Infographics are cool. They've been developed to visually represent data about a great many industries, places, and people. Everything from Understanding Carbon Offsets to 7 Things You Didn't Know About the Golden Gate Bridge to The State of the Internet to The History Of Steve Jobs & Apple have been depicted in Infographic form. Yes, there is even an Infographic of Infographics!
I've found a couple of Infographics that touch on The Internet of Things and the global supply chain like IBM's Stories of a Smarter Planet, but I was a bit surprised to find that there aren't many that cover Auto-ID technologies or RFID in particular. So, here's our pass at creating a visual representation of The Future of RFID. Take a ride along the path of Adoption, Convergence, the Internet of Things, and Big Data - ending in a place where RFID systems will become an integral part of the consumer and business experience!
Download a PDF of The Future of RFID Infographic and don't forget to let us know how we can help you with your RFID project!
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View more than 100 other innovative ways in which Radio Frequency Identification and Sensing (RFIDS) is being used to automate data collection, identification, and location systems worldwide - 100 Uses of RFID
In a recent episode of The Big Bang Theory, the studio audience had a good hearty laugh about a character’s use of RFID – tagging, scanning, and tracking every item of his clothing – to “simplify” the process of packing for a weekend trip. Though we shared in the laughter as Sheldon happily takes only three hours and eleven minutes to enable himself to track the distance to and weather conditions around each pair of his socks, one question does come to mind: just how far-fetched is the idea of everyday RFID use for consumers?
While the sitcom character is making an exaggerated and absurd use of the technology, finding it necessary to explain step-by-step the elaborate system he’s created, the truth is that RFID has become so integrated into our society that most people don’t even realize just how much they benefit from it. In fact, if on a typical day of errands, you drove your child to a doctor’s appointment, swung by the public library, and treated yourself to a little shopping, you could encounter RFID at every stop along the way. RFID in your keys gets you into your car. RFID in your toll pass keeps you moving along the highway. RFID in hospitals tracks your son or daughter’s medicine. RFID in library cards tracks the books you’ve checked out. RFID in clothing tags tells retailers if your favorite styles are in stock (they should be, with the technology uniting the supply chain as well). And the list goes on.
However, if you were ever to strike up a conversation with someone about how cool and useful RFID is, you would get a lot of reactions eerily similar to that of the character’s roommate in the The Big Bang Theory clip. But perhaps that is a testament to just how effective RFID is as an integrated technology. It’s becoming so pervasive that people don’t realize it’s been making their lives easier and will continue to do so on much broader levels as it gets more widely adopted by both businesses and consumers. So while our friends from The Big Bang Theory continue their back-and-forth (and somewhere, someone plays the laugh track on repeat), the reality is that RFID typically isn’t even part of the conversation – it’s in the background simplifying data collection and enhancing processes so we can concentrate on our everyday activities.
It’s no secret that technology is transforming the way we do business, but with some innovative thinking on the part of retailers, businesses are in store for a level of efficiency they’ve never seen before – in part, thanks to RFID.
These new efficiencies are coming in ways that, until now, have seemed counterintuitive. In a recent blog, Software Advice's Michael Koploy details how retailers are beginning to fill online orders with their in-store inventory – essentially turning their entire supply chain into one cooperative “warehouse.” This may seem like a nightmare to maintain, detrimental even, if you consider the possibility of more frequent stockouts, but in fact RFID has made this an incredibly viable option for the modern business world.
As retailers begin to incorporate RFID into their supply chains, tagging every piece of inventory and scanning items as they move from warehouse to distributor to retailer, suddenly enterprises are afforded a much higher level of visibility into the location of the various moving pieces of their business. Businesses are now able to treat their in-store inventory as an extension of their warehouse because RFID redefines what it means to track inventory – what was once a few teenagers counting boxes in the back room of a store with a clip board and pen is now a highly organized and incredibly accurate automated tracking system. It’s almost like having a crystal ball.
With an RFID system in place, retailers can have a more accurate picture of their inventory and feel comfortable knowing that they are moving their products in the right direction. Not only that, but using RFID to fill online orders from in-store inventory can actually lead to fewer stockouts, as the new level of visibility gives enterprises a better idea of which inventories are running low and when they need to be restocked. Additionally, businesses will see less of a need to implement markdown prices, as slow-moving inventory can be better distributed among the variety of retail outlets, and businesses will save on shipping and delivery costs since each retailer can now function as a distributer as well.
It’s getting more and more difficult for businesses to ignore the benefits of RFID. What managers once thought could only serve enormous supply chains with equally-enormous budgets is now allowing retailers to modernize their entire business platform. RFID is redefining what it means to have visibility into business operations, and as the scope of RFID implementation continues to expand and simplify, it’s becoming far easier for retailers to increase profits by understanding their company at a more granular level. RFID very quickly begins to pay for itself, and it certainly makes life easier for everyone from enterprise managers to the guys in the back who can now focus on greeting customers instead of counting boxes.
The national discussion about our healthcare system remains a hot topic, including what can be done to reduce healthcare costs while increasing the quality of patient care. As part of this equation, hospitals are constantly struggling with the task of managing inventory and budgets in order to keep costs in line. We’ve introduced the prospect of using RFID to solve many challenges in the healthcare market including cost control, and honestly, the opportunities seem limitless. Check out some of our previous posts to learn more.
In addition to improving cost control, healthcare facilities around the world are continuously improving processes related to the five “rights” of medication administration – an extremely important element of patient care. The five “rights” include:
- Right patient
- Right drug
- Right dose
- Right route
- Right time
ThingMagic partner, MEPS Real-Time is taking a lead in this area by offering the RFID enabled INTELLIGUARD Automated Dispensing Cabinet!
MEPS has partnered with ThingMagic and is using the M5e embedded UHF RFID module to manage high-value, critical-dose medication dispensing and delivery to patients. By design, INTELLIGUARD’s real-time item level visibility prevents drug expiration losses and reduces unnecessary inventory and costs.
A brief case study:
Sharp Memorial Hospital is San Diego’s largest emergency and trauma center. Sharp has 5,000 products in its formulary with around $2 million in inventory at any given time. At Sharp, like other hospitals, some drugs are infrequently prescribed, but Sharp can’t risk NOT having them in stock. Previous inventory process often resulted in significant loss due to expiration and the traditional dispensing cabinets that required manual counting and barcode scanning were prone to errors.
INTELLIGUARD Automated Dispensing Cabinets from MEPS Real-Time were put in place at Sharp Memorial Hospital. These cabinets automatically read the contents of each drawer in real time, eliminating the need for manual scans and alerting the staff of upcoming expiration dates.
Over the course of an 8 month study, Sharp confidently reduced PAR levels while eliminating fear factor buying. In addition, no medications expired unused and there were no stock-outs.
The bottom line? INTELLIGUARD Automated Dispensing Cabinets – powered by ThingMagic RFID - are a proven solution for helping pharmacists manage drug inventory while reducing costs, increasing employee efficiency, and maintaining the highest level of patient care. Check out the video case study below to learn more!
Social networking channels have demonstrated again and again that they have very practical uses - both in the personal and business realms. It seems as though we pass some sort of milestone on a regular basis. Just when it seems like I’ve heard about all of the potential uses, there comes another one, quickly followed by another and another.
Our good friend and business partner, Patrick Sweeney provided another example recently about connecting the physical and online worlds, however the kinks still need to be ironed out. It’s a great idea to be able to share your Red Sox experience with your friends who aren’t in attendance, but at the 100th anniversary game, the check-in option and being able to upload photos to Facebook via smart phones weren’t working too well that day. Apparently there was a bandwidth bottleneck; too many people trying to do the same thing in the same place. Patrick asked us to imagine a more seamless experience. Excellent idea, though I’m thinking Yankee Stadium will have this type of innovative solution deployed long before Fenway figures it out, making the baseball experience in New York even better than it already is. Sorry Boston!
In another example, RFID Journal recently reported that LifeSynk Ltd. is launching an RFID solution that would link brick-and-mortar stores, consumer products and events to the online world via social media channels. By updating a Facebook status regarding a certain product, or checking in at a certain store, retailers can offer those individuals special promotions and discounts that are targeted to their preferences. For events, people can “like” a band or song on Facebook and receive a credit for those songs on iTunes, for example. LifeSynk reports that the benefit for retailers and event organizers is greater visibility via online social networks. We have seen similar implementations where the benefits go beyond increased visibility to being able to build and achieve brand loyalty, which translates into repeat sales. Now that’s success!
A very recent and impactful example of connecting the physical and online worlds made headlines when Facebook introduced a feature for people to register as organ donors and promote their choice on the profile pages. According to a BusinessWeek story, the same day the Facebook feature was publicized, 6,000 people had registered in 22 states. Normally, less than 400 people sign up in the 22 states combined.
Businesses can no longer ignore the power of social networks and the role that RFID can play. It’s about expanding reach and influence well beyond traditional boundaries. People are connecting on a more frequent and deeper level and RFID can play a very prominent role in turning those experiences into successes. The Internet of Things just got bigger.
Not too long ago we blogged about the Tampa Bay Lightning embedding RFID tags in the jerseys worn by season ticket holders. The strategy was to encourage repeat customers and increase sales and revenue. Could the Sports & Entertainment market be the next major adopter of RFID? It seems as though the idea of using technology to build brand loyalty in this segment is catching on.
The Washington Nationals have also embarked on an RFID-fueled rewards program that links ticketing, concessions, merchandise and parking to keep their fans coming back and spending money.
At Nationals Park RFID readers have been installed at the front gate, as well as at refreshment stands and merchandise shops. With RFID-enabled turnstiles, fans required an average of less than three seconds to enter the park as opposed to almost 10 seconds when tickets were manually scanned. And, if a fan has earned enough points to merit a freebee such as a hot dog, t-shirt, or even a game ticket, he will receive a text message or an e-mail indicating as such, if he has opted into the program.
However, brand loyalty isn’t the only business benefit that will drive RFID adoption in the sports and entertainment market. Anyone who has ever tried to buy tickets to a Red Sox vs. Yankees game knows that those tickets are in such high demand, they usually sell out as soon as they go on sale. If you were at Ray Bourque’s last game in Boston in a Bruins uniform, you’d recall there was not an empty seat in the house, or in the aisle for that matter. It makes sense that franchises would want to capitalize on those peak demand situations.
Enter dynamic pricing. The concept has been around for a while, but it has only just recently taken off in sports. With dynamic pricing, not only can the franchise profit more from the games everyone wants to attend, they can appropriately value tickets for the games that aren’t as popular. For example if the weather is bad or if there is another major event happening at the same time, the tickets can be priced accordingly and both the fans and the franchise are happy.
According to a Forbes story, “Ticket pricing technologies have advanced to the point where it has become logistically more efficient to implement dynamic pricing in sports.” The article doesn’t specifically mention RFID, but based on what we’ve seen with the Tampa Bay Lightning and Washington Nationals, RFID could assist with dynamic pricing adoption because of the customer identification and direct messaging it could help facilitate.
Qcue, the company that develops software for dynamic pricing, has seen clients increase revenue by an average of about 30% in high demand situations and approximately 5-10% in low demand situations. It would be interesting to see how much the profit margins could increase by integrating with an RFID solution.
The United States Department of Defense (DoD) has used RFID in its supply chain for almost 30 years. Long before that, during World War II, the US Army kept track of equipment using IBM punch cards and electric accounting machines. After the benefits of RFID were quickly discovered and used for other types of applications, in 2005 the DoD mandated that its suppliers had to mark each item sold to the department with a passive RFID tag.
Lack of item-level visibility in the supply chain posed problems for the DoD, leading the department to develop a Radio Frequency In-Transit Visibility (RF-ITV) network to track container shipments. Because of the success and return on investment with that deployment, the DoD looked at other ways it could leverage RFID in its supply chain.
The DoD’s latest project is to use both active and passive RFID to track equipment that comes out of Iraq, sent to certain locations to be rebuilt, and then shipped to Afghanistan where it will be put to use once more. Much like the Commander in Chief has advance men, DoD personnel have advance information on equipment. According to an RFID Journal story, the visibility helps streamline the process for receiving the supplies and equipment and planning for the rebuilding work.
The advance information – or visibility into the supply chain – helps government employees know what supplies are needed so they can place the right orders at the right time. Equipment coming out of Iraq destined for Afghanistan can be scheduled for necessary repairs with far more efficiency. That could mean soldiers getting bullet proof vests faster, or driving armored vehicles in better condition.
RFID could have potentially helped account for the equipment and supplies that were purchased with the hundreds of billions of dollars approved by Congress to support the war in Iraq in 2007. I understand that it is a huge sum of money to trace compounded by the fact that it’s the world’s largest supply chain. However, we should try to learn from that experience and look for other ways that RFID can help with accountability in government. One idea comes to mind.
It was recently reported that Teri Takai, the DoD Chief Information Officer, talked about an active effort to assess risk in the government’s supply chain in the midst of Cyber attacks that have plagued the nation. The effort would entail having better security for computer hardware and software, and having visibility into everyone who has access to the network, and knowing what information they access. I think we’ve identified RFID’s next government job.
I could write a flowery post about this deployment of ThingMagic RFID readers, but I think it would be more compelling if I just stick to the facts. If you have a large inventory of garments that you need to track, take a look at the following ROI case and then contact us to discuss how RFID can help save you time and money.
- Disney is using UHF RFID to track $100 million worth of costumes.
- The solution has saved the company more than a million dollars.
- Inventory counting times have been reduced from approximately 180 labor hours (within larger costume storage areas) to about two hours.
- The system has increased the accuracy of inventory checks, from 85 to 90 percent accurate to nearly 100 percent.
- The need to staff checkout counters has been eliminated, freeing up personnel for other tasks.
This is how it works. A Disney cast member walks through rows of costumes at one of the 25 storage areas. She selects her costume garments and proceeds to a kiosk with an integrated ThingMagic RFID reader. The cast member swipes her ID badge through a bar-code reader at the kiosk, where her face and name are displayed on a video screen. The RFID reader captures the garments’ tag IDs and feeds that information to the Disney garment management software. Voila. Cinderella is off to greet her fans without a moment’s delay.
When the cast member is done for the day, she puts her costume into a laundry chute where another ThingMagic RFID reader captures the tag IDs. The status of the garments is updated, noting when they enter and exit the laundry area. This same process works with uniforms for band members, wait staff, and… well, you get the picture.
Disney also uses RFID-enabled inventory cycle count carts to expedite inventory counts in their costume storage areas. What previously involved 15 to 20 employees manually scanning barcodes for nine to twelve hours can now be completed by one or two workers in about one hour.
The solution paid for itself in less than a year.
(Image source: RFID Journal RFID Helps Disney Employees Get Into Character)
You could feed a small country with the food you threw away! How many of you heard that growing up from your parents? Well, maybe they were onto something.
The cost of food these days makes it much more difficult for many to buy lunch at work when they have cold cuts, lettuce and tomatoes at home that will go bad if not used to make a sandwich. When going out to eat, we can justify the large portions by knowing we can take a doggie bag home, but half the time it gets forgotten in the restaurant or brought home and tossed in the trash after a few days.
South Korea may have found the next best thing; deterring people from wasting food. An RFID-based system charges people for the food they throw away.
As reported by Earth911.com, SK Telecom has developed bins that will weigh food that is thrown out. Using RFID, the bins will calculate a disposal fee based on the exact weight, which will then be debited from the person’s public transportation card or billed to a credit card.
It works in much the same way an RFID-enabled check out at a grocery store might work. The person taps the bin where there is a reader waiting to read an RFID-enabled card. The lid opens, and the person can throw out their unwanted leftovers. The bin then weighs the food waste and informs the person of the subsequent fee.
According to a city government official, they expect their approach (which includes a home kitchen system) to help reduce 670 tons of food waste per day, cut the total amount of refuse by 20 percent by 2014, contributing to savings of 19.5 billion won (over $17M USD) per year.
Good idea, don't you think? Anything to help reduce waste of any kind is A OK in our book. I’d like to enforce a similar practice in my house. I wouldn’t necessarily charge my children, but having them think twice about over-serving themselves and throwing away food is a good thing.
Once the mindset is established, we might start to incorporate this thinking into our decision-making process. At a restaurant, we may decide that while it might be nice to order an appetizer, entre and dessert, while sampling the bread, it’s highly unlikely that we’ll be able to eat it all. We may make better decisions with waste reduction in mind, and skip the appetizer in favor of the bread.
This is a great example of RFID helping to Reduce. We’ve also seen how RFID can help Reuse. We’ll take it upon ourselves to find a successful use for RFID in Recycling and report back.
While reviewing content on our Web site recently, I visited the RFID Basics page where we use an example of a car passing through a toll booth to describe how RFID works. It is a great example because you’d be hard pressed to find someone who hasn’t driven through a Fast Lane, EZ-Pass, or other electronic toll collection system. Does anyone know when the first RFID-enabled toll booth was deployed in the United States? We’ll give you the answer in a bit.
An often reported benefit of RFID is that you can leverage it for a project, process, or procedure, and it ends up providing value beyond what it was originally intended for. Even back when it was first introduced for toll roads, other than making the driver’s life easier, this RFID-enabled system helped states increase revenue and allowed law enforcement to set up more accurate notifications in Amber Alert or stolen car situations.
Taking the convenience factor even further, because of RFID, many highways now have no toll booths. Not because they aren’t collecting tolls, but because they have implemented RFID in such a way that the tags attached to car windshields can be read at high speeds and with excellent accuracy. No big, cumbersome collection booths required.
Coincidentally, at the time of writing this post, I saw the following headline: India's first RFID technology toll comes up near Chandigarh. According to the article, India's first RFID-based toll plaza was recently inaugurated on National Highway No.5 at Chandimandir in Haryana's Panchkula district. The anticipated benefits are many: seamless travel, time and fuel savings, and a reduction in traffic jams. My guess is they will realize other benefits along the way as well.
Now back to our quiz. The first RFID-enabled toll booth was deployed in Dallas in 1989. Were you close?
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