An Internet of Things Solution – Brought to You by Zebra’s Cloud and ThingMagic RFID

Posted by Austin Rand on Mon, Jun 09, 2014 @ 11:27 AM

Tags: RFID, Internet of Things, Connected Devices

For years, a longtime partner of ours, Zebra Technologies, has been known for bringing RFID-enabled products, from printers to handhelds, to market. Most recently, they’ve introduced a cloud-based, multi-sensor platform for connecting legacy devices with smart devices to bridge the gap between the two to help achieve the ideal of the Internet of Things. We’re happy to say that Zebra’s Internet of Things platform – Zatar – will integrate ThingMagic’s embedded RFID technology. The partnership will open connections between legacy assets and more modern devices like iBeacons, printers, handhelds and RFID readers and enable third party apps to more easily work with them over an open source API.

 

Internet-connected devices make information more available and enable companies to use that information to make decisions and take action faster, which are major value propositions of  the ecosystem of the Internet of Things. The evolution of these technologies – RFID and others – from tagging and tracking to automatic identification and data capture (AIDC) to connecting everything over the Internet has created a need for more platforms like Zatar to facilitate these connections. Internet of Things platforms facilitate this communication to fill a need in the space created by the influx of devices that has caught developers and integrators off-guard by the sheer volume points to connect with. As a result, more now than ever, there is now a need for more easy-to-use, comprehensive development platforms to speed the development of programs and integration of technologies with one another.

 

In the Internet of Things ecosystem, we’ve carved out our own space with the Mercury xPRESS platform. As the need for more RFID-base applications grows, development needs to keep pace by becoming a simpler, faster and more fluid process and less of a burden.  This is especially true for industries and organizations where RFID is starting to take hold. What Mercury xPRESS offers is a comprehensive development environment with the most advanced embedded RFID reader modules on the market paired with software and reference documentation to enable low-cost, high-performance embedded RFID solutions. Basically a complete development platform for embedding RFID.

 

In the new ecosystem of the Internet of Things, RFID is also driving value in more closed-loop environments – or Intranets of Things – for the enterprise, an area that is always exploding with new deployments. Connectivity and information-sharing need to occur in a way that differs on an industry-by-industry basis, so providing managers with a means of developing solutions without having extensive background knowledge in RFID development is valuable to them, especially as they’re able to customize solutions based on how they want the privacy and flow of information to occur. Internet of Things platforms will continue to appear in all different forms, but were seeing RFID continually be a vital addition to most solutions.

Reshaping the Way We Think about RFID

Posted by Ken Lynch on Wed, Feb 01, 2012 @ 01:21 PM

Tags: Business Intelligence, RFID, Internet of Things, Embedded RFID, RFID Data, Connected Devices

ThingMagic

As published in the Jan/Feb 2012 issue of PassAGEnow:

When predicting technology trends, Bill Buxton, Principal Researcher at Microsoft Research and author of Sketching User Experiences may have said it best:

“If history is any indication, we should assume that any technology that is going to have a significant impact over the next 10 years is already 10 years old!”

This theory holds true for several technologies.  For example, the first mobile telephone call was made in 1946, many years before the first commercial cellular network was launched in 1979.  GPS was in use for nearly 30 years in government and military programs before it became a must have for personal vehicle navigation.  And, the formation of the Internet as we know it began in the 1980s, but wasn’t truly incorporated into virtually every aspect of modern human life until a decade later.

Applying this premise to radio frequency identification (RFID) seems to hold true as well. The technology itself was well over 10 years old in 2004 when retail giants began pushing it as a means of driving efficiencies into their supply chains.  While these initial retail programs didn’t succeed according to plan, and mass adoption didn’t happen the way many analysts predicted, these initiatives did kick off a high level of interest from retailers, product manufacturers and many other industries and markets focused on improving their business and service processes.  Between 2004 and now, something else happened that makes one ask if RFID is ready to have that significant impact Buxton mentions.

During this span, RFID hardware and software providers have continued to innovate and collaborate at a notable clip.  RFID readers have evolved to include a wide variety of purpose-built and multi-use form factors. Smaller, more powerful embedded RFID modules are being used to enable many stationary and mobile devices with the auto-identification technology.  These advancements, coupled with continued innovation in the RFID tag and software markets, have resulted in RFID system performance improving exponentially.  While these advances are significant, I’m not suggesting that that there will be an ‘ah-ha’ moment when businesses and consumers realize that RFID is a technology they can’t live without.  To the contrary, RFID adoption will likely be steady; finding its way into a greater number of solutions and replacing less effective legacy technologies as time goes on.  A key point in all of this however, is that the technology itself has matured to a point where it is no longer a barrier to entry. 

‘Climbing the Slope’

So where are we now, more than 40 years after the first passive radio transponder with memory was patented in 1970, and nearly eight years since the retail industry brought attention to RFID at a global scale?  Confirming the market’s progress is evidence that RFID technology has passed several critical milestones of Gartner Research’s well known Hype Cycle, including first and second generation products, media hype, negative press, supplier consolidation and failures, and emerging methodologies and best practices.  Taken at face value, this would put the market in the Hype Cycle’s Slope of Enlightenment stage and moving toward the emergence of third generation products, out-of-the box usability, and high growth adoption.

What’s more, businesses across all industries have a great number of well documented end user case studies and best practices to help them with their ROI analysis.  Many pre-configured and kitted solutions are emerging, and ease-of-use features are starting to find their way into once highly-technical, hard to use products.  Maybe most importantly, vendor promises and user expectations about performance have found solid common ground.  Error rates have dropped significantly and there are many applications where 100 percent read rates are achieved.  That said, users accept that there can be momentary losses of visibility of RFID tags owing to environmental factors and that software error correction, along with well-designed installations, should be a principal consideration in implementing successful solutions.

So now what?

It’s Time to Reshape the Way We Think About RFID

With the reliability of today’s RFID systems and the apparent progression through traditional stages of technology advancement, it’s time to reshape the way we think about RFID.  RFID vendors and solution providers have survived the technology maturation process.  End customer organizations of all sizes have learned where and when it makes the most sense to apply RFID to their business processes.  Now it’s time to think beyond RIFD of the past 10 years and toward the next wave of innovation.

We should think beyond the underlying technology – and toward the value of the data, emerging methods of data access, and about the many innovative enterprise and consumer applications that can be enabled with RFID data.

We should think beyond one-size-fits-all readers – and toward the wide variety of fixed-position and embedded RFID reader form factors that can support a great number of unbelievably diverse applications.

We should think beyond siloed deployments of RFID – and toward the hardware, software and data becoming an integrated element of the enterprise.

We should think beyond the singular technology of RFID – and toward the combination of RFID and other technologies like GPS, Wi-Fi and Bluetooth.

As an industry, we are beginning to see glimpses of this forward thinking.  Technology vendors are more willing to collaborate.  True solutions are starting to emerge.  We are experiencing a realization, albeit a slow one, that no single technology is suitable for identifying and tracking things because different assets hold different values and each technology has its strengths and weaknesses relative to a given application.

As we’ve experienced with many other data-driven solutions, I expect this progression may eventually lead to RFID as a platform – with RFID modules and extensible software interfaces allowing for the integration of RIFD with other technologies.  Purpose-built systems will incorporate passive sensors and computational systems will emerge.  In certain applications, it is easy to imagine everyday physical objects with built-in RFID.  If we’ve learned anything from the mobile device revolution it is that there is great promise when devices are able to connect with objects around us.  Even more compelling is when these devices will be able to learn about our environment, provide contextual adaptation if necessary, and, connect those objects to the broader Internet and business systems. 

There is no doubt that over the next decade, RFID systems will become an integral part of the consumer and business experience. The convergence of wireless technologies will be augmented by RFID systems. The development of passive RFID as part of this platform will be driven by the potential to measure, report and monetize a growing number of transactions in the physical world.

Similar to the mobile phone, the widespread integration of GPS into today’s commercial and consumer positioning solutions, and the adoption of this thing called the Internet, RFID is ready to transform markets.  Only time will tell the scale and impact RFID will have, but I for one, bet it will be a big one.

The Next Big Step Toward a Multi-Scale Wireless World

Posted by Ken Lynch on Mon, Dec 06, 2010 @ 01:35 PM

Tags: RFID, Connected Devices, Consumer Goods, NFC, Smartphones

Will Consumer Use of NFC Drive Widespread RFID Adoption?

NFCA number of recently published editorial pieces and analyst reports have covered the growing belief that Near Field Communications (NFC) - a short-range high frequency wireless communication technology - may deliver the next big step toward consumer adoption of RFID technology and related applications and services.  What’s driving this belief?  Well, primarily interest from mobile device makers (think high-volume), communications companies (think global networks) and banks (think simplified transactions).  And with this combination of technology, product and financial service providers coming together, you can bet that something is brewing.

NFC for Mobile Commerce

It’s been reported that several major handset makers will begin shipping NFC-enabled smart phones beginning in 2011.  With contactless payment (credit/debit card emulation) projected to be one of the primary uses of NFC in mobile devices, several banks and financial service providers are beginning to take steps to prepare their payment infrastructures. For example, Bank of America launched a retail pilot earlier this year and Visa piloted a program to allow commuters in New York to use their mobile devices to pay for train and bus fares.

Consider further, the power of your mobile phone acting as your wallet without requiring you to purchase any new products or change your behavior. That’s what Verizon, AT&T and T-Mobile USA envisioned when they formed ISIS. They’re calling it a “mobile wallet”, positioned to replace cash, credit/debit cards, reward cards, coupons, event tickets and even bus passes.  These three telcos plan to initially partner with Discover Financial Services and Barclaycard US to deliver contactless payments services.

Sounds to me like the necessary pieces of the infrastructure puzzle and some interesting applications are starting to fall into place.

The Promise of NFC

In addition to mobile commerce, other innovative applications using NFC may include interactive advertising, electronic ticketing, electronic access (cars, homes, offices, etc) and the ability for multiple NFC-enabled devices in close proximity to each other to exchange information – in a machine-to-machine (M2M) or peer-to-peer (P2P) mode.  Social networks will also play a role by providing platforms for individuals to share information generated with and by their mobile devices to a massive worldwide audience, in real time.

Take for example Nokia’s next generation phone app - Nokia Situations – designed to transform the smart phone to a “thinking” phone capable of sensing the situation one is in based on time, day, location and available networks.  Consider a phone that could sense your location via RFID, switch into “shopping mode” and then allow you to interact with the retail environment to enhance your shopping experience and your social network to communicate your brand preferences to a global audience.  Of course with all of this innovation, security and data privacy must be a primary focus.  Building in the ability for a mobile device user to go incognito one day and be a marketer’s dream the next could go a long way in terms of consumer adoption.

And it’s not just for retailers. A Mashable blog lists other ways NFC can be put to good use, including improving treatment and research in healthcare, a variety of transportation related uses and the introduction of thousands - if not millions - of new smart objects.

With NFC-enabled handhelds hitting the market soon, could this be the next major industry milestone that drives the widespread adoption of RFID-enabled applications and a true multi-scale wireless world?

Shredding It with Sensors

Posted by Ken Lynch on Fri, Sep 24, 2010 @ 01:36 PM

Tags: RFID, Sensors, Social Networks, Connected Devices, Gaming

Nokia and Burton Boards Combine the Misty Flip with Mobile Apps

I admit it - I’m starting to sound like a broken record on this topic, but I think solutions like these will introduce RFID and sensing technologies to the mass consumer market, leading to a very interesting convergence of RFID and wireless sensor data capture, social networks and the mobile web.  And, they’re just plain cool!

In an earlier post titled RFID Predictions, I mentioned that I have long thought that there was a natural connection between RFID and social networks, and that someday this enabling technology and would collide with the massive reach of the social web.  I pointed to Epic Mix – a combination RFID tags in lift tickets, RFID readers on the slopes, mobile applications, social networks, and virtual currency – as an example.

In my email inbox today was another interesting example of the combination of wireless sensors, mobile devices and connected games.  It started with the Nokia Push project in 2009 which integrates small sensors into skateboards to capture motion data about the tricks and movements of riders.  This program has recently been extended to a collaboration with Burton Snowboards where similar data from snowboard rides is pushed to a Nokia phone and displayed in a game-like interface.  Sharing this information via Twitter and Facebook is a natural extension of the application, presumably providing new opportunities for mountain operators and retailers to connect with their customers.

Your thoughts?  Will this example of a connected everyday object – where in-vehicle RFID can be used to make sure your boarding equipment is in your car and sensors allow you to share your experience on the slopes with the world in real time – enhance your experience on the slopes?

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