RFID Boosts Fan Loyalty

Posted by Ken Lynch on Thu, Jan 26, 2012 @ 03:51 PM

Tags: RFID, Sports & Entertainment, Event Management, Hospitality

Brand LoyaltyBeing a sports fan, I find myself going from one end of the pendulum to the other as far as being totally enamored with my team, to giving up hope and not wanting to hear their name until the next season. But, I will admit I could never change allegiances, no matter how disillusioned I may feel at certain times. 

Even though season tickets and attending sporting events are probably the last thing people would give up in an economy when tightening belts is a way of life, team franchises must still recognize that times are tough and tickets and concessions aren’t cheap. They need to figure out ways to keep fans coming back, especially if they’re not winning. 

Having exhibited technology savvy in the past, the Tampa Bay Lightning has recognized the business benefits of RFID. They have embedded RFID tags in about 10,000 season ticket holder jerseys. Why? To help drive ticket sales and team loyalty.

Season ticket holders will each receive the new team jersey with an RFID tag embedded into it. As the tags are scanned by one of the 250 readers installed into the Quest terminals throughout the arena, at concession stands, and in the retail stores and kiosks, they are offered discounts on food, beverages and team merchandise. And if you’re watching the game on TV, you can bet you’ll see a lot more Lightning jerseys in the crowd. Since embarking on this latest project, the Lightning franchise has seen a noticible increase in demand for season tickets.

We’ve seen this before. In a previous blog post, we experimented with RFID and social networks to build brand loyalty. The results showed so much promise that we feel this combination will soon take off in business. The Boston Celtics have recently used social media to convert Facebook fans into ticket holders. Mark my words, it won’t be long before the Celts see the promise of RFID with social networking to boost ticket sales.

For insight into how others are using RFID to build brand loyalty, download our case study: Building Brand Loyalty and Reach through RFID and Social Media.

The 4 Rs - Reduce, Reuse, Recycle, and RFID

Posted by Ken Lynch on Tue, Jan 24, 2012 @ 03:34 PM

Tags: Recycling, RFID, Waste Management, Smart Packaging

Sustainable PackagingThe next time you walk through the office, take a count of how many of those blue recycling bins you see until you reach your destination.  Chances are, you’ll be running out of fingers and toes before you reach the other side of the building.  The reason I point this out is because of the three proverbial legs of the recycling stool – reduce and reuse being the others – recycling is by far the most popular and easiest to implement.  This holds true across office environments and the shipping world.

While there have been some interesting developments on the reduction front in recent years with companies finding new and innovative ways to make packaging smaller, reusable packaging has been an area that has evaded progress; until now anyway. During Pack Expo Las Vegas 2011, several prominent consumer brands, including the likes of Coca-Cola, Ghirardelli Chocolate and Alpha Baking, presented case studies on the topic of reusable packaging.

There had been a lot of talk in the past about implementing RFID into packaging, yet the cost continued to be an inhibitor.  However, what is gaining steam in the shipping world is the use of RFID tags in reusable assets such as trays, crates and pallets where there is cost incentive for companies to find and reuse the shipping assets. 

In the case of Alpha Baking, they have introduced a test program where they have implemented RFID tags in 8% of their estimated 350,000 reusable trays.  The company uses RFID readers to obtain valuable data that helps improve shipping processes and prevent losses of these reusable assets. You may recall the blog we did on container tracking to prevent fraud. Now RFID brings about another benefit to the distribution market – enabling sustainability.

The key to making sustainable packaging successful is to have all three elements working effectively.  If one of those areas is neglected, it has a negative impact on the entire process.  One could easily make the case that reusable packaging is the most important of the three and yet perhaps the hardest to implement. RFID allows companies to track these important assets, saving them money and greatly reducing the number of units needed, and ultimately discarded. We all know that creating waste is counter to the philosophy of three Rs. Four Rs gets us even closer to the sustainability goal.

Greening the Data Center with RFID

Posted by Ken Lynch on Thu, Jan 19, 2012 @ 04:20 PM

Tags: RFID, Big Data, Temperature Monitoring, Asset Management

Data CenterBy now you’ve probably figured out that we’re on a mission to reshape the way people think about RFID. “Efficient use of energy in the data center” is not the first thing most people would think of when they think of RFID.  However, with the 1.8 zettabytes of data we are on pace to generate and consume as a society in 2011 (forecasted by IDC) RFID must fit in somewhere!  What’s more, is data centers around the world are expected to use 19 percent more energy in the coming 12 months and more than one-third of companies expect at least one of their data centers to run out of power, cooling or space sometime within the next year. That’s a big problem to have. So what’s the answer?

There needs to be a way to manage the consequences that come along with the advent of Big Data. Not only are large amounts of data hard to manage, but it is also a costly operation. Many organizations are turning to cloud computing services to reduce their reliance on internal servers, which also contribute to lower energy consumption. But is that the only option? In a recent post, I discussed how the use of RFID will generate lots of new data. What if I told you the use of RFID can also be used to drive efficiencies into the data center infrastructure?

Russell Klein, Aberdeen Group analyst noted in a recent eWeek article that businesses large and small should be concerned with controlling data center costs, including energy consumption. One of the ways he suggested organizations do so is with RFID, which can be used to monitor conditions, such as temperature and air pressure. RFID provides real-time data streams to feed the analytics engine, a function other sophisticated infrastructure management platforms lack. As organizations look for more energy efficient IT operations that save money and build better infrastructure, it is likely that RFID will become a frontrunner. 

RFID at Work in the Data Center

Implementing RFID in the data center is a form of asset management, but maybe not the way you currently think of asset management. For example, sensor modules with temperature probes can be wired to RFID tags. The modules are then attached to racks in data centers, where the probes measure the temperature of various devices and use RFID to transmit the data to a reader. The reader receives the temperature data and sends it along to the software residing on a dedicated server. The data is then used to regulate temperature controls in real-time to conserve energy, ultimately reducing the cost to run a data center.

The cost-effectiveness and ease of RFID in this type of implementation allowed the Franchise Tax Board in Sacramento California to reduce the consumption of energy in the agency’s data center by 75 percent, also saving them more than $40,000 a year. Due to the successful results, the state continues to receive funding for the project from the U.S. Department of Energy.

What other ways can we use RFID to create a greener environment?

Dude, Where’s My Car? RFID Knows.

Posted by Ken Lynch on Mon, Jan 16, 2012 @ 01:31 PM

Tags: RFID, Automobile Access, Vehicle Tracking

RFID Vehicle TrackingImagine this scenario for a minute.  You’ve got a couple of hours between meetings and have to run an important errand outside the city limits.  No problem you say, I’ll login to my Zipcar account, reserve a car for an hour or so and be on my way.  You get the confirmation email letting you know that your car is parked somewhere between #100 – #500 Center St.  As it turns out, a lot of cars are parked in this location, and did I mention that it’s raining? So much for a simple transaction and convenience, you’ve just wasted 30 minutes of your available time trying to locate your car and will now be hard pressed to complete your errand in time to be back in the office for your next meeting.

Hello GPS and RFID

Now most people are familiar with GPS technology and have probably used one of these devices at some point in order to navigate an unfamiliar route and get to their destination. However, as illustrated in the example above, a GPS doesn’t help all that much if you can’t find your car.  Or can it? A new car service known as Car2go which launched in the summer of 2010 in Austin TX, has found a way to implement GPS and RFID technology to help its customers instantly locate and gain access to their cars.

Here’s How it Works

Using an iPad app, the GPS device in the car points you to the precise location of the car you have reserved. No more searching general locations and wandering up and down the streets or through parking lots.  Once you have arrived at your car, RFID makes things really easy.  Simply tap your membership card on the windshield and the doors open. The membership card contains the RFID tag and the windshield contains an embedded RFID reader. Now you can grab the keys from the glove box, punch in some numbers on the keypad and you are on your way.

This just another example of how companies are finding ways to incorporate RFID technology into every day functions to make our lives easier.  It’s no longer a technology that is reserved to address big business issues related to supply chains and distribution channels, or to make possible game-changing hospital procedures. Keep following along as we reshape the way you think about RFID.

RFID, Big Data and Retail

Posted by Ken Lynch on Wed, Jan 11, 2012 @ 10:44 AM

Tags: RFID, Smart Displays, Retail, Big Data, Inventory Management, Point of Sale

RFID in RetailThe holiday retail sales season by most accounts was characterized as volatile – with huge surges at the start and end of the season, and big dips in the middle. That’s obviously good and bad for retailers. How to smooth out the peaks and valleys surely will be discussed at the National Retail Federation’s “Big Show” this month.

This also gives us an opportunity to illustrate how an industry can think differently about RFID to help address this problem. As we asserted in our 2012 prediction that data and apps will rule RFID for the next 10 years, when companies hear the term “RFID”, they shouldn’t be thinking about readers and tags, but rather about processes. Here’s how it can be done within retail.

Real-time Data, Real-time Decisions

The age-old challenge in retail is how to maximize razor-thin margins. The newer challenge is sustaining increased sales in brick-and-mortar stores. Technology is essential, but it has more of an advantage for online retail.

A key to optimizing sales and margins is making near real-time decisions about merchandising, assortments and promotions. It’s easier to do this on the web because of data available from such things as what items people are clicking on, search queries, etc. Retailers can change what gets promoted on the fly with this information.

But how can this happen in physical stores? Point-of-sales systems provide data as to what people buy in the store. This has been where innovations in terms of data warehousing and analytics have come. There’s a lot of consumer behavior that takes place before the check-out though, and data from this activity can help make even faster decisions about assortment and promotions on the floor.

There are project-level RFID implementations in retail that we have highlighted here that can be broadened to make a process-level impact. For example, last month we wrote about how a department store in Japan is the first to use RFID-based interactive hangers that trigger a display of a model wearing a garment that a customer selects off a rack. The idea is to make the item more appealing at the point of interest.

Those hangers could do a lot more for a retailer, however. The mere fact that someone picked the item off the rack shows an initial level of interest, which can be captured as a new set of data; like clicking on an item online. If a person takes it to the fitting room to try it on, where there is another RFID reader, the system can capture this as additional data related to the level of interest in an item. If the item is left in the fitting room, the retailer can know this immediately, as well as if the item is taken from the fitting room to the check-out counter.

This is as valuable as the data that can be mined from web site clicks and searches and allow in-store managers to change assortments and displays much more quickly than before.

Processes and Solutions

When we say that we should reshape the way we think about RFID, we mean that we should not fixate on the need to prove the technology, but rather think about ALL of the processes that can be improved with the availability of RFID data.  As the example above is intended to illustrate, retailers should think about how they can get data about shoppers’ behavior from the moment they walk in a store and the kind of analysis they can do to optimize processes accordingly.

Specific processes can be gleaned with the help of McKinsey’s recent Big Data report, which looks at retail as one of the industries where more value can be created from new data sources like RFID systems. These include in-store behavior analysis, customer micro-segmentation, assortment optimization and placement and design optimization.

Beyond the process identification, retailers can benefit from the availability of full RFID solutions that help them incorporate data generated from RFID systems with the data warehousing, analytics and mostly home-grown software applications used to manage operations.

We’ll continue our series of posts about how other industries can think about leveraging RFID data by looking more closely on healthcare and the in-transit markets. In the meantime, what are some other ways retailers can use RFID to enhance existing processes?

What if RFID was Never Invented? A ThingMagic Top Ten

Posted by Ken Lynch on Mon, Jan 09, 2012 @ 11:39 AM

Tags: RFID, GPS, Embedded RFID, NFC

Top 10You know you are in the height of the political season when you turn on the Late Show with David Letterman and see all of the candidates lining up to give their top 10 lists.  While these attempts to connect with the American people normally fall flat, it did get us thinking about our own Letterman style top ten and what fun and interesting uses of the technology we’d present if given the opportunity to visit the show.

So without further delay, we present to you our Top Ten things to consider if RFID had never been invented:

10. The lines would be a lot longer during our coffee runs: Cup o’ Joe to Go

9.  All of the crazy story lines in crime dramas might actually happen: RFID and The CSI Effect

8.  We couldn’t install “LoJack” in our cactuses: Cactus Chips

7.  We’d all be subject to search and seizure at border crossings: RFID for Border Security

6.  It would mean counting bees the old fashioned way: RFID for Counting Bees. Really?

5.  Fox could theoretically run ‘Prison Break’ forever: RFID Put Behind Bars

4.  The “Where’s Waldo” effect would run rampant in salvage yards: The New Junkyard Dog

3.  There would be a lot more false pulls in the milking business: Milkin’ It with RFID

2.  Really bad golf would still be in play this season: Find It, Play It – With RFID

And the number one consideration if RFID had never been invented is…

1. Unauthorized use of electroshock weapons would surely climb: Don’t Lose Your Taser Bro

Maybe we’ll never get the chance to join Dave on the show, but hopefully we’ve given you a few interesting thoughts about the impact RFID continues to have on all walks of life.

For more, check out our ever popular list of 100 Uses of RFID!

Image source: Transition Culture

UHF is the Magic Pill for RFID in Healthcare

Posted by Ken Lynch on Tue, Jan 03, 2012 @ 02:19 PM

Tags: RFID, Healthcare, Embedded RFID, Pharmaceutical Tracking, Inventory Management, Patient Tracking, Process Control, Wristband Tags, Wander Prevention, Temperature Monitoring, Announcements

Wireless HospitalAs we look to 2012, our first major event is HIMSS and we can’t wait. The healthcare market has been at the forefront of RFID adoption, discovering a plethora of ways in which the technology can streamline operations, reduce human error and make the patient experience exponentially better.

This year HIMSS (February 20-24, Venetian Sands Expo Center, Las Vegas) will host the Intelligent Hospital Pavilion in which it will showcase a variety of technologies that work together to deliver real-time patient information to the mobile devices and tablets of physicians and hospital staff (Visit ThingMagic in KIOSK #16). Scenarios from the OR, ICU and ED and will demonstrate how information is coordinated from diverse patient care environments with Near Field Communications (NFC), RFID, RTLS (real time locating systems), sensors and wireless technologies.

RFID has proven its worth in healthcare and continues to improve procedures and enhance environments from tracking expiration dates on medication, to personalizing the experience for cancer patients, to managing inventory of critical dose medication, to helping surgeons locate tumors.

According to a Frost & Sullivan report, RFID: Unlocking Opportunities in the Healthcare Vertical from July 2011, “The RFID market is expected to witness a significant increase in revenues by 2017, due to its acceptability, capability, and credibility. It has taken an affirmative position in the healthcare sector owing to substantial cost savings and convenience.”

RFID’s Success in Healthcare Can Be Attributed to Passive UHF RFID

Barcodes have long been used in the hospital supply chain for tracking products, supplies and inventory control. By using barcodes on forms, wrist bands and records, healthcare providers have driven efficiencies into the patient registration process.

Passive UHF RFID can enhance or replace many supply chain management, patient registration, patient safety, clinical care, and billing workflows that currently use barcodes. While both barcodes and RFID can be used for these activities, Passive UHF RFID is more effective due to the additional automation and cost saving opportunities it delivers.  Simply put, Passive UHF RFID enables the rapid and precise measurement of almost every operation in the healthcare setting - from counting and verifying the number of items in each surgical tray to analyzing the slightest body movement.

Passive UHF RFID allows tags to be read from far away so that readers can be deployed in a variety of ways including permanent installations wired to the existing hospital Ethernet network, within strategically located “portals,” and integrated into mobile and stationary devices like carts and cabinets. This flexibility is complemented by the wide variety of Passive RFID tags that can be affixed to or integrated into consumable inventory, handheld surgical tools, patient wristbands, photo ID badges, and many other items.

Put simply, Passive RFID is the most economical way to measure a large number of parameters in healthcare setting, enabling innovative patient-centric applications that would otherwise not be implemented

Proven Uses of Passive UHF RFID Solutions Include:

Departmental Loss Prevention – proven to deliver an ROI in a short period of time by saving high value assets from being mistakenly discarded.

Asset Tracking – identifies the location and travel patterns of many types of valuable assets in real-time, resulting in reduced product loss, reduced capital equipment purchases & leases, and enhanced patient services.

Patient/Staff Tracking – tracks the travel patterns of staff, patients and personnel in real-time for access control, improved patient & staff workflows, reduced wait times, and integration into anti-abduction, wander prevention, and hand hygiene solutions.

We’re sure to see these and other uses in action at the Intelligent Hospital Pavilion at HIMSS. For more examples of ThingMagic in Healthcare, please download the following case studies:

Disney Family Cancer Center Case Study: The Roy and Patricia Disney Family Cancer Center Implements Innovative RFID Solution to Enhance Patient Experience and Increase Efficiency

Hopefully what happens in Vegas, doesn’t stay in Vegas!

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