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

RFID, AIDC and IoT New Round Up for Sept. Oct. 2, 2019


MIT Says Its Invented Light Powered IoT Sensors; Research Finds Iot Home Devices Sending Consumer Data; RFID Helps Zara Parent Company Ring Registers


Oct. 2, 2019
SCDigest Editorial Staff

Below are three of the top stories in automated data collection, RFID and the Internet of Things in recent weeks.

MIT Researchers May have Solved IoT Sensor Power Issue

The future many predict of perhaps tens of billions of connected things assumes many of the Internet of Things devices will come with sensors that monitor conditions such as temperature, humidity and other attributes has just one problem – how will all those sensors be powered?

The passive RFID tags generally connected to those sensors to identify the IoT device and perhaps store other information can be powered by the very act of reading the tags – the radio waves transmitted by the reader allows the tag to pick up energy from what's called the backscatter effect.

The problem is that the tag can only produce a few microwatts of power and only when the reader is scanning it within a range of a few meters. If it's to be used as a practical sensor, it needs to be powered for much longer periods of time.

Supply Chain Digest Says...

What type of information could be collected and sent by IoT devices in the supply chain is anyone's guess.

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Batteries could be used but that would require labor intensive battery replacement over time. Scientists have tried conventional solar technology, but that has proven bulky, expensive, inflexible, and it cannot be made transparent.

Now a new approach from MIT, using something called thin-film perovskite cells. This technology, MIT says, is inexpensive, printable, flexible, and can be made see-through. The cells can be charged not only by sunlight or even dim indoor lighting.

These tags can be printed in rolls with the photovoltaic cells incorporated on them and can even be made see-through, so they can be mounted on window glass. They also use tiny, ultra-high-frequency antennas that only cost pennies to manufacture.

When the technology is matured, MIT sees the new tags as a way to monitor the environment for months or even years before they deteriorate too much to function. They could be used not only for temperature monitoring, but also cargo tracking, soil monitoring, and energy use monitoring as they expand to include the ability to measure humidity, pressure, vibration, and pollution.

"The perovskite materials we use have incredible potential as effective indoor-light harvesters," says Department of Mechanical Engineering postdoc researcher Ian Mathews. "Our next step is to integrate these same technologies using printed electronics methods, potentially enabling extremely low-cost manufacturing of wireless sensors."

IoT Devices Secretly Sending Consumer Data to Many Sources

There have been concerns about consumer devices with IoT capabilities and the data they collect since such products came to market. However, there have been relatively few studies into exactly the real state of affairs.

Now, as reported on the web site, researchers at Northeastern University and the Imperial College London have recently conducted a thorough analysis of 81 different IoT products to identify what services they attempt to connect with, what communications can be inferred from these connections, and the degree of encryption used to protect customers – and the news isn't good for consumers.

Using 34,586 controlled experiments, the researchers found that 72 of the 81 devices tested sent consumer data to least one destination that is not the device manufacturer.

The devices tested included web cams, smart hubs, home automation, TVs, Amazon devices and more.

The research found, for example, that virtually every smart TV contacted Netflix to report information about itself, even if the device tested wasn't connected to a Netflix account. The researchers also found non-first party destinations (Akamai, Google, and Amazon) are often contacted by IoT devices, allowing them to log data profiles on customers.

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The researchers also found the IoT devices sent various forms of unique identifiers (MAC address, UUID, device ID), geolocation at the state/city level, and user specified/related device name (e.g., John Doe's Roku TV) to various destinations.

Finally, the team investigated unexpected behaviors - and found some. Ring doorbells record every time someone moves in front of them. This is only disclosed in the privacy policy and you have to pay a monthly fee to access the recordings. ZMondo's device takes a photo any time someone moves in front of the doorbell. Alexa cameras activate on the wrong words far more often than any other type of voice assistant.

The team also identified "notable cases" of devices unexpectedly sending audio and video. The authors feel their highlights show that "concerns about information exposed by IoT devices is warranted, as is further investigation into more accurate device-activity classifiers and the root causes for the inferred behavior."

The researchers say that the only solution to these issues, at present, is not to bring these devices into your home. And if you own a smart TV, don't connect it directly to the internet.

And what type of information could be collected and sent by IoT devices in the supply chain is anyone's guess.

Retailer Inditex's Results Soar, RFID May be Part of the Story

Inditex, parent company of retailer brands such as Zara, Zara Home, Massimo Dutti, Pull & Bear, Stradivarius, Oysho and Uterqüe, had its best profit growth since 2017 in the first half of its fiscal year, with sales up 7% and profits up 10%, the company announced last week.

Several years back, Inditex announced major commitment to item-level RFID, especially in support of ecommerce, where inventory accuracy is critical.

RFID is already deployed in the Zara, Massimo Dutti and Uterqüe stores, and will be implemented in all rest of the brands by the end of 2020. The company also plans to soon use RFID to gain real-time visibility to inventory in stores together with product in 33 so-called stockrooms, fulfillment centers dedicated only to online sales.

Inditex says RFID is a cornerstone of its digital strategy.

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


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