RFID and The Internet of Things

Posted by Ken Lynch on Wed, Nov 25, 2009 @ 10:36 AM

Tags: RFID, Healthcare, Internet of Things, Supply Chain, Ford Tool Link

Providing several real-world examples of RFID-enabled business practices and the power of RFID, sensors and other locationing technologies, Amy Rogers Nazarov has written an article titled "The Internet of Things" for Internet Evolution - a CMP Technology publication and sister site of InformationWeek.  This article describes the many benefits provided by RFID across a variety of applications, along with several realistic challenges and cautions regarding issues such as privacy and data collection. 

ThingMagic is proud to have several customer deployments cited in this article: Tomorrow's Mother (now TM Apparel) is using RFID to improve visibility into its supply chain, Greenville Hospital System University Medical Center has deployed both active and UHF passive RFID for patient and high-value asset tracking, and Ford Motor Company's work with ThingMagic and tool maker DeWALT to develop Tool Link - an RFID-enabled tool tracking solution available to the consumer market today.

A key thread throughout this article is the importance of data sharing and intelligence generation.  Each RFID deployment has its own network requirements and information sharing opportunities, making it critical for users to identify the business process improvements they are targeting.  Managing an inventory of maternity clothing, prepping patients for surgery and locating a missing tool may seem very different on the surface, but applying RFID to each of these activities can result in significant productivity benefits if approached with the right planning and thoughtful decisions on how to best leverage the resulting data.

This article has also been published as a special 16-page handbook insert in the print issue of InformationWeek.  Case studies on the ThingMagic customers referenced in the article are available on our Case Studies web page.

Ford Transit Connect Family One: RFID-Enabled Concept Van

Posted by Ravi Pappu on Tue, Apr 07, 2009 @ 06:43 PM

Tags: RFID, Tool Tracking, Ford Tool Link, Ford Transit Connect

At the recent New York Auto Show, Ford revealed an RFID-enabled concept van for consumers called the Transit Connect Family One Concept.

Based on the existing Transit Connect work van, the Transit Connect Family One is a forward-looking concept vehicle that combines high-tech and high-touch amenities to keep a youthful family connected, engaged and entertained.

The Transit Connect work van is a big hit in Europe, where it has been on sale for several years. Despite its small size, the Transit Connect has a large and flexibility cargo space. It also is fuel efficient, delivering 24 mpg. This makes it ideal for a wide variety of business hauling needs. The Transit Connect work van will go on sale in the U.S. this summer.

The Transit Connect work van will offer the RFID-based asset tracking system Ford Tool Link by DeWALT as a factory installed option. ThingMagic worked with Ford and DeWALT to design and develop Tool Link and the system uses ThingMagic UHF RFID readers. In addition to Transit Connect, Tool Link is available as a factory installed option on 2009 Ford F-150 pickup trucks.

While the Transit Connect Family One is a concept car and may or may not come to market, it is interesting to see Ford thinking about adding RFID to consumer vehicles. This is another example of RFID technology moving beyond industrial applications and entering consumer markets.

Reality Search Engines

Posted by Ravi Pappu on Tue, Sep 16, 2008 @ 12:58 PM

Tags: RFID, Reality Search Engines, Ford Tool Link

The business of finding digital data is booming. Most of us type search terms into a 2-inch wide box several tens or hundreds of times a day to look for contacts, addresses, directions, documents, scholarly articles, and patents. This type of search has a two distinguishing characteristics. First, the data being searched has typically been digitized at some time in the past. Second, the data usually refers to digital objects or physical objects which are spatially distant from us - e.g., books in a Glenrothes, Scotland fulfillment center, a picture of the Great Wall of China, or the topology of the surface of Mars. What these search boxes don't yet do is search the space around us in real-time - the here and now. Enter Reality Search Engines.

One can imagine the space around us to be divided into a few distinct zones.

  • Manipulatory space, where we are are focused on objects close at hand - a supermarket aisle, for example.
  • Ambulatory space, where we need to walk around to find things - a hospital floor or an office building
  • Vista space, which is as far as the eye can see - a parking lot at a stadium, perhaps.

Enabling search in these spaces requires tagging physical objects and enabling computers to "see" them in real time. We have worked on several interesting examples of such search engines. Mediacart, one of our customers, has RFID-enabled shopping carts that search in manipulatory space. Tool Link, by Ford and DeWalt, enables contractors to query the ambulatory space in their vehicles in real-time and answer the question: do I have all the tools I need with me right now? Other customers are successfully locating cars in parking lots using passive RFID tags and readers from ThingMagic.

Passive RFID systems enable computers to "see" hundreds of objects per second from millimeters to tens of meters with near-zero error rates. This range goes up to over a hundred meters with battery assisted passive tags. Several different form factors enable real-time, ultra-local search on demand.

For more details, please take a look the presentation below. This Tech Talk was given at Google's Cambridge offices earlier this year. For best results, please view the presentation in full-screen mode at the slideshare site.

Ravi Pappu Google Tech Talk 2008

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