RFID News Roundup

By Beth Bacheldor

Checkpoint releases circular tag for health, beauty products; boosts production capabilities ••• Farsens unveils prototype RFID sensor tags ••• RFID, RTLS adoption to rise in warehouses, according to Zebra study ••• Startup reelyActive launches Bluetooth-enabled customer-tracking service ••• STiD unveils two new UHF RFID tags for aerospace, oil and gas industries ••• GS1 UK survey shows growing RFID adoption by apparel sector ••• Radley and Smart Label Solutions announce partnership.


The following are news announcements made during the past week by the following organizations:
Checkpoint Systems;
Zebra Technologies;
Radley Corp., and Smart Label Solutions.

Checkpoint Releases Circular Tag for Health, Beauty Products; Boosts, Production Capabilities

Checkpoint Systems has announced that it has expanded its portfolio of RFID labels for health and beauty products with its new Compass ultrahigh-frequency (UHF) RFID label for improved inventory management. The company has also announced new high-speed, high-quality RFID tag and label production capabilities with its new EVO printing.

The Compass is a circular RFID tag designed to address specific inventory-management challenges presented by round stock-keeping units (SKUs) and tightly packed merchandising displays commonly used for showcasing health and beauty products, according to Checkpoint Systems. The Compass, as well as Checkpoint’s previously released UHF RFID labels—the Eye wear tag, Micro, Whisper and Slim (see RFID News Roundup: Checkpoint Intros Micro RFID Label for Health, Beauty Retail and Checkpoint Systems Unveils New RFID Labels for Health, Beauty and Cosmetics)—cover a range of health and beauty products, the company reports, allowing retailers to tag a greater amount of merchandise in order to maximize inventory visibility.

Checkpoint’s Compass UHF RFID label

The Compass, compliant with the EPC Gen 2 (ISO 18000-6C) standard, is 48 millimeters (1.9 inches) in diameter and is made with an Impinj Monza 4D RFID chip. It is tamper-proof with strategic placement on packages, the company says, and delivers high read-rate performance in semi-automated physical inventory control and RFID as electronic article surveillance (EAS). The designs are tuned for best performance in frequencies designated by the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) for the United States and the European Telecommunications Standards Institute (ETSI) for Europe.

“The Compass label uses the Monza 4D True3D technology to deliver higher data reliability and accuracy in any direction, which is crucial for resolving challenging retail deployments,” said Craig Cotton, Impinj’s VP of marketing and product management, in a prepared statement.

Compass RFID labels are available immediately, and Checkpoint Systems will showcase the labels in its exhibition hall booth (#204) at next week’s RFID Journal LIVE! conference and exhibition, taking place on May 3-5 in Orlando, Fla.

Checkpoint Systems has also announced EVO, its new high-speed, high-quality production system that can encode, verify and print variable data on high-quality, high-performance RFID tags and labels 10 to 15 times faster than conventional RFID thermal printers.

EVO printing is performed to a retailer’s exact specifications, and tags can be printed on both sides. EVO allows for the printing of lower volumes of high-quality tags, Checkpoint says, reducing costs for retailers. Tags are double-checked for RFID Electronic Product Codes (EPC), and tag data is verified to be accurate, unique and matching any bar code on the tag that supports Quality Assurance (QA) practices.

“EVO’s advanced technology uses templates for a retailer’s specific variable data, such as SKU, style code, department, size, color, barcode and price,” said James Wrigley, president and COO, Apparel Labeling Solutions, Checkpoint Systems, in a prepared statement. “That, coupled with its high speed, enables a more efficient printing process that provides retailers with significant cost savings and a faster turnaround on orders.”

In addition, the company has announced Check-Net Mobile App, its real-time app for iOS and Android smartphones and tablets that allows retailers to quickly and easily access account information, check order status on the fly, and receive push notifications regarding orders. With Check-Net Mobile, retailers can track orders throughout the production cycle, check them across multiple Check-Net accounts, review the orders, and either approve or decline them.

Finally, the firm has announced that it has expanded its RFID printing capabilities in Asia. Checkpoint’s ALS Vietnam facility now offers thermal printing of RFID tags, as well as label-production capabilities.

Farsens Unveils Prototype RFID Sensor Tags

Farsens has announced prototypes of three new passive ultrahigh-frequency (UHF) sensor RFID tags: Truck-PT, for measuring tire pressure and temperature; Rotor-WT, designed to be installed inside motors and generators to detect rotor hot spots in real time; and Electra-CT, for monitoring hot spots inside switchgear in real time. All three RFID sensor tags are compatible with commercial EPC Gen 2 UHF RFID readers.

Since the products are still under development, they are not yet available for purchasing in volume, according to Mikel Choperena, Farsens’ product development manager. However, he says, their materials, sizes, fixation methods and other features can be modified to meet a customer’s particular needs.

Farsens’ Truck-PT tag

The Truck-PT RFID tag is built in a compact PCB format and encapsulated in a cushion gum housing. It includes an MS5803-14BA pressure and ambient temperature sensor provided by Measurements Specialties, with an absolute pressure range from 0 bar to 30 bar and an ambient temperature range from -40 to +85 degrees Celsius (-40 to +185 degrees Fahrenheit).

Additionally, the tag includes a Murata negative temperature coefficient (NTC) thermistor (NCP18XH103F03RB) for monitoring the contact temperature of the tire’s sidewall. The tag uses an ANDY100 IC for energy harvesting and wireless communication, as well as startup circuitry based on a voltage monitor and a voltage regulator, and a micro-controller for interface conversion.

Farsens’ Electra-CT tag

Also built in a compact PCB format, the Rotor-WT and Electra-CT tags each contain Farsens’ RMeter resistance meter tag and a Semitec 103GT-2 NTC thermistor. Both are available in a variety of antenna designs and sizes, depending on the specific application. The tags can be encapsulated in an IP67 or IP68 casing for usage in harsh environments. The RMeter includes an ANDY100 IC for energy harvesting and wireless communication, as well as startup circuitry based on a voltage monitor, a microcontroller and signal conditioning circuitry for measuring resistive sensors.

Farsens will showcase the tags and sensors, including the new prototypes, in its exhibition hall booth (#743) at next week’s RFID Journal LIVE! conference and exhibition, taking place on May 3-5 in Orlando, Fla.

RFID, RTLS Adoption to Rise in Warehouses, According to Zebra Study

Zebra Technologies‘ latest Warehouse Vision Study shows that 51 percent of companies expected to increase their investment in real-time location systems (RTLS) that track inventory and assets throughout the warehouse in 2015, but this number jumps to 75 percent for 2020. The just-released report is based on a survey completed in October 2015. For the survey, Zebra polled 1,378 warehouse IT and operations professionals throughout 12 countries: Australia, Brazil, Canada, China, France, Germany, India, Italy, Mexico, Spain, the United Kingdom and the United States.

The report compares respondents’ expectations for 2015 versus 2020. Forty percent of respondents said they were using RFID for cycle counts and inventory validation in 2015. By 2020, 85 percent anticipate those processes will be performed via RFID.

The study found that approximately 44 percent of companies reported that their technology expansion and usage of RFID will either somewhat (33.6 percent) or dramatically (9.4 percent) increase for the next five years. About 20 percent of respondents indicated RFID to be a supplier requirement in 2015, while around 31 percent said this will be the case in 2020. Nearly 23 percent of current customers required the use and adoption of RFID in 2015, according to respondents. By 2020, that number will rise to 41 percent.

Zebra believes that consumer expectations will drive increased investment in IT and operational functions in warehouses throughout the next four years, as manufacturing and logistics companies continue to adjust to delivering products directly to consumers.

Startup reelyActive Launches Bluetooth-enabled Customer-Tracking Service

Canadian Internet of Things (IoT) startup reelyActive has announced the launch of Pareto, a cloud platform for connected spaces. The platform is targeted at the owners and managers of physical spaces, such as retail stores, co-working spaces and entertainment venues, and is designed to let them visualize and understand the visitor traffic within their space. By sensing and measuring real-world behavior, reelyActive explains, they can optimize what matters for their business.

The Pareto service features a Bluetooth Low Energy (BLE) radio that reelyActive calls a sensor or reelceiver, which connects to a computer via reelyActive’s USB hub. The sensor anonymously detects BLE devices—such as BLE-enabled smartphones, wearables like Fitbit, electronic appliances and beacons—within its vicinity and then streams their wireless packets to a computer.

The Pareto starter kit includes reelyActive’s USB hub (left) and reelceiver.

Unlike most vendors in this space, reelyActive reports, the company does not offer a full-stack solution, but instead allows customers to choose from an array of third-party analytics and engagement platforms that complete the package. Most notably, Pareto integrates seamlessly with Google Analytics, an industry-standard tool with a capable free tier. Those who already use Google Analytics to understand behavior on their websites can now use that same tool to understand real-world behavior within their store or venue, reelyActive explains.

A Pareto starter kit comes with reelyActive’s sensor and USB hub, and includes a three-month trial of the cloud-based platform. Following the trial’s completion, customers can choose from a variety of plans, ranging from enterprise-grade to open-source. The starter kit can be purchased for CAN$199 (US$159) at getpareto.com.

STiD Unveils Two New UHF RFID Tags for Aerospace, Oil and Gas Industries

French RFID firm STiD has added two new ultrahigh-frequency (UHF) tags—the IronTag Flex and the IronTag 360—to its IronTag product family designed for the aerospace and oil and gas industries.

STiD’s IronTag portfolio consists of passive EPC Gen 2 passive UHF RFID tags for tracking data on tagged parts, for use in rugged conditions and when attached to metal. The IronTag series is qualified and certified to withstand extreme conditions, the company reports: heat shocks and fast fluctuations, pressure (greater than 10 bars), liquid (including water, detergents, alcohols, oils, petrol, gas and kerosene) and flames.

STiD’s IronTag 360

The IronTag Flex is a flexible high-memory tag suitable for the identification of cables and cylinders, STiD reports, even in demanding and harsh environments. Encased in silicone, the tag can be easily installed on curved surfaces, such as pipes, cylinders or cable bundles. Made with Quanray Electronics‘ QS-2AE chip, the tag offers 64 kilobits of memory and read-write performances of up to 2 meters (6.6 feet). Its IP 68 rating indicates that it is protected from dust and water.

According to the company, the IronTag 360 is designed to offer the best performances on any surfaces, including metal, and to ensure reading reliability regardless of the tag’s position. It is a flexible, spiral-shaped tag made of silicone, with a read distance of up to 3 meters (9.8 feet) and an IP 68 rating, meaning it is dustproof and waterproof. The IronTag 360 features Impinj‘s Monza X-2K Dura chip.

GS1 UK Survey Shows Growing RFID Adoption by Apparel Sector

More than one quarter of the top apparel retailers in the United Kingdom are already using RFID within their stores, according to a survey conducted by GS1 UK. Retailers in this group include Marks and Spencer, John Lewis, Tesco F&F, ASDA George and more.

The study, carried out late last year, also found that another 20 percent are currently trialing RFID tags, while 15 percent are investigating their use and are due to pilot the technology within the next few months. According to GS1 UK, the survey respondents cited inventory accuracy as their main driver for adopting RFID. Other reasons include stock visibility and availability, loss prevention, supply chain automation and innovation. The use of RFID sees retailers typically cutting their out-of-stocks by up to 50 percent, and seeing an 80 to 90 percent time-savings using RFID for stock management.

The survey also showed that smaller brands, such as high-end men’s tailor Gieves & Hawkes, are also realizing RFID’s benefits, especially supply chain visibility and inventory accuracy (see Gieves & Hawkes Installs RFID to Prevent Shrinkage, Track Inventory). Lee Adams, head of NPD and marketing at Catalyst, a global supplier of retail security products, said in the statement that his company has had discussions with many retailers in recent years regarding the use of RFID to help tackle various challenges. “We have noticed that those conversations are more frequently moving to firm commitments on proofs of concept, trials and even full roll outs,” he said in the statement. “We are certainly approaching a tipping point in terms of retail market adoption. Gieves & Hawkes is the latest example of this and we are currently deploying the technology with others.”

Once an RFID tag is applied at the source, GS1 UK noted, retailers can identify every piece of merchandise at every retail stock location, across the entire supply chain. Survey respondents reported that, on average, this increases inventory accuracy from 63 percent to 95 percent, making it easier to deliver the products that consumers want, when and where they want them, and thus increasing brand affinity and sales.

Radley and Smart Label Solutions Announce Partnership

Radley, a global provider of electronic data interchange (EDI), manufacturing and warehouse solutions, and Smart Label Solutions (SLS), a provider of RFID hardware and software, have announced a technology partnership to provide existing and future customers with access to a portfolio of RFID services, software solutions, hardware and supplies.

Radley’s software is designed to capture data throughout an organization’s processes, so that customers have access to real-time data across the supply chain that can be integrated into an enterprise resource planning (ERP) or business system. SLS specializes in custom-engineered RFID labeling and hardware, and provides multi-site integrated systems designed to best meet a customer’s technology requirements and operating environment, including those involving harsh, industrial processes.

“We are proud to partner with SLS,” said David Barks, Radley’s senior VP, in a prepared statement. “Continuing to expand our RFID technology product platform opens the door for many of our current customers to consider RFID in the coming years and will also help us succeed in future opportunities.”

Jeff Hudson, SLS’ president, added in the statement that the “collaboration of our consulting and hardware experience with Radley’s software platform creates a sophisticated end-to-end RFID solution offering.”

Radley will be showcase an SLS portal at next week’s RFID Journal LIVE! conference and exhibition, taking place on May 3-5 in Orlando, Fla. Radley will be in booth #112, while SLS will be in booth #1042.