We all know our world is more connected than ever, as is evidenced by the millions of smart phones cradled in the hands of people all over the word. But beyond this, there is a vast world of connected devices that is projected to far exceed smart phones. From toll booths and parking spots to refrigerators and thermostats, many places and common place 'things' can and will be connected. This is what the Internet of Things is all about.
The Internet of Things has stealthily crept its way into our everyday lives, promising to create ease and efficiency in everything we do. In the years since the term “Internet of Things” was coined at the Auto-ID Center at MIT, its definition has evolved in some interesting ways. For example, Intel's tagline The Iternet of Things Starts with Intelligence Inside indicates their heavy focus on embedded technology. Cisco’s newly formed Internet of Things business unit has a vision to turn what were once physical products into services by enabling those products to deliver data. Their vision is broad, taking the Internet of Things a step further to The Internet of Everything. Just recently, SalesForce.com has begun defining its vision of IoT as The Internet of Customers. What ever the Internet of Things is or will eventually become, reserch firm Gartner predicts it is growing rapidly. By the year 2020, the Internet of Things market as defined by Gartner will grow to 26 billion units, representing an almost 30 fold increase from 2009.
While the Internet of Things may have expanded to inclue technologies and applications well beyond its roots in RFID, we believe RFID still plays a defining role, particularly as an embedded solution. We’re seeing this manifested in the growth of the RFID industry, with new applications of embedded RFID increasing at a rapid pace across a variety of industries and product categories.
To help drive this growth, ThingMagic recenlty announced the Mercury xPRESS Platform. The Mercury xPRESS Platform is the first of its kind development platform that will make new application-specific RFID product development faster, easier and less expensive.
Leveraging over 10 years of RFID technology advancements and development expertise from ThingMagic, we expect the Mercury xPRESS platform will revolutionize the way that RFID readers and embedded solutions are brought to market, inevitably strengthening RFID’s role in the Internet of Things.
To learn more, please attend our webinar: Innovating With Embedded RFID: Introducing ThingMagic's Mercury xPRESS Platform
We are excited to share the possibilities this new platform offers for designing the next generation of application-specific RFID readers, handhelds, mobile devices and more!
Image source: IEEE
Summer is in full swing and with it comes all of the warm weather activities. Naps in the hammock, lemonade by the pool and if you’re like us, getting caught up on our summer reading list.
While vacation it most certainly a time for leisure reading, it can also be a good time to catch up on tech trends and industry news. To help, we’ve gathered some of our most popular blog articles. Adding a little twist, we’ve also included some of the more interesting uses of RFID we’ve seen mentioned recently - reinforcing the fact that the possibilities with RFID are limitless!
The Next Generation of Construction
Published in Construction Executive’s June Issue, a contributed piece by ThingMagic’s Bernd Schoner discusses how RFID deployments are streamlining construction projects and helping to keep construction sites secure and safe.
RFID in Retail – No Stopping Now
If there is one industry where RFID has made a name for itself, it is retail. With big players like Macy’s and JC Penny implementing the technology in order to enhance the customer experience, and cut down on overhead costs, it is only a matter of time before other retailers follow suit (pun intended!).
Passive RFID solutions for healthcare
RFID technology has impacted and ultimately improved the healthcare industry in many ways over the last several years. In one specific case, a partnership between Xecan and ThingMagic has provided a communication and tracking system for hospitals. This RFID “smart clinic” tracks patient location and wait times, ultimately allowing the clinic to operate more efficiently and increase patient satisfaction.
The Future of RFID: Infographic
When we couldn’t seem to find an infographic that covered Auto-ID technologies or RFID in particular, we took matters into our own hands. This infographic depicts the collaborative relationships between 4G, Wi-Fi, GPS, RFID and sensors, and what it means for our future.
If you thought RFID was a technology looking for a home, think again. Seems you can't find a market or applicaiton it hasn't been used in. For example, check out these unique uses:
With NSA-like precision, FeederWatch researchers and students at Cornell University have gathered an "unprecedented" amount of data about the feeding behaviors of their favorite backyard birds in the Ithaca, New York, area. Read more about Project FeederWatch.
RFID for Counting Bees. Really? We published this post on our blog as part of our 100 Uses of RFID campaing a while back. With recent concerns about the bee population dying off and the frightening prophecy that mankind would have only four years to live if bees disappeared from the face of the earth, maybe this one isn't to crazy.
RFID Plays Matchmaker to Socks. This one dominated the headlines for weeks when it was announced. Rightly so, because, well, you can't go out with socks that don't match.
And finally, file this one under "just when you thought you've heard it all..." Nightclub urinal tells patrons when they've had one too many.
So, what are you waiting for? Let us know how you see RFID being used for well known or non-traditional applications. We'd love to hear from you!
Every day we’re connected through technology. This communication between people, devices, networks, and everything in between has become so prevalent that it seems ordinary for most. Clearly what we now take for granted has been years in the making, with innumerable individuals and companies working to make it happen. But I think it’s worth highlighting the recent successes of companies like Zebra Technologies, whose leadership has helped to make this connected world possible, and has helped put technologies like RFID at the center of this movement.
Zebra - a partner of ThingMagic for many years - provides enabling technologies for organizations with high-volume, mission-critical or specialty labeling needs. Several Zebra products use ThingMagic embedded modules to encode RFID tags used for item-level tracking applications such as healthcare specimen tagging, supply chain work-in-process management, and retail item tracking, among many others. Zebra’s recent recognition by Frost & Sullivan as the 2012 Company of the Year in North America for their high-value products, robust portfolio, deep market penetration, and optimized channel strategy is a testament to the impact they have had on the entire industry. Their reach is impressive – having shipped over 11 million printers of all kinds to nearly 100 different countries – and is a driving force behind making RFID-enabled solutions a viable option across markets.
In addition to their execution on the technology end of business, Zebra has done a good job articulating to the public the importance of an interconnected world, more specifically promoting an understanding of the value of the “Internet of Things.” To further an understanding of this concept, Zebra recently partnered with Forrester to produce a study that helps IT decision-makers better understand the importance and growing presence of Internet of Things solutions. The RFID-based technologies behind the Internet of Things are used to solve business problems like supply chain inefficiencies as well as inspire innovation in organizations. And as the survey revealed that 82% of organizations either have Internet of Things solutions in place already or plan to put solutions in place in the next 5 years, it’s become clear that the Internet of Things will become a household concept in the very near future.
Congratulations Zebra! We as an industry should follow your example of explaining and promoting the value everyone has and will experience in this increasingly connected world.
Hundreds of millions of dollars have been spent on the R&D effort to develop passive RFID tags that can be offered for five cents or less. Have we succeeded? Almost. In high volumes assembled UHF tag inlays cost somewhere between seven and ten cents. Along the way, however, the RFID industry have invented something far more important: five-cent wireless networking!
What is it and how does it work?
Both NXP and Impinj have released RFID chips that offer an Inter-Integrated Circuit (I2C) interface in addition to the Gen2 RFID interface. The new chips also include significantly more memory compared to previous generations of simple-passive RFID IC’s: NXP’s UCODE I2C offers 3.3kBit of EEPROM memory; Impinj’s Monza-X offers 2.1 to 8.2kBit of EEPROM memory.
Electronics manufacturers have been using I2C-enabled EEPROM memory chips for decades to store small amounts of data persistently, including configuration data or boot-loading information. As the main microprocessor of a device is powered up, it reads configuration information from the memory chip via the I2C interface.
The new generation of I2C-RFID chips will maintain this functionality, but offer more. The memory content can be accessed through the I2C interface and through wireless RFID interface using a standard UHF Gen2 RFID reader. Since the RFID chips can be used in passive mode, the EEPROM memory can be read and written to without powering the host device.
Why is it so cheap?
Fully assembled conventional RFID tags require the actual chip, an antenna substrate, and the conversion into a usable package. A relatively small percentage of the cost can be attributed to the chip itself. The biggest cost items are the handling, assembly and antenna substrates.
When I2C-RFID chips are placed on printed circuit boards, the antenna is etched into the board at virtually no additional cost. The assembly is part of the surface mount board assembly, i.e. it’s also virtually free. Hence the only real cost item is the IC itself. The I2C enabled RFID chips are more expensive than the regular passive RFID IC’s, however, most of that cost can be attributed to the large memory of the chips. Since I2C-RFID chips replace conventional EEPROM chips, the marginal cost of adding RFID and hence wireless networking amounts to a few cents.
What is it going to be used for?
Device manufacturers will include the I2C-RFID chips to store essential configuration, licensing, or product information persistently. Since the memory can be written to over the air, configuration or licensing information can be applied to the device using an RFID reader without turning on the device.
In manufacturing, the RFID chip can be used to identify and serialize the device (WIP tracking). Once manufactured, channel partners are able to configure devices in the warehouse or at the point of sale without taking them out of the box.
Post sales, the device’s host processor can log information on usage hours, failure modes, misuse, use of consumables etc. on the I2C-RFID chip. As the device is sent in for maintenance or repair, the information is available to the service center through the RFID interface. Once again, the device does not have to be tuned on to read out the information.
Intel announced recently that it has included an I2C-RFID chip with the reference design for its new Windows 8 tablet computer, making Intel and its OEM partners the biggest users of this new capability yet.
Why is this so important?
More and more of the objects we buy and use on a daily basis include electronic circuit boards to support and enhance basic functionality: Nowadays toys like to speak to their child owners, kitchen appliances can be programmed to turn on at arbitrary times, toothbrushes beep when its time to switch sides, and power saws shut off electronically when safety is compromised. Today, few of these devices are networked and few are RFID-enabled. The inclusion of the new I2C-RFID ships will enable both RF networking and RF identification. Almost overnight networking and identification of inexpensive everyday objects has become feasible and realistic.
We have long been waiting for the Internet of Things to become a reality. I think I2C-RFID chips will finally make it happen.
(Photo: Tom Hurst / RFID Journal)
Fifteen years ago my ThingMagic co-founders and I worked as research assistants in the MIT Media Lab’s Things-That-Think consortium. Our main agenda was to embed intelligence in everyday objects such as clothing, toys, and furniture. We quickly realized how important passive RFID would be for implementing the vision of smart and networked objects and ultimately the Internet-of-Things. Today, passive UHF RFID outperforms any other technology in applications where a large number of tags are attached to inexpensive objects and where readers are embedded in the environment to quietly understand the objects around them without human intervention.
In the years since, we haven’t always been true to this insight into the sweet spot of RFID applications. In fact, my co-founder Ravi Pappu and I like to pride ourselves in having proposed the use of RFID for just about any imaginable scenario. In our enthusiasm for the technology and our eagerness to help customers, we have put tags on people, retail shelves and vehicles of all types including fighter jets, locomotives and racecars. None of these applications deal with millions of inexpensive objects; most of these applications require expensive, portal-type reader set-ups; and none of these applications helped the RFID industry develop its full economic promise.
On the other hand, when we deployed embedded RFID reader modules, usually with the help of OEM customers, our efforts resulted in scalable projects generating long-term repeat-business. This success can only partially attributed to our market leading position in UHF modules. Embedded RFID readers quite simply outnumber their fixed reader cousins by an order of magnitude, much like WiFi-enabled devices outnumber WiFi access points.
The most successful embedded RFID applications continue to be RFID-enabled printers and RFID-enabled handheld terminals. RFID-enabled label printers, for example those made by Zebra Technologies, are a necessary ingredient of any high-volume RFID application. Labels have to be encoded, no matter what you use them for.
RFID-enabled handheld terminals have become the workhorses for the majority of workflow applications. In logistics, retail, or construction alike, workers need to truly interact with the objects they are handling. They require a user interface to fill out forms, collect the electronic signature of a customer, or record the geo-location of a particular object. RFID-enabled handheld terminals offer these capabilities: at the low-end, terminals include Bluetooth and a single-button user interface; at the high-end, terminals include every imaginable wireless capability in addition to RFID, along with a full keyboard and a big screen. For example, see Trimble Announces New RFID Accessory for Nomad Handheld. All of these devices include one common element: a ThingMagic embedded RFID reader module.
More recently, other exciting embedded applications have emerged: Keurig is embedding RFID readers in their single-cup coffee machines. The machine recognizes the RFID-enabled coffee container and optimizes its settings to produce the best coffee possible.
Intel is enabling its OEM customers to embed RFID tags with every Windows 8 tablet computer at the time of manufacturing. This will enable embedded readers track the devices during the manufacturing process and into distribution. Retailers will be able to offer customized licensed features and configure the tablets using embedded RFID readers at the point of sale. Service centers will be reading out information about a device without even taking it out of the box or powering it on. How will they read out the information? They will be using RFID-enabled handheld terminals or other embedded readers.
In conclusion, once in a while we should remind ourselves why we got excited about passive RFID in the first place: we saw the opportunity to make inexpensive, small, but pervasive objects part of the networked world. Embedded RFID readers continue to be key to realizing that vision.
A couple of weeks ago I was fortunate to be able to speak with InformationWeek’s Jeff Bertolucci, a respected voice in the Big Data space. In a conversation stemming from our Future of RFID infographic, we discussed the role RFID is playing in the revolution brought on by devices communicating with one another and individuals and enterprises relying more on technology.
In general, we are all connecting more with the world around us every day and RFID can be thought of as an enabling technology that pulls it all together. Clearly it contributes to the amount of data generated by business and consumer activities, but it can also be used to manage it – and in the words of a recent report by InformationWeek, “the big data challenge is real.”
New and innovative uses of RFID are emerging on a daily basis - reshaping the way we (vendors, partners, end users) should be thinking about the technology. It can no longer be viewed as a niche technology or a replacement for barcodes. In a previous blog post, we introduced the intersection of RFID and Big Data to get people thinking about the technology in a bigger way. Business managers are seeing cost savings, consumers are enjoying new efficiencies, and generally speaking, people are able to more easily connect their online world with their physical world.
So what do you think – is RFID becoming more of a household name in Big Data conversations? Or do we have a few more years of flying under the radar?
In our view, RFID plays an important role in managing Big Data and facilitating the Internet of Things, even though it’s never been the flashy new technology that has commanded headlines - well, until now at least.
Inevitable, open, and inclusive are just a few words Rob van Kranenburg used in a recent article The Sensing Planet: Why The Internet Of Things Is The Biggest Next Big Thing to communicate the growth and adoption of what he loosely defines as the global process to enhance all objects with some form of digital identity. Van Kranenburg, a teacher and consultant on the topic, believes that U.S. industry and government bodies aren’t taking as active a role in its adoption as we are – the people – who are coming to own and drive the movement.
But don’t consider this a mark against it. This isn’t a bad sign for the Internet of Things. In fact, since its inception, the Internet we’ve seen evolve over the past twenty years has itself functioned a lot like the Wild West, with people driving its progress more quickly than any governing body or private business has. It’s clear that a number of factors will drive our world closer to this connected world, but we believe it’s RFID that will be the unsung hero supporting the people to drive this shift.
Van Kranenburg referred to RFID and the rest of the “ecology” surrounding the Internet of Things as “nothing fancy; mostly radio, quite mundane,” but that’s what we love about RFID. Its wallflower-like characteristics enable it to blend into our lives, and that’s the very reason it will drive this movement. If any technology requires extra steps, behavioral changes, or new inconveniences, it can’t take off.
We live in a connected world, but in reality it is hundreds and thousands of systems that all operate separately. RFID is the glue that passively, yet intelligently, connects our doctors to their patients, our cars to their parking spots, and our businesses to their products. It will be the connection between the intranets we already have established that forms the Internet of Things we all imagine coming to life.
Van Kranenburg will be communicating how he perceives the Internet of Things at the PICNIC conference this week in Amsterdam. In fact, the theme of this year’s PICNIC is “The Shift from Top Down to Bottom Up,” articulating that it’s the people driving innovation, not the legislators and business leaders up top.
For an idea of what’s possible with RFID growth, Tik Tik, one of the businesses attending PICNIC, is using the example of children checking themselves in and out of daycare with RFID keychains and rating activities they’ve chosen there for their parents to see via a secure Web site. The conference will most likely usher in a new era of understanding just how universally applicable RFID technology has become. I’m willing to bet that in years to follow, RFID will have a much bigger presence at this show because people will have recognized its role in driving the Internet of Things. If you’re not yet convinced, we have an Infographic that could change your mind.
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 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!
Embed the image above on your site:
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
I first saw TV ads for Google Glass while in Orlando for RIFD Journal LIVE! (more about the conference in a future post). About what you'd exepct from Google - an imaginative glimpse into the future of computing and human interaction.
I have to admit I didn't make the immediate connection between Google's view of the future and the Internet of Things. But Mark Beccue of ABI Research did, and it is an intersting read - see the full copy of Mark's piece here and let us (and Mark) know what you think.
Google Glass: A Glimpse Into The Internet of Things?
Posted Tue, 10 Apr 2012 11:10:00 EDT by Mark Beccue
Last week, Google announced Project Glass, an ambitious project to feed on-demand, real time data onto eyeglasses http://bit.ly/HeSg62. The project has produced skepticism and mocking, both of which I think are unjustified. Google is merely nudging us along to an eventuality - the click less, swipe less web interface and the internet of things.
Last year, I wrote a report on mobile augmented reality http://bit.ly/hycWOK in which we found that many enterprising companies are seeking to expand the internet to become even more useful than it is today. Visionaries at companies like Google, Intel, Metaio, and DoCoMo http://bit.ly/AyGQuz believe there will be a day when we can attach data, graphics, audio or video to objects such as buildings, vehicles, machinery or a location. This data could then be accessed using augmented reality technology - either through a smartphone app through which you would see or hear the data as you looked at the object, or eventually through glasses.
While today we are seeing the emergence of smartphone apps and AR, there are lots of challenges before any of this happens for eyewear. Applications would require filters because of information overload - our brains can't handle too much data at one time. One solution in that respect could be you as a consumer choose the apps you would like to run through your eyewear, just as smartphone users choose apps and run them today on their phones. Industrial and military uses of augmented reality eyewear produce significant eye fatigue. And how would eyewear and smartphones peacefully coexist over time? And then there are issues around attaching data to things -- indoor AR today is limited because of GPS, and image recognition requires huge, cross-referenced databases.
But it is easy to see why Google is so interested. Search expands when internet expands, and where search goes, so goeth Google.
I believe Google will showcase Google Glass to promote the technology and look to eyewear and smartphone makers to make eyewear eventually. They will potentially make eyewear (with a partner), but as with Google phone and new Google branded tablet, Google knows the key is to make click less touch less web interface and the internet of things universal.
--end ABI article
As you know, our position at ThingMagic is that the ongoing and recent advances in RFID lend themselves very well to the technology becoming integrated into more things, and as such, more ubiquitous. Today, original equipment manufacturers (OEMs) and solution providers are starting to consider RFID as they design end-user solutions, versus adding RFID onto the solution after the fact.
As OEMs evaluate building their own readers, there are three basic options available:
- Costly & Complex = Purchasing all of the necessary discreet components and building their own readers
- Less Complex, but Not Ideal = Purchasing reader chips with software to design and build their own readers
- Faster, Better, Cheaper = Purchasing a fully functional and globally certified reader module that can be easily integrated into a wide range of products
A decade ago, when RFID readers weren't available in as many finished and embedded form factors as they are today, and companies didn’t think twice about dedicating a team of engineers to create the entire RFID communication system from scratch, the first option might be considered acceptable. But these days, unless you have time and money to burn, building from scratch doesn’t make much sense; especially when you throw regulatory certifications into the mix.
The second option is definitely less expensive and less time consuming than the first, but it still introduces significant challenges. With the reader chip and reference design, there are significant development, testing and certification requirements that take precious time and money.
Option number three is the most efficient approach available. With embedded RFID modules, OEMs can very easily incorporate RFID into pretty much anything such as handhelds, printers, vehicles, retail point-of-sale (POS) and security devices and much, much more, at a significantly lower total cost of ownership.
Our own Ravi Pappu walks us through the steps and requirements involved with each of the three approaches in this RFID.net video, “How to Build an RFID Reader, Part 1: Discrete reader, IC, or Module?”
If you’ve been following our blogs, you’ll know that the applications and solutions that can be RFID-enabled are endless. It’s no longer feasible to reinvent the wheel.
To learn more, Download our Whitepaper: Getting a Read on Embedded UHF RFID: Why RFID Modules are the Smart Choice for Developing Next-Generation Solutions!
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