings across loss prevention, inventory intelligence and shopper traffic insights to help our customers move seamlessly into the future.”

Balluff Intros New Handheld UHF RFID Reader

Balluff has announced that its U-890 handheld UHF RFID reader is designed to simplify the task of mobile data collection. The device allows RFID reading in both close- and long-range applications, the company reports, in addition to 2D barcode scanning. The reader is also equipped with a processor that allows for the reading of multiple tags in the field.

According to Balluff, the handheld reader offers 1 watt of output power and comes with Microsoft’s Windows Embedded Compact 7 operating system. Its user interface is intended to minimize deployment time and eliminate the need for programming, the company notes, while a software development kit (SDK) is available for custom applications.

Features of the U-890 handheld UHF RFID reader include data acquisition and processing functionality. It comes with an ARM processor and offers a read range of more than 4 meters, as well as multi-tagging capability at more than 200 tags per second and an adaptive UHF antenna for tag acquisition. In addition, RFID software comes already installed on the unit.

Avery Dennison Opens European Intelligent Labels Hub

Avery Dennison has announced that it has launched a new manufacturing facility in Romania. Based in Timisoara, the site is intended to help meet the demand for smart labelling across the European market. This is the first facility of this type that the company has opened on that continent.

Avery Dennison is a UHF RFID partner of the facility, which will produce smart labels and inlays for the food and beverage, apparel, beauty and aviation industries for European customers that have previously relied on existing facilities in Asia and the Americas. Intelligent labels can provide product insights such as provenance, recycling guidance and authentication, the company reports. This, according to Avery Dennison, can help brands leverage more accurate information to improve their stock management, supply chain efficiency and waste management, and to advance sustainability across multiple industries.

Discussing the new hub’s launch, Aufrid Baijens, the director of RFID project management at Avery Dennison, said the following in a prepared statement: “We are very excited to open this new facility in Romania. We have seen increasing demand from our European clients for our products, so it was an easy choice for us to select this location. It also helps us with our direct business, allowing us to share our expertise directly with our customers.”

Baijens added in the statement: “We will continue to invest in the area, and believe Romania can continue our people-orientated vision with the new Intelligent Labels facility, bringing new specialised jobs to the area. Our engagement and approach with our people has led to an accident-free decade within our facilities. Safety, our main goal, is part of our culture, and now we are looking ahead to an even greater future with our new Intelligent Label business in Romania.”

Altizon Showcases IIoT Manufacturing Solutions

To help organizations realize the business value of the Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT), Altizon, a global IIoT platform company, has announced its Four Week IIOT Challenge. This, according to Altizon, will showcase the company’s ability to deliver a return on investment for its new IIoT customers within four weeks of an initial deployment.

During the Four Week IIoT Challenge, Altizon will work directly with participants to integrate a specific manufacturing process with Alitzon’s Datonis platform. The firm will leverage machine data to improve overall equipment effectiveness, while delivering the foundation for a long-term and scalable enterprise-wide IIoT strategy. As part of the Challenge, Altizon will develop and connect the IIoT infrastructure; stabilize, normalize and optimize the infrastructure; develop baseline operational key performance indicators; and identify additional opportunities for process improvement.

“The implementation of IIoT into an organization doesn’t have to be a lengthy or complicated process to deliver business results,” said Vinay Nathan, Altizon’s CEO, in a prepared statement. “We are confident—and have proven—that manufacturers can realize measurable business results from IIoT within four weeks. Using our platform, our customers can expect improvements of 15 percent in OEE and three percent in process quality, as well as a five percent reduction in overall energy and consumables in those initial weeks.”

Additional information about how an organization can participate in the Four Week IIoT Challenge is available here.

AtomBeam Technologies Joins LoRa Alliance

AtomBeam Technologies, a data-compaction software company, has announced that it has joined the LoRa Alliance as an adopter member. This membership will allow AtomBeam to influence and contribute to the adoption and development of the LoRaWAN protocol throughout the world. The LoRa Alliance is an open, nonprofit association that has grown to more than 500 members since its inception in March 2015.

“AtomBeam looks forward to aiding LoRa Alliance members in cutting network expenses and more securely and efficiently transmitting IoT data,” said Dave Smith, AtomBeam’s VP of IoT, in a prepared statement. “Our technology is the latest innovation for shrinking, securing and speeding data transmission and we look forward to working on the further development of the LoRaWAN specification and product certifications.”

AtomBeam’s AI software is designed to stream and compact IoT data by an average of 70 percent, the company reports, reducing transmission costs and speeding up data transfer. The firm utilizes the LoRaWAN standard as a platform for improving data transmission, security and battery life. AtomBeam’s code can be embedded in virtually any network, firmware, CPU, cloud storage system or connected IoT device, the firm notes, including power-constrained low-power, wide-area networks (LPWANs).

“We are pleased to welcome AtomBeam Technologies to the LoRa Alliance,” said Donna Moore, the Alliance’s chairwoman and CEO, in the prepared statement. “AtomBeam brings its expertise in optimizing LPWANs to our vast member ecosystem and we look forward to its contributions in driving deployments and adoption of the LoRaWAN protocol.”

IIoT Study Compares BehrTech Platform Against LoRa LPWAN

BehrTech, a wireless connectivity provider for the Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT), has issued a report evaluating and comparing its MYTHINGS platform with LoRa LPWAN platforms under real-world interference conditions. Dr. Thomas Lauterbach, a professor at the Nuremberg Institute of Technology, conducted the independent study, which was commissioned by BehrTech.

According to BehrTech, the results showed that in a real-world Industrial IoT environment containing high levels of interference from other systems and devices, MYTHINGS offers higher interference resilience than LoRa technology. At the same network range, the firm indicates, LoRa loses a significant percentage of messages, while MYTHINGS reliably transmits all messages.

“In the dense interference scenario, there was a significant difference in the quality-of-service between MYTHINGS and LoRa,” Lauterbach said in a prepared statement. “Observing both networks at the same signal power, MYTHINGS successfully delivered all messages while the LoRa network lost more than 10 percent of its messages. Even when signal power was increased, there was a four to five percent packet error rate in the LoRa system.”

Using a LoRa EU-mode MultiConnect Conduit IoT Starter Kit and the EU-mode MYTHINGS by BehrTech Starter Kit, the study evaluated network performance throughout both a 60-minute period and a four-hour period under various external interference conditions based on the LPWAN Interference Model Standard developed by the IEEE. Results were measured by packet error rate, referring to the percentage of unsuccessful message transmissions. Four interference scenarios were used to demonstrate different levels of signal density. The study focused on a dense level scenario that has an interference level equivalent to real-world Industrial IoT environments.

“Data is the lifeblood of Industrial IoT and with the ever-increasing number of connected devices in Industry 4.0, interference resilience is paramount to successful IoT deployments,” said Wolfgang Thieme, BehrTech’s chief product officer, in the prepared statement. “MYTHINGS was purpose-built to withstand the significant interference that exists in industrial environments and to provide the robust and scalable future-proof connectivity needed for next-generation IoT networks.” To download the report, click here.

Simbe Robotics Raises $26 Million in Series A Funding

Simbe Robotics, which leverages robotics and artificial intelligence (AI) to provide physical retail stores with insights into inventory and operations, has announced two separate funding deals— a Series A equity financing round and an inventory financing agreement with SoftBank Robotics—enabling the company to increase efficiencies in the production and deployment of Simbe’s Tally robot. With the backing of these firms, Simbe explains, it will be able to leverage equity and inventory financing to build on its existing momentum and growth. This includes a focus on growing its team, expanding its fleet of Tally robots into new markets and accelerating its deployments with existing partners.

“Our investors, both previous and new, provide much more than financial support. They are advocates and trusted advisors who bring invaluable institutional knowledge to all facets of our business,” said Brad Bogolea, Simbe Robotics’ co-founder and CEO, in a prepared statement. “Both our equity financing partners and the SoftBank Robotics team are deeply aligned with Simbe’s vision to revitalize physical retail through data. We are at a pivotal time of growth and value their support as we continue to transform retail at a global scale.”

The $26 million Series A was led by Venrock with participation from Future Shape, Valo Ventures and Activant Capital, investors experienced in the retail, robotics and technology industries. The equity capital will go toward Simbe’s business operations; scaling its sales, marketing and customer-success functions; and continued investment in research and development.

“The Simbe team is building one of the most interesting datasets in retail, capturing inventory and pricing data that hasn’t been available before. With Simbe, retail stores can free up scarce labor to spend more time doing high-value activities like interacting with customers. Retail is changing, and stores must modernize to succeed in today’s environment,” said David Pakman, a partner at Venrock and a Simbe board member, in the prepared statement. “The Simbe team has impressed me from the start, and they are uniquely equipped to bring this new reality to retail.”

In early 2018, Simbe and SoftBank Robotics America began a partnership to scale Simbe’s business globally. Following an initial success, the two companies will expand their collaboration to include inventory financing, in order to accelerate the global deployment of the Tally robot. The funds will support scaled manufacturing of an additional 1,000 Tally units during the next two years. SoftBank Robotics has deployed more than 25,000 robots globally and has the infrastructure in place to support Simbe’s need to scale manufacturing, shipping, deployment and field services of Tally robots globally, the company reports.