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Category: RFID, Automated Data Collection, and Internet of Things

RFID and IoT News Round Up for July 26, 2016



Impinj Soars after IPO; Euro Countries Building Dedicated IoT Networks; Technology to Shrink RFID Tags Size by 25 Percent


July 26, 2016
SCDigest Editorial Staff

Below are some of the top stories in RFID and the Internet of Things (IoT) in recent weeks.

Impinj Gets Nice Pop on IPO

A few weeks ago, we asked whether investors should consider investing in the initial public offering of Seattle-based RFID technology provider Impinj, whose fortunes have waxed and waned over the years with the ups and downs of the RFID market, but have lately been more consistently positive. (See Should You Buy Into RFID Solution Leader Impinj's New Initial Public Offering?)

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Siemens, Shimano, and other large companies are very interested in gaining access to IoT networks, but only when there is enough geographic coverage.

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Well, the answer to that question appears to have been Yes. The offering was priced at $14.00 per share, raising just over $67 million. After first failing in an attempt at going public a few years ago, that seems to have now made Impinj at last the first pure play RFID technology firm to successfully navigate an IPO. (There are of course other public companies that do significant RFID business, such as Zebra Technologies and Avery Dennison, but they have many other product lines as well.)

Impinj, trading on the NASDAQ exchange under the symbol PI, has seen its shares jumped to about $19.00 as of this Tuesday morning, giving a nice 35% return to those who got in at the IPO price.

Many venture capitalists and private equity funds got burned big time in the first decade of the 2000s after massive investments in such firms as Alien Technology and others when the RFID bubble of sorts burst with the collapse of the Walmart RFID program.

The success with Impinj may coax some additional investment firms to start flowing more dollars back into RFID focused companies.

Euro Nations Building Out Internet of Things Networks

The MIT Technology Review reports that Dutch telco KPN has announced that it had completed nationwide coverage of the Netherlands in a wireless Internet of things network. Like a traditional cellular network, but with far lower costs and energy requirements, KPN's network can connect sensors monitoring everything from rail switches at Utrecht Central station to depth sounders at the Port of Rotterdam and baggage handling at Schiphol Airport.

A spate of similar Internet of things (IoT) networks are going up in France, Germany, South Korea, and elsewhere across the globe, though in the US only in proprietary "IoT Platforms" that use public internet access or in some cases traditional cellular networks.

The question is whether enough fee-paying devices will connect to cover the cost of building this infrastructure.

So far, KPN has contracts inked to connect 1.5 million devices. However, not all 1.5 million are yet connected, and even when they are, it won't be enough to have a substantial financial impact on the company, which had annual revenue in 2015 of $7.72 billion.

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KPN shoulders the cost of building the network, though it won't say how much it has invested so far. Experts say it's orders of magnitude cheaper to build an IoT network than the billions of dollars in licensing and hardware costs associated with laying large 4G networks. The IoT network operates on unlicensed frequencies.

To recoup its investment, KPN will charge a subscription for each device on the network, currently between about $4.50 and $16.50 per year, depending on data requirements. "The problem is the revenue will only start when the network is there," says Pedro de Smit, the managing director of Clickey, a designer of hardware devices for KPN and other IoT networks. For growth to accelerate, says de Smit, a few things are necessary. The first is for the KPN network to enable location-based features, which would, for instance, allow a shipping container to be tracked in transit across the country - something expected to go live before the end of 2016.

The second need is for IoT coverage beyond national borders. Siemens, Shimano, and other large companies are very interested in gaining access to IoT networks, but only when there is enough geographic coverage, says de Smit. That may take a few years.

How many devices will be connected when and at what price companies are willing to pay makes this investment in networks a very dicey proposition.

If you build it, will the devices come?

Researchers Unveil Plans to Develop Smaller RFID Tags

Researchers from North Carolina State University are looking for industry partners to help commercialize new technology that allows them to make RFID tags in smaller form factors. The researchers say that new developments will enable them to produce a tag that is 25 percent smaller than current versions - making tags less expensive and opening up new opportunities to tag items that are small and also less expensive.

Although the passive RFID tags have less read range than current tags, researchers are confident that future generations of the tags will have similar read ranges to those on the market today.
Passive RFID tags are commonplace in the retail industry, where they are used to provide better visibility into inventory. They are also used for asset tracking in many industries.

"By eliminating the hardware that is used to convert the AC signal to DC for powering the circuit, we are able to make the RFID tag much smaller and less expensive," says Paul Franzon, a professor of electrical and computer engineering at NC State, and senior author of a paper on the work.

The smaller form factor is possible because the tags do not need to convert alternating current (AC) to direct current (DC) in order for the tags to function effectively.

With passive RFID, a reader transmits a radio signal that is picked up by the RFID tag. The tag converts the AC of the radio signal into DC in order to power internal circuits. Those circuits control the signal that is bounced back to the reader.

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