RFID News Roundup

By Beth Bacheldor

Alien Technology Signs Deal for Chinese Venture, Appoints New CEO ••• Trimble intros solution for real-time construction equipment identification, tracking ••• Replicon to automate time-tracking via iBeacons ••• NCR retail solutions get real-time big data support via Emcien’s platform ••• Kit Check debuts RFID Seal Tags for pharmacy kits ••• King Abdullah Port adopts Identec Solutions’ wireless monitoring system for refrigerated containers

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The following are news announcements made during the past week by the following organizations:
Alien Technology;
NCR, Emcien;
Kit Check; and
King Abdullah Port, Identec Solutions.

Alien Technology Signs Deal for Chinese Venture, Appoints New CEO

With an eye on advancing RFID, especially in China and the growing Internet of Things (IoT) market, Alien Technology has announced it has signed a definitive agreement for an international joint venture that will result in $35 million in new investments. Partners in the joint venture includes new investor Shanghai Ruizhang Investment Co., Ltd., and Alien’s current investors, and is designed to help accelerate company growth through the increased development of new technologies and a strong, operational presence in China.

Chris Chang

Alien’s board of directors also announced today that Chris Chang has been appointed to the role of chief executive officer. Prior to joining Alien, Chang was responsible for overseeing Marvell Technology Group‘s business strategy, sales and marketing, business development and government relationship for the Greater China Region. At Marvell, Chang drove key strategic partnerships with Chinese service providers and industry players, resulting in double-digit revenue growth, according to Alien. Chang earned a master’s degree in business administration from The Wharton School of Business at University of Pennsylvania and a bachelor’s degree in Computer Science from the University of Texas at Austin.

The new international venture, Chang says, will enable Alien to more adeptly market and sell in China, where the company currently has only representatives in the region to help facilitate sales. Under the terms of the international venture, Alien will be able to operate within the regulatory structure of the Chinese market. “We see a huge potential in the market,” says Chang. “We can now become deeply entrenched in China, and provide businesses there with local solutions that meet their specific requirements.” Alien remains an independent operating company with its headquarters in Morgan Hill, Calif., and no operational changes are planned.

Chang says IoT offers another great market opportunity for Alien around the world. “Personally, I believe after the Internet boom of the last 20 years, the next boom will be in hardware, with IoT.” In China, particularly, where the RFID and IoT market is still young, there are opportunities for using the technologies for traffic management, for driving more efficient manufacturing, and for authenticating goods to combat product counterfeiting and for food safety, he says.

Alien remains committed to the ultra-high frequency (UHF) passive RFID market, and Chang says his vision for Alien’s futures is to continue strengthening Alien’s leading role in the UHF RFID market and to make Alien a major force in IoT’s future. The company will continue investment in R&D here in the United States, and will also invest in R&D for local markets such as China. It will also continue to look for strategic partnerships. The joint venture is already working on partnerships within China, but Chang says these partnerships are still in early stages, and “it is too soon to announce anything.”

Trimble Intros Solution for Real-Time Construction Equipment Identification, Tracking

Trimble has announced the Trimble Tracker RFID System, a new solution designed to help contractors locate and track assets in real time, and then access the information in their offices. The solution leverages Trimble’s ThingMagic ultrahigh-frequency (UHF) RFID technology, as well as GPS and telematics technologies and Trimble Asset Manager, a Web-based software as a service (SaaS) application that integrates and documents asset location information. Real-time identification and tracking can reduce the time to locate and transfer equipment, deter theft, reduce equipment loss, and increase asset utilization. Contractors can also decrease annual equipment expenditures through better management of existing assets, Trimble says.

To use the Trimble Tracker RFID System, a contractor would install EPC Gen 2 UHF passive RFID tags, available in a variety of shapes and sizes, on selected assets such as machine attachments, trench boxes, concrete forms, pumps, hand tools, signs, storage trailers and other project-related materials. Using handheld, vehicle-mounted and gate-mounted Trimble RFID readers, asset location updates are sent wirelessly to the Trimble Asset Manager database in the office for centralized data management and reporting, according to Trimble. The data is then also wirelessly synchronized back to employees in the field. To view inventory across sites, contractors can access Trimble Asset Manager back in their offices, and use the application to create asset records, accurately track and locate assets, and schedule equipment transfers. Customizable reports are also available. In addition, Trimble Asset Manager stores information about asset visual condition using the Trimble Inspector Pro app.

According to a 2012 report by the National Insurance Crime Bureau (NICB), close to one billion dollars a year was lost in the U.S. due to the theft of construction equipment, says Roz Buick, VP for Trimble Heavy Civil Construction. The Trimble Tracker RFID System, he says, is designed to give the equipment or site manager a complete end-to-end asset tracking solution to better manage site assets and reduce their asset loss.

The new Trimble Tracker RFID System is available now in North America, Europe and Australia through Trimble’s SITECH technology dealer channel. Trimble Asset Manager software is available globally through Trimble’s SITECH technology dealer channel.

Replicon to Automate Time-Tracking via iBeacons

Replicon has announced that its time-tracking solutions will support Apple iBeacon technology, which consists of Bluetooth Smart transmitters. Specifically, Replicon’s mobile applications–running on iOS or Android phones and tablets–will be able to use Bluetooth beacons to automatically detect and identify employees when they walk in and out of a work locations and then send that data to Replicon software for accurate calculation and time tracking. The addition of beacon technology is designed to help streamline the process of employees logging and reporting work times, and can help eliminate long lines at the clocks, travel time abuse and missed punches, and also ensuring employees are paid for exact hours worked, according to Replicon.

By removing the need to punch into a time clock, document job and department transfers and fill out timesheets manually, the solution virtually eliminates human error and takes the onus off employees to accurately report their hours. Replicon’s iBeacon-enabled application also ensures employees don’t miss punches by prompting them with alerts on their mobile devices when they enter or leave a work zone.

Replicon customers will be able to use any vendor’s Bluetooth beacons that comply with the iBeacon profile, such as those from Estimote or Gimbal, according to the company. Replicon support for Apple iBeacon will be available in later this year.

NCR Retail Solutions Get Real-Time Big Data Support Via Emcien’s Platform

NCR has announced that Emcien‘s data analysis platform is being integrated with NCR Retail solutions to provide retailers with the ability to immediately analyze volumes of big data to enhance and personalize shopper experiences. Emcien’s automated data analysis will be used to support a variety of NCR Retail solutions with the advanced capabilities of big data analytics. As a result of the agreement, NCR will be able to deliver Emcien’s software for use in retail environments around the world. The first implementation of these new capabilities will be with NCR Recommendation Engine, which complements NCR’s loyalty and marketing solutions with predictive analytics and product recommendation capabilities.

NCR’s retail solutions are designed to leverage a variety of data–RFID, geo-location data and POS transactions–and this data is all related to specific events or patterns of behavior. Emcien’s software features automatic pattern-detection algorithms, which adds real-time intelligence into NCR’s solutions, according to Joey White, senior director of software architecture for NCR Retail Solutions. The pattern detection uses a patented graph analysis algorithm to take both structured and unstructured data and correlate it, White explains. “We are using indoor positioning data with NCR Beacon technology along with an ecosystem of cloud-based services and mobile applications to build intimacy between retailers and shoppers. These services allow relevant recommendations and offers to be presented when and where they are most likely to influence the consumer,” White says. “By focusing only on the patterns, NCR is able to develop actionable insights very rapidly.”

In order to generate this intelligence, retailers send data to NCR’s analytics platform, where it is securely stored. When the data is analyzed, it is pulled into Emcien and the output is used by NCR’s real-time analytics API, says White. Generally speaking, the more data created for analysis, the better the results; typical data inputs include loyalty data, POS-log data, e-commerce, social media, product catalogs and any location information available, White adds. The Emcien software also provides a graphical view of the data that can be browsed in the Emcien patterns web application.

Emcien has existing customers across a variety of lines of business using the pattern-detection software–including NCR, which has been using it internally for two years. The software is language independent, also increasing its viability worldwide. The relationship gives NCR the ability to sell “NCR Recommendation Engine powered by Emcien” as a stand-alone service as well as integration into existing NCR customer engagement and marketing solutions, according to NCR.

Kit Check Debuts RFID Seal Tags for Pharmacy Kits

Kit Check has announced RFID Seal Tags, a new addition to its automated hospital pharmacy kit processing and medication tracking solution. Produced in collaboration with Health Care Logistics, the RFID Seal Tag is a tamper-evident tag that is affixed to the pharmacy kits that hospitals use for critical care procedures, including operating room anesthesia, crash carts, pediatric emergency, labor and delivery,. The RFID Seal Tag visually indicates that a kit is fully stocked and ready for use and has not been tampered with, and it also automates tracking of the kits, according to Kit Check.

Kit Check’s RFID Seal Tag

The RFID Seal Tag consists of a plastic seal tag from Health Care Logistics that has an embedded ultra-high frequency (UHF) passive RFID tag that Avery Dennison developed exclusively for Kit Check to meet particular performance requirements for medication tracking at the item level.

Typically, seals have serialized ID numbers that are manually recorded when kits are dispatched to clinical areas and when they return to the pharmacy. Kit Check eliminates the manual recording when the RFID Seal Tags are utilized–each seal tag’s unique ID number is automatically recorded when a kit is dispatched. Once a kit has been used, resealed and then returned to the pharmacy for restocking, the RFID Seal Tag is used to document the kit’s return. The RFID Seal Tag is read via Kit Check’s scanning solution that features an RFID reader that automatically captures the tag’s ID tag and associates it with the appropriate kit. This eliminates today’s practice of manually recording each kit’s seal serial number and creates a detailed audit trail for State Board of Pharmacy and Joint Commission inspections, according to Kit Check. Kit Check’s solution is also used to identify each individual medication in a pharmacy kit, which typically contain up to 200 medications each (see North Carolina Hospital Identifies Recalled Drugs Via RFID), as well as eliminate the manual processes associated with hospital pharmacy kit replenishments and expiration verifications. Kits are placed on trays tagged with EPC Gen 2 passive UHF RFID tags, and are put into the Kit Check enclosed reader. Every item is also tagged with a similar tag.

King Abdullah Port Adopts Identec Solutions’ Wireless Monitoring System for Refrigerated Containers

Identec Solutions has announced it has signed a contract to supply its CTAS 7.0 Reefer wireless monitoring system for 2,000 refrigerated container slots at King Abdullah Port (KAP), Saudi Arabia’s flagship port project. Identec officially launched the CTAS 7.0 Reefer in June. Ports and container terminal operators can use the system to remotely monitor reefer temperatures, adjust set points, perform pre-trip inspections (PTIs), download data logs and other key functions.

CTAS Reefer captures data through a network of plug-and-play long-range active RFID tags fitted to the reefer machine’s serial port when units are placed in yard stacks or racks. The system is suitable for use on reefers in racks, as well as in stacks and gensets. The tags can also be plugged in as reefer boxes enter the terminal by sea or land, providing total visibility of reefer units as they transit the terminal and helping to prevent boxes accidentally going unplugged, according to Identec Solutions. Out-of-spec or at-risk reefer boxes can also be identified, alerting users to possible non-conforming units, which can be targeted immediately as they arrive at the terminal.

CTAS 7.0 Reefer features a Windows-based user interface and middleware platform–and the 7.0 version’s user interface provides enhanced dashboard-style alarms, alerts, reports and business intelligence, the company says. The Windows-based client software allows CTAS Reefer to be easily synchronized in real time with terminal operating systems such as Navis N4, as well as with desktop computers, tablets and mobile devices with Windows operating systems, according to Identec Solutions. A mobile app is also available as part of CTAS 7.0 Reefer.

The system at KAP will go live later this year, according to Identec Solutions. The port is currently undergoing its second stage of development, which will see capacity increased to 2.7 million TEU per annum by the end of 2014.

Other customers of CTAS 7.0 include Long Beach Container Terminal (LBCT), which selected CTAS 7.0 Reefer to provide reefer monitoring at its new automated terminal on the West Coast in the United States, and users of Identec Solutions’ previous reefer monitoring solution are upgrading to the new CTAS 7.0 Reefer version, the company says. These include Colombia’s Port of Cartagena, SSA Mexico and Pakistan’s Karachi International Container Terminal (KICT).