Saturday, October 30, 2004

ACM queue -special issue on RFID

ACMQueue has come out with an issue devoted to RFIDs. In an article written by Roy Want,Intel Research, RFID is equated to magic and introduced as an electronic tagging technology that allows an object, place, or person to be automatically identified at a distance without a direct line-of-sight, using an electromagnetic challenge / response exchange. Typical applications include labeling products for rapid checkout at a point-of-sale terminal, inventory tracking, animal tagging, timing marathon runners, secure automobile keys, and access control for secure facilities."

Initially, commercial deployment is likely to focus on pallet- or crate-level tracking in a warehouse, and depending on its success, may lead to item-level tracking in the future. RFID could improve the efficiency of warehouse management considerably. RFID tags would allow crate identities to be checked at a distance when entering or leaving the building, whether or not the tag is directly visible. A bar code used in the same application could well be facing the wrong direction, making it impossible to scan automatically. Once RFID has proved beneficial and has been well established, economies of scale such as mass production should help bring down the price. This would enable item-level tracking for high-value goods, and perhaps eventually, even tracking low-value items.

RFID provides a data transport mechanism between a tag and a reader, which can be extended to provide greater utility than returning a simple identification number. The three important extensions of electronic tagging are: sensing the environment, security, and electronic memory.
Apart from cost, the remaining technical issues for RFID are all solved. A number of issues, however, still present a challenge: tag orientation, reader coordination, multiple standards, stored data, range, cost, and customer concerns.Product Packaging Independence,Multiple Standards,Data Formats and wraps up with noting that progress is being made on Longer Range, Lowering Manufacturing Costs.

Friday, October 29, 2004

Legoland RFID Tracks Lost Kids, Collects Data

Here's an interesting article on how Legoland Denmark is using RFID on wristbands to help parents keep track of their children.ach season, Legoland Denmark welcomes 1.6 million guests, and about 1,600 of them end up getting lost. This spring, the theme park adopted an AeroScout RFID location solution, offering parents use of an RFID bracelet for their children at a nominal fee. If their children wander away from them in the park or try to exit unaccompanied, parents can receive instant text messages on their mobile phones telling them the location of their errant offspring -- within ten feet.The wireless Relevant Products/Services from Hewlett-Packard Mobility Solutions LAN technology chosen for this installation means Legoland had to invest in fewer readers than a traditional RFID system for a wider range of service. Parents view the product as a value-add, quieting their anxieties about lost little loved ones. Legoland management, meanwhile, benefits from the ease of child tracking as well as the data the tags collect on families' use of the park.Legoland collects data in the aggregate, not on individual users. Park officials may apply collected RFID information to improve its in-park restaurant service. For instance, consumers might be able to look at menus outside of the restaurants and order there, from a wireless system, and outdoor restaurants and food carts could have wireless cash registers. Legoland may also apply RFID to manage long lines, redirecting families to attractions with fewer visitors on queue, or to gauge consumer interest in new rides, even new Lego building sets. An interesting way to apply RFID for business purposes on top of usage for tracking.

Wednesday, October 27, 2004

RFID and Barcodes shall coexist !!

This brief article in VNUNET says, Potential adopters of radio frequency identification (RFID) spend too much time speculating about the arrival of cheaper tags when they should be evaluating the business benefits of the technology, Gartner has warned."RFID technology holds exciting opportunities for almost every business, But rather than ask at what price does RFID become effective, retailers should identify if a specific business case exists for the technology in their business based on today's price."The use of RFID to improve efficiency of data flow across global supply chains could be one of the most significant developments in business strategy since companies first recognised the importance of information flow.Companies will go through a two-phase adoption of RFID, predicts Gartner. The first - the creation of RFID-enabled business processes, using RFID within the context of existing business processes - is expected to achieve only "marginal benefits".However, the second phase, when companies adopt RFID-centric business processes, involving a radical re-engineering of business processes, has the potential to deliver substantial enhancements, according to the analyst, Stephen Smith.
A word of caution - "RFID technology and the business benefits it promises will not arrive with a big bang," "High capital costs, imperfect read rates, unproven systems and uncertainty around standards will all need to be addressed before retailers can adopt and benefit from the technology. This means that, over the next 10 years, retailers will continue to use barcodes and gradually introduce RFID tagging, creating an environment of co-existence."There are conflicting problems with assembling low-cost tags. Vendors are currently unable to resolve the paradox that they must work to reduce the size of the chip to reduce costs, when this process itself actually increases production expenses. Passive tags today cost from 40 cents to $10. Active tags usually start at $4 to $5, increasing to hundreds of dollars. By 2009 the most competitive RFID tags will cost 20 cents, predicts Gartner. Net-net, RFID and Barcodes shall co-exist for some more time.

Monday, October 25, 2004

RFID cell phones take shape at Nokia writes, Radio Frequency Identification (RFID) is a favorite of warehouse operators and some retailers because of how easy product information stored on the chip can be transferred. Nokia said delivering product information to a mobile device using RFID can extend the technology "beyond the supply chain, and into customer service, merchandizing, marketing and brand management."For instance, retailers could put RFID-embedded "touch phone here" signs on store shelves to send a coupon to the phone, or put the same sings at checkout stands to instantly transfer personal information stored on the phone in order to complete a warranty. Nokia demonstrated an early prototype that was built in collaboration with VeriSign, which is proposing a central repository for RFID data that companies can use to relay information about inventory and deliveries to customers and suppliers. The prototype was based on Nokia's 5140 model, with an RFID reader contained in a shell that attached to the phone.One snag facing RFID is privacy concerns. Consumer advocates say the unchecked spread of the devices in libraries and elsewhere could spell disaster for privacy. They envision a future in which a network of hidden RFID readers track consumers' every move, their belongings and their reading habits, though most agree that such a scenario is largely impossible today for technical reasons. RFID's addition to Nokia phones is inevitable, to some industry veterans. During the past few years, cell phones have been tricked out with any number of different wireless antennas--global positioning systems, Wi-Fi, infra red, Bluetooth and soon ultra wideband--in order to increase the phone's usefulness.

A Roundup Of RFID Middleware and Web Services

Peter Winer of Big Chief Partners , recently moderated a panel disscussion on RFID advances made by pureplay RFID players and generally better established but general IT players moving in from adjacent areas.

The Pure Play Companies focus on:
- Distributed networks connecting heterogeneous RFID readers and other collection devices;
- Collect, correct, filter, aggregate large volumes of information;
- Deliver upstream to middleware,applications and business processes.
The presentation of such conpanies like Edgeware, OAT systems,Connectera, Blue Vector Systems is available here.

Established Middleware and Enterprise Application Integration (EAI) companies viewing - RFID as a future engine of growth;
- Focused on server-based middleware;
- Enhance, transform and translate,Apply business rules, provide message broker;
- Portal solutions, development tools.

The presentation of such companies like BEA, webMethods, Sun is available here.
Very interesting presentations with fair amount of real life examples.

Saturday, October 16, 2004

Bruce Schneier on RFID passports

Bruce Schneier,the well known security expert warns against using RFID chips in passports. Countries whose citizens currently do not have visa requirements to enter the United States will have to issue passports that conform to the standard or risk losing their nonvisa status.These future passports, currently being tested, will include an embedded computer chip. This chip will allow the passport to contain much more information than a simple machine-readable character font, and will allow passport officials to quickly and easily read that information. That is a reasonable requirement and a good idea for bringing passport technology into the 21st century. But the US goernment is advocating radio frequency identification (RFID) chips for both U.S. and foreign passports, and that's a very bad thing. Unfortunately, RFID chips can be read by any reader, not just the ones at passport control. The upshot of this is that travelers carrying around RFID passports are broadcasting their identity. It means that passport holders are continuously broadcasting their name, nationality, age, address and whatever else is on the RFID chip. It means that anyone with a reader can learn that information, without the passport holder's knowledge or consent. Security is always a trade-off. If the benefits of RFID outweighed the risks, then maybe it would be worth it. Certainly, there isn't a significant benefit when people present their passport to a customs official. If that customs official is going to take the passport and bring it near a reader, why can't he go those extra few centimeters that a contact chip--one the reader must actually touch--would require?

Thursday, October 14, 2004

EPC Global Presentations

RFID weblog points to a link where a series of presentation slides used at recent EPCGlobal meet is made available. Indeed an impressive range of collection - best set of people and the top line organisations deploying RFID are sharing their perspective. Must read for all interested about deploying RFID solutions.

Tuesday, October 12, 2004

RFID Tag Shortage Forecast In Coming Months

(Via Informationweek) RFID tags may not be available in needed numbers to meet expected demand in the near future.The lengthy production cycle is probably the biggest culprit in the current shortage. It takes about 12 weeks to make the raw silicon, which is then sent to another company that sticks a tiny RFID antenna to it, adding four weeks to the process.Larger manufacturers such as EM Microelectronic, Philips Semiconductor, and Texas Instruments say they're waiting until EPCglobal Inc., the organization overseeing RFID standards called for in the mandates, finalizes the next-generation RFID chip specification.Shortages could drive tag prices up. Today, a tag costs 20 cents to 45 cents or more--a long way from the 5-cent tag many say is needed before RFID is widely adopted.But most agree the RFID shortage will work itself out.It would be just too embarrassing, after all, for a supply-chain problem to get in the way of a technology touted as transforming supply chains.

Sunday, October 10, 2004

Tagged Contents and Virtual Projection -RFIG

Future Now points out to Mitubistshi service in the area of Photosensing RFID in for location area services.Wireless tags such as RFID (radio frequency identification) are becoming ubiquitous in inventory management. However, it is difficult to precisely locate the tags using a handheld device. This problem by using a hybrid of radio frequency and optical communication with the tag.The handheld device consists of a RF reader plus a data projector. TheiRadio Frequency Identity and Geometry (RFIG) system consists of a hand-held projector that shines dynamic images onto physical objects of the user's preference, and radio frequency identification tags augmented with photosensors, which identify objects for the projector. Radio frequency identification tags contain tiny, inexpensive chips that are read using radio waves. Photosensors detect light intensity.The system can be used to find and track inventory, guide robots or precision handling systems on assembly lines, locate small instruments and track movement of items in health care settings, keep track of objects in homes, offices and libraries, and enable games to integrate real and virtual objects. A projector, say a hand-held device, detects tags in a box, then projects a picture of the contents of the box on its outside. This can have significant application value in the transportation and retails sectors.

Saturday, October 09, 2004

From Smart Cards To Smart Watch

( Via Roland Piquepaille.) A rfid based prototype of a smart watch that can warn you if you forget your wallet or your keys when leaving home has been built at university of washington.In the not-so-distant future, your wristwatch could stop you if you try to run out the door without the necessities you need for the day, like your keys, wallet or cell phone.
At work, it could prompt you for important items needed for a meeting or a business lunch. In an academic setting, it could remind students which books to take as they hurry out the door for class. Think of it as a technological string around the finger – one that's smart enough to take the initiative to save you from the inconvenience and embarrassment of forgotten essentials.Such integrated, responsive systems are the next logical step in computing.The system is based on RFID tags attached to your car keys or your cell phone while RFID readers are installed in your home or your office. When an object is pinged by a reader, the information is transmitted to a personal server that you carry in your pockets. If the server 'thinks' that you're missing an important object, it tells the watch to alert you. Now the team wants to add a wireless location system to the personal server to improve its decision-making process. The complete paper titled, "Reminding about tagged objects using passive RFID's" is available here. The coming explosion in RFID usage would not be centered only on big impact supply chain issues, but also on smaller utility application needs such as this.

Friday, October 08, 2004

RFID isn’t simply a technological revolution. It’s a business revolution

Doug Lattner,chairman and CEO of Deloitte Consulting writes, RFID is no monster and the technology represents a genuine revolution.The long-term result easily outweighs the initial discomfort. We believe that the prescription for remaining vital and competitive for the next 10 years and beyond is embracing the best available RFID technology, not dismissing it or opting for cheaper, less efficient “slap and ship” alternatives.RFID is more than a fancy bar-code upgrade. Tagging an object to carry descriptive information in a manner that can be read from a distance, using a signal transmitted from a reader, takes product control to a new level. Tags can be embedded in almost any object, or placed on a pallet or container; they can even be incorporated into packaging materials such as cardboard boxes or printed labels. They have the potential to store and deliver enormous amounts of information about goods, production, storage and shipping.Such data synchronization is the bedrock of competitive advantage. It will lead to increased accountability, from senior management to the people loading and unloading pallets at the warehouse level. The supply chain is often sloppy and elastic, too often prone to human error. RFID can correct that by monitoring where goods are traveling, and who is doing the checking and handling at each point. It also can provide a better grasp of state or regional tax code implications and reap further savings.There are additional benefits of RFID in operations, information systems, sales, marketing, HR and finance. With so much of potential upside business can not avoid embracing RFID - Before this soon becomes an equaliser when everybody has it.

RFID awareness need to improve

Although vendors and consultants alike have been shouting from the roof tops about RFID, the awareness of RFID need to improve says the Unisys survey reported by In the UK, even pharma seems to be embracing RFID quite slowly.In the US, where drug counterfeiting is more common, the pharmaceutical industry is leading from the front in driving uptake of RFID. The US Food and Drug administration is actively encouraging the use of the track and trace chips to secure the supply chain. It said in a recent report: "Significant feasibility studies and technology improvements are underway to confirm that RFID will provide cost-reducing benefits in areas such as inventory control, while also providing the ability to track and trace the movement of every package of drugs from production to dispensing. Most importantly, reliable RFID technology will make the copying of medications either extremely difficult or unprofitable." One such feasibility study in the US saw several major drug manufacturers, including Abbott Laboratories, Johnson & Johnson, Pfizer and Proctor & Gamble, trialling the technology along with pharmacies on 13,500 packages of drugs over eight weeks. On a related note I found this presentation of RFID to be very informative and a good primer on RFID.

Wednesday, October 06, 2004

One Card, Many Solutions

Imagine carrying a card being valid for all the purposes; access control, shopping, travelling, different kinds of payments etc. 13,56 MHz technologies brings this dream to reality.
This card technology offers a single portable device for transport, banking, purchases, administration and e-commerce accommodating both contact and contactless smart card interfaces. People with a DIF card can securely access banking, health care and social services, obtain certification, prove their identity and settle other business. It appears that a single-card solution is viable today in controlled environment settings, including self-contained campuses where one entity controls the functions for which the card can be used, and possibly in societies like China where government recommended standards are firmly enforced.

Friday, October 01, 2004

Growing Impact of RFID's On Supply Chains

The impact radio-frequency identification has throughout an entire supply chain is top of mind for a number of companies experimenting with the technology. A group of business-technology executives from the U.S. Department of Defense, Michelin Tires, Cisco Systems, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, Boeing, and Albertsons shared their experiences thus far at this week's EPC Global U.S. Conference in Baltimore. Early results from several organisations impelementing RFID are showing very interesting results.

- For Boeing Commercial Airplanes, RFID could shave weeks out of the time it takes to build an airplane. The company is looking at using RFID to tag individual parts of an airplane that could then be easily tracked as planes are built. Kenneth D. Porad, automated identification program manager at Boeing, said that by using a combination of active and passive RFID technology, Boeing predicts it will be able to build airplanes in 72 hours--a process that historically takes 18 to 30 days. The initiative will require various levels of systems integration to track all the information.

-The FDA is evaluating tagging items on an individual level to combat an increase in drug counterfeiting worldwide. Paul Rudolf, senior adviser of medical and health-care policy at the agency, said plans are to begin tagging medicine bottles and single-unit items, instead of bulk containers, by 2007.

-The Department of Defense's next step in its RFID initiative is to use passive RFID tags on boxes that are shipped to armed forces overseas. Currently, the Defense Department has 22 operational distribution centers that plan to use passive RFID tags by January.

It's also not clear how well RFID technology will scale to supply chains that move thousands of goods among numerous partners. What's needed, some of the executives said, is hefty middleware technology that can make sense of all the RFID data. "We're going to get a couple of bloody noses as we figure out what is that middle layer," Estevez said. "There is a fear factor that we do not yet have solutions in place to do scalable implementations. Making the technology work and making sure it pays off is the real challenge."

The Five Digital Disruptions via OmMalik

Om Malik points out to expanding list of digital disruptions in the field of movie industry,advertising, infotainment,operating systems, computing , communications etc.

The quick-to-see highlights disruption mabe by
Mpegs to DVD;
PVRs to Ads;
Internet to Infotainments
Digital Cameras to Film Cameras
Linux to commercial Operating Systems
Network Computers to Monolithic systems
Wirless & VoiP to Traditional Networks

Very interesting..all the more so to note that most of this has happened in the last 10/15 years to acheive replacement scales.

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