RFID News Roundup

By Beth Bacheldor

Ubisense releases new version of AngleID reader ••• Grand Rapids uses Brady labeling solution for smart trash carts ••• BLE, UWB technologies could displace RTLS, says ABI report ••• Kontakt.io adds location-tracking products to its Bluetooth beacon portfolio ••• World Wide Technology, Awarepoint partner to deliver location as a service ••• TagMaster acquires French RFID company Balogh.

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The following are news announcements made during the past week by the following organizations:
Ubisense;
Brady Corp.;
ABI Research;
Kontakt.io;
World Wide Technology, Awarepoint;
TagMaster, and Balogh.

Ubisense Releases New Version of AngleID Reader

Ubisense has released an updated version of its zone-tracking product, AngleID, with new features, including the ability to network multiple readers. With AngleID v1.1, the company reports, a Ubisense customer can cover an entire building and create more sophisticated zones.

First launched in May 2016, AngleID is a product that sits between passive RFID proximity tracking and real-time location system (RTLS) exact location tracking, and is designed to offer real-time precision zone tracking (see Ubisense Introduces AngleID to Provide Low-Cost, Real-Time Zone Location). The AngleID works with Ubisense’s Dimension4 active ultra-wideband (UWB) RFID tags, which operate in the 6 to 8 GHz frequency band can be read from as far away as 150 feet.

AngleID v1.1

The reader is easy to configure, according to Ubisense, with installation taking less than 10 minutes to complete. It can detect tagged assets or individuals in up to eight simple-to-define location zones, the company says, even in highly metallic industrial environments. The device is built to solve many problems that a proximity tracking product cannot help with, but without the high infrastructure requirements of an RTLS solution. For example, Ubisense indicates, AngleID can be used to identify when certain assets or individuals are present in a work zone, in order to ensure that safety-critical processes occur only when appropriate equipment and personnel are in the correct place.

Multiple AngleID v1.1 readers can be networked together, and any three can work together to define a zone, thereby enabling a more flexible definition of target zones, according to Ubisense. AngleID v1.1 also offers a more robust operation in environments in which obstructions might prevent consistent object detection by a single reader, the company notes.

Unisense offers three different models of the AngleID v1.1 reader, with different IP ratings and sizes. An IP30-rated version measures 21.5 centimeters by 15 centimeters by 5 centimeters (8.5 inches by 5.9 inches by 2.0 inches) and weighs 720 grams (25.4 ounces). An IP54-rated version measures 21.5 centimeters by 15 centimeters by 9 centimeters (8.5 inches by 5.9 inches by 3.5 inches) and weighs 864 grams (30.5 ounces), while an IP69-rated version measures 21.5 centimeters by 15 centimeters by 8.5 centimeters (8.5 inches by 5.9 inches by 3.3 inches) and weighs 1014 grams (35.8 ounces).

Grand Rapids Uses Brady Labeling Solution for Smart Trash Carts

Industrial and safety printing solutions provider Brady has announced a contract with Grand Rapids, Mich., to provide labeling solutions for the city’s RFID-enabled refuse and recycling carts and construction dumpsters. The city is using Brady’s BBP33 and BBP31 printers, durable vinyl label materials and LabelMark software to complement its RFID program and solve collection cart identification challenges, Brady reports.

The program includes 96,000 residential refuse and recycling carts and 20,000 construction dumpsters. Grand Rapids’ “Pay-As-You-Throw” curbside refuse and recycling collection program provides each residence with a smart cart containing a passive EPC Gen 2 RFID tag (see The Economic Benefits of Going Green). City employees scan the carts using RFID readers upon collection, in order to charge each resident based on refuse cart size, while recycling is free and includes a point-based rewards program.

“While this program has successfully decreased waste disposal, increased recycling participation and improved waste management efficiency, occasionally it’s been a challenge to keep track of the smart carts,” said James Hurt, Grand Rapids’ public services director, in a prepared statement. “Since these carts were only identifiable with an RFID scanner, it was difficult to determine who owned which cart, particularly when carts were moved or located in shared collection areas, such as apartments or multi-units. The lack of visual identification on the carts led to some confusion and inaccuracies in charging the right resident for their refuse.”

To solve the identification challenge, Brady explains, the city sought an easy-to-use portable label printing product made of durable materials that could withstand Michigan winters. “This distributor came to Brady and we began developing an easy-to-use and effective solution to help the city make 200 to 300 uniform, 4 by 8-inch labels per day with the service address printed on them to offer at-a-glance identification on the smart carts,” added Matt Sinkovich, Brady’s territory manager, in the statement.

Brady’s solution includes durable vinyl label materials and two label printers, including a BBP31 printer installed in a trash-collection truck to allow workers to create labels on-the-go for carts, the company reports. It also includes LabelMark6 label creation software used on the BBP33 printer to allow workers to easily import spreadsheet data and print the cart labels required for the residents on their route.

This effort not only assists collection employees with identification, but also helps customers know which cart belongs to their address. The city of Grand Rapids believes that Brady’s new smart cart labeling system will result in improved customer service, enhanced efficiencies, decreased cart replacements and reduced billing disputes, according to the company.

BLE, UWB Technologies Could Displace RTLS, Says ABI Report

ABI Research forecasts that next-generation Bluetooth Low Energy (BLE) beacon and ultra-wideband (UWB) technologies could dramatically disrupt the real-time location system (RTLS) and asset-tracking markets. The firm reports that new solutions from companies like Bluvision, DecaWave and UWINLOC, along with the arrival of the Industrial Internet of Things, will result in a combined RTLS and asset-tracking market that will more than triple from its current standpoint, to reach $15 billion in 2021.

“For the first time, enterprises don’t have to choose between high accuracy, low cost, and ease of deployment,” said Patrick Connolly, an ABI Research principal analyst, in a prepared statement. “Emerging startups like SINTRA, Quuppa, Quantitec, and MIST can offer all three using proprietary BLE and UWB. This poses a serious threat to current market holders, as traditional technologies, like active RFID, Wi-Fi, and legacy UWB, remain restricted due to its inability to meet the aforementioned criteria.”

ABI Research reports that traditional technologies will still have a place, but will be increasingly marginalized, especially as smartphones and wearables become more predominant in industrial spaces. The firm forecasts a 5:1 ratio on new RTLS technology tags versus traditional RTLS technologies by 2021, with significant growth into new greenfield applications such as pallet tracking, condition monitoring and inventory management. According to ABI, companies like Zebra Technologies—that offer a mixture of traditional and new technologies that can be implemented and managed together under a single platform—will do well in the new market dynamic.

In addition, the divide between active RTLS and passive asset tracking is blurring, the research firm indicates. Retailers’ growing need for accurate, real-time in-store inventory data prompted Impinj and View Technologies to develop passive RFID RTLS solutions, and ABI Research expects many more to follow, given the huge potential of this market. Similarly, the firm reports, UWINLOC’s passive UWB technology offers high accuracy at passive RFID level costs, with near-real-time location updates. However, ABI says, passive ultrahigh-frequency (UHF) RFID remains the dominant technology throughout the forecast period, in terms of volumes and revenues.

Companies like Avery Dennison, which recently partnered with EVRYTHING, will develop solutions that can track items beyond the point of sale (POS) and throughout their lifetimes. This, ABI says, brings benefits like authenticity verification, customer engagement, re-orders, loyalty programs and post-sale services via a BLE beacon community.

“The increasing demand for instant gratification from customers will drive new competitive business models, including on-demand load matching and the Uberization of delivery, from companies like Cargomatic and Confreight,” Connolly added in the statement. “Longer term, wearables and robotics will lead to an even greater need for accurate, real-time location data to improve performance.”

These findings appear in ABI Research’s report, titled “Next Generation Asset Tracking Technologies, Opportunities, and Revenues.”

Kontakt.io Adds Location-Tracking Products to its Bluetooth Beacon Portfolio

Beacon hardware provider Kontakt.io has announced several new Bluetooth beacon products to bring real-time location system (RTLS) tracking to a variety of industries.

According to the company, the new Card Beacon comes with a built-in Near Field Communication (NFC) tag, or some other type of RFID tag, to enable new applications such as beacon-enabled employee badges, loyalty cards and two-step payment verification that were not previously possible. The Card Beacon is ultra-thin, measuring just 2 millimeters (0.08 inch) in thickness, enabling it to fit where other beacons cannot. Designed for tracking the locations of moving assets, it features a built-in motion sensor so it knows how much data it should transmit, and when, enabling users to decrease the volume of data to store and analyze and increase battery life. It can run for up to about 14 months on standard settings with power-saving mode enabled, the company reports, and can also be switched off when it is not moving—a feature that Kontakt.io says can significantly extend battery life. A development kit with three Card Beacons costs $87, is available now and will be shipped to customers within about four weeks.

The Beacon Pro is designed for the enterprise and heavy industry, Kontakt.io reports, and features a built-in NFC tag for easy configuration. By simply bringing an NFC-enabled smartphone close to the beacon, the company adds, a user can identify and program the beacon within seconds. The beacon can also automatically trigger different actions when it detects a particular level of light or movement with its built-in motion and light sensors. The Beacon Pro has a USB connection for charging and programming. A Beacon Pro development kit costs $87, is available for preorder now and will be shipped to customers within eight to 10 weeks.

“We’re proud to announce this ultra-light beacon for our industrial customers,” said Szymon Niemczura, Kontakt.io’s CEO and cofounder, in a prepared statement. “Designed to be unobtrusive and amazingly smart, these new cards can track any moving asset in your office or warehouse.”

The Gateway Beta, combined with Kontakt.io’s Location Engine, is designed to make it easier to deploy, locate, monitor and manage the beacons, according to Kontakt.io. Bluetooth-enabled tracking systems typically require three elements, the company explains: beacons, a smartphone, and someone to physically visit a monitored space and obtain data about that space. The Gateway, however, automates the tracking and management of items in real time from anywhere in the world, without the need for smartphones or users onsite, the company says. The Gateway can automatically push data, including important beacon health information, to beacons affixed to moving objects in real time. A trigger feature lets users and objects trigger certain actions based on their proximity to the Gateway, such as sending emails and notifications, as well as posting tweets, when certain conditions are met. The Gateway Beta is available for pre-order now for $89, and will be shipped to customers within the next eight weeks.

World Wide Technology, Awarepoint Partner to Deliver Location as a Service

Awarepoint has announced that it has partnered with technology integrator World Wide Technology (WWT) to deliver Awarepoint’s location-as-a-service (LaaS) offering to customers globally.

WWT is using its Advanced Technology Center (ATC) to showcase the Awarepoint solution integrated with Cisco‘s Wi-Fi architecture. Customers are able to engage with the WWT experts one on one, the two companies report, and view asset tracking, people locating and temperature monitoring in action via the ATC. The Awarepoint patented solution uses BLE and Wi-Fi technologies to provide granular positioning for mobile or tag-based applications, and supports traditional real-time location system (RTLS) use cases such as asset tracking, patient and staff locating, temperature monitoring, clinical mobility and wayfinding on the same platform. The solution locates personnel via their mobile devices or wearable tags, and integrates location data with clinical systems to improve workflows. The system is centrally managed and integrated with the Cisco Wi-Fi architecture.

Hosted in the cloud, the Awarepoint solution is easy to use and provides application programming interfaces (APIs) for third-party integrations, according to the company. Its cloud-hosted database can be used for business intelligence and data analytics to improve workflow efficiencies and cost-saving ROI analysis, the company explains. Awarepoint combines its BLE and Wi-Fi platform and cloud-hosted software with fully managed services backed by professional services, including up-front impact analysis, outcomes-based implementation, and ongoing support.

“WWT is one of the largest and most respected systems integrators in the industry,” said Karl Riesen, Awarepoint’s VP of business development, in a prepared statement, “and we are excited to be working closely with them to speed up adoption of Real-time Location Systems (RTLS) in healthcare and other industries.”

Brian Ortbals, WWT’s VP of advanced technology, added in the statement that the partnership with Awarepoint’s RTLS- and Wi-Fi-managed Bluetooth Low Energy (BLE) solution fits well with WWT’s commitment to best-of-breed solutions across its technology domains. “Awarepoint’s technology and partner ecosystem is a perfect fit for WWT’s continued focus on delivering value-added customer outcomes in mobility and networking,” he stated in the statement, “and we’re excited to be working with them.”

Awarepoint joins WWT’s ecosystem of partners, vendors and service providers, which includes Apple, Cisco, EMC and VMware, among others.

TagMaster Acquires French RFID Company Balogh

TagMaster, a supplier of advanced RFID products and automatic number plate recognition (ANPR) cameras for vehicle identification within traffic and rail solutions, has announced that it has acquired French RFID company Balogh Group.

Balogh, a pioneer in RFID technology, was founded in 1958 by the parents of the present owner, Etienne Balogh, according to TagMaster. Etienne Balogh will take on the role as the company’s sales director for the total rail business and become part of TagMaster’s management team.

Balogh currently has offices for development and production in Paris, Toulouse and Normandy, and works within the three RFID segments: rail, access/security (traffic) and industrial automation. During the first six months of the year, TagMaster reports, Balogh has had a turnover of approximately €2 million ($2.2 million). At the time of the acquisition, it had 36 employees.

“TagMaster is enthusiastic about this our next step in our growth strategy and we will together with Balogh become a stronger supplier in both rail and traffic solutions and we will continue building a relevant supplier in smart city solutions. We intend to use our new structure to create a ‘center of excellence’, for rail solutions in France and put together our Swedish and French competencies to enable widening of our product offering to the leading actors in train signaling and enable us to take on bigger and more projects,” said Jonas Svensson, TagMaster’s CEO, in a prepared statement. “In traffic solutions we will focus on the TagMaster product assortment, especially our new UHF family, and we will through this be able to make product development as well as production more efficient.”

Through the acquisition, TagMaster will be able to increase its presence in France and other southern European countries. What’s more, the company will obtain a new sales channel for its CitySync products, which it obtained when it acquired CitySync this past spring.