RFID News Roundup

By Rich Handley

SML enters new markets for RFID beyond apparel, footwear ••• ImageFIRST introduces managed solutions for tracking scrubs, lab coats ••• FineLine Technologies acquires Ferm RFID Solutions B.V. ••• China Unicom Research Institute joins ZigBee Alliance ••• NFC Forum issues call for entries for Innovation Awards ••• Unified Office adds IoT infrastructure management to managed business communications service ••• Thales eSecurity, 451 Research report data breaches rising with transformative technology adoption.

The following are news announcements made during the past week by the following organizations:
SML Group;
ImageFIRST Healthcare Laundry Specialists;
FineLine Technologies, Ferm RFID Solutions B.V.;
the ZigBee Alliance, the China Unicom Research Institute;
the NFC Forum;
Unified Office;
Thales eSecurity, and 451 Research.

SML Enters New Markets for RFID Beyond Apparel, Footwear

SML Group, a provider of encoded RFID tags for retail, has announced its entry into six tangential markets that can benefit from item-level RFID solutions, sharing many of the same business case elements and omnichannel models that drive adoption in the apparel and footwear segments. SML has identified the following market segments to pursue item-level inventory management: mobile phones and accessories, cosmetics and fragrances, eyewear, wines and spirits, food, and retail pharmaceuticals.

These segments share the same major challenges and resultant pain points with assortment inventory accuracy as the apparel and footwear segments, the company reports. "Our market analysis shows that all of these segments have significant issues with inventory accuracy," said Dean Frew, SML's CTO and senior VP of RFID solutions, in a prepared statement, "and when you combine state-of-the-art RFID tag technology with best-in-class item-level inventory-management functionality, unprecedented results are easily available."

Smartphone sales and accessory sales are in the billions of dollars, SML explains, but inventory management has been difficult for stores with missing accessories and phone models at the retail level. SML reports that it has delivered a solution to a leading retailer in the United Kingdom, with hundreds of stores working in real time to help a mobile phone provider reduce out-of-stock items, increase sales and decrease shrinkage.

Fragrance is among the top sellers with high shrinkage rates. SML offers tagging and packaging solutions for this category, which has traditionally been challenging due to the presence of liquids, as well as metal content in foil or packaging. SML also offers tagging solutions for eyewear, to ensure display compliance and automatic replenishments for on-shelf availability. In addition, wine and spirits, food and pharmaceuticals also have significant pain points regarding brand authentication, verification and diversion avoidance.

According to SML, case studies demonstrate that the company's Clarity solution can improve inventory accuracy, with retailers experiencing greater than 98 percent accuracy. Clarity has been designed to enable full operational control and new inventory-management processes.

ImageFIRST Introduces Managed Solutions for Tracking Scrubs, Lab Coats

ImageFIRST Healthcare Laundry Specialists has recently introduced managed scrubs and lab coat solutions to medical facilities nationwide, utilizing RFID technology. Health systems and surgery centers often struggle with managing scrubs inventory, the company reports. These challenges can arise from having insufficient inventory, stocking the wrong sizes or staff members accidentally wearing their scrubs home, all of which can cause inventory shortages and costly replacement purchases.

To address these challenges and ensure that medical facilities in Atlanta, Ga. (and elsewhere throughout the United States) have all the health-care gowns and other linen products they require, ImageFIRST has developed fully managed solutions utilizing UHF RFID technology. The solutions are designed to provide accurate, real-time inventory reporting to customers.

"Our clients are already using this technology to monitor hospital equipment, so it made sense to use it for scrubs," said Jay Juffre, ImageFIRST's VP of operations and national service director, in a prepared statement. "Our use of UHF RFID enables us to easily keep track of who borrowed scrubs and when they were returned, and to provide that information back to the administrator."

Leveraging UHF RFID technology allows ImageFIRST to help medical facilities proactively avoid scrub shortages, minimize loss, ensure that they have the right sizes and keep personnel accountable. Medical offices and health system departments can work with ImageFIRST to create their own management program designed to meet their needs. They are able to select styles of scrubs or lab coats, choose the inventory-management program that works for them, pick storage solutions and add proactive guarantee options.

ImageFIRST offers scrubs and lab coats in women's, men's and unisex sizes, including tall and petite. Once a medical facility selects its apparel, it can also choose an inventory-management program. ImageFIRST then sizes each staff member to ensure a proper fit. Customers can opt in to have staff apparel embroidered to personalize scrubs and lab coats with logos and lettering. Medical facilities can request these management programs, as well as other linen services and solutions, from ImageFIRST.

FineLine Technologies Acquires Ferm RFID Solutions B.V.

FineLine Technologies has acquired Ferm RFID Solutions B.V., a Netherlands-based provider of RFID solutions for the automotive and aviation tire industries. As part of FineLine's strategy to meet the unique item identification needs of global supply chains, this acquisition enables the business to offer bar-code- and RFID-enabled tire-labeling solutions to the aviation and automotive sectors.

"This acquisition, combined with our recent acquisition of Data2, now enables us to distribute Ferm's comprehensive array of RFID labeling solutions via our global service bureau," said George Hoffman, FineLine's chairman and CEO, in a prepared statement.

Solutions offered include RFID tread labels to trace individual tires from quality control up to the point of sale, RFID vulcanizing labels to trace individual tires within production logistics, RFID labels that automatically identify tires in the total supply chain (including bulk reading), RFID labels that support inventory management, RFID labels that provide real-time track-and-trace during production and logistic warehousing for the lifetime of the tire, unique RFID solutions to support mold management, track-and-trace materials and RFID solutions for tire-building machines.

"We have developed highly successful RFID solutions that meet the unique needs of our clients in the tire industry, and with FineLine's FASTtrak platform we can now effectively distribute these to our clients anywhere in the world," said Jos Uijlenbroek, Ferm RFID Solutions' co-founder, in the prepared statement. "Look for RFID adoption in the tire industry to rapidly increase with these services now available globally."

China Unicom Research Institute Joins ZigBee Alliance

The ZigBee Alliance has announced that the China Unicom Research Institute, one of China's three major mobile service carriers, has joined its organization. In 2015, the institute initiated the Smart Home Standardization United Group (SSUG), which drew in a number of enterprises in the industry, including FiberHome, ZTE and Wulian, and developed implementation standards from devices to gateways and to the cloud.

ZigBee is adopted by SSUG as the major wireless communication standard for connecting end devices to the gateway. Based on the understanding of market demand and through laboratory test results, SSUG has proposed parameter recommendations and additional mandatory features to improve user experiences. After joining the ZigBee Alliance, SSUG will participate in standards development working groups and seek to integrate its work into international standards, while proposing that ZigBee technology be accepted into China's industry standards, including in the smart-home market.

"2017 was a year that witnessed rapid development of the IoT, and China Unicom has also made remarkable achievements in this field," said Zhang Yunyong, the China Unicom Research Institute's president, in a prepared statement. "We are pleased to join the ZigBee Alliance and look forward to working closely with other Alliance members to share our experience in the Chinese consumer market and actively participate in the development of open IoT standards to meet the rapid changes of market demand and drive innovation in IoT."

"The ZigBee Alliance works with key leaders and standards groups around the globe to promote cross-ecosystem collaboration to unleash IoT innovations," said Tobin Richardson, the ZigBee Alliance's president and CEO, in the prepared statement. "We are pleased to have this prominent influencer in the Chinese market join us, and look forward to the China Unicom Research Institute sharing their expertise and insight alongside other members as we work together to achieve the promise and potential of the Internet of Things."

The ZigBee Alliance, which launched in 2002 as 25 tech-savvy companies, has grown into an international group comprising more than 400 organizations from 37 countries. The Alliance has introduced numerous certification programs, as well as industry specifications and standards, and ZigBee applications have gained traction in the smart home, commercial buildings, manufacturing and smart cities markets.

NFC Forum Issues Call for Entries for Innovation Awards

The NFC Forum has announced a call for entries for its 2018 NFC Innovation Awards to recognize Near Field Communication (NFC) products, services and experiences. Innovators, developers, entrepreneurs, startups and organizations using NFC in new, disruptive and pioneering ways can submit award entries showcasing their work for the chance to win in one of three award categories.

There is no cost to enter the competition. The deadline for submissions is Mar. 2, 2018, and the award program is open to NFC Forum member companies or organizations, as well as non-members. Systems integrators, agencies and media brands submitting on behalf of their clients may also enter the awards.

Winners will be announced at the NFC Innovation Award ceremony and reception, to be held on June 26, 2018, co-located with the NFC Forum Members meeting at the Barbican Centre in London, England. A panel of global judges, including journalists, analysts and industry experts, will select the finalists and winners based on innovation, benefits, user experience and NFC impact.

The NFC Forum invites submissions from all industries and categories, including smart homes; smart health care; customer-focused advertising, marketing and branding; connected hospitality; smart retail; connected cars; the Internet of Things; gaming; and transportation. The NFC Innovation Award program will recognize a product, service or experience that features NFC modes, including card emulation, peer-to-peer and reader-writer use cases based on NFC Forum tags within the following categories: Best In-Market Implementation, Best Emerging Concept, and NFC for Good.

Unified Office Adds IoT Infrastructure Management to Managed Business Communications Service

Unified Office, a managed services provider offering hybrid cloud-based virtual communications services and business analytics, has announced its Total Connect Now Operations Performance Suite 2.0 (TCNOPS 2.0). This Internet of Things (IoT)-based operational performance service monitors and analyzes IoT data, while adding the ability to automatically or dynamically control thermostats and other components, such as air conditioners, refrigeration equipment, make tables, stove exhaust vents, heaters, security and video systems, safe doors and other devices.

TCNOPS will take actions based on trigger events generated from the IoT data that is collected, as well as other internal intelligence. Unified Office enables customers to make changes and control machines and other systems on their premises, either manually or dynamically, based on intelligence gathered by its underlying TCNOPS analytics engine. TCNOPS is predictive in nature and can proactively spot underlying subtle changes in the devices being managed, then report on them before they suffer a potential outage.

"Not only do people have important things to say, but machines do as well, and what they have to say is often mission critical to a business. They deserve the highest quality of service and the most reliable infrastructure," said Ray Pasquale, Unified Office's CEO and founder, in a prepared statement. "TCNOPS 2.0 uses our highly reliable, broadband based highest quality routing transmission network (HQRP) to deliver and report business critical information utilizing the same platform that is the foundation of our Total Connect Now VoIP business communications system."

For example, a thermostat can be set to a limited temperature range so that when the temperature goes above or below a certain level, a predetermined action will take place to conform with existing compliance regulations, and an alert will be sent to management. This integrates with the Unified Office Operations Management Suite, which provides analytics for all of a customer's services. Customers can view and manage all indicators across all of their stores or offices, down to a single store or office location, from any device at any location.

"Downtime on these critical systems can cost SMBs dearly in terms of regulatory compliance, lost revenues and potential reputational damage," said Tom Phelan, Unified Office's CTO, in a prepared statement. "Network unavailability can derail any IoT system and the critical business functions that rely on it. This data gets top priority on our network. TCNOPS 2.0 is a simple, easy-to-use, pragmatic work horse for our clients that takes no time off."

TCNOPS 2.0 enables quick-serve restaurants and other SMBs to improve their operational performance and effectiveness using Unified Office's IoT-based operational performance suite. TCNOPS integrates alerting and reporting functions for business-critical information into Unified Office's Visual Performance Suite (VPS) analytics platform.

Thales, 451 Research Report Data Breaches Rising With Transformative Technology Adoption

Thales eSecurity, a provider of critical information systems, cybersecurity and data security, has announced the results of its "2018 Thales Data Threat Report, Global Edition," issued in conjunction with analyst firm 451 Research. The report finds that digitally transformative technologies are shaping the ways in which organizations conduct business, and are moving them to a data-driven world. According to the report, 94 percent of organizations are using sensitive data in the cloud, big data, the Internet of Things (IoT), blockchain and/or mobile environments.

According to the two companies, digital transformation is driving efficiency and scale, and is making possible new business models that drive growth and profitability. Enterprises are embracing this opportunity by leveraging all that digital technology offers, with adoption at record levels: 42 percent of organizations use more than 50 software-as-a-service (SaaS) applications, 57 percent use three or more infrastructure-as-a-service (IaaS) vendors, 53 percent use three or more platform-as-a-service (PaaS) environments, 99 percent are utilizing big data, 94 are implementing IoT technologies and 91 percent are working on or using mobile payments.

This rush to embrace new environments, the firms report, has created more attack surfaces and new risks for data that need to be offset by data security controls, with the extent and impact of increased threats shown in the levels of data breaches and vulnerability. In 2018, 67 percent of respondents were breached, with 36 percent breached throughout the past year—an increase from 2017's 26 percent. Consequently, 44 percent of respondents said they feel very or extremely vulnerable to data threats.

While times have changed with respect to technological advancements, security strategies have not, the report indicates—in large part, because spending realities do not match up with what works best to protect data. The companies report that 77 percent of respondents cite data-at-rest security solutions as being the most effective at preventing breaches, with network security (75 percent) and data-in-motion (75 percent) following close behind. Nonetheless, 57 percent of respondents are spending the most on endpoint and mobile security technologies, followed by analysis and correlation tools (50 percent). When it comes to protecting data, the gap between perception and reality is apparent, with data-at-rest security solutions at the bottom (40 percent) of IT security spending priorities.

This disconnect is also reflected in organizations' attitudes toward encryption, a key technology with a track record of protecting data, the companies note. While spending decisions do not reflect popularity, respondents express a strong interest in deploying encryption technologies: 44 percent cite encryption as the top tool for increased cloud usage; 35 percent believe encryption is necessary to drive big data adoption—only three points behind the top perceived driver, identity technologies (38 percent), and one point behind the second (improved monitoring and reporting tools, at 36 percent).

Meanwhile, 48 percent cite encryption as the top tool for protecting IoT deployments, and 41 percent as the top tool for protecting container deployments. In addition, encryption technologies top the list of desired data security purchases in the next year, with 44 percent citing tokenization capabilities as the number-one priority, followed by encryption with "bring your own key" capabilities. Encryption is cited as the top tool (42 percent) for meeting new privacy requirements, such as the European Union General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR).

"This year, we found that organizations are dealing with massive change as a result of digital transformation, but this change is creating new attack surfaces and new risks that need to be offset by data security controls," said Garrett Bekkera, the author's report and a principal security analyst for information security at 451 Research, in a prepared statement. "But while times have changed, security strategies have not; security spending increases that focus on the data itself are at the bottom of IT security spending priorities, leaving customer data, financial information and intellectual property severely at risk. If security strategies aren't equally as dynamic in this fast-changing threat environment, the rate of breaches will continue to increase."

"From cloud computing, to mobile devices, digital payments and emerging IoT applications, organizations are re-shaping how they do business—and this digital transformation is reliant on data," said Peter Galvin, Thales eSecurity's chief strategy officer, in the prepared statement. "As is borne out by our '2018 Data Threat Report,' we're now at the point where we have to admit that data breaches are the new reality, with over a third of organizations suffering a breach in the past year. In this increasingly data-driven world it is therefore hugely important to take steps to protect that data wherever it is created, shared or stored."

To offset the data breach trend and take advantage of new technologies, the two companies suggest that organizations should, at minimum, adhere to the following practices: leverage encryption and access controls as a primary defense for data, and consider an "encrypt everything" strategy; select data security platform offerings that address multiple use cases to reduce complexity and costs; and implement security analytics and multi-factor authentication solutions to help identify threatening patterns of data use.