ThingMagic Nano: Small, Cost Effective, Reliable

Posted by Shannon Downey on Thu, Mar 12, 2015 @ 09:17 AM

Tags: Internet of Things, Embedded RFID, uhf rfid, IoT, RFID modules

Our Mercury6e series of embedded UHF RFID modules has grown yet again with the addition of the family’s smallest, lowest cost module to date – the ThingMagic Nano. As we find ourselves in the middle of an Internet of Things (IoT) revolution, RFID applications are popping up in this expanding ecosystem in all shapes and sizes, with developers begging for options that give them flexibility.

These options come in the form of a suite of embeddable modules that put developers in a position to plug low cost, low power components into their RFID solutions when the application calls for it, and still use larger high-power modules when part of an application still requires greater bandwidth and read rates. Because our universal API – MercuryAPI – spans the entire suite of module offerings, customers are free to expand their solutions with this new, smallest form factor and integrate the technology immediately into existing systems. Different readers with different jobs can coexist to suit specific customer needs without the headache of re-writing software.

Keonn, a Spanish solution provider that can implement RFID for everything from securing and re-stocking a hospital’s medical products to making marathon time-keeping more accurate, cites the Nano as an excellent source of flexibility for their solutions. The universal compatibility of ThingMagic’s software development kit, Mercury API, was a piece that CEO Ramir De Porrata-Doria cited as a major selling point, since “because we have designed other products with ThingMagic’s modules, the transition to build in this new, smaller module was seamless and enables us to expand our portfolio to include smaller readers.”

We’ve watched the industry scramble to accommodate solutions that are requiring more and more of the hardware and software involved. What we’re putting in the hands of developers and customers are the tools to adapt quickly in the face of RFID innovation.

Personalized Kiosk Using a ThingMagic USB Plus+

Posted by Shannon Downey on Thu, Feb 26, 2015 @ 12:03 PM

Tags: USB RFID reader, RFID Kiosk

One of our partners, TransTech, is working with customers to help build personalized kiosk solutions with our ThingMagic USB Plus+ readers.

Turns out, we had a customer develop this type of solution in the past and we wrote a case study about it.

Take a minute and read TransTech's blog post for their take on how to build a solution like this.

More Autonomous Operation for RFID Modules and Less Re-Inventing the Wheel

Posted by Mike Klein on Mon, Feb 02, 2015 @ 01:28 PM

Tags: uhf rfid

Our Micro family of embedded RFID modules now stands to lessen the headache for developers putting together the next greatest finished RFID readers. With the newest enhancements ThingMagic has issued to the firmware for our Mercury 6e Micro and Micro-LTE UHF RFID modules, modules are primed for autonomous operation.

To what extent are we allowing UHF RFID modules to operate autonomously?  By enabling hardware read triggers and creating savable configuration settings in the module, we’ve eliminated the need to write reader configuration and control code using the MercuryAPI, simplifying the integration of RFID into tomorrow’s solutions.  The module is configured one time to stream data using a new Autonomous Configuration Tool, freeing users up from writing code and lowering the supporting hardware requirements, allowing the modules to be used in a wider range of products with less development effort.

But what will true autonomous operation look like in RFID development? For that, we need your help.

These enhancements are already available for customers developing finished readers and solutions with the Micro and Micro-LTE. We’d like to open a conversation with those of you writing applications to control these modules so you can help shape the next iteration of enhancements to the firmware. What’s working well? What’s still keeping you from concentrating on innovating rather than writing code? Even those of you not currently developing with ThingMagic – we want to know what your biggest pain points are in developing with RFID, writing development code and anything else you’d like to see in a progressive update to the RFID development process.

If you’re interested in hearing more and participating with our newest enhancements, please contact us at support@thingmagic.com.

 

The Next Wave of the Internet of Things (According to Bernd Schoner)

Posted by Shannon Downey on Wed, Jan 07, 2015 @ 04:35 PM

Tags: Internet of Things

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In case you missed it, ThingMagic founder Bernd Schoner was featured in the new publication IoT Journal, a sister pub of RFID Journal.  In the inaugural "Expert Views" column Bernd gives his take on the "next wave" of the IoT and how it all starts with RFID.

Check it out here.

RAIN RFID and the Internet of Things

Posted by Tom Grant on Tue, Nov 18, 2014 @ 01:42 PM

Tags: Internet of Things, uhf rfid

I was reading an article last week in National Geographic on the origins of the Internet of Things and the credit given to Kevin Ashton, a former ThingMagic colleague, for coining the phrase back in 1999.  The vision remains and the likelihood has increased significantly over these past 15+ years.

I have had the opportunity to participate in the design, development and deployment of UHF RFID since 2001.  Enormous work was done by the likes of Walmart, P&G and brethren retailers and CPG companies to form a consortium with the objective of establishing standards and funding/encouraging companies to develop the necessary elements to allow the deployment of a next generation of ID technology.  We were guided by the enthusiastic duo of Kevin Ashton and Sanjay Sarma who worked tirelessly to negotiate standards and provide a vision of what was possible.  By 2005 we were all convinced it was just a matter of time before RFID would provide supply chain efficiencies to the retail sector and provide to other vertical markets the evidence that their supply chain could be enhanced. 

Mark Roberti has chronicled the successes, challenges and technology and product improvements through his magazine RFID Journal and its corresponding newsletters and events.  As an industry we have worked tirelessly to lower costs, adhere to and improve standards and ease the development and deployment of UHF RFID.  Enormous strides have been made and the industry’s members deserve a lot of credit for hanging in there during this 10+ year period during which several factors have converged, including:

  • Improvement in the performance, cost and deployment of the fundamental technology

  • Cloud-based Architectures and back-office systems have improved our ability to turn the data collected into mission critical information

  • The Internet of Things concept and promotion has provided RFID with a market awareness concept within which  to showcase its capabilities.

It is time for the RFID industry to promote our collective efforts towards building market awareness of the power of our technology when combined with the big data architectures that are being put in place.   Fortunately, Impinj, Smartrac, Google and Intel recognized that need earlier this year and formed the RAIN RFID Alliance whose sole purpose is to increase market awareness of the power of our collective technology. 

ThingMagic joined the RAIN Alliance this year and, with the endorsement of our fellow members, I have joined the RAIN Board of Directors.  As we have worked tirelessly for 15 years to get RFID to its cost-effective state, I encourage you to become an active member of the RAIN Alliance.  Check it out, join and get involved.  

 

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Mercury xPRESS, a Developer’s Sensor Hub for the Internet of Things

Posted by Shannon Downey on Fri, Sep 26, 2014 @ 08:41 AM

Tags: Sensors, Internet of Things, Embedded RFID

The potential of a broader set of ID and sensing solutions is something IT decision makers and business stakeholders have been able to understand the potential value of for some time now, but have struggled to put into practice. As a result, though most solutions can offer measurable value, many fall short when it comes to going above and beyond what they’re tasked with and supporting greater ideals like the Internet of Things (IoT).  What’s keeping us from reaching that point?  In part, it’s a lack of tools that are easier to use, richer in functionality and can more easily and quickly integrate with the world around them.

Organizations have high hopes for IoT, but significant gaps still exist that are keeping us from opening up communication between people, devices and other objects of all types. In particular, we need to bridge the communication gap that’s always existed between the consumer world and the ID and sensing solutions of the enterprise world. Much of this disconnect stems from having devices and networks that all speak different languages, making development a more confusing and time-consuming process than it needs to be. When the goal is seamless communication between an infinite number of devices and technologies, the only way to achieve it is through platforms outfitted with tools that automatically act as a translator.

The developers tasked with building ID and sensing solutions now have a tool that will enable them to overcome that challenge and help make significant steps toward IoT. Enhancements to ThingMagic’s Mercury xPRESS Sensor Hub flexible development platform, which already allows developers to bring up a fully functional RFID reader in minutes, have now transformed it into the Sensor Hub that developers need. With new support for network interfaces (PoE and WiFi) as well as GPS, developers can easily access and deliver diverse sensor data. This enables developers to focus on application functionality, fast deployment and quicker return on investment.

Today we’re on the cusp of realizing the next wave of the Internet of Things, where communication is seamless between people, devices and objects, regardless of whether a computing device is involved. One of the biggest barriers keeping us from achieving this next step in IoT are the  parties fighting to make their language and protocols the standard, which is actually slowing the process of realizing IoT’s purpose.  We see the Mercury xPRESS Sensor Hub as a part of the solution, a step towards opening the lines of communications between devices and systems of all types that haven’t been interacting. The road to IoT is filled with many obstacles.  A major one has been integrating all the applications that use different languages and protocols.  It’s doubtful we’ll ever achieve the nirvana of a single standard that unites everything.  So until that day comes we’ll continue to need tools like the Mercury xPRESS Sensor Hub, which can act as the unifying connector and translator of the many devices and applications we’ll encounter on the path to IoT.

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.

Collaboration with Datamars for a More Intelligent Laundry Operation

Posted by Austin Rand on Mon, Jul 07, 2014 @ 10:00 AM

Tags: RFID, Apparel, Process Control, Laundry Management, Laundry

Datamars is a pioneer of RFID in the textile industry with more than 1000 textile customers in 40 countries and more than 150 million RFID tags in use worldwide. To read this enormous number of tags, they’ve turned to ThingMagic UHF readers (Astra and Mercury6) for bulk-scanning.  With a reader accuracy over 99% the ThingMagic readers have helped the company achieve record growth in the past year. 

This year, Datamars has seen 100% of its new industrial laundry projects involve UHF technology, a clear indication that RFID has moved from being a luxury in the textile space to becoming a standard for advanced operations. Because of the low cost of entry associated with UHF RFID, the pairing of Datamars tags with ThingMagic readers has become a primary choice both for customers just adopting RFID for the first time, as well as for existing RFID users looking for a combination of LF-UHF or HF-UHF to ease the transition to this next generation of solutions.

In a service industry, the success of an industrial laundry operation hinges not only on maximizing the productivity of a supply chain, but ensuring reliable operations for the customer. With read ranges of up to 6 meters (19 feet) without requiring a direct line of sight, the coupling of Datamars tags with ThingMagic readers ensures bulk-scanning accuracy and scanning speed (1000 items in under 10 seconds) that help set an advanced operation apart from its competition.

The numbers from a deployment for Disney can better tell the story of what’s possible with ThingMagic RFID in a large-scale garment tracking solution:

  • Disney used 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 increased the accuracy of inventory checks, from 85-90% accurate to nearly 100%.
  • The need to staff checkout counters has been eliminated, freeing up personnel for other tasks.

Core to ThingMagic’s readers – Astra and Mercury 6 – is predictability and ease-of-use. Deploying an UHF RFID solution, in many more industries beyond textile and industrial laundry, should not require a  disruptive installation of RFID hardware and software. As such, ThingMagic readers are developed to integrate easily with existing operations so enterprises can shorten the time to realize business results – the ultimate promise of an RFID solution. Beyond ensuring the reliability that helps an operation survive, more connectivity sets an enterprise up not only to have more visibility into operations, but also to more easily transition to next-generation technology. 

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.

ThingMagic and Partners’ Innovations on Display at MIT Auto ID & Sensing Solutions Expo

Posted by Austin Rand on Wed, Jun 04, 2014 @ 03:43 PM

Tags: RFID, Sensors, RFID tags, MIT

Last week we had the opportunity to be back at MIT, where ThingMagic first was started, to display our latest suite of innovations alongside a number of our partners at the 5th annual Auto ID & Sensing Solutions Expo. Given the size of the show, we didn’t expect any groundbreaking announcements that would shake up the auto ID and wireless industry.  But it but was a good opportunity to connect with partners and other vendors and OEMs leading the RFID industry. It was also good to see MIT students (and perhaps the next generation of RFID professionals) roaming the expo floor as well. Among the roughly 50 exhibitors at the show, a few ThingMagic partners had interesting deployments to demo for the attendees.

Zebra

A leader in cloud printing, Zebra had a few printers displayed, including their ZD500R, which takes advantage of a ThingMagic reader module and is versatile in the applications you’ll find it in – from the manufacturing floor to tagging and tracking for retail, healthcare and government.

The Zatar platform was their main attraction, their cloud-based software service that’s meant to help feed Internet of Things solutions more easily into users’ operations. Zatar makes it easier to configure devices together for smoother connectivity and will soon be compatible with ThingMagic devices, though beta customers like American Barcode.

RF Micron

RF Micron is a newer company with beta users developing solutions that involve their sensors which can adjust to environmental conditions and will involve ThingMagic’s M6 and M6e reader modules. Their innovation will prove to be big in industries like oil and gas and other industrial settings where conditions can often affect technology’s functionality. This could range from moisture detection and knowing when water has leaked into places it is not supposed to be, to pressure detection in tire gauges that will allow us to have smarter vehicles.

Omni-ID

The newest and probably most interesting thing we saw was the Omni-ID View Tags, that use both active and passive RFID to replace paper labels in supply chain operations with an electronically re-writeable surface that’s added to RF tracking technologies. Picture a nurse wheeling a patient around a hospital, where patient information can be pushed to this device telling where exactly that patient needs to be next. Or an operator on a manufacturing plant floor walking up to a particular asset and having information pushed to this rugged handheld based on his particular role.

 

All in all, it’s good to see the variety of industries deploying ThingMagic and other RFID technology continue to grow and expand. We had the chance to catch up with one industry analyst at the show for his impression on everything being displayed and his thoughts seemed to mirror what we and other auto ID companies have been seeing and saying more and more – that connectivity across the board, not just RFID, is going to continue becoming cheaper, more fluid and more accessible; all making the Internet of Things more of a reality. And we were glad to be able to have aided in more than a few of such solutions on display at the Auto ID & Sensing Solutions Expo.

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