RFID News Roundup

By Beth Bacheldor

Checkpoint Systems brings bulk-encoding solution to Inditex's Zara DCs ••• Gimbal, Urban Airship partner to provide "in the moment" mobile engagement ••• Reteneo offers Bluetooth beacons as a subscription service ••• Two hotels adopt InvoTech's RFID-enabled uniform-management solution ••• Ibotta to deliver rebate offers via Roximity Bluetooth beacons ••• HID Global intros HID Mobile Access, enabling smartphone-based access control.


The following are news announcements made during the past week by the following organizations:
Checkpoint Systems, Inditex;
Gimbal, Urban Airship;
Ibotta, Roximity; and
HID Global.

Checkpoint Systems Brings Bulk-encoding Solution to Inditex’s Zara DCs

Checkpoint Systems has announced that it has been selected by apparel retailer Inditex Group to provide high-speed RFID bulk-encoding for the retailer’s Zara distribution centers.

According to Checkpoint, the item-level encoding solution is being used to encode RFID labels integrated in electronic article surveillance (EAS) hard tags that have been attached to garments in boxes. The solution lets DC workers encode the RFID inlays at a speed in line with Inditex’s logistics needs. The high-speed bulk-encoding solution, which combines hardware and software, eliminates the need to manually open boxes and handle individual garments, and also enables Inditex to manage its inventory automatically, the company reports. Checkpoint adds that its solution also allows Inditex to automate the sending of garments from the distribution centers to the stores, thereby preventing any possible packing mistakes involving quantity, model, size or color.

At Inditex’s annual general meeting, held in July 2014, Pablo Isla, the retailer’s CEO, said RFID is already in operation at all of Zara’s DCs and at more than 700 Zara stores within 22 countries (see Inditex CEO Announces RFID Expansion Plans). He added that his company expects to have the technology installed at all 1,991 or so Zara store locations by 2016, with plans for a gradual rollout across the remainder of its chains.

“We are proud to support Inditex’s omni-channel retail strategy with RFID solutions which enable maximum speed and optimal precision for full control and visibility of the millions of garments that the Group ships every day to its stores around the world,” said Per Levin, Checkpoint Systems’ president and chief sales officer for merchandise availability solutions, in a prepared statement.

Gimbal, Urban Airship Partner to Provide “In the Moment” Mobile Engagement

Gimbal, a provider of Bluetooth beacon and location-based engagement technologies, and Urban Airship, a provider of mobile relationship management solutions, have announced a partnership that the two companies say is designed to accelerate “in the moment” mobile engagement, in which physical environments and digital experiences come together with rich user context. Urban Airship and Gimbal report that they have combined their expertise and products to provide a solution that delivers real-time and historical location data as part of mobile messaging experiences that work for large spaces as big as continents, to geofenced stores and all the way down to aisle end-caps with a proximity beacon.

Gimbal’s Bluetooth-enabled beacon platform—which is context-aware and offers geofencing, proximity, interest sensing, consumer privacy controls, a communication platform and more—is designed to deliver targeted, real-time location data to trigger message campaigns based on arrival, departure and dwell times from custom geofenced areas. Urban Airship’s messaging architecture can transmit 100,000 messages per second to locations across an enterprise-wide chain.

Marketers will have access to location history targeting for insight into where consumers have been, offering greater opportunities to leverage location data in mobile-engagement efforts and fast-tracking marketers’ efforts. Marketers can leverage the location data provided by Gimbal in the Urban Airship targeting engine to automate personalized messaging experiences based on where a customer is in his or her shopper journey, using conditional automation rules and any combination of segmentation attributes, such as user preferences, in-app behaviors, and clicks to push action buttons and deep-linked landing pages. According to the two companies, the solution also lets marketers build messaging campaigns that take advantage of the latest mobile OS enhancements, including interactive notifications, message center widgets and digital wallets, as well as A/B testing and conversion tracking to measure performance and iteratively improve results with every user click.

Urban Airship and Gimbal say they have already successfully partnered on several large-scale engagements, including an implementation for the United States Tennis Association (USTA). For the 2014 US Open tournament, being held from Aug. 25 to Sept 8 at the Billie Jean King National Tennis Center, in Flushing Meadows, N.Y., Urban Airship created an app for tennis fans, while Gimbal installed its beacons at the tennis center. This joint solution was intended to provide mobile experiences to tennis fans, and to supply USTA with information regarding foot traffic at the Billie Jean King National Tennis Center, so that it could push targeted messages to app users, based on their locations.

As an example, the USTA sent out last-minute ticket alerts to app users who had previously looked at tickets within the app, had been near a US Open ticket booth and were currently in the Tri-State (New York, New Jersey and Connecticut) area. According to Urban Airship and Gimbal, this mobile and targeted marketing involved proximity history, current location (within the geofence) and in-app behaviors. The USTA reached 300,000 devices, and 32 percent of the device users not only opened the push-to-view deep-linked rich app page, but also clicked the “Buy Tickets Now” button.

Reteneo Offers Bluetooth Beacons as a Subscription Service

Canadian startup Reteneo is offering Bluetooth beacons as a part of a subscription service. The company’s Puck beacon is made with Nordic Semiconductor‘s RF51822 System-on-Chip (SoC) to provide the beacon’s Bluetooth Low Energy (BLE)—also called Bluetooth Smart—wireless functionality. The Puck is designed to allow multiple retailers and merchants to offer beacon-based services to consumers via a single app—the Reteneo Life app—instead of having to download a separate app for each beacon.

A Reteneo Puck

Reteneo Pucks continuously advertise their presence to any passing iOS or Android Bluetooth Smart Ready smartphone within a range of up to 100 meters (330 ft.). Reteneo is making its Pucks available for a monthly subscription as low as $15 per month, to be delivered ready-to-use beyond a simple set-up and programming procedure. Customers can halt the service at any time, and an opt-in approach enables Reteneo to create custom feeds if a customer wants a private or restricted beacon platform. In addition, no personal information is collected or shared, nor is the user’s location tracked via geo-tagging.

With Puck, customers can create content, such as coupons or advertisements, from any computer. That content is stored on Reteneo’s cloud-based servers. When a phone with the Reteneo Life app comes within proximity of a Puck, the app sends a request to the cloud servers. The servers can then push any associated content that also matches the end user’s stated in-app preferences, in order to determine if the offer is something in which the end-user has expressed an interest. If it is, the user will be immediately alerted of the offer via the app.

All Pucks are remotely maintained by Reteneo as part of the subscription service, and are replaced as required (for example, when their batteries are about to expire). That feature is enabled by identification and battery-level monitoring technology running on the nRF51822’s embedded ARM Cortex M0 MCU that anonymously supplies this data. According to Jean-Christophe Titus, Reteneo’s president, the beacons do not communicate maintenance and battery information; instead, that data is relayed to Reteneo’s servers via the phones and apps as they communicate with the Pucks and request content from the servers. “We monitor the battery level,” Titus explains, “in order to be able to send a replacement one to two months before the batteries are depleted.”

Reteneo’s CEO, Cesar Rego, says he can foresee a day when every retailer or merchant has beacons, but not when consumers are willing to have hundreds of different beacon-compatible apps on their smartphones. What’s more, he says, some consumers are already complaining that they have too many apps on their phones. For that reason, his company has designed its beacon platform to work with a single app built to be relevant to all retailers and merchants within a particular locality.

The Puck beacon, the size of a regular hockey puck, contains an nRF51822 SoC, an antenna and two watch batteries. Reteneo chose the nRF51822, Nordic notes, because its ultra-low-power operating characteristics enable the puck to run for an average of two years in continuous operation. In the future, Nordic adds, Reteneo plans to include the nRF51822 SoC feature that lets companies perform firmware updates over the air.

Two Hotels Adopt InvoTech’s RFID-enabled Uniform Management Solution

InvoTech Systems has announced that two of its long-time customers—InterContinental Buckhead Atlanta and Park Hyatt Chicago—have upgraded their uniform management and control processes with InvoTech’s UHF-RFID Uniform System. According to InvoTech, both hotels have used the system for more than 10 years, and are adding RFID to achieve greater cost savings and efficiencies by automating manual tasks.

The implementations include passive EPC Gen 2 ultrahigh-frequency (UHF) RFID laundry tags, as well as Impinj ultrahigh-frequency (UHF) RFID readers. Both hotels are also utilizing White Conveyors U-Pick-It Systems to securely distribute uniforms to the correct employee, and to ensure that uniforms are accurately monitored.

The InterContinental Buckhead Atlanta has tagged 7,300 uniforms to date with the waterproof UHF tags. The system tracks each uniform piece as it is assigned to an employee, and as it moves to and from the laundry company that the hotel uses. The hotel has also RFID-tagged approximately 20,500 linen items, towels, sheets and pillowcases. The RFID-enabled system monitors the location of each tagged item, and is designed to reduce lost-item costs and minimize handling. If the laundry company fails to return a linen item, it is held responsible for the replacement cost, InvoTech explains. The hotel also employs the system for uniform management, and tracks uniforms for its staff of 400 workers. Uniforms are automatically tracked when staff members take delivery, and again when they are sent to the property’s laundry company.

Ibotta to Deliver Rebate Offers via Roximity Bluetooth Beacons

Ibotta, a provider of a mobile app that shoppers can use to receive and redeem rebates, has announced that it has partnered with Roximity, a provider of location-based mobile technology, to deliver Bluetooth Beacon-based mobile messages to shoppers within store aisles across the United States.

The Ibotta app

Roximity’s iBeacon, which measures 2 inches in length and width and about 3/4 inch in thickness, can be powered by a battery or a wall outlet. The technology works with iOS- or Android-based phones and tablets (see Companies Deliver New Apps for Bluetooth Beacons). With Roximity Bluetooth Smart beacons installed in stores, consumers will receive targeted detailed and relevant information regarding leading consumer products and rebates while they shop.

In addition to providing targeted messaging that enables retailers and consumer packaged goods (CPG) companies to interact with customers at the store shelf, Ibotta reports, Roximity’s iBeacons can amass data and analytics, including in-store traffic patterns, consumer engagement, dwell times and more. What’s more, the company adds, participating brands and retailers will also have access to Ibotta’s demographic information, engagement data, and consumer purchase data, enabling them to better understand their customer base and offer merchandise fully relevant to consumers.

Ibotta reports that 4 million shoppers currently use its apps and receive rebates offers from more than 100,000 stores nationwide. To date, the company says, Ibotta users have viewed more than two billion rebates, completed 70 million “brand interactions” and earned more than $11 million in cash rewards.

HID Global Intros HID Mobile Access, Enabling Smartphone-based Access Control

HID Global has announced its HID Mobile Access, a Bluetooth Smart solution designed to enable secure access and identity management using smartphones and other mobile devices and operating systems, including iOS and Android, by turning them into trusted credentials. According to HID Global, the solution includes everything necessary for organizations to immediately begin using Bluetooth Smart smartphones and other mobile devices as an alternative to keys and smart cards, and also makes it possible for users to unlock doors and open gates from a distance via the company’s patented “Twist and Go” gesture technology.

The solution incorporates HID Global’s Seos technology, first revealed in 2011 (see ASSA ABLOY Creates NFC Solution that Uses Phones to Open Doors, Grant Computer Access and RFID News Roundup: HID Global Launches Pilot of NFC Smartphones Carrying Digital Keys for Access Control, Announces BlackBerry Credentials). HID Mobile Access also leverages HID Global’s patented hand-gesture concept, first announced a year ago (see HID Global Seeks to Improve RFID Security Via Hand Gestures), and now modified to work with a smartphone’s Bluetooth Smart functionality, instead of RFID or Near Field Communication (NFC).

Specifically, HID Mobile Access includes mobile-enabled readers (iClass SE or multiClass SE with factory-installed components) and the HID Mobile Access Service Bundle, consisting of HID Mobile IDs, the HID Secure Identity Services portal, and the HID Mobile Access App for Android or iOS mobile phones.

According to HID Global, the iClass SE and multiClass SE readers use 125 kHz HID Prox and high-frequency (HF) RFID technologies, including iClass Seos, iClass SE, standard iClass, Mifare and Mifare DESFire EV1, which optimizes flexibility for using both cards and mobile devices. With the HID Secure Identity Service portal (a hosted service), administrators can manage user IDs. They can send users an invitation to download an HID Mobile Access App directly to Bluetooth- or NFC-enabled phones; after the app has been downloaded and registered, HID Mobile IDs can be immediately issued, provisioned or revoked over the air. Once a user’s phone app receives an HID Mobile ID, he or she can open a door or gate by either tapping the handset to a mobile-enabled reader or, using Bluetooth connections and HID Global’s gesture technology, simply rotating the device to when approaching the reader.

In addition, HID Global has announced the completion of a pilot with HID Mobile Access at Vanderbilt University, located in Nashville, Tenn. At the university, approximately 15 participants were able to use smartphones to open doors and garage parking gates. The pilot included HID Global’s iClass SE readers, configured to work with existing iClass smart cards, and with HID Mobile Access technology, installed at six campus entry points, including one parking garage.

Participants used their own smartphones during the pilot to include Apple iPhone 4S, 5, 5C and 5S devices and Android-based Samsung Galaxy S4 and Mini 3S handsets. In a survey of Vanderbilt pilot participants, HID Global says, respondents cited convenience as the top attribute of HID Mobile Access, since their smartphones are always with them and they are less likely to lose the phones as compared to an access card. According to the company, respondents further pointed out the benefit of using their phone as a backup if their cards were lost or stolen, and also indicated that they enjoyed using the Twist and Go gesture technology to open the garage parking gate as they drove up to the reader, including the convenience of not having to roll down a window while approaching. Vanderbilt University, HID reports, plans to install iClass SE readers at new buildings so it can leverage the new HID Mobile Access capabilities in the future, while still retaining interoperability with legacy card technologies.