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

Lots of Interesting RFID and Bar Code Technology News


Impinj Claims RFID Tag Breakthrough; Radar Raises Big Money for Its RFID and Vision System; Locator X Uses New Bar Code and Phones for Tracking


April 3, 2019
SCDigest Editorial Staff

Below are three interesting news stories from the past week in terms of RFID and bar code technology.

Impinj Claims Breakthrough in RFID Tag Technology

Seatlle-based Impinj, the largest maker of RFID tags and readers, has just announced a new line of reduced size, more powerful RFID tags that is says will enable many new applications.

There aren't a lot specifics yet about individual chips in the new M700 series or their cost. But Impinj executive vice president Jeff Dossett said the new tags will track items more reliably and from a greater distance.

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What also makes each Radar sensor unit different is that they also house four built-in cameras, designed to work in conjunction with the RFID.

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"Today, billions of items are tagged with Impinj tags," Dossett said. "In the future, we think that trillions of everyday items will be connected, in part because these tags have higher performance in a smaller form factor, which means they can be applied to a much broader range of everyday items."

That potentially includes mainstream consumer goods, which to date have not been able to support even a very low cost tag, with RFID in general competing with what in practice is a "free" bar code as part of the product packaging.

Importantly, that higher performance will translate to longer read lengths, according to Impinj. In fact, the company says it has made a "step change" in the underlying technology that powers the tags, making progress something along the lines of the famous "Moore's Law" for computer chips.

Impinj also notes that by reducing the size of the required processing area in a tag, new tag features can be added without having to increase the silicon area, which would raise cost of the tags.

RFID Plus Vision Technology Vendor Radar Raises $16 Million in Funding

Radar, start-up developer of a platform that combines RFID with computer vision that is says can help retailers to automate inventory management, announced last week that it has raised $16 million in a round of funding from a variety of sources, including actor Ashton Kutcher's Sound Ventures and two unidentified billion-dollar plus retailers.

Radar cited research that found that about $1.1 trillion is lost each year in retail to "inventory distortion," defined as any situation in which a customer intent on buying an item isn't able to do so, generally the result of misplaced or out-of-stock goods.

The trillion dollar cost figure also includes the impact of overstocks.

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Use of RFID tags to track inventory at a case or item-level is one potential solution to this issue, and has been adopted by retailers including most aggressively Macy's but also Target and a handful of other chains, though progress in the industry seems slow.

And RFID by itself isn't always the answer - for example, RFID may not be able to tell you the precise location of an RFID-tagged item, or that a retail shelf location is out-of-stock.

"RFID technology was originally designed to help retailers improve inventory management, but most solutions remain highly manual, limited in capability, or too expensive to deploy," says Radar co-founder and CEO Spencer Hewett.

Founded in New York in 2013, the company then spent the first three years of its existence in "solo R&D" mode as it sought to perfect RFID localization technology.

Radar says its technology is different from traditional RFID, as the company builds everything from the ground up using "proprietary signal processing methods and location algorithms" that improve the ability to identify an RFID tag in three dimensions.

What also makes each Radar sensor unit different is that they also house four built-in cameras, designed to work in conjunction with the RFID. That enables, for example, a highly accurate location reading combined with visual analytics that allow stores to know where everything is in real-time.

"Retailers still don't know exactly what they have in their stores, let alone where it is, and it's costing them billions," Hewett says. "By combining RFID and computer vision, we've created the only solution on the market that allows retailers to know exactly where all their products are in real time in 3D, from the floor of a fitting room to the highest stockroom shelf. This allows retailers to make every last unit available to all customers both in-store and on-line."

With the additional $16 million in funding, Radar hopes to land its first commercial deployments with three undisclosed customers this year – we're guessing the two retail sector investors are included in that group.

LocatorX Claims Breakthrough for Inventory Tracking Using 2D Bar Codes and Smart Phones

In 2012, technologist Billy Meadow came across a patent filed by the University of Oxford for the world's first solid-state miniature atomic clock.

It turns out that today GPS technology is based on atomic clocks carried in satellites in low space orbits,

"I realized if you could put an atomic clock into a tiny little chip inside a cell phone, suddenly all cell phones could do location tracking indoors, where GPS signals from satellites can't reach," Meadow recently told the web site.

Meadow added that "The end result is you could have continuous location tracking with very, very low power," says.

Shortly after licensing the patent, Meadow launched LocatorX to bring low-cost real-time tracking to physical assets, including store inventory.

The first product used a unique two-dimensional bar code, called Certified Quick Response (CQR), that puts location tracking on the product labels of consumer products.

LocatorX says it already has two large CPG industry testing its technology.

LocatorX Claims Big Advantages from It CQR Bar Code System


Source: LocatorX


"Product bar codes have been around for 20-plus years and now smart phones can read them, especially QR codes, with their cameras. As part of our atomic clock solution, we're able to build a small chip that you can put into a product label and track where it is and where it's been through a smartphone," says Meadow.

Each CQR label encodes a unique serial number, connected to a blockchain and location-tracking log. The manufacturer can then track the product through the entire shipping life cycle – with the caveat that workers must scan the bar code as it moves through different facilities and processes. This of course is one of the downsides to bar coding compared to RFID, which may allow more automated tracking.

However, LocatorX says it will soon release a Bluetooth-based system that will enable more automate tracking.

The technology could also be useful in identifying counterfeit products.

Any reaction to the stories in this week' roundup? Let us know your thoughts at the Feedback section below.


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