RFID News Roundup

By Beth Bacheldor

Checkpoint intros micro RFID label for health, beauty retail; pilots meat-tracking solution ••• Smartrac unveils dual-frequency RFID inlay, new in-store analytics solution ••• GlobeRanger expands suite of aviation RFID offerings, gets FAA letter of operational suitability ••• Tyco Retail Solutions debuts RFID-enabled storefront shrink-visibility application ••• Juniper announces Mesa 2 Rugged Tablet with Windows 10 and optional UHF RFID ••• Omni-ID secures $21 million in new funding ••• NXP and Guala Closures to develop NFC bottle closures for wine and spirits.

The following are news announcements made during the past week by the following organizations:
Checkpoint Systems;
Smartrac, EM Microelectronic;
Tyco Retail Solutions;
Juniper Systems;
NXP Semiconductors and Guala Closures.

Checkpoint Intros Micro RFID Label for Health, Beauty Retail; Pilots Meat-tracking Solution

Checkpoint Systems has announced its Micro RFID label for the health, beauty and cosmetics categories, such as hair care, over-the-counter medication and mid-size cosmetics. The company has also announced that food retailers are testing a new RFID-enabled meat-tracking solution currently under development.

Because of small sizes, stock-keeping unit (SKU) complexity and densely packed merchandising displays, the health, beauty and cosmetics categories have specific inventory-management challenges, according to Checkpoint. The new Micro inlay's tiny size—25 millimeters by 10 millimeters (1 inch by 0.4 inch)—is a suitable RFID label for this purpose, the company reports.

The Micro, a passive ultrahigh-frequency (UHF) label compliant with the ISO 18000-6C (EPC Gen 2) RFID standard, can be encoded and printed to carry Electronic Product Code (EPC) data in several formats, as well as be printed with a 2D printed bar code and human-readable text. It is integrated with Impinj's Monza R6 RFID chip for optimal performance with Checkpoint's RFID solutions and other Merchandise Visibility solutions, Checkpoint says. The Micro can be applied to the packaging of numerous health, beauty and cosmetics products, or directly on the products themselves. The Micro and its previously released companion labels, the Whisper and the Slim (see RFID News Roundup: Checkpoint Systems Unveils New RFID Labels for Health, Beauty, Cosmetics), allow retailers to tag more merchandise than was previously possible, in order to maximize their inventory visibility.

The Micro RFID labels are available immediately.

Checkpoint has also announced that it is developing an RFID-based solution for managing fresh meat, to help combat the multibillion-dollar loss per year of meat products and associated labor costs at food retailers due to expiration. Checkpoint notes that U.S. retailers alone lose $8.8 billion annually due to meat spoilage.

Because the solution is still under development, Checkpoint has declined to provide any additional details regarding the solution or when it will be available. But according to the company, a national retailer that is using the solution in a pilot deployment found that it was able to reduce fresh-meat replenishment time, decrease the amount of time employees spent replenishing expired meat, reduce meat waste and increase sales. In addition to these benefits, the fresh-meat solution is expected to increase markdown compliance, improve the customer experience by improving food freshness and on-shelf availability, and be easily adopted by workers into their current daily routines.

Smartrac Unveils Dual-Frequency RFID Inlay, New In-Store Analytics Solution

Smartrac has introduced Web DF, a single-chip high-frequency (HF) and ultrahigh-frequency (UHF) inlay. The new inlay is based on EM Microelectronic's EM4423 dual-frequency IC, which is compliant with the ISO 14443 Type A, NFC Forum Type 2 and ISO 18000-63 and EPC Gen2V2 RFID technology standards (see Inlay Companies Testing EM Micro's Dual NFC and EPC Chip). The HF and UHF protocols employed by the chip share a common, unique ID number.

Web DF provides multiple benefits and usages via the EPC communication interface, Smartrac reports, including stock inventory, product returns and data privacy. The same tag or label also enables new marketing services, the company says, such as product information or loyalty programs in conjunction with Near Field Communication (NFC)-enabled smartphones.

Smartrac's Web DF inlay

Smartrac Web DF merges the features and performance levels of the company's Web UHF and Midas NFC inlays, while retaining the Web inlay's retail-optimized dimensions: Its antenna measures 30 millimeters by 50 millimeters (1.18 inches by 1.97 inches), while its die-cut size is 34 millimeters by 54 millimeters (1.34 inches by 2.13 inches).

"Combining far-field RAIN [EPC Gen 2 UHF] RFID and near-field NFC offers retailers and brand owners significant added value by enabling more effective theft protection and enhanced merchandise visibility and consumer experience without compromising on data privacy," said Torsten Strauch, the senior VP of Smartrac's Intelligent Things Business division, in a prepared statement. "By introducing the new Web DF inlay, Smartrac is again underlining its innovation leadership, as well as demonstrating the capabilities of EM Microelectronic's new chip."

Web DF is expected to be made available in high-volume quantities by the second quarter of this year.

In addition, Smartrac has announced a new in-store analytics solution known as Metrics. Based on Smart Cosmos, Smartrac's Internet of Things platform, and the company's UHF RFID inlays and tags, Metrics is designed to help retailers improve sales and increase gross margins by providing them with end-to-end supply-chain visibility and real-time analytics.

The Metrics hands-free solution uses real-time location data provided by Smartrac's RFID inlays in the price tags and gathered via network-connected location. The system helps reduce stock-outs and enables automated replenishment actions, according to Smartrac. What's more, the company adds, sales at regular prices are increased by the optimization of in-store placement through consideration and conversion analytics.

GlobeRanger Expands Suite of Aviation RFID Offerings, Gets FAA Letter of Operational Suitability

GlobeRanger has announced that it has received a letter of operational suitability from the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA)'s AFS 300 Aircraft Maintenance Division for the new version of its GlobeRanger Aviation RFID system.

The FAA letter of operational suitability, according to the company, acknowledges that the appropriate degree of technical due diligence has been applied to allow the GlobeRanger Aviation RFID system to be used as an alternative means of compliance with specific aircraft maintenance requirements, such as those for emergency equipment.

The GlobeRanger Aviation RFID system is a turnkey supplemental aircraft maintenance program encompassing multiple RFID-based airborne and ground-based applications, including emergency equipment management, rotables and repairables management, aging airframe management, and tool management, including lockout and tagout. Coupled with GlobeRanger's GR-AWARE software, the system can be used by airlines to manage inspections of aircraft safety equipment, as well as track aircraft assets. On the ground, the GR-AWARE system can work in conjunction with the airline's enterprise resource planning (ERP) system.

According to Phil Coop, the director of GlobeRanger's aviation solutions group, previous versions of the system have been used for quick inspections of aircraft emergency equipment, providing a "reactive" means of periodic and progressive inspections. "The introduction of the GlobeRanger GR-AWARE i-Motion platform elevates the RFID system to a 'proactive' level," Coop explains, "which basically takes the operator from a 'reactive' periodic and progressive inspection program to a 'proactive' just-in-time inspection program which—rather than mechanics performing several hours-long inspections to determine what the airplane needs—allows the airplane to tell us what it needs, when it needs it and where it needs it."

With the FAA Operational Suitability letter, Coop says, "we can now deploy the system with an airline, integrate it with the airline's current maintenance program and present it to the operator's local FAA office for final approval as their new means of compliance."

Tyco Retail Solutions Debuts RFID-Enabled Storefront Shrink-Visibility Application

Tyco Retail Solutions has announced its Storefront Shrink Visibility system, a new addition to its next-generation Inventory Intelligence offerings. The application combines Tyco's Sensormatic hardware with its TrueVUE Retail Software Platform to provide retailers with item-level shrinkage visibility at the storefront.

Tyco has been offering RFID-enabled electronic article surveillance (EAS) solutions for a number of years. But the company says Storefront Shrink Visibility is far more than a dual-technology EAS-RFID detection system. Storefront Visibility provides retailers with a connected hub designed to collect, analyze and deliver data for managing shrinkage, inventory and shopper traffic. Storefront Visibility also uses TrueVUE applications and analytics.

This means that retailers can better understand when, which and how many items are stolen and more quickly replenish those goods. The solution can also help to identify trends in merchandise loss and shoplifting events, use the integrated video-capture for forensic analysis, provide differential alarms based on merchandise value and quantity of items stolen, and help retailers more quickly respond to new tactics in retail theft.

Tyco Retail's Storefront Visibility application employs RFID and acousto-magnetic electronic article surveillance (AM EAS) technologies. The AM EAS component provides anti-theft protection with which many retailers are familiar, Tyco notes, while the RFID component reveals more granular insights to which many retailers have not had access.

On the hardware side, Storefront Shrink Visibility is built on Tyco's new Sensormatic Synergy detection series (see Tyco Retail Solutions Announces Sensormatic Synergy Series of Security Pedestals), a scalable portfolio of pedestals to provide retailers with storefront visibility so they can better understand which and how many items are stolen, as well as when this occurs. The series comes with extensible and modular acousto-magnetic and RFID detection systems (including specially designed and optimized RFID antennas and software) and can integrate video-capture.

Juniper Announces Mesa 2 Rugged Tablet With Windows 10 and Optional UHF RFID

Juniper Systems, a manufacturer of rugged handheld computers, has announced its Mesa 2 Rugged Tablet. Running Microsoft Windows 10, the Mesa 2 was designed to boost productivity throughout every stage of the data-collection process, according to the company.

The Mesa 2 is available with an optional built-in ultrahigh-frequency (UHF) RFID module and antenna, region-specific frequency configurations (859 to 873 MHz and 915 to 930 MHz), EPC Gen 2 and ISO 18000-6C protocol support, and wide output range (0 dBm to +27 dBm). It features a 7-inch IllumiView display for maximum visibility in any lighting conditions and has an IP68 rating, signifying that it is protected against water and dust.

Juniper Systems' Mesa 2 Rugged Tablet

The handheld has a removable lithium-ion battery that can operate for eight to 10 hours on a single charge, as well as an optional integrated battery for an extra four to five hours of runtime and hot-swap capability. It features an ergonomic and lightweight design—measuring 5.40 inches by 8.48 inches by 1.36 inches (137 millimeters by 215 millimeters by 35 millimeters) and weighing 1.5 to 2 pounds (680 to 907 grams)—to increase comfort and reduce fatigue, the company reports. The unit contains 4 gigabytes of RAM, 64-gigabyte or 128-gigabyte flash storage options and a user-accessible MicroSDXC card slot.

The Mesa 2 is slated to begin shipping within the first quarter of 2016.

Omni-ID Secures $21M in New Funding

Omni-ID has announced that it has raised $21 million to expand its global presence and product portfolio to support accelerating demand for its Internet of Things (IoT) solutions for industry. The company supplies and manufactures industrial RFID tags globally, including an IoT-based e-paper solution for material flow management known as ProVIEW.

The ProVIEW system consists of tags featuring a bistable LCD screen integrated with active and passive ultrahigh-frequency (UHF) RFID transponders, along with proprietary software to link components and provide tracking, visual instruction and two-way communication for production floors. The system is designed for commonly used paper-based labeling, in order to enable dynamic control of material flows during manufacturing (see Omni-ID's View 10 Tag Aims to Replace Paperwork at Detroit Diesel, Other Factories).

George E. Daddis Jr., Omni-ID's CEO, has indicated that this investment will fuel his company's growth through additions to its engineering and global sales teams. In addition, he says, it will support the growth of Omni-ID's customer base, enabling the firm to open new offices in Germany and India in the coming weeks and expand its current locations in the United States, the United Kingdom and China.

Current Omni-ID investor Trillium International led the investment round, along with funding from GE Ventures, Stonehenge Growth Equity Partners and YFY group, a current Omni-ID partner and e-paper manufacturer.

With this investment, Stonehenge Growth Equity Partners' Brian Model, GE Ventures' Ralph Taylor-Smith, YFY group's Bingyi Lin and Omni-ID's George Daddis have joined Trillium International's Jim Stoffel and Jose Coronas on Omni-ID's board of directors.

NXP and Guala Closures to Develop NFC Bottle Closures for Wine and Spirits

NXP Semiconductors and Guala Closures Group, a provider of safety closures and packaging for the wine and spirits market, have announced a collaboration to develop smart bottle closures featuring Near Field Communication (NFC) technology for the wine and spirits industry. The safety-closure solutions, the two companies indicate, will integrate NFC technology to provide anti-counterfeiting and tamper-evident applications and monitoring.

The NFC technology could also be used to offer a direct engagement touch point with consumers. With the tap of an NFC-enabled smart device, the companies explain, consumers could learn more about a beverage in question, as well as receive cocktail recipes, special offers and loyalty rewards.

The NFC-enabled closures from Guala Closures will feature an opening detection and logging technology to provide a clear indication of an unauthorized opening of the bottle. Consumers will also be able to verify the product's genuine provenance and integrity via any NFC-enabled mobile device and pertinent application. In addition, brands will be able to interact with consumers via NFC smart engagement programs, both at the point of purchase and throughout the product's usage, according to the two companies.

NXP and Guala Closures have not announced when they expect to launch the RFID-enabled safety closure solutions commercially.