dwinQ RFID Social Media Platform Wins Gold at London Olympics

Posted by Ken Lynch on Mon, Aug 06, 2012 @ 05:04 PM

Tags: RFID, Smart Displays, Social Media, Social Networks

dwinq LondonIt’s hard to say which event has been the most thrilling to watch; men’s swimming knowing that this may be Michael Phelps’ last Olympic hurrah, Usain Bolt setting an Olympic record in the 100-meter dash, or the fierce competitions in sports that we usually don’t get to see like fencing and water polo.

In the middle of ‘the thrill of victory and the agony of defeat’, of the London Olympics, we are also excited to hear of RFID-enabled social media’s place on the medal stand.

As the Official Treat Provider to the London 2012 Olympics, Cadbury has created Cadbury House – inflatable purple domes in Hyde Park where guests can easily share their experiences with friends and family. With a passive UHF RFID system created by dwinQ, guests at the Cadbury House can immediately link photos of their Olympic visit via their Facebook pages – creating a seamless (or as dwinQ calls it – frictionless) social media experience.  

Here’s how it works: RFID Journal explains that guests are given badges that contain EPC Gen 2 passive UHF RFID tags. They then register their Facebook account information which is linked to the unique identification number encoded in the badge's RFID tag. When guests enter one of the Cadbury Houses, they can check in, simply by having the badge near a check-in kiosk, each outfitted with ThingMagic readers.  

Once the first reader has checked-in a guest, he or she can simply go to any pre-determined location throughout the park, such as a photo area. The RFID reader in that area captures the tag's unique ID number in the badge, communicates the information to Dwinq's social-media platform, which then links the appropriate badge ID with the right Facebook account, and posts an update on the person's page.

Since the 2012 Games began, Cadbury House has been receiving approximately 3,500 visitors daily. The Company expects 50,000 guests to check-in over two weeks, which means that the Cadbury House Olympic experience will reach a huge number of people through social media channels. According to the press release, “The solution creates fun for guests while simultaneously amplifying Cadbury's brand messaging to hundreds of thousands of people beyond the event attendees.”

Once again we see that RFID + Social Media = Reach.

This is reminiscent of a similar experience offered at RFID Journal LIVE! a couple of years ago where attendees could extend their event experience over social media. Our case study, “Building Brand Loyalty and Reach through RFID and Social Media” can be downloaded here.  

For more information, check out dwinQ’s blog post on their Olympic experience. And while you’re at it, don’t forget to “Like” ThingMagic and dwinQ on Facebook!

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?

Tis the Season for RFID

Posted by Ken Lynch on Fri, Dec 02, 2011 @ 11:44 AM

Tags: RFID, Smart Displays, Retail, Item Level RFID, Smart Shelves

RFID HangerIt’s that time of year. With the holiday season in full swing, it seems like retail is the topic of choice for RFID stories lately. We last blogged about the mobile wallet and how it can enhance the check out process, which could have a huge consumer impact during this time of year.

And here's yet another way that RFID is improving the shopping experience and potentially helping boost sales. A department store in Shibuya, Tokyo, Japan is the first to try out interactive hangers. When a shopper picks up a garment, RFID triggers one of the large screens above the rack to display a person modeling the clothes selected. Beyond the holiday season, this use of RFID could also have a huge impact on the back-to-school purchases, and even prom season.

Check it out here.

The hangers were developed by Tokyo tech firm Teamlab. They are regular hangers with a large central rectangle that houses the RFID tag. We didn’t find reports that included information on the RFID readers, but they could be placed on the clothing racks or ceiling mounted. The hangers can also be used to manipulate the music and lighting in the store. The diagram above depicts how the RFID system works.

We like it because it’s unobtrusive, as is the case with RFID in general. If you don’t care to see what the garment looks like on the model on the screen, simple. Don’t look up. It’s out of the way and can be easily ignored.

Many shoppers can be easily influenced by a positive image and I bet this is why retailers will like this solution. If a leather jacket looks good on the GQ model, I transfer that image to myself, I buy it and the marketer wins.

Take the concept one step further, what if the model on the screen showed us how to tie a tie or scarf and the various other ways it could be worn? That could be extremely useful, especially if it’s a new fashion trend.

This implementation of RFID reinforces that the technology can play a valuable role in all phases of the retail supply chain - from the manufacturer to the show room floor. While this use case may not be the driver for RFID being widely adopted in the retail sector, it shows that very intelligent people are thinking of creative, yet easy ways to integrate RFID into everyday processes.

Which one of your everyday activities can be enhanced with RFID?

Image Source: TechCrunch

ThingMagic Named Frost & Sullivan ‘Mover & Shaker’

Posted by Ken Lynch on Mon, Oct 17, 2011 @ 11:27 AM

Tags: RFID, Smart Displays, GPS, Social Networks

Frost & SullivanAnalyst firm Frost & Sullivan recently featured ThingMagic and General Manager, Tom Grant as one of its much acclaimed Movers & Shakers. In their Movers and Shakers interviews, Frost & Sullivan places the spotlight on dynamic companies and leaders recognized for achieving milestones such as launching a breakthrough technology or implementing a revolutionary vision for the future of their industries. Needless to say we are very appreciative of being asked to participate.

Frost & Sullivan’s interview with ThingMagic explores interest in our business since being acquired by Trimble.  As a division of Trimble, we are now in a better position to deliver UHF RFID products and solutions to the marketplace. As Grant said in the interview, “We have not changed post the acquisition, we have just become stronger.”

In describing what innovation means to ThingMagic, Grant explains that the most innovative solutions are those where users can interact with RFID naturally and where the technology is so integrated and transparent that it disappears.  We’ve seen this in a growing number of deployments including those by Ford Motor Company and The Disney Family Cancer Center.  We’re also seeing this begin to take hold in solutions like presence-based smart displays and kiosks where RFID is helping to create a seamless and pervasive interaction between people, the environment, and information. This innovation in content delivery and management systems is also intersecting with social networks, which makes it attractive to new markets and an expansive base of new users.

The interview also highlights ThingMagic’s vision of how RFID solutions and innovation will drive the next revolution of wireless and mobility.  We believe that the next wave of innovation and success will come from combining technologies such as active and passive RFID, GPS, Wi-Fi, and Bluetooth.  The success metric will be when the best of these technologies are combined in a hybrid product or solution that is less defined by the technology and more about what the users can accomplish with it. 

As a market, we’ve reached several important milestones.  It’s time to set our sights on the next one. We need to start thinking beyond the enabling technology and focus on the value of the data generated by RFID reads and how it can be applied to business processes.  “it is time we reshape the way we think about RFID”, says Grant.

What do you envision the next RFID milestone to look like?

RFID Offers More to Race Timing than Just Timing

Posted by Ken Lynch on Tue, Aug 02, 2011 @ 01:50 PM

Tags: RFID, Smart Displays, Sports & Entertainment, Race Timing

Marathon TimingMarathons are popping up everywhere. It appears as though there is one for everyone, with a slew taking place across the country over the summer including: the Extraterrestrial Full Moon Midnight Marathon near Area 51 in Nevada, the Rock 'n' Roll Seattle Marathon, and the Grandfather Mountain Marathon inNorth Carolina.

So, what better time to revisit race timing since we last blogged on the topic? In our previous post, we focused on how UHF RFID could be used for extremely precise timing, as well as the efficiencies gained by using RFID due to the technology’s ability to process a greater amount of data in a shorter period of time. Today, we thought we would highlight a few additional benefits of using UHF RFID in race timing applications as described in our latest Application Note: Designing Race Timing Applications Using UHF RFID Technology.

Checking-in participants before the race - The slow, manual process of checking-in racers on race day can be eliminated by mailing pre-associated RFID-enabled race bibs to the racers in advance. With an RIFD-enabled race system, participants get checked-in automatically via an RFID reader at the starting point, eliminating time consuming check-in processes that can impact a runners pre-race outlook.

The motivation factor - As we noted, marathons are attracting a wide demographic of people - from the born runner to the novice. But they all have one thing in common. Most runners want to be cheered on, celebrated and supported and this motivation can go a long way to help them dig deep to find what it takes to finish a grueling race. With the combination of RFID-enabled tags and check points, sponsors, friends or family can display personal motivational messages on big screens for individual racers or a group of racers at any given time. Or the statistical information of a particular racer could be presented at different check points so they can see their performance in relation to the rest of the field. This motivation factor is also very fitting for charity races and even walks.

The importance of real-time data - Without RFID, race coordinators have to record the time of each participant at certain milestones, which can be a tedious and is prone to human error. RFID systems automate the collection of timestamps by reading the participant’s bib at certain locations and updating them to a central database, which is then interrogated in real-time during the event or at the end of the race. Race statistics, like checkpoint time stamps, can also be stored on servers that can be made accessible via the web for participants to check their performance. These time-sensitive application requires fast data transfer between the reader and the tag and could not be achieved at the same level of accuracy with manual processes.

These are just a few of the ways that UHF RFID can be used to enhance the race day experience for race organizers and participants alike.  If you are designing a race system and interested in exploring RFID to enhance your solution, please download our Application Note here.

The next time you run a marathon or participate in a walk for charity, what message would push you to cross the finish line?

Messages on the Move

Posted by Ken Lynch on Wed, Dec 01, 2010 @ 03:03 PM

Tags: RFID, Smart Displays, Race Timing, Social Networks

RFID Helps Cheer Marathoners Along New York City Route

Feaster FiveI had a great time last week running my town’s Thanksgiving morning road race - the Feaster Five – and hope to run again next year.  Running along side more than 10,000 other runners, joggers and walkers, including marathon legends Bill Rodgers, Joan Benoit Samuelson, and Team Hoyt, I was especially looking forward to cruising past my house and my own personal cheering section.  Being cheered on by friends and family can go a long way – even in a short 5 miler (or 5k in my case) like the Feaster Five. 

Now imagine running all 26 grueling miles and 385 yards of a marathon and all of the little things along the way that can help runners focus on making it across the finish line.  In previous blog posts we covered the use of RFID for race timing to record accurate start and finish times and provide runners with split times to help them set their pace.  We’ve also blogged about the use of RFID in smart signage to provide opt-in users with unique personalized messages.  Now, how about a combination of the two?

The New York Marathon is one of the world’s largest marathon events with over 45,000 runners and 2 million people cheering them on.  What a better place to combine the use of RFID already in place to time runners with the display of personalized messages from the family and friends of race participants.  ASICS America launched such a program as part of the 2010 New York Marathon.  Prior to the start of the race, ASICS setup a program site dedicated to taking photos, video and collecting personal messages, texts, tweets and Facebook comments from race supporters.  Then, the same RFID tags worn by racers for timing triggered the display of the messages on LED screens as they passed by sensor-enabled checkpoints throughout the marathon route.

Check out ASICS’ cool "support your marathoner" video:

I’ve experienced first hand how the motivation of others can help you push a little bit harder, run a little bit faster, and stay focused on the task at hand.  And, I for one know I’d need all the encouragement I could get if I were running a marathon!

The race route is one setting where motivation can help.  Where else do you think this type of solution could inspire others? 

RFID-Enabled Smart Displays

Posted by Ken Lynch on Tue, Jul 27, 2010 @ 10:47 AM

Tags: RFID, Sensors, Smart Displays

"RFID is the missing link between online information and the real world” - Andrew Lippman, Media Lab associate director and head, Viral Communications group.

Driven in part by the staggering adoption rates of mobile devices and their corresponding ‘apps’ over the last few years, we have become increasingly reliant on digital information for nearly every aspect of our lives.  This demand is driving new choices for how we access and manage digital information beyond mobile devices, to all kind of interesting applications in the PC, TV, and signage markets.

Take interactive touch screens and digital ‘smart’ signs for example.  For years, retailers, entertainment venues, and others have been using banks of TV screens and large displays to broadcast images and marketing messages in an effort to expand the delivery of their product information.  In January 2010, Intel and Microsoft announced they were collaborating to take displays to the next level by developing smart sign technology that would offer interactivity to shoppers and help brick and mortar retailers customize their promotions in order to better compete with web-based retail. 

MIT Media DisplayThe solution proposed by Intel & Microsoft uses cameras to recognize whether the viewer is male or female and then presents offers for products that are more likely to appeal to them.  But what if you allowed the display to know more about you?  What if the display could recognize who you were, what your personal preferences were, and then serve up an individualized experience? 

This type of innovation is being explored at the MIT Media Lab in Cambridge, Massachusetts where low-cost technologies such as RFID and sensors are being used to create seamless and pervasive ways for us to interact with information and with each other. Read the ThingMagic announcement.

To support its own internal events and to assist students and faculty with distributing and accessing information about its groups and projects, the Media Lab has deployed a network of presence-based, touch-sensitive information displays.  Visitor presence - sensed through the integration of RFID readers into each display and RFID badges worn by guests - automates the creation of personal profiles, enables personalized content delivery and group information sharing, and delivers aggregated location and activity data to centralized display screens so individuals can track the progress of their visit.  Each visitor’s portfolio is saved and can be accessed online at a later date.

Of course, securing personal data is required for these types of solutions to be adopted broadly outside of closed-loop applications, especially in markets such as retail.  For industries that already operate largely on an opt-in basis however – like conferences, events, museums, libraries, and theme parks – these solutions can offer a significantly enhanced customer experience.  Large & small enterprises, hospitals, and, of course, schools and universities are also potential early adopters, as they can benefit tremendously from making information more accessible, interactive – and customized.

Share your thoughts about the evolution of smart signs.  Where will they work?  Where won’t they work?  How are personal data security issues best addressed?

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