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Focus: RFID and Automated Identification and Data Collection (AIDC)

Feature Article from Our RFID and AIDC Subject Area - See All

From SCDigest's OnTarget e-Magazine

- July 24, 2013 -


Will Video Kill the RFID Star?


Facial and Other Visual Identification System Just Might Provide More Value at a Much Lower Cost; If Faces, Why Not Boxes?


SCDigest Editorial Staff

As RFID continues to unevenly gain traction in a variety of sectors and applications, from very advanced (health care) to middling (item-level apparel) to "not so much" (case-level tracking and end-to-end visibility,) will the real battle of the future not be so much between RFID and bar codes for automatic identification, but RFID and visual recognition systems?


SCDigest Says:


It seems clear that if cameras can be used to identify faces, they could certainly be used to track boxes as well.

What Do You Say?


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Two interesting news items in the last couple of weeks.

First, a company called Intellitix announced it had supported one of the most fully RFID-enabled events ever, the Open Road Festival sponsored by Harley-Davidson in Europe in early June. There, RFID wristbands were used for cashless payment across the festival, access control, social media integration and more.

The payment system is new, but events of many types have been using RFID wristbands or bracelets as a way to track and personalize live events. RFID allows marketers to associate personal content from a consumer's registration at an event with a series of interactive elements.

Wave an RFID bracelet passed a kiosk, and you will be greeted by name, and see updated, personalized content. During and after the event, organizers can track not only your entered data, but also your movements, length of engagement, personal preferences, and more. This can be valuable information in terms of how to improve an event, or what products or other interests an attendee at the event has, pure goal to marketers.

But last week, Jen Ohs of Brightline Interactive wrote a column for the DataInformed web site suggesting that facial recognition technology might be an even better solution for such event tracking.

Why? Primarily because it is a lot cheaper.

"RFID hardware is prohibitively expensive for most brands," Ohs says. "I have worked with customer activation projects that have spent between $50,000 and $75,000 on just the hardware - the radio frequency ID tags embedded in bracelets and cards. And tracking expensive hardware that's being handed to consumers can lead to a lot of missing dollars on-site."

Now, Ohs is probably not a disinterested party in this discussion, but her comments make sense. The hardware (video camera) is cheap, and Ohs says companies such as IMRSV, Lambda Labs and Orbeus are developing facial recognition software and related analytics for relatively small monthly fees.

Facial recognition software could also be used to pick up an attendee's demographics in areas that usually aren't asked or provided in event registration, such as age, race, etc.

(RFID and AIDC Story Continued Below)




Some events have already used a picture on a person's Facebook page to then automatically recognize them when they show up to an event. Otherwise, when an attendee registers, a camera say at a kiosk captures the person's image, and cameras around the event track what attendee does for the remainder of the show. It may be creepy to some, but it is coming nonetheless.

Such technology is already active in some retail stores, where it is used to uniquely track store visitors, though to date anonymously.

The technology not only enables retailers to understand the number and demographics of their customers, it is being used for example to track whether a visitor who stops at a department to ask questions of an associate actually later goes through the point-of-sale lanes.

Connection with the Supply Chain

What does any of this have to do with the supply chain? Well, it seems clear that if cameras can be used to identify faces, they could certainly be used to track boxes as well.

In fact, as we reported earlier, there is a small but rapidly growing technology area called "visual identification systems," which might be sort of thought of as facial recognition for the industrial and supply chain worlds - and probably beyond. (See Could Visual Identification Technologies Revolutionize Logistics Operations?)

In fact, envision an order picker in a distribution center that is wearing a pair of so-called "smart glasses." When he or she goes to select a product, the worker simply looks at the bar code or other printed identification, and the product is recognized by the WMS as correct or not.

That would not only be hands-free, but faster probably than Voice technology, and without the cost of an RFID tag.

There is much more here in what SCDigest believes can truly be a disruptive technology. More on all this very soon right here.


Do you see visual identification systems becoming broadly deployed? Let us know your thoughts at the Feedback section below.

Recent Feedback

Great article. I think visual recognition systems offer a lot of capabilities that we are just starting to tap into now. From facial recognition to object detection and tracking, I think the benefits of using a computer vision system can easily be identified.  The main question is the progress of the technology and the rate of adoption across different industries. Would love to hear more real world implementations and examples to glean some best practices from. 

Jennifer ohs
Founder and Managing Director
Ohsome Interactive
Dec, 20 2013