RFID News Roundup

By Rich Handley

Supply Insight, Brady Worldwide partner on RFID item-tracking system ••• Frost & Sullivan says omnichannel retailers increasingly deploying RFID to manage customer experience ••• Armstrong International offers RFID-enabled steam trap ••• Avnet acquires Softweb Solutions, offers IoT applications ••• Nordic Semiconductor intros cellular IoT module ••• IoT company KORE acquires eSIM provider ASPIDER-NGI.

Presented here are news announcements made during the past week by the following organizations:
Supply Insight, Brady Worldwide;
Frost & Sullivan;
Armstrong International;
Avnet, Softweb Solutions;
Nordic Semiconductor;
KORE Wireless, and ASPIDER-NGI.

Supply Insight, Brady Worldwide Partner on RFID Item-Tracking System

A partnership between Brady Worldwide and Supply Insight Inc. has integrated Brady's CenSys Internet of Things (IoT) reader into Supply Insight's Turnkey Total Tracking (TTT) real-time location system (RTLS) solution via instantaneous IoT messaging. This combination is intended to help companies reduce costs, re-purpose employees and manage productive tasks.

"As a pioneer in RFID platforms since 2004," said Brock Hotaling, Supply Insight's CEO, in a prepared statement, "we discovered that in spite of huge RFID operational advantages, many businesses were shut out of RFID RTLS due to budget or complexity. TTT, with its unmatched simplicity and affordability, has removed those barriers by combining Brady CenSys and mobile BYOD readers, plus app, mobile device, tags, AWS secure portal and intelligence dashboard, in a true turnkey package, all for under $5,000."

"Typical fixed RFID readers can cost several thousand dollars each. Combine that with infrastructure and software, and the cost investment becomes too much for most small to medium businesses," said Wesley Columbia, Brady's global strategy and marketing manager, in the prepared statement. "Requiring only power and Wi-Fi connection, CenSys offers both great performance and value at the sub-$1,000 price point and is uniquely simple to install and configure."

Features include batch tag commissioning, check-in and checkout, mass transfers, a Geiger-counter finder, image synchronization, location movement trace, instant cycle counts, inter-facility "lost and found" matchmaking, lot tracking, deferred remote-site synchronization, sealed-container scanning of serialized internal items, queries, data import and export, and optional smart alerts on reorder points or expiration dates.

"Censys provides relevant location data to update customers or manage high-value items," Columbia said in the prepared statement. "Adding Supply Insight's integrated location history becomes invaluable for critical business scenarios." Placing a Censys at each chokepoint can eliminate downtime, stolen property and botched operations typical of work-in-process or sample-tracking. The device can be placed on a tool crib or workstation to ensure the availability of items.

"A demonstrable quick ROI for any size business has finally been achieved for an RFID tracking RTLS system," said Linda Thomas, Supply Insight's owner and co-founder, in the prepared statement. "By integrating cycle counts from BYOD readers with instant data from the world's leading IoT fixed reader, the Turnkey Total Tracking solution brings to RFID tracking the simplicity of a cable box set-up, and barcode affordability."

Frost & Sullivan Says Omnichannel Retailers Increasingly Deploying RFID to Manage Customer Experience

According to a new report from Frost & Sullivan, the rise of the Internet of Things (IoT) has caused a sea change in customers' buying patterns and, by extension, retailers' market strategies. E-commerce and m-commerce have virtually transformed stores into distribution centers, the report indicates, and retailers need to adopt technologies such as RFID, video, cameras and data analytics to track inventory at outlets and enhance customer experience management.

"Retailers are looking to empower their mobile workforce to enrich customers' purchase experience, and this will augment investments in technologies such as handheld readers and smart point-of-sale (PoS) solutions," said Ram Ravi, an industry analyst for industrials at Frost & Sullivan, in a prepared statement. "RFID sales will get a further boost from the intensifying focus on loss prevention, inventory management, and customer behavior analysis."

Frost & Sullivan's study, titled "Analysis of Growth & Security of the Global RFID Market in Retail, Forecast to 2022," examines the competitive structure and presents the market shares of several leading companies. The report includes forecasts, product analyses, market drivers and restraints, industry challenges, and key growth opportunities for RFID tags, readers and middleware.

"To cater to the changing retail environment, system integrators need to develop partnerships with data analytics and cloud service vendors," Ravi said in the prepared statement. "The growing interest in item-level tagging in the retail industry will further augment RFID demand."

RFID vendors are leveraging the rise of the IoT and are pursuing opportunities to address retailers' pain points by investing in technology to enhance the shopper experience by empowering the mobile workforce and incorporating big-data analytics to analyze customer behavior patterns and enable targeted marketing; applying this technology to boost employee efficiency; focusing on strengthening security to enhance privacy; ensuring a successful implementation by focusing on performance-related parameters, such as antenna design, chip size and storage size; and shifting focus from in-store inventory management to total stock visibility to meet the requirements of omnichannel retailing.

Armstrong International Offers RFID-enabled Steam Trap

Armstrong International has launched SAGE UMT, a wireless handheld steam trap testing solution that enables accurate, on-the-go testing of steam trap performance. SAGE UMT leverages RFID technology to quickly locate and identify steam traps. Its piezoelectric acoustic and non-contact infrared temperature sensor delivers accurate, precise detection, the company reports, in order to identify steam traps that are performing in good, cold, blow-through and leaking conditions.

"SAGE UMT puts state-of-the-art technology in the hands of technicians to eliminate guesswork and significantly reduce the time it takes to survey, test and record steam trap performance," said Kurt Armstrong, Armstrong International's chief information officer, in a prepared statement.

SAGE UMT can be integrated with Armstrong's SAGE Smart Thermal Utility System Management platform, and can synch wirelessly, via a Bluetooth connection, to the SAGE Mobile app to provide real-time diagnostics and eliminate manual entry associated with offline steam trap survey data collection. Data can be instantly uploaded to the cloud by SAGE for secure storage and ongoing steam trap analysis in order to support system-wide utility management.

The SAGE UMT is rugged, water-resistant and designed with ergonomic features, according to the company, including a handle with a rubberized ribbed grip. It comes with a holster that keeps the unit secure and protected, and can operate for 10 hours or more without recharging.

Avnet Acquires Softweb Solutions, Offers IoT Applications

Avnet has announced that it will acquire Softweb Solutions, a privately held software and artificial intelligence (AI) company that provides software for Internet of Things (IoT) applications and solutions.

The integration of Softweb's AI software for IoT applications with its data services and digital process capabilities provides Avnet with a rapid design, development and deployment capability, the company reports, which provides for new and recurring revenue opportunities.

"By capitalizing on our longstanding partnership with Softweb, we are adding new capabilities to Avnet's already robust ecosystem—combining the power of their software expertise with the strength of our end-to-end hardware 'design to deploy' ecosystem," said Bill Amelio, Avnet's chief executive officer, in a prepared statement. "Softweb's formidable IoT and data platforms, plus their expertise in AI, data advisory and digital development services, will enable us to bring even greater value to our customers as a single partner resource while accelerating Avnet's growth."

"We greatly value our existing business partnership with Avnet, and are excited to officially join the Avnet team," said Ripal Vyas, Softweb Solutions' CEO and owner, in the prepared statement. "We are pleased that Avnet sees the immense value of our AI and software technology services and solutions, and we look forward to leveraging Avnet's vast infrastructure, resources and expertise as a global technology solutions leader that enhances customers' competitiveness and solves today's business challenges."

The transaction is expected to close by the end of this month. The terms of the agreement have not been disclosed.

Nordic Semiconductor Intros Cellular IoT Module

Nordic Semiconductor has announced the availability of the first nRF9160 system-in-package (SiP) member of its nRF91 series of cellular Internet of Things (IoT) modules. This includes Digi-Key Electronics, Mouser Electronics and Premier Farnell, among others.

The nRF9160 has received GCF certification, a trusted mobile communications industry quality mark denoting compliance with the 3GPP LTE specification and global cellular network interoperability, along with separately required FCC and CE regulatory certifications. This means the nRF9160 SiP is approved for deployment in cellular networks and cellular IoT product applications worldwide.

The general availability of the nRF9160 SiP will make cellular IoT wireless technology accessible to any application, the company reports, due to the ease with which the module can be designed. Examples include asset monitoring and tracking, utility metering, industrial (machinery) connectivity and predictive maintenance, smart city and infrastructure, agrotech (smart agriculture) and medical.

The nRF9160 SiP is suitable for compact wearable consumer and medical devices, but can integrate everything a cellular connection and IoT application may require beyond an external battery, SIM and antenna, the company reports. To achieve this integration, Nordic partnered with Qorvo to make an SiP that more closely resembles an integrated chip than a module. The nRF9160 SiP leverages Qorvo's RF front-end, advanced packaging and MicroShield technologies. The nRF9160 SiP supports global operation with a single SiP variant, by combining Nordic's multimode LTE-M/NB-IoT modem, a SAW-less transceiver and a custom RF front-end solution from Qorvo.

In parallel, the nRF9160 SiP is the first cellular IoT module to incorporate Arm's latest Cortex M-33 CPU core. This is supported by 1 megabyte of Flash and 256 kilobytes of RAM onboard memory. According to the company, the nRF9160 SiP is the first module to incorporate Arm's TrustZone and CryptoCell encryption and application protection.

"Nordic Semiconductor expanded the application-range of Bluetooth by abstracting away from the designer all unnecessary technical complexity," said Peder Rand, Nordic Semiconductor's product manager for cellular IoT, in a prepared statement. "The pre-certified, ready-to-drop-in, LTE-M/NB-IoT nRF9160 SiP module promises to do the same for cellular IoT by taking a completely different approach to competing solutions. And it's now available to everyone."

"Among its many unique IoT-targeted features, one of the most key is security which is of paramount importance to any IoT application," said John Leonard, Nordic's tactical marketing manager, in the prepared statement. "Arm TrustZone means the nRF9160 SiP can have areas specified as trusted execution zones and non-trusted zones. This means critical aspects such as cryptographic elements and key storage, for example, will reside in trusted areas where the outside world cannot get direct access. Allied with the nRF9160 SiP's Arm CryptoCell security, this module is without question the cellular IoT device with the most advanced security on the market today."

The nRF9160 SiP is supported by a development kit, SiP module samples, LTE-M firmware and an SDK with application example for cloud connectivity. This includes Nordic's nRF Connect for Cloud device-management tool and nRF Connect for Desktop PC-based tool, as well as support for Segger Embedded Studio. NB-IoT and GPS functionality are in limited sampling and will be made available for evaluation through firmware updates during the first quarter of 2019.

IoT Company KORE Acquires eSIM Provider ASPIDER-NGI

KORE Wireless, an independent global Internet of Things (IoT) company, has announced that it has executed a definitive agreement and has closed on acquiring NGA Holding B.V., d/b/a ASPIDER-NGI, a provider of connectivity, core network and eSIM solutions. This acquisition enables KORE to offer managed connectivity services and solutions to customers to help them maximize their return on investments.

ASPIDER-NGI provides as-a-service infrastructure for mobile access, applications and connectivity services, leveraging core network and value-added services across voice, data and messaging. The firm provisions connectivity services to companies and carriers across geographies with its own core network.

"We are excited to announce our acquisition of ASPIDER-NGI and for Jan Mooijman and his team to join KORE," said Romil Bahl, KORE's president and chief executive officer, in a prepared statement. "KORE's deep IoT knowledge, experience and global reach in providing multiple connectivity services options across multiple geographic regions, together with ASPIDER-NGI's talented team and innovative technology in core network managed services, security, and IoT solutions – including eSIM – will provide increased connectivity control and enable our customers to benefit from unmatched IoT capabilities and differentiated, next-generation solutions and services. This acquisition also strengthens our operations and employee base in Europe and Asia-Pacific to even better serve our global customer base."

"We are thrilled about becoming a part of KORE", said Jan Mooijman, ASPIDER-NGI's CEO, in the prepared statement. "Having a long-standing partnership with KORE, we see the commitment to growth and innovation, as well as a strong cultural fit around helping customers solve complex IoT and mobile connectivity challenges through core networking and managed services. KORE brings a commitment to the market, backed by investment capability, that we believe will be beneficial, and we look forward to a very positive next chapter for our employees, customers and portfolio evolution."