ThingMagic and Digi-Key: Helping the IoT Realize Its Full Potential Using RFID

Posted by Shannon Downey on Thu, Aug 28, 2014 @ 02:38 PM

Tags: RFID, Sensors, Healthcare, Internet of Things, IT Asset Tracking, Embedded RFID, RFID Data, Inventory Management, Construction, Digi-Key

Conceptually, the Internet of Things (IoT), at its most basic, is composed of billions of items all connected and communicating information through wired and wireless technology.  One of its first and fundamental building blocks is sensing technologies like RFID. To date, however, RFID has been largely relegated to specific enterprise markets and applications. Though RFID-based applications can vary greatly, there is still similar functionality and value to a retailer looking to better track inventory and manage its supply chain; a hospital looking to better organize its equipment, medications and patients; or a construction company looking to better monitor job sites and work assignments to better guarantee the safety of its workers in the event of an emergency.  And this is just a small sampling of the industries and verticals that can benefit from RFID applications.  These applications, across all industries, are capable of delivering tremendous measureable value - but there is so much more that RFID can do within IoT.

Thus, a challenge we face is working to understand the limitations organizations and developers perceive when considering building RFID applications. One of the things that has kept RFID from achieving wider-spread adoption has been the availability of tools that make it easy for engineers and developers to quickly build and integrate RFID-based applications. Nobody understands this issue better than us. But having just signed a global distribution agreement with Digi-Key – one of the world’s largest and fastest growing electronic components distributors – we’re hoping to offer a solution by giving engineers better access to RFID tools and a better foundation for innovating with RFID.

Here at ThingMagic, we are now collaborating with Digi-Key to distribute our Mercury 6e Series and Mercury 5e Series embedded modules, putting us in a position to reach more engineers with the building blocks for tomorrow’s innovations.  Digi-Key’s distribution of ThingMagic development kits along with our modules will enable more companies to develop and produce the connected items that are behind the next wave of IoT solutions. Our award-winning family of modules has the performance capabilities to sustain the speed and connectivity of today’s complex systems, with the compact form factor required for the billions of devices that will one day make up the Internet of Things.

As the proliferation of devices of all types and sizes continues, the development and adoption of the Internet of Things should grow as well.  But we’re still far from that tipping point where we truly connect all devices across the enterprise and consumer worlds seamlessly through the IoT.  In spite of the progress that’s been made, the IoT ecosystem does not yet work together as it should.  For it to reach its potential, we’ll need cooperation from all the participants in the market.  By providing developers and engineers with development tools, platforms and technologies – like RFID – that all support industry standards, then we will have a collaboration that will enable the true vision of IoT.   Our partnering with Digi-Key is another step on the path to achieving that objective.

Pimp My Food Truck: RFID-Enabling the 21st Century Chuckwagon

Posted by Ken Lynch on Fri, Jun 28, 2013 @ 02:51 PM

Tags: RFID, Supply Chain, Food & Beverage, Inventory Management, Vehicle Tracking, Point of Sale

foodtruckIf you work or live in an urban area, you’ve most likely seen the trendy food trucks parked at busy intersections, parks and plazas, serving up cupcakes, lobster rolls and everything in between. (For those who’ve never partaken, here’s a sneak peek video into how they operate)

Mobile munching, though almost unrecognizable from the days of “chuckwagons,” has come back in full force for foodies all across America who enjoy the convenience of curb-side cuisine.   In fact, 91% of those familiar with mobile food trucks say that the trend is here to stay (see Infographic).  We see this every day outside our office in Kendall Square, with several food trucks setting up shop.  And just a couple of weeks ago Kendall Square hosted the Food Truck Festival of New England.   The trend has gotten so hot that Kickstarter – the social funding service – has gotten behind it.   Mei Mei, a Boston-based food truck business recently raised $35,000 on the e-fundraising site to finance turning their business into a brick and mortar restaurant.

Annual revenue from food trucks was $1.2 billion dollars in 2009 and there has been significant growth since, most of which could be attributed to customer loyalty. Locals are often lured in to trying food trucks for a few simple reasons 1) convenience 2) community 3) cuisine and 4) competition. Could food truck operators increase customer loyalty by implementing RFID?

1) Convenience: Part of the appeal in mobile dining is the convenience that it offers. Whether it’s across from the office or parked near a popular tourist attraction, a food truck provides a quick and easy meal on the go. In addition to geographic convenience, food trucks also offer a financial convenience with mobile payment options. While it may not be main stream yet, types of RFID technologies can allow for easy, on-the-go payment for patrons who may not have cash handy. Mobile-payment is not only convenient for the consumer, but also allows the business owner to track spending trends and implement a rewards program for their most loyal customers. As “the internet of things” continues to grow and expand, especially into the retail environment, the food truck industry is no exception. The Point-of-sale iPads that have been installed in trucks are streamlining payment, consolidating physical equipment and supporting franchises that also operate out of brick and mortar shops.

2) Community:  One unique aspect about food trucks is the sense of community they create. Aside from the physical communities that support these small business owners, the virtual communities online provide valuable promotion as well. Food truck owners rely heavily on word of mouth to grow their business. Similar to Cadbury and dwinQ’s social media deployment at the Olympics, RFID technology could also allow patrons to check-in to the specific food truck and notify friends and social media followers of their location, ultimately acting as a virtual word of mouth.   

3) Cuisine: It wouldn’t be a food truck without the food! The culinary treats that come from these mobile kitchens are just as delicious as their brick and mortar counterparts.  But one difference is they require a different kind of logistical planning. Fresh ingredients, prepared daily are a key part in the operational aspect of a food truck. Much of their product has to be prepared in advance in a physical location and then loaded into the truck every day.  With space at such a premium, ensuring that the truck is equipped with just the right inventory to last the day is crucial in ensuring profits in a business with notoriously arbitrary and often razor thin margins.  Managing inventory closely is another opportunity where RFID technology can make a big impact in food quality and customer satisfaction.   

4) Competition: The restaurant business is tough and highly competitive, and it’s no different with food trucks.   The cooking reality TV competitions and many cook-off competitions that happen around the country draw in hundreds of thousands of viewers and patrons respectively.  It’s the same in the food truck business. Every spring, Boston’s annual Food Truck Throwdown brings various vendors together to compete for coveted crowning as the best. Not a Beantown local? According to The Daily Meal, these trucks beat out thousands of others to be crowned the Top Ten Food Trucks in America

Ultimately, food trucks have changed the l landscape of dining options all over the country and continue to draw crowds. While the technology that drives the businesses may be “behind the scenes,” it surely plays a role in what makes them a success. From social media to location services, there are opportunities for food trucks to tap into RFID as a resource to grow and sustain their business.

The question is, who is going to be the first to pimp their food truck with these high-tech solutions?

 

Photo credit: David Stewart/Boston.com

Smart Medication Administration with RFID

Posted by Anna Zauner on Tue, Jun 26, 2012 @ 10:20 AM

Tags: RFID, Healthcare, Pharmaceutical Tracking, Inventory Management

PharmaThe 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.

Solution:

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!

MEPS Video

RFID Garment Tracking at Disney

Posted by Ken Lynch on Mon, May 07, 2012 @ 10:09 AM

Tags: Garment Tracking, RFID, Inventory Management, RFID Kiosk, Laundry Management

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 Soution

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)

Out with Dewey Decimal, In with RFID

Posted by Ken Lynch on Wed, Mar 14, 2012 @ 10:04 AM

Tags: RFID, Asset Tracking, Inventory Management, Asset Management, Library Book Tracking

Melvil DeweyMy guess is that Melville Louis Kossuth Dewey wouldn't be too upset with advancements of today's library systems. Dewey was a pioneering influence in the development of libraries in America at the beginning of the 20th century. And yes, he is best known for the classification system that is used in most public and school libraries - know as the Dewey Decimal System.

But the decimal system was just one of a long list of Dewey's innovations. Dewey is also known for the creation of hanging vertical files and for founding the Library Bureau, a private company created "for the definite purpose of furnishing libraries with equipment and supplies of unvarying correctness and reliability."

Hmmm... sounds a little like what RFID aims to do - improve processes by applying a technology that delivers "unvarying correctness and reliability".

Leave it to RFID to handily replace a system that’s been in place for 135 years. RFID in libraries is not a new concept, but we wanted to dedicate today’s blog post to it for a few reasons.

The more well-known uses for RFID in libraries are for anti-theft measures and to reduce the amount of time required to perform circulation operations. The time savings are a result of the fact that information can be read from RFID tags much faster than from barcodes, and several books in a stack can be read at the same time. Using wireless technology, it becomes much easier and faster to update the inventory and identify the books that are misplaced.

Aside from the common and very useful deployments, there are many more uses of RFID in libraries. For example, people can find exactly where a book is, even if it’s on the wrong shelf or even in the wrong section. That’s a key element that sets RFID apart from the Dewey Decimal System. Sorry Mr. Dewey.

Another not-so-known benefit is that RFID can be used to track reference books which are used at the library instead of being taken out. Without RFID, the only way to know which items were being used frequently, was for a librarian to actually see the books in use and which ones were being left on tables; obviously not a precise method. Barcoding, Inc. has developed an RFID system that tells librarians how often books are taken from shelves, and how long they are off the shelf. With this system, seldom used reference materials can be kept in storage rooms, leaving the shelf space for the more popular books.

Barcodes, which are most commonly used today, can be replaced with RFID tags which last much longer. Remember when we took out a book from the school library and you wrote your name and date on a card that went in a pocket on the inside cover? I do. Those were replaced by barcodes, and now it may be time for them to retire. RFID tags last longer than barcodes because fewer things come into contact with them. Many are placed inside the cover or binding. Some RFID vendors claim approximately 100,000 transactions before a tag may need to be replaced.

You may be saying to yourself, is it really necessary to deploy RFID systems in libraries? I bet you remember (again, I do) looking for a book for a school project and finding the empty space on the shelf where it was supposed to be, and the librarian was certain that the book had not been taken out. You either had to look around on nearby shelves hoping it was close by, or come back the next day hoping it turned up and was put back in its place. Either way, the school project got completed and we somehow survived.

But, ask yourself this question. Can libraries afford not to implement an RFID system? As noted by consultant Karen Coyle, library circulation, the primary function where RFID can make a significant impact, is increasing, while library budgets are on the decline. As with most RFID projects, they can be easily integrated with a minimal up-front investment. They can provide a speedy ROI, helping control circulation costs that are on the rise.

I don’t know about you, but I’d rather know that my hometown library is still around and doing well, event at the expense of the Dewey Decimal System.

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?

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!

The New Junkyard Dog

Posted by Ken Lynch on Tue, Oct 19, 2010 @ 10:18 AM

Tags: RFID, Asset Tracking, Inventory Management

RFID Helps Sniff Out Hiding Vehicles in Salvage Yards

Remember that game when we were kids and the person who was “it” had to close their eyes and yell “Marco” in a swimming pool? The rest of us would respond with “Polo” while trying to fool the person into thinking we were somewhere that we weren’t. Well, auto salvage yard workers have to play a similar "game" when trying to find a specific vehicle in a lots that can span tens of acres with thousands of cars.

Typically the cars in these lots are sold at auction. When it’s time to find the car and bring it to the auction site, the manual process of identifying and locating vehicles can feel like a game of Marco Polo - or someone’s idea of a bad joke.

When a truck takes a wrecked car to a parking space in the lot, the driver writes down the car’s details, such as its VIN with the lot space number on a piece of paper. In the case of Barodge Auto Pool, as reported by RFID Journal, an office employee would receive the car’s information and enter the data into the inventory-management system, with a stock number assigned to the car by the inventory system. When auction time came, a printout of the car and its ID data was provided to the operator. This is where the manual system would break down because sometimes a lot space number was wrong or the car may have been moved to a different space. And as we are all too familiar with, numbers can get transposed when we write them down or type them in.  

 RFID Auto Location System

Recognizing the precious time spent chasing down vehicles and the inefficiency it caused, the owner of Barodge Auto Pool developed an RFID-based system to solve the problem. The new system would also eliminate the errors associated with the hand-written/data entry process. He named it the DogBone RFID Vehicle Tracking System.

The solution was to attach an adhesive UHF EPC Gen 2 tag to an auto’s windshield when it came onto the lot. A photo of the car and the tag number are sent to the company's server via a handheld device equipped with a camera and a WiFi connection. The DogBone system receives the data, including GPS location and space number, links it to the stock number and sends that data to the inventory-management system.

Each of the company's trucks comes equipped with a WiFi-enabled PC, a GPS unit and an RFID reader. The truck operator can see a photo of the car he needs to pick up, as well as a vehicle description, space number and a map, graphing the car’s physical location. Then, the reader scans the RFID tag and the software determines that the car is being picked up. The DogBone software sends an alert if it’s not a match. If a car is in a different space, DogBone updates the inventory-management software.

MyDealerLot and its partner, Electronic Inventory Solutions, were onto this idea in 2008 when they found a way to track 3,500 vehicles across three locations with WiFi-based RFID technology. In their case, they deployed solar powered outdoor receivers for real-time location of cars on auction lots.

In both cases, inefficiency drove innovation that we can all benefit from, even if indirectly. Think of the time the employees can spend doing more productive tasks and the gas saved from driving up and down these lots. I bet their neighbors are happy.

And like most successful innovations, this one can be easily adapted for other uses. Sound familiar? It should. It’s RFID.

[Image credit: Cresan Management, LLC]

DC-Area Software Firm Partners with National Industries for the Blind

Posted by Ken Lynch on Wed, Sep 15, 2010 @ 04:00 AM

Tags: RFID, DoD, Inventory Management

RFID Technology Aids People Who Are Blind in the Workplace

The following was submitted by ThingMagic partner SimplyRFiD, highlighting one of their recent RFID solution deployments.  We’d like to hear from you too.  If you have developed or deployed an innovative use of RFID, please submit it to ThingMagic for potential inclusion in our 100 Uses of RFID program.

 

SimplyRFIDA new technological system that allows people who are blind to work more accurately and efficiently was recently installed at four US locations, all factories that manufacture garments for the United States Department of Defense.

The company that developed and implemented this system is SimplyRFiD, a Warrenton, Va.-based software company.

Since 2005 a federal mandate has required that Radio-Frequency Identification (RFID) tags be affixed to any clothing or other supplies sold to the DoD. The RFID tags are used to help the DoD better manage their inventory. The tags ensure that all shipments have come from verified providers, and that all packages contain the items they are meant to contain.

Many of the facilities that manufacture goods for the DoD are staffed by workers who are blind. The National Industries for the Blind (NIB), a non-profit organization that helps improve employment opportunities for people who are blind, became interested in ways that RFID technology could be used not only to fulfill government mandates, but to aid factory workers with certain tasks.

The NIB wondered whether a system could be created that would allow workers who are blind to accurately pack boxes with the correct type and quantity of an item.

Engineers at SimplyRFiD developed such a system. By linking RFID tags with audio equipment and allowing workers to communicate via a touch-screen, it is now simple for employees who are blind to know how many items are in a box they are packing, whether the items are the correct items, and which items to remove if a box is packed incorrectly.

“It’s almost a foolproof system,” said Mike Sebach the operations manager at Blind Industries and Services of Maryland, located in Salisbury, which was the pilot location for this technology. “If [SimplyRFiD] hadn’t done what [they] did we would have had to give these jobs to sighted workers.”

Sebach said his workers are now able to pack boxes more accurately than sighted workers would. “The system will actually not allow us to over pack or under pack a carton.”

So far, in addition to the Maryland location, this system has been installed in facilities in Texas, New York, and North Carolina. Plans are underway for SimplyRFiD to implement the program at garment factories across the nation that employ workers who are blind.

 “This technology could work in any warehouse, absolutely,” Sebach said.

 

To promote your use of RFID and educate customers about the innovative ways in which RFID and Sensing technologies are being used to automate data collection, identification and location systems worldwide, please email sdowney@thingmagic.com.

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