Turck Buys Smartphone-based RFID Company U Grok It

By Claire Swedberg

The industrial technology firm aims for low-cost app-enabled handhelds with its RFID company acquisition.


Industrial automation technology company Turck has acquired U Grok It, a six-year-old privately held Colorado company that makes smartphone-based ultrahigh-frequency (UHF) RFID technology. The acquisition will allow Turck to offer lower-cost RFID-based solutions, using technology such as the Grokker, a handheld device that plugs into Android-, iOS- or Microsoft Windows 8- or 10-based smart devices, and to develop further technology consisting of a smartphone or tablet device with built-in RFID reader technology.

The two companies already have a relationship that dates back to 2016, says Chris Vitale, Turck’s division director for fieldbus technology and marketing director. During the past year, Turck has been rebranding its Grokker technology to serve the needs of its own customers. “We had access to their technology and expanded on it,” he says “using it in other ways.” With the acquisition, Turck now has exclusivity regarding the technology.

U Grok It was conceived by husband and wife team Carrie and Tony Requist, to offer a low-cost option for consumers wishing to use handheld RFID readers to track their belongings (see U Grok It Wants to Help Consumers and Small Businesses Find Their Stuff). Based on the needs of businesses for the same kind of product to track assets or inventory, the company released its more commercially targeted Grokker in 2014 (see U Grok It Releases UHF RFID Reader for Phones, Tablets).

The Grokker, powered by a built-in rechargeable lithium-ion battery, serves as a sled to which phones can be attached via the audio port on the top or bottom of a phone. With an app, the phone then becomes a UHF RFID reader.

Turck manufactures industrial automation technology, including UHF and high-frequency (HF) RFID solutions for the chemical, energy, food and beverage, oil and gas, packaging, pharmaceutical and semiconductor industries. The firm makes handheld and fixed RFID systems. U Grok It’s technology opens up the opportunity for a new low-cost product line, the company explains.

Currently, Vitale says, handheld RFID readers are expensive. “Our eyes are on changing that,” he states, “and with the acquisition of U Grok It, we have a path forward to make that happen.” Most commercial handheld RFID readers and bar-code scanners, he adds, cost thousands of dollars. Turck is now working to develop an Android-based all-in-one device that will use Grokker technology built directly into a single Android device that could operate with HF, UHF and bar-code scanning. The device, he predicts, will be priced below $1,000, which is considerably less expensive than most existing commercial handheld readers.

Turck will not only build its own technology, but also continue to support U Grok It’s existing customers with Grokker products and customer service, as well as support for developers with software development kits (SDKs) and apps. “One of the things we wanted to make sure for U Grok It is that it would be available for our current customers,” says Laura Sankey, U Grok It’s sales and marketing VP. Its customers run the gamut from small tax firms with two offices tracking file folders, to industrial customers seeking reasonably priced handhelds for one or more sites.

U Grok It’s customers can continue to buy their products from Turck, as well as receive customer support and application SDKs for Android or iOS devices, says Carrie Requist, U Grok It’s founder and CEO.

“The plan is we will continue to offer these products” for the foreseeable future, Vitale says. In the meantime, U Grok It will cease to exist as a standalone business, though personnel from its team will assist in the transition.

Since U Grok It was launched in 2011, Sankey says, “We’ve taken the company with five people to the point where we now have 4,500 people able to support this product.” By selling the company to Turck, she adds, the product line will be available to a much larger customer base. In the meantime, Sankey reports, “We’re committed to shepherding the transition smoothly.”

By acquiring the smartphone-based technology, Turck explains, it can now operate more fully as a one-stop shop than U Grok It could, by also offering software, integration and fixed readers as needed. Vitale says new Turck products using U Grok It technology will be released within the next few months.