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

RFID, AIDC and IoT New Round Up for May 22, 2019


IBM Ramps up IoT Shipment Tracking; Hong Kong Researchers Invent Interesting New Bar Code Technology; Impinj Shares Soar in April on Strong Q1


March 22, 2019
SCDigest Editorial Staff

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

IBM Ramps up IoT Shipment Tracking after Supply Chain Incidents

In late 2017, airport workers in Germany went on strike at several locations. A shipment of IBM mainframe computers was stranded at the Frankfurt airport, with IBM logistics managers naturally assuming the computers were safely stored in a warehouse at the field.

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A harbinger of the overall RFID market, leading inlay and reader maker Impinj recently announced a very strong Q1.

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Instead, according to a recent article in Pack World magazine, the million-dollar shipment was sitting on the tarmac, where it remained for 25 days, much of which featured blizzard conditions.

Even with protective packaging, the crates were ultimately delivered with 4 inches of standing water in the bottom – causing a total loss for  the computers.

There were other logistics incidents. One computer rack system was moved inside directly from sub-zero temperatures, and condensation formed inside the hardware for another total loss.

Sometimes, crates would fall over but show any external damage – yet the products inside were no good. Insurance claims for expensive damage have been denied because IBM could not prove provenance at the time of damage, Pack World reports.

One mainframe ended up in India instead of Topeka, KA and took weeks to track down.

So IBM has deployed IoT and related technologies such as sensors to greatly improve its tracking and visibility.

IBM says it can track its shipments at three levels--the package, container and vehicle. It can also combine feeds from difference devices and sources into one dashboard.

The health of the delivery can be monitored for temperature, shock, vibration, exposure to light, and tampering. GPS can pinpoint where a shipment is at any given time. Even though in the air sensors can measure but not transmit, airlines provide transponder data to allow continued tracking in real time.

Near instantaneous alerts for a shipment in distress allow IBM to mitigate and recover the damaged shipment and communicate with customers proactively. Technology coming soon will enable dynamic routing when weather or other factors jeopardize the current plan.

But advances are needed. An IBM manager notes that with current sensor technology, it's hard to determine exactly what happens or measure how much impact occurred. Shock sensors also cause the greatest number of false alerts for IBM, leading to alarm fatigue that leads operators to ignore repeated alarms.

That said, IBM says that sensors and battery technology is improving rapidly, and 5G wireless technology promises to open up new possibilities in IoT logistics.

Hong Kong Researchers Invent Interesting New Bar Code Technology

Researchers in Hong Kong have taken the QR Code concept to whole new levels.

QR codes, a technology initially developed by Japanese technology company Denso, have many uses, but most prominent is probably their use to provide more information about a product, by launching a web page on a consumer's smart phone when the QR code is read.

But developers at the Electronic and Computer Engineering Department of Hong Kong University of Science and Technology are developing a technology called picode, a barcode variant that employs images instead of the black-and-white lines and blocks that comprise conventional barcodes and QR Codes of today.

Picture or video-embedded codes (see image nearby), also called picodes or vicodes, work by embedding data into a form of video clip, which can be regarded as a series of picture-embedded codes. They enable consumers to find out more about a particular product by pointing their phone cameras, equipped with a customized software scanner, to launch a short video clip or other media.

(See More Below)



What is especially cool is that playing this clip or opening perhaps a product brochure does not require an internet connection.

The picodes also provide security advantages over use of QR codes for mobile payments, which are widely used in mainland China but less so in Hong Kong.

The technology is set for trial soon after developers spent years looking for optimal and secure picture- and video-embedded code systems.


Impinj Shares Soar in April on Strong Q1 Results

A harbinger of the overall RFID market, leading inlay and reader maker Impinj recently announced a very strong Q1.

The company produced another quarter of robust growth, with revenue up more than 30% from a very weak prior-year quarter. Impinj also guided for a solid second quarter.

Highlights of the earnings call include:

Following an inventory correction at partners that led to steep revenue declines in late 2017 and early 2018, Impinj has now reported three consecutive quarters of year-over-year revenue growth, and two consecutive quarters where the growth rate was around 30%.

Revenue from endpoint inlays was $21.9 million, up 13% year over year. Revenue from "systems" (mostly readers) was $11.2 million, up 98% year over year.

GAAP gross margin was 48%, and non-GAAP gross margin was 50%. Those numbers are up from 47.1% and 49%, respectively, in the fourth quarter of 2018.

Adjusted earnings before interest, taxes, depreciation, and amortization was a loss of $2.3 million, up from a loss of $7.1 million in the prior-year period.

Impinj announced its M700 endpoint IC family during the first quarter, which features smaller chip sizes and increased range, reliability, and speed. CEO Chris Diorio called it "our most exciting new-product introduction in a decade."

Impinj shares were up 74.5% in April, though it has pulled back a bit in recent weeks. At a preice of around $25 per share, it remains well below its all-time highs in July of 2017 of about $59 since it went public in July of 2016.

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


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