October 08, 2009

RFID - Wristbands for Guests

Water park deploys RFID wristbands so that guests can open their lockers with a wave of their hand...

Splash! waterpark deploys RFID wristband system for guests
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Wednesday, October 7, 2009 in News
Splash! La Mirada Regional Aquatics Center in La Mirada, Calif. has implemented an RFID wristband system that allows guest keyless access to lockers in the water park.

The process at Splash! begins as guests receive a disposable Smart Band wristband designed by Precision Dynamics from the service desk. The Smart Band is a non-transferable wristband with a securely sealed RFID microchip, which is programmed with a unique 16-character code. Guests need only wave their wrist band in front of their assigned Smarte Locke locker for the door to pop open automatically.

In addition, money can be automatically loaded to the wristband to use as a cashless payment card, with the option of pre-allocating an amount for children. The band can also be used to activate vending machines and play arcade games, as well as identify lost children to help reunite them with their parents through its automated identification technology.

Posted by staff at 08:57 AM

June 05, 2009

Dairy Queen taps mobile tech for loyalty

dairy_queen.jpgWarren Buffet saw it coming maybe but here is old stalwart Dairy Queen running a new RFID-based program that hooks into users mobile phones. They seem to like the degree to which they can track customer behavior and more importantly redemption rates. High tech and Dairy Queen. Might have to have a Blizzard on that note....

Dairy Queen has signed on to use a new radio frequency identification (RFID)-based mobile loyalty platform from mobile marketing company Tetherball.

The new Tetherball platform, released June 2, helps clients like Dairy Queen deliver permission-based mobile coupon, rewards, sweepstakes and notifications to consumers through an RFID chip, called a Tetherball Tag, which attaches to their mobile phones. With the chip, received after signing up for a store's loyalty program, customers can receive offers from the store via standard text messaging. Offers are then redeemed at RFID point of sale terminals and kiosks, which Tetherball provides to its clients. The platform uses Mobiquitous to deliver real-time analytics and reports on the mobile campaigns.

“The RFID program is making it easier for us to track customer behavior,” said Jamie Guse, Web site manager for Dairy Queen. “It allows us to see what we can do to create loyalty within our program, and what kind of offers drive and increase activity within a specific store. The great thing is, we can do a lot more tracking with it than flat text messages, where we don't get any redemption rates.”

Before working with Tetherball, Dairy Queen only ran an e-mail-based loyalty program called the Blizzard Fan Club, which has around 2 million members. It ran its first mobile-based promotional campaign in March, and reported an average click-through rate of 22%. The new mobile loyalty program will promote a broader range of Dairy Queen products, including the chain's latest menu lineup, Sweet Deals.

“This takes the Blizzard Fan Club efforts to the next level and really allows us to try other things,” Guse said. “This is a lot more flexible and more spontaneous, and it helps keep us more top-of-mind for consumers. Whereas with e-mail they have to sift through tons of messages, with this you get the text message and you can go and redeem it right there.”

Dairy Queen's traditional target demographic is women, age 24 to 49, with two or three kids, but Guse expects users of the mobile program to skew a little bit younger.

Currently, Dairy Queen has the Tetherball system up and running in select locations, with plans to roll it out further throughout the year.

Posted by staff at 12:21 PM

November 04, 2008

ViVOtech Launches ViVOpay Kiosk II for Rapid Integration of Contactless & NFC Technology with Customer-Facing Self-Service Payment Systems

New ViVOpay Kiosk II Offers Fastest Time-to-Market with Easy Integration of Contactless Payments on New Systems and Without Requiring Card Association Re-Certification. They show the VivoKiosk which is a KIOSK enclosure. This solution is PCI-compliant.

ViVOtech Launches ViVOpay Kiosk II for Rapid Integration of Contactless & NFC Technology with Customer-Facing Self-Service Payment Systems - MarketWatch

PARIS, Nov 04, 2008 (BUSINESS WIRE) -- ViVOtech, the leader in Near Field Communication (NFC) mobile phone and contactless payment systems, today launched the most flexible contactless payment reader for the Kiosk, Transit turnstile, Bus validator and Ticketing markets. The new ViVOpay Kiosk II is a two-piece modular reader that enables easy installation in new self-service systems and is certified to work with all major contactless payment programs without requiring the total systems to go through a rigorous and costly compliance re-certification process with card associations and network providers.
The ViVOpay Kiosk II is a flexible contactless reader that is comprised of a compact controller module and a customer-facing contactless antenna module for easy integration into a new customer facing self-service system. Each module in the ViVOpay solution is packaged individually, giving equipment manufacturers complete flexibility in integrating contactless payment functionality with their systems. This flexible design approach allows the controller module to be securely installed within the cabinetry of the system while the small footprint antenna is installed in a customer-facing location with minimal effort.
"Self service markets are experiencing rapid growth worldwide and manufacturers of self-service systems are demanding a flexible pre-certified contactless reader that can be quickly and easily installed in new systems," said Mohammad Khan, ViVOtech President and Founder. "The modular design of our new ViVOpay Kiosk II and pre-certification with card associations and network providers enables solution providers in transportation, retail, parking and other industries to deliver contactless and NFC mobile-enabled devices to market fast and efficiently."
The ViVOpay Kiosk II features a weather-proof customer-facing antenna that allows it to be used in self-ordering kiosk systems across a wide variety of industries including parking meters, ticket validation/payment machines, transit turnstile systems, airport self check-in systems, on buses ticket acceptance machines, and many more. ViVOpay Kiosk II also enables self service systems to accept transactions from NFC mobile phone for payments, ticketing, promotions, and coupons redemption applications.
ViVOpay Kiosk II is certified by all major worldwide contactless payment programs.
ViVOtech will be demonstrating the new ViVOpay Kiosk II contactless payment reader at the CARTES & IDentification 2008 show in Paris, November 4th through the 6th, in booth # 4 Q 028.
About the ViVOpay Kiosk II
The ViVOpay Kiosk module is based on ViVOtech's award-winning and best-selling line of contactless payment readers. With over 450,000 units shipped to over 33 countries worldwide, key benefits for global operators include:
1. A 50 Ohm antenna based two-piece modular design for easy integration with the most popular kiosks, turnstiles and ticketing systems.
2. Certified contactless payment applications that do not require host system to undergo re-certification processes.
3. A ruggedized weather-proof and vandalism-proof design to fit variable needs of most unattended scenarios.
4. Remote firmware downloads for extending operations with future technology upgrades, and protection of capital investments.
5. A powerful ARM processor optimizes multiple payment and NFC applications.
About ViVOtech
ViVOtech ( www.vivotech.com) is the market leader in Near Field Communication (NFC) mobile payments, promotions and Over-the-Air (OTA) provisioning infrastructure software, transaction management software, NFC smart posters, and contactless terminals. These innovative solutions allow millions of consumers to make contactless payments with radio frequency-enabled credit/debit cards, fobs and NFC mobile phones. ViVOtech's products are used by the most prominent retailers all over the globe and today the company has shipped over 450,000 contactless terminals to more than 33 countries worldwide. In 2007 & 2008, ViVOtech has been named #1 in ABI Research's Contactless & NFC Reader Ranking Report. ViVOtech was also recognized as Top Contactless Payment Technology Vendor in Aberdeen Group's "Retail Contactless Payment Report." ViVOtech has received strategic investments from First Data Corporation, a leading provider of electronic and payment solutions for businesses worldwide, Citi, the leading global financial services company, NCR Corporation, a leading global technology company helping businesses build stronger relationship with their customers and Motorola, known globally for innovation and leadership in wireless and broadband communications.
SOURCE: ViVOtech, Inc.

SS|PR for ViVOtech, Inc.
Kristin Miller, 719-634-8292
[email protected]

Posted by staff at 01:45 PM

February 25, 2008

NY Commuters Go Contactless

MasterCard is working with transport operators in New York on a contactless payments trial that will enable customers to use devices such as cards, key fobs and mobile phones to pay fares on buses and trains.

Finextra: NY commuters to trial contactless payments on buses and trains

NY commuters to trial contactless payments on buses and trains

MasterCard is teaming with The Port Authority of New York and New Jersey and NJ Transit for the eight month trial, which is set to kick off in early 2009.

Customers will be able to pay fares on buses and trains between New York City and New Jersey by tapping their contactless device at turnstiles and on fare boxes.

The trial will cover 13 Port Authority train stations and two connecting NJ Transit bus routes.

However the contactless service will only be available to MasterCard PayPass customers for the first two months but will extended to other bank-issued contactless card users for the rest of the trial.

The new pilot will also be compatible with a trial of contactless payments technology at ticket barriers on the New York subway which is being conducted by Metropolitan Transit Agency (MTA), MasterCard and Citi. The MTA pilot has been running on the Lexington Avenue subway line since July 2006. The test programme - which currently includes readers in 80 fare gates at 30 stations - is set to be expanded later this year.

Commenting on the latest trial, Anthony Shorris, executive director, Port Authority, says: "This is all about making life easier for our customers. The region's diverse workforce relies on our extensive mass transit network to commute and we need to find a way to take a bit of the hassle out of trips that often span two or three separate systems."

Contactless transit payments systems have already proved successful in Taiwan, Hong Kong and the UK.

In Hong Kong over 16 million contactless Octopus cards - which combine transit payments with debit functionality - are in circulation. The card is supplied by Octopus holdings which is owned by the major transport operators in Hong Kong.

Meanwhile Transport for London (TfL) said last year that it has issued more than 10 million Oyster smart cards since the e-ticketing system was launched in 2003. TfL is also working with handset manufacturer Nokia and phone network O2 to develop a scheme that will enable customers to pay for tube journeys using mobile handsets.

Also in London, Barclaycard launched its combined contactless Oyster travel and debit card - OnePulse - in October last year. The card has a standard chip and PIN payment system, Oyster card functionality and Visa's 'wave and pay' contactless payment technology, which can be used for transactions of £10 or less and billed on the credit card account.

Posted by staff at 07:13 AM

August 07, 2007

RFID -- capital and funding news

Interesting to note that ViVOtech just got $22 million of funding announced today. Investors include First Data, NCR, Miven Venture amd one undisclosed Fortune 500. The original Blink for mastercard done by ViVO. They are one of the leaders (if not the leader) in contactless space.

Posted by staff at 11:55 AM

April 20, 2007

KIOSKS Case Study -- RFID and DVD Dispense

Grocery Stores Use RFID to Dispense Rental DVDs. Self-serve kiosks employ passive 13.56 MHz tags to dispense and track the discs that customers rent and return.

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April 18, 2007—Touch Automation, a Milwaukee-based provider of automated dispensing equipment, is using RFID technology in CD and DVD rental kiosks installed in stores. Within the past two years, the company has deployed at least 1,000 merchandising systems designed to provide customers the rental DVDs of their choice. Most of the installations have taken place within the past six months.

Unlike other automated disc rental machines, this solution uses RFID, rather than bar coding, to keep track of the discs checked into and out of the machines by customers. "The concept of utilizing RFID in this rental environment is new," says Brian Fitzpatrick, Touch Automation's director of engineering. Retailers can monitor and validate RFID-tagged CDs and DVDs entering and leaving the machine more accurately than they could with dispensing systems that used bar-coded labels to track the discs. Bar-coded labels are more susceptible to damage and can be read only if a bar-code scanner has a clear line of sight with the label.

The Touch Automation system allows customers to rent CDs and DVDs using RFID-enabled kiosks installed in stores.
Touch Automation machines, installed in retail locations across the country, are most commonly found in grocery stores. In most cases, the self-serve kiosks are owned and operated by private CD and DVD rental companies that have entered into hosting agreements with the grocery stores to lease space and/or provide a percentage of revenue from the system. Other grocery stores own and operate the system themselves. Either way, the kiosks allow customers to quickly rent a film or films while doing their regular shopping, providing immediate access to movies without having to either visit a video rental store or order the films online.

Touch Automation provides the kiosk, which measures 28 by 36 by 66 (or 84) inches and consists of a built-in RFID reader, a robotic mechanism for dispensing and receiving DVDs, a touch-panel screen and point-of-sale software. The kiosk is connected to a server via the Internet so the system owner can monitor it remotely. Touch Automation can host the Internet-based server for smaller companies, such as a small grocery store with its own kiosk. In most cases, however, all RFID and POS data is routed directly to the video retailer's own server.

According to Jan Svoboda, UPM Raflatac's sales and marketing director for the Americas, the Touch Automation system uses UPM Raflatac's circular Rafsec BullsEye HF 13.56 passive RFID tags, which comply with ISO 15693. The self-adhesive tags are applied to the disc's upper side, either by the disc rental company at the distribution center, or by a media distributor before it reaches the rental company's distribution center. At the same time, the DVD's unique ID number, SKU number, the movie's name and genre, as well as any other details the rental company chooses to write, are encoded onto the tag.

"The tag is used to manage inventory," Svoboda explains, "and to ensure a customer is getting the movie requested and returning the movie originally rented."

A customer using the kiosk follows prompts on the 17-inch screen to find the desired movie. After choosing what to rent, the customer presses the "checkout" prompt on the screen and swipes a credit card using the kiosk's built-in card reader. The machine's robotics system then pulls each chosen title from the storage area and brings it within an inch of the RFID reader, which captures the tag ID number of the movie. The Touch Automation system compares the RFID data with the data related to the customer's selection. If the information matches, the DVD is provided to the customer through a slot.

When returning the DVD, the customer presses the "return" prompt, the robotic system draws the disc into the machine and the reader captures the RFID data on the DVD's tag once more. If there is a match, the disc is returned to its storage position and the point-of-sale process proceeds to charge the customer's credit card the appropriate amount for the duration of the rental. The data related to the rentals can then be stored in a hosted Web site via a broadband Internet connection.

Posted by staff at 10:38 AM

June 09, 2005

Blinking Kiosks in Denver

Chase Bank U.S.A., a division JPMorgan and Chase, announced today the Colorado rollout of its new Chase "contactless" credit card called "blink." These card will be accepted at over 400 locations (including some with kiosks). Makes you wonder when they might show up at ATMs (and that impact).

Beginning in early June, Chase will start delivering the new cards with blink to more than 500,000 Colorado cardmembers, increasing the speed and convenience of credit card use at an initial base of more than 400 merchant locations in 63 cities across Colorado, including Arby's, 7-Eleven, Regal Cinema's and Walgreen's (FedEx has kiosks at these locations). Colorado will be the first state west of the Mississippi to receive the new blink technology. To support the effort, Chase will launch an integrated statewide marketing campaign, including print, broadcast and billboard advertising.

To use Chase cards with blink, cardmembers simply hold their card near a point-of-sale terminal at checkout, instead of swiping their card or handing it to a store employee. As cardmembers hold their Chase card with blink near the point-of-sale terminal, the terminal will quickly emit a tone and light up to signal payment confirmation.

"The new blink card is one of the many expanded services being offered to customers as Chase expands its presence in Colorado," said Carter Franke, chief marketing officer of Chase Card Services, the company's credit card division. "This is a community that savors every last minute available to take advantage of the active quality of life here, so we're confident they will take to contactless payment quickly and save time by using their Chase cards with blink often."

Working in conjunction with Visa U.S.A. and MasterCard International, Chase has identified stores where speed and convenience are important to consumers, and is introducing the new Chase card with blink with an impressive roster of participating Colorado merchants. 7-Eleven, Arby's and Walgreen's are among the first area merchants to adopt the new blink payment system and make it available to cardmembers. Regal Cinema's has also announced they will accept contactless payments at their locations beginning in July. The number of merchants accepting the Chase card with blink is expected to grow steadily throughout the year. The new Chase cards with blink also feature the traditional magnetic stripe and can be used anywhere Visa and MasterCard are accepted.

"We're excited to offer our customers the benefits of this new technology," said Leslie Andrews, director of marketing and consumer affairs for The Bailey Company. "We anticipate many benefits to our customers including increasing the speed of service we provide at all of our Colorado Arby's locations."

"7-Eleven continually looks for ways to use technology to provide added value and convenience for our customers. Contactless payments will give our customers faster service," said Rick Updyke, vice president of business development for 7-Eleven. "In support of Chase's launch of blink, 170 of our stores around Denver will be equipped with contactless payment acceptance technology."

Benefits for Cardmembers and Merchants

After taking part in MasterCard's Paypass pilot program in Orlando in 2003 and evaluating the results of trials from around the world, Chase understands the value and benefits that cards with blink provide to both cardmembers and merchants. Trial results confirmed that consumers find the contactless technology to be simple, fast and convenient, and that consumers enjoyed the added security from retaining possession of their cards while paying.

The most significant time savings was realized in the drive-thru environment, where transaction time was reduced by as much as 20 seconds as compared to cash. Consumers also liked the convenience of not carrying cash for everyday purchases, meaning they no longer needed to fumble around for change and small bills, or be confined by the cash in their purses or wallets. In fact, 60 percent of respondents to a recent MasterCard survey said they use cash less often today than they did five years ago.

For merchants, blink transactions speed check-out times and allow consumers to spend less time waiting in lines. Research has shown that customers who use blink cards often spend more per transaction and are happier with their store experience. Chase cards with blink also provide a reliable, trusted payment method that works well in environments where speed is important.

Making More Time for Colorado Residents

In support of the new Chase credit cards with blink and the roll out in Colorado, Chase recently commissioned a local telephone survey of 250 adult residents hoping to discover what really irks them about waiting in line to do everyday routine activities. The Chase "Just in a blink of time" Index, conducted by the Opinion Research Corporation and administered April 15 - 17, 2005, revealed how local residents make the most of waiting in line and how they look for time-saving alternatives. The margin of error for the local market sample is +/- 6.2 percent. The survey found:

-- The most dreaded place for Denver-Metro residents to wait in line is at the DMV (33%) followed by waiting in line at the grocery store (17%) and Denver International Airport (17%).

-- 39 percent of Denver residents will chat with their neighbor while waiting in line; 32 percent admit to getting really frustrated in line after 15 minutes.

-- The most coveted Colorado celebrity residents wish to wait in line with are current Denver mayor John Hickenlooper (30%), Nuggets star Carmelo Anthony (22%) and former Bronco quarterback John Elway (17%). More detailed Denver survey results are available at www.chaseblink.com/denver.

Integrated Marketing and Advertising Campaign

Beginning June 16, Chase will launch a fully integrated marketing and advertising campaign targeting Colorado cardmembers to help educate and excite local consumers about Chase cards with blink. The campaign will encourage cardmembers to "blink lunch," "blink a drink" or "blink a movie" by bringing to life how the card works at many leading merchants. The campaign will leverage television, radio, newspaper and billboard advertising to reach consumers, and will be complemented by several cardmember mailings and statement inserts about the new card functionality. Downloadable files of the ads are available at www.chaseblink.com/denver.

A History of Innovation

Chase will be the first credit card issuer to widely roll out this contactless payment product, which is consistent with the company's longstanding reputation of innovation in the industry. In the past 18 months, Chase has successfully created a number of innovative payment products such as the Starbucks Card Duetto Visa, a first-of-its-kind payment card blending Visa credit card functionality with the reloadable Starbucks Card; the stored-value Disney Dream Rewards Card as part of Disney's Visa Credit Card Program; and the AARP Visa Card which combines cardmembers' credit/membership card into a first-of-its-kind card that provides automatic discounts at the point-of-sale.

About JPMorgan Chase & Co.

JPMorgan Chase & Co. (NYSE:JPM) is a leading global financial services firm with assets of $1.2 trillion and operations in more than 50 countries. The company has approximately 94 million credit cards issued. Under the JPMorgan, Chase and Bank One brands, the firm serves millions of consumers in the United States and many of the world's most prominent corporate, institutional and government clients. Information about the firm is available at www.jpmorganchase.com.

Posted by keefner at 02:13 AM

March 31, 2005

Ritzy RFID

The 1,200-store Ritz Camera chain wants to let customers drop off film without having to slow down and thinks RFID-enabled contactless payments are picture perfect.

March 31, 2005
Ritz Camera Focuses on RFID-Accelerated Checkout
By Evan Schuman, Ziff Davis Internet

The 1,200-store Ritz Camera chain wants to let customers drop off film without having to slow down and thinks RFID-enabled contactless payments are picture perfect. With competitors including Wal-Mart moving in, this specialty retailer is stressing expertise and getting people in and out quickly.

Vice President of Information Systems Bob O'Hern (Ritz doesn't have a CIO, but he acts in that capacity) said he likes the RFID capabilities within a contactless payment system, but doesn't yet see its value in his supply chain. ADVERTISEMENT

Back-office use of RFID to track inventory "is still evolving, still several years away," O'Hern said in an eWEEK.com interview. "We are still in a wait-and-see mode."

But it's a very different story with payment. The RFID functionality there is much more limited, with the wireless component acting as little more than a translator. It wirelessly grabs payment data from a chip embedded into a credit card held six or fewer inches away. The reader then translates the data so that the chain's traditional POS (point of sale) system is tricked into thinking it just scanned a bar code. After that, the POS transaction proceeds normally.

When the card data is seen by the reader, it still requires a clerk to take an action to charge the card, which is to prevent a charge against an RFID-enabled card that is accidentally seen by a reader. O'Hern said Ritz does not currently plan on deploying self-checkout lanes, so a clerk should always be there to prevent accidental charges.

* RFID in the Enterprise Special Report
* Sun Eyes RFID Centers for Taiwan, Japan (eWEEK)
* Report: 'Follow the Leader' Brings Trouble in Retail RFID (ExtremeTech)
* RSA Finds More Security Flaws in RFID (ExtremeTech)

Test trials have "gone well," and the readers have proven "very accurate," O'Hern said. "It's really a nonissue from a systems standpoint. It appears the way it would if it had been swiped."

Traditionally, contactless payment systems are used to accelerate payments by anywhere from 20 seconds to about a minute. That can make a huge difference for businesses where speed is criticalsuch as at a convenience store chain like 7-Eleven or a quick-service restaurant such as McDonald'sbut little difference at a clothing store or a car dealership where the actual swiping accounts for a minuscule portion of the transaction time.

Ritz customers, however, fall into two camps, and some of the larger Ritz stores even split those two camps into separate checkout lanes. The first camp is the one where customers just want to pick up new film or pick up or drop off developed pictures. The second camp purchases cameras and photographic equipment. Contactless payments are focused on the first group.

"In some of our stories, during peak seasons, the lines do get long," O'Hern said. "Saving a few seconds on that does help."

Like most specialty retailers today, Ritz has come under intense pressure from everyone from local family-owned camera stores to national electronics chains. Even supermarkets and the ever-present Wal-Mart are now selling and developing photos.

"We're in a phenomenally competitive environment. Today, you can buy digital cameras anywhere," O'Hern said. "We are a specialty retailer. We have to have the expertise, and we have to get people in and out quick."

The major credit card companies have been aggressively pushing contactless payments as a way to differentiate themselves from each otheralthough, ironically, most are trying to differentiate themselves in seemingly identical waysand to boost the size of typical purchases, which increases their fees.

American Express, for example, has been saying that average transactions are 30 percent larger with their contactless payment systems compared with cash purchases. But it is unclear how contactless payment system purchases compare with those from non-contactless credit cards, which would seem the more logical comparison.

Discover has also been working with contactless payments as well as some biometric optionsfingerprint mostlythat try to achieve similarly convenient results. A finger scan is slightly more intrusive than a credit card scan, but a consumer doesn't have to go into a pocket or purse to pull out a finger. It's alwaysno pun intendedhandy.

At Ritz, O'Hern has been working with American Express, Visa and MasterCard on various contactless payment trials for the last year. "To be honest, the credit card [firms] are moving in the direction of contactless payment," he said. "We want to move with them."

The American Express contactless payment system that Ritz is evaluating is called ExpressPay, and American Express officials are quick to point out that it adheres to ISO 14443, which is the interoperable standard that the major credit card firms have been using for contactless deployments. Beyond Ritz, ExpressPay is currently being evaluated by Fry's (Kroger), Carl's Jr., Blimpie Subs & Salads, Dairy Queen, Cold Stone Creamery and Schlotzsky's Deli, an American Express statement said.

Ritz is in the midst of replacing its entire 12-year-old line of homegrown POS systems, and the new units will include signature-capture devices as well as the RFID contactless readers. The new POS systems will be using POS hardware from Ultimate Technology of Victor, N..Y, and will be running on an all-Linux network. The network being replaced includes Linux and some SCO Unix.

Why become a sole Linux shop? "It's technology that we were already comfortable with," O'Hern said.

With its low cost, Linux is generally seen as an easy return-on-investment argument, provided the support and applications are in place. But contactless payment systems are frequently seen as much harder boardroom sells.

Ritz had an easier time justifying a contactless payment system because it had already decided to completely replace its POS network. That made the additional expenses for contactless relatively trivial.

What if the POS swap had been completed before the contactless payment trial had been proposed? That probably would have made a difference, O'Hern said. "Contactless all by itself probably would have been a very hard sell."

Posted by keefner at 10:35 PM

February 10, 2005

RFID Market Analysis

RFID report provides fresh forecasts & analysis

from Using RFID

Monday February 7, 2005

A new report published by IDTechEx examines and analyses the rapidly growing and diversifying market for Radio Frequency Identification technology and devices, revealing that in 2005 more RFID tags will be sold than in the 60 years since their invention.

The report, 'RFID Forecasts, Players and Opportunities 2005-2015', researched and written by Dr Peter Harrop explains that this rapid growth will be because retailers and military forces are demanding, for the first time, that suppliers fit tags to pallets and cases to save cost and improve service but many other applications will be growing very rapidly. This article is copyright 2005 UsingRFID.com.

According to Harrop, such exponential growth will continue unabated and, by 2015, the value of sales of RFID tags will have increased by a factor of 11 over the figure for 2005. The value of the total market, including systems and service, is predicted to soar from US$2.32 billion in 2005 to some US$26.9 billion in 2015.

The next phases of growth in the market will, it seems, be driven by another dramatic development: the tagging of high volume items - notably consumer goods, drugs and postal packages - at the request of retailers, military forces and postal authorities, and for legal reasons. In these cases, the primary benefits sought will be broader and will include cost, increased sales, improved safety, reduced crime and improved customer service.

Using new research from around the world, the report analyses the market in a number of ways, carrying over 150 illustrative tables and figures, including projections for label vs non label, EPC vs non-EPC, active vs passive, chip vs chipless, markets by geographical region, application, tag format, and tag location. The report also covers the emergence of new products, legal and demand pressures, and potential impediments for the years to come.

Major players, both now and those likely to be seen in the future, throughout the various aspects of the value chain, are also identified and the big orders and milestones to come are analysed - such as the rollout of the US$6 billion national ID card system in China.

Of course, not everyone wants to serve the severely price constrained, highest volume markets. For these industry players the report also examines niches of at least US1 billion potential that are emerging, as well as many smaller opportunities where there is less competition. They include:

Those in prison and on parole;

Passports in the face of new terrorism resulting in new laws;

Livestock and food traceability in the face of new laws, bioterrorism, avian flu, BSE, fraud with subsidies etc.

Intermodal containers (Smart and Secure Tradelanes and other initiatives);


Ubiquitous Sensor Networks (USN), for warning of natural disasters, military and other purposes.

More Info:

Posted by Craig at 02:04 PM

January 31, 2005

Security and RFID

Texas Instruments DST tags used in vehicle immobilisers and ExxonMobil's SpeedPass system cracked.

Thiefproof car key cracked
By John Leyden
Published Monday 31st January 2005 16:02 GMT

Researchers have discovered cryptographic vulnerabilities in the RFID technology used in high-security car keys and petrol pump payment systems. The attack against Texas Instruments DST tags used in vehicle immobilisers and ExxonMobil's SpeedPass system was identified by experts at Johns Hopkins University and RSA Laboratories.

The algorithm used in TI's DST tags is an unpublished, proprietary cipher that uses a 40-bit key. Using a black-box reverse-engineering method, the team were able to unravel the algorithm used in the DST tags. This information allowed them to programme a commercial microchip costing less than $200 to find the secret key of a gasoline purchase tag owned by one of the researchers. Using 16 of these PFGA devices in parallel allowed researchers to reduce search time from 10 hours to around 15 minutes.

The vulnerable technology is used in more than six million key chain tags used for wireless gasoline purchases and in an estimated 150 million keys for newer vehicles built by at least three leading manufacturers. The researchers warn that tech-savvy criminals could wirelessly probe a car key tag or payment tag in close proximity, and process this data using the code breaking techniques to crack secret keys and circumvent cryptographic security safeguards. This might allow crooks to charge their own gasoline purchases to the tag owner's account or to get around electronic vehicle immobilisation techniques. Crooks would still need to defeat physical locks to steal cars.

"We've found that the security measures built into these devices are inadequate," said Avi Rubin, technical director of the Johns Hopkins Information Security Institute and an author of the study. "Millions of tags that are currently in use by consumers have an encryption function that can be cracked without requiring direct contact. An attacker who cracks the secret key in an RFID tag can then bypass security measures and fool tag readers in cars or at gas stations."

The researchers have alerted Texas Instruments about the initial findings of their research, which continues. The team recommends a program of distributing free metallic sheaths to cover its RFID devices when they are not being used in order to make attacks more difficult.

The company that markets ExxonMobil's SpeedPass system has said it has no knowledge that any fraudulent purchases have ever been made with a cloned version of its device.

Posted by Craig at 05:04 PM

January 20, 2005

RFID Momentum with Tesco

Tesco signs contract to buy EPC/RFID readers

Noted on UsingRFID

Wednesday January 19, 2005

ADT has announced the signing of a multi-year contract with UK supermarket chain Tesco Plc as its exclusive supplier of Electronic Product Code (EPC) Radio Frequency Identification (RFID) readers and antennae.

The contract follows the successful completion of an RFID pilot programme with Tesco. The first phase of the contract involves the provision of over 4,000 readers and 16,000 antennae by autumn 2005 for the dock doors and merchandise receipt points at approximately 1,300 Tesco stores and 35 distribution centres across the UK. Further deployments are planned, potentially including international Tesco business units. This article is copyright 2005 UsingRFID.com.

The solution will be a key enabler of Tesco's so-called 'Radio Barcode' and secure supply chain programmes, which were created to promote increased product availability, lower prices, and improved customer service. Tesco's initiative supports the goals of EPCglobal for the worldwide adoption of a universal standard for the retail supply chain.

"We continually look at ways in which we can make life better for our customers, and Radio Barcodes is a technology that we believe can help us do this," said Colin Cobain, IT Director for Tesco Plc. "ADT came up with a solution that meets the requirements of our supply chain and we have been extremely impressed with the trials run to-date. Their pan-European capabilities are key to meeting our roll-out plans."

"We applaud Tesco's vision and thank them for their leadership in driving the RFID initiative," added Dave Robinson, President for Tyco Fire & Security. ADT, part of Tyco Fire & Security, designs, installs and services electronic security systems for retail, business and government and home intruder protection and detection systems.

More Info:

Posted by Craig at 02:06 PM

January 17, 2005

Embedded RFID and People

Leave it to the Scots to start implanting RFID chips so they can get a drink faster!

Noted on KioskNews.org

Telegraph News
Microchip to allow wallet-free drinking
By Auslan Cramb, Scottish Correspondent
(Filed: 17/01/2005)

A Scottish nightclub is about to become the first in Britain to offer its customers the chance to have a microchip implanted in their arm to save them carrying cash.

The "digital wallet", the size of a grain of rice, guarantees entry to the club and allows customers to buy drinks on account. Brad Stevens, owner of Bar Soba in Glasgow, said his customers had responded enthusiastically to the idea.

The VeriChip is inserted by a medical professional and then scanned for its unique ID number as a customer enters the bar.

"There are a number of advantages, from instant access, to not having to carry money or credit cards, to letting bar staff know a customer's name and favourite drink," said Mr Stevens. "By the time you walk through the door to the bar, your favourite drink is waiting for you and the bar staff can greet you by name."

However, he said the bar would also have to make sure that customers with the chip had a limit on how much they could spend to prevent them drinking beyond their ability to pay.

The scheme was criticised by a spokesman for the Scottish Executive, who said the microchip could encourage excessive drinking, and by Notags, a consumer group set up to resist the spread of radio frequency identification devices.

A spokesman said: "The chip contains your name and ID number and, as this could be read remotely without your knowledge, that is already too much information."

Posted by Craig at 02:01 PM

January 04, 2005

Sheetz Rolls Out PayPass

Sheetz, Inc., announced that it will be accepting MasterCard PayPass across its entire chain of stores.


Sheetz Puts MasterCard PayPass to Work
January 4, 2005

ALTOONA, PA -- Sheetz, Inc., announced that it will be accepting MasterCard PayPass across its entire chain of stores. The convenience store chain said it's the first retailer in the nation to accept MasterCard International's radio-frequency (RF)-based payment option.

"Sheetz prides itself on being a pioneer in the convenience store industry, and being the first retailer to implement 'tap and go' payments across the entire chain is yet another example of our mission to continually improve our customers' shopping experience," said Louie Sheetz, executive vice president of marketing for Sheetz. "MasterCard PayPass leads the way in the RF-based payment segment and will provide Sheetz customers with more convenience and time savings at the checkout than ever before."

All 305 Sheetz locations will be equipped and ready to accept MasterCard PayPass in-store by March 1. Sheetz will be expanding PayPass acceptance to all of its stores' gas pumps throughout the spring of 2005.

MasterCard PayPass cardholders can pay for purchases at Sheetz by tapping their PayPass-enabled payment card on a specially equipped terminal that utilizes an RF chip to complete a payment transaction, said Sheetz, eliminating the need for customers to hand over their payment card to a merchant or manually swipe it through a reader. Moments after the cardholder taps his or her PayPass-enabled card, account details are communicated to the terminal and then processed through the MasterCard network for clearing and settlement.

According to Sheetz, the MasterCard PayPass streamlines customers' shopping experience by eliminating the need for customers to sign their payment card receipts for all sales under $25. Currently, more than 80 percent of convenience store transactions are less than $25.

Posted by Craig at 02:24 PM

September 30, 2004

RFID and C-Stores

RFID 7-Eleven Style

RFID to Be Served 7-Eleven Style

September 11, 2004
By Evan Schuman

A dairy truck driver pulls up to a 7-Eleven convenience store and is preparing to deliver crates of milk when the store manager greets him.
"Hold on a moment," the manager says, as he looks at an RFID readout on his PDA. "These crates over here are bad. Sure, they're registering a good temperature now, but it looks like they got way too warm for nine hours yesterday. Did you pull over for a break and suffer refrigeration problems? No matter. I won't take these three over here, but it looks like the others are fine. Bring 'em in."

That hypothetical scene is exactly where Keith Morrowthe CIO of $36 billion retail convenience store giant 7-Elevenwould like to see RFID take the nation's largest convenience store chain. But to get those and other capabilities, Morrow knows that he must pave his own path to RFID and not let other industry leaders clear the way.

Wal-Mart was out early and loudly in the RFID game, forcing suppliers to begin the expensive and painful retrofitting and new procedure processes. Other major retail CIOsincluding Best Buy and Circuit Cityhave said they are willing to let Wal-Mart and others lead the way and therefore make the mistakes that they can inexpensively learn from. But 7-Eleven sees its operations as radically different than most other major retailers and that the convenience store segment has far too many unique challenges and opportunities to follow the leader.

To read more about Best Buy's RFID strategy, click here.

"If we do that, we're just going to get a Wal-Mart solution. I think our implementation will have to be different. Our requirements are different. It's not in our best interest to let someone else completely" set the direction, Morrow said in an eWEEK.com interview.

Much of this involves how extremely different 7-Eleven's more than 27,000 stores are from non-convenience chain retailers. Beyond the stores being open 24-by-7, 7-Elevens have an extremely variedeven by today's standardproduct mix, from gasoline and sandwiches to prepaid phone cards and money orders. A typical 7-Eleven carries about 2,500 different products.

The neighborhood locations draw not only a large number of customersabout 6 million a daybut a demographic range that is among the most diverse anywhere in retail, cutting across almost all age and income categories. "The demographic of our customers is everyone," Morrow said. On-site inventory is minimal. At any point, "most of our inventory is on trucks," he said.

To read more about the challenges of a retail RFID strategy, click here.

Of the greatest IT concern, though, is the small size of each store, often supporting only two and maybe three POS (point of sale) units. Each shopping trip is also very quick, making the customer expectation of a quick trip out of the store essential. An inconvenient convenience store is not long for this world.

Next Page: A relatively young POS fleet. The small number of POSes on location means that any hardware delay is extremely noticeable. Although 7-Eleven's POS fleet is relatively young (averaging about six years old, while many larger POS systems today are pushing the 20-year-old mark and beyond), the company is looking forward to platform upgrades, store by store. "There are a lot of pent-up demands with our POS," Morrow said.

Because of that diverse customer base, product mix and huge number of inventory turns, 7-Eleven has had to delegate an unusually high percentage of its purchasing decisions down to the store manager level.

Given the differing tastes and needs, 7-Eleven won't even leave many of those decisions to the regional managers. Customer demands "vary greatly from street to street" in some areas. "We have to be the local neighborhood-type store [so that we can have] the right products at the moment of truth, which is when the customer wants to buy," Morrow said.

To see how retailers are exploring using consumer PDAs and cell phones as checkout devices, click here.

That's a lot easier said than done. The CIO points out that such a system "is hard to execute consistently because it's reliant on [a lot of] people in the work force."

The retailer has combined a homegrown proprietary retail information system with repurposed hardware from Hewlett-Packard Co. (back-office servers), NCR (POS terminals) and NEC handheld ordering devices (docked, not wireless). HP recently announced a five-year, $55 million deal with 7-Eleven to deliver more than 5,000 custom, factory-bundled technology packages and on-site installation.

But 7-Eleven's homegrown software doesn't just deliver the standard inventory and ordering data. With an eye on helping local managers stay locally current, it integrates national weather service updates with local event news. A blizzard, a tournament ballgame and a parade will all have major impacts on proper purchasing decisions.

"We make it easier to use with lots of charts and graphs," and the system reports back to headquarters every two hours, Morrow said.

The retailer said that his chain was very interested in RFID, but it's the most futuristic elementssuch as item-level trackingthat interests him most, although he agreed with other major retailers that such deliverables are likely a half-decade away. "We want that information at a more granular level about products, especially at the food and drink level," he said.

The temperature tracking example "is one piece that we are very interested in" because of the chain's heavy reliance on perishables.

"In a perfect world, we'd be able to monitor [everything] through the life of fresh products," Morrow said.

Next Page: Great capabilities, but at what cost? Morrow added that his chief worry is the pricing impact. "What would it do to the cost of a sandwich?" At today's pricing, it could easily double the cost. But RFID pricing of all kinds is expected to sharply decrease between now and when per-item tracking is ready for wide-scale deployment, so it's not clear what pricing impacts would happen.

Morrow also wants to use RFID to track ingredient and nutritional information, along with expiration dates. A typical 7-Eleven store, for example, doesn't merely sell cheese. It sells cheese in the dairy refrigerator, and it sells sandwiches with cheese that an employee slices and perhaps a hoagie with melted cheese.

Service such as preparing fresh sandwiches is a crucial way to keep customers, as Toys 'R' Us learned the hard way. Click here to read more.

For the cheese in the aisle, "the shelf would know expiration dates" and when a container hit its expiration date, the product's RFID tag would alert the POS "and say, 'Come and get me.'"

What is more complicated is knowing when the melted cheese is set to expire and when the cheese in a sandwich is set to expire. This could include "the lot number on the mayonnaise, the block of cheese. We could get it to the nth degree."

Posted by Craig at 02:03 PM

September 27, 2004

RFID news

NY Times: IBM to Invest $250 Million

What's in the Box? Radio Tags Know That, and More

Published: September 27, 2004

.B.M. plans to announce today that it will invest $250 million over the next five years and employ 1,000 people in a new business unit to support products and services related to sensor networks. The new unit will also focus on helping businesses exploit sensor networks by, for example, setting up computer systems that use sensor data to quickly identify supply shortages and automatically adjust delivery schedules.


"We are moving from batches of information about operations to continuous visibility," said Gary Cohen, general manager of the pervasive computing group at International Business Machines.

The announcement is timed to attract the attention of more than 1,200 engineers and executives headed to Baltimore this week for a trade show that will highlight progress in - and barriers to - the use of radio tags to identify and track machinery and consumer goods.

I.B.M.'s goal, analysts said, is to persuade businesses to view radio tagging - one of the hottest growth areas for mobile sensor technology - as just one element of a new wave of information technology outside of data centers that must be integrated to be exploited.

Radio tags can be read in groups instead of one by one, and they hold far more data than bar codes. In addition to indicating what product a carton holds, they can specify when and where that particular item was made and its intended destination.

The new tags, known as passive RFID, for radio frequency identification, are small, paper-thin and cheaper than radio tags like E-ZPass toll collectors because they receive enough energy to communicate from signals sent by the reader. That does away with the need for batteries.

I.B.M.'s effort is one of many recent indicators that a drive for widespread adoption of passive radio tags, spurred by Wal-Mart Stores and the Defense Department, is gaining traction. Oat Systems, based in Waltham, Mass., said that Tesco, the British retailer, had selected its software to manage an RFID network that will reach more than 2,000 stores. At the trade show, Oat is also expected to announce a joint marketing agreement with Hewlett-Packard, which has been a leader both in using RFID on its own products and in providing consulting services to others.

Hewlett said it began assigning consultants to RFID work two years ago and now has 350 of them, as well 1,000 other employees working on various aspects of RFID. It also is about to announce a marketing alliance with BearingPoint, a large consulting firm based in McLean, Va., that was formerly part of KPMG.

"People are realizing that they will have to run their businesses this way, and they are starting to live with it," said Marc D. Osofsky, vice president of marketing for Oat Systems.

Large retailers, led by Wal-Mart, and major consumer goods companies like Procter & Gamble and Gillette see the tags initially as tools to combat theft and make their supply chains more efficient. They say the tags should mean that fewer consumers will find that a store is out of the product they want to buy. That is now the outcome of about 5 percent of shopping trips. Wal-Mart has set a deadline of Jan. 1 for its top 100 suppliers to be shipping goods radio-tagged to specifications developed by EPCglobal, an industry organization (the name is derived from "electronic product code"). Several other retailers, including Albertson's, Target and Best Buy, have supported adoption of the technology.

The technology is also drawing strong interest from drug companies and the Food and Drug Administration, which see it as useful in fighting counterfeiting, monitoring freshness and speeding up product recalls. And Boeing and Airbus are working with major airlines to put such electronic tags on all aircraft parts to reduce risks of maintenance errors and help airlines replace faulty equipment more quickly.

So far, the work involving consumer goods has consisted largely of pilot projects; a limited number of cartons and pallets of goods have been shipped to a handful of distribution centers and stores. A few large products, like electronics from Hewlett-Packard, are being individually tagged. Most of the companies involved in pilot tests have set up so-called slap-and-ship stations, where workers manually apply the tags at far slower speeds than would be required if all cartons and pallets were being tagged and monitored.

Such tests, and the use of the technology on library books, has stoked concern among some privacy advocates that governments and businesses will eventually use the technology to secretly accumulate health and behavioral data on people without their consent. That simmering issue was reflected last month in a letter from Senator Bill Nelson, a Florida Democrat, to the Federal Trade Commission, stating that RFID posed security and privacy risks.

But advocates for the technology say they foresee few hurdles to reaching agreements on notifying consumers when tags are present, or to creating tags that consumers can disable after they purchase goods. For now, the greater challenge is driving down the cost and improving the reliability of the hardware and software.

Companies like I.B.M. have to provide a road map that lays out small steps toward deployment of radio-tagging and other sensor technologies, said Navi Radjou, an analyst at Forrester, a market research firm in Cambridge, Mass. "People won't do big-bang implementations," he said.

The New York Times > Technology > What's in the Box? Radio Tags Know That, and More

Posted by Craig at 05:06 PM

September 15, 2004

Embeddable RFID Readers

ThingMagic and WJ Communications introduce low-cost multiprotocol RFID readers for installation in label encoders and printers and other devices.

Sept. 13, 2004Targeting the rapidly emerging market for embedded RFID readers, two companies are introducing low-cost multiprotocol RFID readers for installation in printers and other equipment. RFID reader designer ThingMagicThingMagic describes its new credit card-size new Mercury 4e (M4e) reader as the smallest, fastest and most powerful reader available. RF semiconductors company WJ Communications believes its new MPR 6000 RFID Card is the first multiprotocol UHF reader to come in the form of a PCMCIA (Personal Computer Memory Card International Association) Type II card.
ThingMagic's Reynolds

The new Mercury 4e, which is shipping immediately, is a scaled-down version of ThingMagics Mercury 4 reader launched in July this year (see ThingMagic Bets on Smart Readers). The new reader uses the same Texas Instruments digital signal processors to operate the same ThingMagic firmware used in its Mercury4 reader, but the company managed to reduce the size of the M4e by removing the separate power and networking capabilities of the larger reader and offloading those functions to the machine in which the Mercury4e will be embedded.

The company has also reduced the cost of the smaller reader from its larger relative. A year ago it wouldnt have been possible to build such a small reader at a low cost, but by using technology developed for multimedia cell phones, we can leverage the volume production of these processors to cut the cost of the M4e, says Matt Reynolds, cofounder of ThingMagic, which is based in Cambridge, Mass. According to company, the M4e will be priced in the hundreds of dollars as opposed to the thousands of dollar for its M4 fixed reader.

Because the M4e will be embedded in its customers own products rather than being stand-alone products, ThingMagic is taking a different route to market with its new reader. Previously, ThingMagic has licensed its designs to reader manufacturers such as Omron and Tyco Internationals Sensormatic division. With the M4e, ThingMagic says it has to be responsible for manufacturing the product albeit using contract manufacturers. Its a different business approach because the M4e is a part, not a product, says Kevin Ashton, ThingMagics vice president in charge of marketing and business development.

ThingMagic is convinced that the embedded reader market represents a significant potential market for the company. The market for embedded readers is as high or even higher on a volume basis in the short term, as a lot of companies are aiming to meet retail mandates are focusing on making labels for cases and pallets before deploying fixed readers for portals. We expect to see the market grow significantly in 2005-2006, says Reynolds.

The M4e reader uses software-defined radio technology to enable it simultaneously read UHF tags based EPC Class 1 and 0 protocols, as well as ISO 18000-6B and Philips UCODE EPC 1.19. This architecture will also allow the unit to be upgraded for up-and-coming "air-interface" protocols (the way tags and readers communicate), including the forthcoming EPC Class 1 Generation 2. Typical upgrade time, says the company, is 10 seconds.

The reader can be configured to work with one or two antennas that both transmit and receive or with two antennas where one antenna transmits and the other receives. To communicate with a printer or other device in which it is embedded, the M4e uses a RS232 TTL 10-pin serial port.

WJ Communications MPR 6000 RFID Card, on the other hand, uses a 68-pin PCMCIA connector. PCMCIA is a standard designed to provide interchangeability among mobile computers and other devices where ruggedness, low power and small size are critical. PCMCIA cards are used in mobile computers as well as digital cameras, cable TV, set-top boxes, and automobiles.
WJ's MPR 6000 reader

The Milpitas, Calif.-based company chose to use the PCMCIA format for its new multiprotocol reader so that the reader can be easily and quickly installed in any device that has a device that has a PCMCIA Type II slot, including handheld PocketPCs, bar code readers and printers, and smart label printers and applicators.

Set to start shipping in the fourth quarter, the MPR 6000 has two antenna ports that can both transmit and receive simultaneously. The device can read EPC Class 0 and EPC Class 1 tags and encode EPC Class 1 tags. It will also be upgradeable to read and encode tags based on the UHF Gen 2 standard through a software upgrade.

WJ Communications believes that the relatively low cost of the PCMCIA readers (the company plans to announce pricing within the next few days) gives users a way to circumvent the expense of trying to deploy RFID readers to get 100 percent read rates. Low-cost readers provide the option to put redundancy into any RFID reader system, according to the company, so that if a portal isnt getting 100 percent reads, additional affordable readers can be deployed.

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RFID Journal - New Embeddable RFID Readers

Posted by Craig at 10:30 PM

August 31, 2004

McDonalds Cashless

McDonald's to use cashless RFID payment system

Globe and Mail Update

TORONTO, Aug. 18 McDonald's restaurants has announced an agreement to accept MasterCard PayPass, a new "contactless" payment option utilizing radio frequency technology at select McDonald's restaurants in the United States. Participating McDonald's restaurants in Dallas and the New York metropolitan area will implement MasterCard PayPass later this year, with additional locations to be added in 2005.

MasterCard PayPass cardholders can make purchases without swiping their cards through a traditional card reader. PayPass cardholders tap or wave the card on or near a equipped terminal that utilizes a radio frequency (RF) chip to complete a payment transaction. McDonald's will have Verifone Omni 7000 card-readers installed to accept the new MasterCard PayPass card.


Posted by Craig at 03:43 PM

August 05, 2004

RFID Smart Card Access

NASA to control access with Philips contactless chips

Thursday August 5, 2004

The US National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) has chosen 'MIFARE DESFire' contactless chip technology from Royal Philips Electronics for secured smart card-based access to its facilities.

Compliant with the US government's Government Smart Card Interoperability Specification (GSC-IS) standard, Philips' chip technology is to be incorporated into smart cards carried by agency employees and contractors for the secure and accurate authentication of their identity. This article is copyright 2004 UsingRFID.com.

In partnership with smart card systems integrator Maximus, NASA is the latest federal agency to move from low-frequency (125Khz) to ISO 14443 technology for better interoperability based on GSC-IS.

Other government agencies using GSC-IS compliant systems based on the MIFARE DESFire chip will have the option to allow each other's physical access cards to work in different secure areas, meaning that inter-agency collaboration can be greatly enhanced.

Field trial
A field trial is planned at the Marshall Space Flight Center in Alabama in summer 2004, with the potential to expand the project to some 2,000 employees. If the trial is successful and approval is secured from the Office of Management and Budget, NASA plans to deploy more than 100,000 smart cards before the end of the fiscal year 2005 (including cards for contractors and government employees).

"Security is at the forefront of concern for our government customers today," noted Jeremy Grant, vice president of enterprise solutions for Maximus. "Agencies don't want to invest in systems that will not be interoperable."

For additional information:
Visit Philips at http://www.semiconductors.philips.com
Visit Maximus at http://www.maximus.com

Source: Royal Philips Electronics

Posted by Craig at 02:17 PM

July 15, 2004

RFID Cellphones

According to a new report from ABI Research, within a few years, users of cell phones and other handheld devices will use near field communication (NFC) to access services and buy products simply by holding their own device close to another one.

Developing RFID-Enabled Phones
A report by ABI Research predicts that within a few years, as many as 50 percent of cell phones will incorporate RFID chips to enable near field communication.
By Claire Swedberg

July 9, 2004Some major cell phone manufacturers are preparing the release communication devices incorporating RFID technology that they hope will change the way consumers buy products, services and use their credit cards. According to a new report from ABI Research, within a few years, users of cell phones and other handheld devices will use near field communication (NFC) to access services and buy products simply by holding their own device close to another one.
ABI's Michielsen

NFC technology uses short-range RFID transmissions that provide easy and secure communications between various devices. That means that, for example, making a reservation could be as simple as holding your phone close (less than 20 centimeters) to a poster or advertising billboard. Without ever dialing a number or speaking to anyone on the phone, youd be able to purchase concert tickets, book hotel rooms and make other types of reservations and have these transactions charged to a credit card using account information stored in the handheld device or phone.

These transactions can be done without user configuration. In other words, the RFID tag inside the device will automatically connect, via the cellular connection or through NFC-enabled Wi-Fi or Bluetooth to the appropriate Web site so you can learn about the product or service, transfer content such as audio or video files, or carry out a commercial transaction.

NFC is interesting because it is a peer-to-peer communication protocol [a communication model in which devices link directly to each other, without the intervention of any intermediary device or system], enabling two [RFID] cards to talk, while also simultaneously being an active and passive RFID solution, says Erik Michielsen, a director at ABI Research, which is based in Oyster Bay, N.Y. Since all devices are equipped with built-in RFID readers, two-way communication is possible Depending on the type of NFC device, data transfer rates will be 106, 212, or 424 kbps. To make this work, an NFC chip embedded in a phone can act as an RFID reader when the phone is on and a passive smart label or RFID tag when the phone is off. NFC chips can hold 64 to 128 bits of memory Data, which would be likely to include an identification number initially, would be encrypted before it is transmitted.

The lithium ion batteries within a cell phone or other device will provide power needed for the tags active operation. Therefore, the active tag would not require its own internal power source. Rather, it would draw power from devices battery.

Manufacturers of the NFC chips would include the same companies that currently make RFID tags, labels or chips, including Philips, TI, Infineon, Sony, ASK and Inside Contactless. ABI Research sees NFC-enabled cell phones as the initial driver in the market. Consumers can expect the first NFC-equipped handsets to come on the market in 2005. By 2009, ABI estimates that up to 50 percent of the cell phones is use will be NFC-enabled.

Overseeing the new technologys emergence is the NFC Forum, a group comprised of communications giants Nokia, Philips and Sony. In December 2002, when the general assembly of ECMA International, an industry association dedicated to the standardization in Information technology and telecommunications, adopted the NFC Interface and Protocol-1 (NFCIP-1), also known as ECMA-340. Developed by the NFC Forum, this protocol enables two devices operating at 13.56 MHz to share data on a peer-to-peer configuration when brought within close proximity of each other. One year later, ECMA published NFCIP-2 (ECMA-352) as the proposed next generation of the protocol, and has submitted it for adoption to Joint Technical Committee 1 (JTC1), the information technology standardization committee of the International Standards Organization (ISO) and International Electrotechnical Commission (IEC).

According to Michielsen, Visa and Universal Music each have already done trials of NFC-enabled cell phones with Philips. In addition, Visa and Nokia recently completed a trial together involving NFC-enabled cell phones in Finland. These trials focused on payment and transaction security.

ABIs report, "Near Field Communications," can be purchased and accessed through ABIs Web site, www.abiresearch.com.

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Posted by Craig at 02:54 PM

July 08, 2004

Justifying RFID

Strategic advantage of RFID still sought, says study.

Monday July 5, 2004

Seven out of ten companies are in the discovery and information gathering phase of adopting RFID technology, according to a new joint study by BearingPoint, the Software & Information Industry Association (SIIA), and IDG's CIO magazine.

Above and beyond the supplier mandates that are currently driving the adoption of RFID technology, the study found that many companies are going still further in pursuit of strategic advantage. But some confusion still exists: while almost half of the survey's respondents described RFID as "a revolutionary technology that will have widespread impact", only 22% claimed a high understanding of the technology, and less than half claimed even a moderate level of understanding. This article is copyright 2004 UsingRFID.com.

Overcoming barriers
"Organisations must recognise that the adoption of RFID follows the same process as other emerging technologies," said Nick Evans, global lead for BearingPoint's Emerging Technology practice. "Over time, the market will address the barriers to adoption such as standards, security and privacy issues, and infrastructure costs. Early adopters who look beyond mere compliance will see increasing business value over time as initial hurdles are overcome."

The study's key findings include:

54% are going above and beyond compliance to realise strategic advantage;

58% will be in the test phase of their evaluation within one year;

51% expect to deploy projects within two years;

Mandates from government and major retailers are spurring activity among 46% of respondents.

38% are waiting for industry or government guidance to help them address customer privacy issues, and are delaying customer-facing activities;

CIOs view the top three business benefits of using RFID in the short term as being: reduction of labour costs; more efficient business processes; tighter connection with business partners and suppliers;

The top three business risks of using RFID in the short term are seen as being: standards are not yet finalised; there are no clear business benefits or return on investment; a lack of industry-wide adoption.

In 2005-2007, spending on RFID integration is estimated to overtake spending on RFID software products and application development.

Business goals
In the near term, respondents plan to use the technology for real-time location systems (56%), supply chain pallet/case management (55%) and asset management (55%) within 12 months. In two years time, many expect to be using RFID for smart shelving for pharmaceuticals (67%), smart-shelving for retail products (61%), and for mobile-commerce applications (55%).

"RFID is an important development in the IT universe," commented Fred Hoch, SIIA's vice president of software programmes. "Our members are keenly interested in RFID and how it can best be implemented. RFID is on its way to pushing into the enterprise IT mainstream."

"The survey findings indicate that RFID technology will play a key role in organisations' business strategies in the next 12 to 24 months," concluded Lorraine Cosgrove, research editor for CIO magazine. "Companies are looking to RFID to provide a competitive edge."

The survey, 'RFID Adoption: Current and Future Plans', was conducted by BearingPoint Inc., the Software & Information Industry Association (SIIA), and CIO magazine, to examine the state of RFID adoption and to determine current market demand, future application areas, business and technology risks and rewards, and requirements for solution providers. More than 350 IT executives participated in the survey, representing various sectors such as government, retail and wholesale, manufacturing, transportation, technology, financial services, and communications.

For additional information:
Visit BearingPoint at http://www.bearingpoint.com
Visit CIO Magazine at http://www.cio.com
Visit SIIA at http://www.siia.net

Sources: BearingPoint Inc.; SIIA; CIO Magazine

Wise Marketer site

Posted by Craig at 02:50 PM

June 24, 2004

RFID on a Watch

JCB to pilot contactless payment wrist-watches

Monday June 21, 2004

The international credit card issuer, JCB Co. Ltd., has launched a two month site trial of its new wrist-watch based Offica corporate solution for access control in Tokyo, in conjunction with Casio Computer Co. Ltd., using contactless chips from Sony.

The Offica Watch, made in cooperation with Casio, contains employee identification, access control, and cashless payment features. Twenty-five of JCB's employees are to use the Offica Watch instead of the current Offica card to access the JCB tower in central Tokyo, to make purchases at company restaurants and stores, and to carry out a variety of administrative functions. This article is copyright 2004 UsingRFID.com.

"This watch will improve convenience and user-friendliness for the users, as they don't have to take something out of their pocket or purse to open a door or pay for coffee," said Mr Yuichi Momose, executive vice president and general manager of strategic market development for JCB. "We think this has particular advantages in environments such as manufacturing plants or amusement parks where people should be hands-free and not have to carry a lot of things around."

JCB expects to launch the wrist-watch solution commercially early in 2005, following a detailed review of the two month live trial this year. The new system which incorporates contactless chip functions follows the recent successful trial of JCB's Mobile Offica mobile phone-based solution, which was created in cooperation with NTT DoCoMo early in 2004. Both Mobile Offica and the new Offica Watch use Sony's FeliCa contactless interface chip.

The corporate environment, with a limited range of equipment and infrastructure, allows for faster, easier implementation of chip-based information and payment technology in media such as Mobile Offica and Offica Watch. JCB says it will continue to develop solutions that provide functionality via the most suitable media, whether that happens to be plastic cards, mobile phones, key chains or PDAs.

The Offica solution offers a range of functions including access control, network authentication, employee identification, attendance tracking, and cashless purchasing through an office or corporate site. One difference between Offica and other prepaid applications is its post-pay function which can be linked directly to each employee's own JCB brand credit card.

More Info:

Source: JCB Co. Ltd.

News: JCB to pilot contactless payment wrist-watches - RFID (radio frequency identification), tracking technology, and RFID chipping daily news and information - free, unbiased news for the executive, technologist, developer, vendor, and potential or current user of RFID applications.

Posted by Craig at 02:00 PM

June 22, 2004

RFID Library Checkout

Texas libraries get RFID-based self service kiosks

Tuesday June 22, 2004

The RFID-based kiosk operates in a similar fashion to a bank ATM, in that patrons gain access to the library's circulation software via a user card and touch screen video monitor. A book's barcode or RFID chip is read by the kiosk, then any necessary security functions are performed, and finally a receipt is printed to tell the patron which books have been borrowed and when they are due to be returned. This article is copyright 2004 UsingRFID.com.

Once the process is complete, the patron can leave the library through the security system without any intervention from library staff. The solution, apart from providing more convenience and a little novelty value for the patron, frees library staff to concentrate on other tasks.

Public enthusiasm
"Our statistics for the end of May 2004 confirm that the QuickChecks are getting 70%-80% of all check-out activities," said Gene Rollins, assistant director of systems and technical services at Harris County Public Library. "The QuickChecks have enabled the virtual elimination of lines waiting to check out, even at peak periods."

"With our Sidekick remote diagnostic software tool, we are also able to offer Harris County and ID Systems technical staff the ability to manage the performance of the network of QuickCheck systems, do statistical analysis and software changes over the web," said Frances Giles, library division sales manager for ID Systems.

News: Texas libraries get RFID-based self service kiosks - RFID (radio frequency identification), tracking technology, and RFID chipping daily news and information - free, unbiased news for the executive, technologist, developer, vendor, and potential or current user of RFID applications.

Posted by Craig at 04:14 PM

June 15, 2004

RFID Technology

Putting Drinks on the Cuff

Using an RFID chip embedded on a wristband, a new age/ID-verification system can prevent underage alcohol sales, operate as an electronic wallet and track customer purchases.

By Claire Swedberg

June 15, 2004Precision Dynamics Corp. (PDC), an automatic-identification wristband system provider based in San Fernando, Calif., announced that it has licensed Intelli-Check ID-CHECK software to enhance PDCs wristband identification system.

The PDC AgeBand Electronic Age/ID Verification System uses the ID-CHECK software to verify that an ID card is not expired or counterfeit, while the PDC software prints the ID information onto a wristband, according to Victor LaRosa, PDCs RFID and age/ID manager.

The primary purpose of the AgeBand system is to verify a customers age. But with the inclusion of an RFID chip in the wristband, the system also can be used for a variety of functions such as tracking customer purchases and serving as an e-wallet.

To use the AgeBand system, a customer presents a drivers license or some other official identification card (such as military) at the entrance of an event or business. The system, which comes with a bar code scanner and magnetic stripe reader, uses ID-CHECK to analyze the encoded data in mag stripes and two-dimensional bar codes on government-issued IDs from approximately 60 states and provinces in the U.S. and Canada to determine if the content and format is valid. If the ID is valid and the customer is found to be old enough to enter, the AgeBand system prints the customer's name, the words "Age ID Verified 21" and other information from the ID onto a plastic wristband that cant be removed without being damaged or destroyed.

LaRosa indicates that the AgeBand wristband is also available with an embedded programmable RFID 13.56 MHz chip that can serve greater functions than age identification. The unique ID number in a wristbands RFID chip, for example, can be linked a customers credit card number or a cash deposit to pay for purchases while on the premises. In a bar, for example, the bartender could use a handheld RFID reader to scan the tag of a patron who had ordered a drink and apply the charge to the credit card or cash deposit.

Using RFID will provide nontransferable positive patron ID, increase per capita spending, enable cashless transactions at the point of sale, and eliminate the need for tickets, according to LaRosa. Business owners can write data to the wristbands embedded RFID tag so that they can track customer purchases and control customer spending. For example, at a sporting event, the wristband could allow each individual a set number of drinks from the bar before they are cut off, LaRosa says.

Its also an easy way to track statistics for marketing, says PDCs senior marketing communications specialist Paula Maggio. And its an easy way to collect demographic information.

PDCwhich introduced a bar-coded ID wristband in 1984 for hospital patients, an RFID wristband in 2000 and the AgeBand Electronic Age/ID Verification System in February 2004has RFID-enabled wristband systems that can be used for purposes other than age identification. The company says its RFID-enabled wristbands can also be used to track the movement of people into and out of an establishment. Pilot programs are underway at Georgetown University Hospital in Washington, D.C., and Massachusetts General Hospital in Boston to use PDC wristbands to track movements of patients and visitors on the premises.

Posted by Craig at 04:41 PM

June 02, 2004

RFID Success Story

Where RFID Works
(and Its Not Wal Mart)

By Deena M. Amato Mccoy
Deena M. Amato McCoy is a Long Island, N.Y. based writer who reports extensively on retail and technology issues.

Wireless yard management system streamlines shipments

While RFID may still be just a glimmer in Wal Marts eye, theres one place where the much hyped technology is already up and running: at the NYK Logistics Long Beach, Calif. facility, a 70 acre yard and transload facility with 1,200 parking slots and 250 dock doors.

Thanks to an RFID system installed a year ago, NYK gets 100 percent accurate location information for every container, trailer and hostler tractor within the yard. The company automates more than 90 percent of its yard operations.

The automated system replaces the need for all manual data re entry, so all inbound and movement information is populated within the system electronically. This eliminates time consuming paperwork.

The RFID system is helping NYK increase dock door utilization and yard throughput, and reduce yard congestion.

Drivers report a 50 percent reduction in time spent on site to complete a double transaction. The average time a driver spends in the yard has decreased to an average of 20 minutes

But it wasnt always that easy.

NYK operates on a 24 hour a day, seven day a week schedule, and processes more than 1,000 gate transactions daily during its peak season. Containers and trailers from 11 different steamship lines and between 12 to 15 domestic carriers check into and out of the facility. Each year NYK manages more than 50,000 inbound ocean freight containers from the Port of Los Angeles/Long Beach, Calif., and 30,000 outbound trailers.

Today, as retail companies step up their use of overseas suppliers and import more product to fill store shelves, the idea of partnering with third party logistics (3PL) companies that manage and execute logistics function has become quite common.

Target Stores is among the companies tapping the services of NYK. They've designated responsibility for coordinating shipments to 22 different Target distribution centers in the United States to NYK no small task given the breadth of the operation and the fact that it requires precise monitoring.

Chains like Target and others also need to ensure that products are arriving at 3PL yards, distribution centers and stores in a timely manner, especially during peak seasons.

The process is often hindered by errors caused by manual processes. Its critical to have 100 percent data accuracy, says Matt Armanino, senior vice president of WhereNet, a Santa Clara, Calif. based company that provides integrated wireless location and communication infrastructure.

The human element causes inherent errors due to re keying information, latency and other delays in the collection of data. As decision support systems are added to the mix, another Achilles Heel evolves. Decision making is only as good as the data a company bases its decisions on, says Aramanio.

Retailers do not just want visibility to goods within a store or warehouse. They also want to know status of inbound shipments from marine terminals and where these shipments originated from, Aramanio says. They want better asset management to gain better data and visibility that can lighten black holes in the inbound delivery process.

Manual Burdens
Two years ago, NYK was feeling the burdens of manual systems. The inbound delivery process has many touch points. First, product arrives at the marine terminal. Next, product containers are unloaded and consolidated into a truck which is headed for the 3PLs yard. Here, drivers are directed into an assigned spot where the contents are again unloaded, and consolidated for outbound shipments to retail customer distribution centers.

Monitoring this process became a cumbersome task. NYK relied on a homegrown yard management system and manual labor to manage this ever changing yard. Yard personnel, armed with clipboards, roamed the yard, manually scanned bar codes on containers, and then entered data into the management system in an effort to keep yard inventory current.

Between a time consuming manual process and a steadily increasing volume from retail companies like target, NYK decided it was time to maximize the facilitys efficiency and increase the throughput of the yard.

As imports are increasing, we needed a system that would make this handling process as easy as possible, says Rick Pople, general manager at the NYK Logistics United Warehouse and Distribution division.

At the same time, we were concerned with just in time deliveries and getting inventory where it needs to be, when it needs to be there, without its sitting on a dock, he adds. The more that product is re handled, the more it costs to get inventory into the hands of the customer. There is an ongoing need to take time and costs out of the supply chain.

Bar Codes Are Not Enough
NYK needed real time location information. Bar codes cannot provide this, Pople says. Bar codes only give information based on the last time the label was scanned. We wanted something more robust that could provide us with real time information related to movement within the yard.

Ideally, NYK wanted a system that could increase revenue as a result of better yard throughput, improve level of service performance through timely processing of containers, and finally, reduce costs through better gate productivity, improved hostler efficiency and the elimination of manual yard checks.

NYK chose the WhereSoft Yard 4.0 yard management software and Real Time Locating System solution. The RFID based solution enables companies to have immediate connectivity to the location and status of assets.

After signing the deal in March 2003, NYK deployed the system in less than 75 days, and had the system live by June.

How It Works
The first step was to add WhereNets LAN and mount 35 access point antennas on light posts throughout the Long Beach facilitys yard and loading dock. As drivers enter the yard, NYK applies a WhereTag, an active RFID transmitter, to the top of an inbound freight container loaded with imported goods. This gives NYK complete wireless coverage of its entire facility.

Every couple of minutes signals are transmitted through the infrastructure, Pople says. Sophisticated visualization software uses algorithms to detect signals from the tags, and determines each drivers and containers location. This creates a localized GPS [global positioning system] that can pinpoint equipment in the yard.

All yard moves are conveyed to the drivers via wireless devices that run the WhereSoft Yard program. Drivers can map their next move simply by touching the units screen. The driver is then directed to his dedicated parking slot. Then drivers are directed to a dock door to either unload and consolidate a container or bring their empty trailers for loading.

All data resides in a database housed on a SQL server at the yard. The data filled repository keeps management abreast of all movement data in real time.

We had a very smooth peak season which ran between September and November, Pople says.

We conduct a large chunk of business during that eight week period. Volume goes up very quickly, and the velocity [the unloading and reloading of trucks] of equipment increases significantly, he reports. This system allowed us to handle these operations without any hiccups. We were able to provide accurate inventory information to our carriers and customers.

Pleased with initial results, NYK is already looking ahead to future enhancements. We expect the system to increase visibility even more for our next peak season, Pople adds. We hope to explore the addition of a web based system that will give us an on line, real time view into inventory.

STORES - June: Where RFID Works (and It’s Not Wal Mart)

Posted by Craig at 05:38 PM

April 29, 2004

Tracking Cattle

Think retinal scanners. Bluetooth wireless data technology. Linux operating system. Radio frequency identification (RFID) tags. Global positioning systems.

Processors use tech to track meat progression
By Michelle Kessler, USA TODAY
To fight mad cow disease, a Colorado slaughterhouse is using a high-tech computer system worthy of a spy movie.

Think retinal scanners. Bluetooth wireless data technology. Linux operating system. Radio frequency identification (RFID) tags. Global positioning systems.

Putting such cutting-edge technology in a wet, messy slaughterhouse might seem a little strange. But Swift & Co., the nation's third-largest meat processor, says it's the best way to make sure steak is safe.
About Managing Technology
Managing Technology is an occasional feature to help companies, business travelers and even consumers make strides through technology. To suggest a topic, e-mail [email protected]

Tainted beef can kill. Mad cow disease, or bovine spongiform encephalopathy, is a deadly animal illness that's passed to humans who eat meat from a sick cow. The usually fatal human version of the disease has infected 155 people worldwide since 1995, the Food and Drug Administration says.

Cattle infected with mad cow usually appear ill. But healthy-looking animals can harbor pathogens such as E.coli O157:H7, a bacteria which usually doesn't hurt cattle but can kill humans. About 60 people die each year of E.coli poisoning, the Centers for Disease Control says.

One of the best ways to prevent deaths is carefully tracking cattle, says Colorado State University food science professor Patricia Kendall. A good tracking system would allow public health officials to quickly contain outbreaks and recall tainted meat.
Practicality of Swift system questioned
The Optibrand cattle-tracking system is so new that Swift & Co. is the first major meat processor to try it. Optibrand, a start-up, has just 10 full-time employees and is on the "cusp of being profitable," says CEO Bruce Golden, a former Colorado State University professor.

But Optibrand has broad aspirations. It hopes to someday track cattle throughout their lives. Often, cattle are bred by one rancher, then passed to another to raise. Once the cattle are mature, they're sent to a third farmer to fatten up before slaughter. Only then are they sent to the slaughterhouse.

A cow that had its retina scanned at birth could easily be identified at a later date. That might prevent situations such as the one that occurred in December, when the first case of mad-cow-tainted beef appeared in the USA. Officials had a very hard time identifying the source of the disease and experts still aren't 100% sure they got the right cow, Golden says.

Some say Golden's vision isn't practical. "It's quite a bit of money," says North Carolina State University food science professor Kevin Keener. "In my opinion, (better slaughterhouse tracking) isn't going to significantly improve things."

Many beef industry experts say it will be very difficult to unite the notoriously segmented industry, which has thousands of small ranchers. "Some of these guys don't even have PCs, aren't even connected to the Internet," says Swift Vice President Gary Acromite.

Colorado State food science professor Patricia Kendall says it will take a national system to make big improvements in food safety. But the system Swift is using "is a huge step in the right direction."

By Michelle Kessler

That doesn't happen today. Most slaughterhouses in the USA process cattle about 20 at a time. Beef is usually identified with that lot number, but no more specific information about which cow it came from. Other countries, including England and Japan, have stricter regulations stemming in part from mad cow outbreaks. No one is yet believed to have caught mad cow in the USA.

If a piece of beef here tests positive for a pathogen, everything in its lot usually must be recalled often as much as a tractor-trailer load, says North Carolina State University assistant food science professor Kevin Keener. A recall is a tiny percentage of the more than 26 billion pounds of beef U.S. processors produce annually, the Department of Agriculture says. But tracking tainted beef can be a race, since consumers usually eat beef not long after they buy it, Keener says.

Swift hopes its new system, installed in its Greeley, Colo., packing plant in November, will track a steak back to the cow it came from. That could limit the size and improve the speed of recalls, Swift Vice President Gary Acromite says.

It will also help Swift track the best suppliers, he says. Today, "I really couldn't tell you why I get really great steaks ... one week, and the next week, I don't," Acromite says. Swift hopes to someday put a special sticker on tracked beef, indicating quality. "Customers will pay a premium for that," Acromite says.

Tagged, scanned, photographed

Beef tracking is harder than it might sound. Slaughterhouses are bloody, damp places not conducive to computer systems. Cows don't come in a standard size and are cut into pieces before they're sold.

Swift is overcoming those challenges using a new handheld scanning device from Fort Collins, Colo., start-up Optibrand. The scanning device runs on the Linux operating system. It looks similar to a bar-code reader you might see in a supermarket checkout lane, with a base station and scanning wand. The device is packed with features, including:

Retinal scanner. Workers use the wand to scan a cow's eye. The wand takes an image of the blood vessels, then uses a computer program to turn the pattern into a unique ID number.

Digital camera. The retinal scanner turns into a regular digital camera with the push of a button, letting ranchers and processors snap pictures of their herds.

Bar-code reader. An attachment that clips on to the wand turns the camera into a reader for the bar codes many ranchers put on plastic tags in cows' ears.

Radio frequency identification tag reader. An optional second wand can read RFID tags, computer chips containing information that can be automatically detected by nearby sensors. Cows are occasionally implanted with RFID tags, and that's likely to become more common.

Global positioning system. The base station is equipped with GPS, which uses a satellite feed to pinpoint its location. Optibrand's GPS system can identify the location of almost anyone on the planet, to within about 50 feet.

Bluetooth. All data collected by the base station can be sent to a nearby computer via Bluetooth wireless data technology. Bluetooth uses radio waves to send information short distances. It is most commonly used to sync electronic devices, such as personal digital assistants, or PDAs, with computers.

Cows that come into the Swift plant might or might not have some form of ID from the ranch. Swift starts by retinally scanning every cow, so each has a unique ID number. One plant worker scans the eye of each carcass as it zips by. The plant worker also scans in bar codes, RFID tags or other information.

All that data is wirelessly transmitted to a computer in Swift's back office. That eliminates the need for wires that might not last in the rough environment, Acromite says.

Tracking gets trickier when cows are prepared for butchering. When a cow's head is cut off, Swift attaches a plastic tag with its ID number from the retinal scan to the carcass. That tag stays on until the carcass is cut into pieces.

It's too hard to attach a tag to every piece of meat, Acromite says. Swift uses probability to match a steak with the ID number of the cow it came from. If Swift is butchering one cow every minute, the company knows that steaks cut between 2:15 and 2:16 probably come from a certain cow. While not perfect, probability can narrow a steak's origin to a handful of cows, Acromite says. "Rather than having it come from a lot of 20 animals, I've now got it down to two or three," he says.

Hamburger is trickier. Typically, when cows are butchered, odd cuts of meat are tossed into a big bin, then ground into hamburger. A burger might have meat from dozens of cows. Swift is working on a probability system for hamburger, but so far hasn't come up with anything feasible, Acromite says.

Swift's system cost "hundreds of thousands of dollars," Acromite says. He won't give details, but Optibrand says a scanner costs about $1,800. Back-end computers can cost thousands more. Smaller ranchers might purchase only the handheld scanner, then upload the data to a PC as one uploads photos from a digital camera, Optibrand CEO Bruce Golden says.

Optibrand collects a fee for each cow scanned. Infrequent users pay about 90 cents a scan, while bigger ones might negotiate volume discounts, Golden says.

Swift says the money was well spent. In addition to quality controls, the system might put Swift ahead of new tracking regulations expected from federal regulators concerned about mad cow. "In the event that the government mandates RFID tags for individual animals, this technology will be able to capture it, and whatever else is coming at us," Acromite says.

USATODAY.com - Processors use tech to track meat progression

Posted by Craig at 04:30 PM

April 15, 2004

RFID Success

Steps to Ensure RFID Success

April 2004, Chain Store Age Magazine
By Dan Barthiaume

Internal support, clean data and strong communications are key

The industry is abuzz with information on the benefits and potential of RFID. But lost in all the hype is a simple yet crucial question: What must you do behind the scenes to make it work?

Even the largest retailers and CPG manufacturers, among them Wal-Mart, Target and Procter & Gamble, are still in pilot phase of RFID implementation at the pallet and case levels. Although RFID technology has existed in some form since the 1940s, it is new enough in the retail and supply chain arenas to still be considered experimental. Therefore, Retail Systems Alert Research Report presents the following guidelines to developing a workable RFID pilot that will lead to a full-fledged rollout with high ROI potential.

Obtain internal support: While this tidbit of advice may seem obvious, it is surprising how often IT personnel fail to perform any cross-departmental selling before recommending pilots of new, largely unproven systems and practices. When the new technology in question is as disruptive to the status quo as RFID, gaining advance acceptance is doubly important.

Consider how an RFID-enabled supply chain alters the process flow of an entire retail organization. Instead of being collected in batches at various data pools, data is now constantly streamed from every point in the supply chain. In stores, the potential exists to know exactly where every product is located at all times, whether on the shelves or in the back room.

For senior management, this means adapting to a "real-time" decision-making mode that relies on hard data rather than human intuition. For warehouse- and store-level employees, this means a more efficient workday as the supply chain moves faster and tolerance shrinks for out-of-stocks. For financial personnel, this means justifying the cost of the sophisticated databases and data-analysis tools that will be required to adequately handle the volume of incoming data, let alone RFID tags and readers.

Thus, before IT or supply chain managers propose any type of RFID pilot, they should first spend several months educating the entire organization about how RFID works, what kinds of changes it will create, and why the expense and effort are all worth it. And dont make the common mistake of limiting an internal RFID sales pitch to senior corporate management.

"If you put RFID technology in at the operational level, your own people will come up with different ways of using it," advises Pete Abell, senior partner/co-founder of the ePC Group, an RFID consultancy. "Tell users at lower levels about RFID and how it is used; this will generate ROI information that people at the top dont think about."

Define internal systems requirements: Naturally, few if any retailers or CPG companies will be looking to completely overhaul their current IT architectures to make way for RFID. So prudent IT and supply chain managers will research integration and networking tools that will link new RFID applications to previously installed enterprise systems.

However, replacement of some internal systems will be almost inevitable. RFID creates a new informational paradigm where data flows in on a continual basis. Retail industry players typically collect data in batches, at most a few times a day, and often only analyze data on an exception basis. They are simply not prepared for the quantity and quality of data that an RFID-enabled supply chain will produce.

Mark Palmer, RFID technical evangelist of systems vendor ObjectStore, estimates that once Wal-Mart attains in-store RFID deployment, the retailer will generate more than seven terabytes of operational RFID data every day. While this is an extreme example, clearly retailers and CPG providers must seriously consider overhauling their data-processing environments before launching any wide-scale RFID rollouts.

Select vendor partners: Virtually every significant retail/CPG systems provider is now offering some kind of RFID solution, and many RFID boutique shops are springing up. However, homework is necessary to move past the marketing hype and find a vendor that can really deliver the goods. Retail industry consulting group LakeWest Group, LLC advises choosing an IT supplier with experience and sound alliances.

In a LakeWest Group white paper, Ronnie Hise, intelligent systems general manager of MeadWestvaco Intelligent Systems, says, "Ideally, the solution provider also will be able to provide a holistic approach that includes the hardware, software, middleware, and the integration and implementation services required to implement effectively and efficiently."

Identify merchandise: LakeWest Group recommends that item-level RFID pilots focus on products where RFID can provide "significant benefit with minimal risk." These include CDs, DVDs and books, as well as high-ticket, high-shrink goods such as disposable razor blades. Most current RFID pilots are being conducted at the case and pallet level, but retailers and CPG companies should familiarize themselves with physical issues, such as the difficulty in reading tags placed near liquids or metal foil, before choosing merchandise to include in an RFID pilot.

Test, test, test: An increasing number of IT vendors and consultants are opening RFID testing labs where retailers and CPG manufacturers can simulate how RFID will operate in real-life supply chain conditions and situations. This type of lab testing, whether conducted at a hosted third-party site or in-house, is highly valuable. However, observes BearingPoint senior manager and director of global RFID solutions Brian Higgins, testing also needs to occur in the actual supply chain environment.

"Conduct a field test as part of your proof-of-concept," he says. "Take equipment out and set it up, cordon off a section of your operational environment to observe how noise factors affect RFID. Build your testing strategy around a program of spelling out a clean business case."

Communicate: During the pilot itself, active and accurate communication among all supply chain partners is critical to effectively evaluating RFID performance. Supply chain data must be synchronized, which requires advance preparation. "Zero human intervention, totally automatic supply chain operation requires clean data to start," says the ePC Groups Abell. "On average, 30% of a retailers master file is different from a suppliers master file for the same products."

Thus, retailers and CPG providers should try following EAN.UCCs Global Data Synchronization (GDS) Services, which incorporate UCCnets GLOBALregistry service, a global registry or index of product and company information.

Take an active role in developing RFID standards: Hopefully, by following the first six recommended steps, retailers and CPG companies will enjoy enough success with their RFID pilots to receive the green light for further rollout. However, long-term adoption of RFID requires obtaining a whole range of new hardware and software devices, including tags, readers, object name service (ONS) and Savant server.

To effectively use RFID as a supply chain accelerator, retailers and CPG companies also must be able to exchange data in a common format with universal product descriptions. Without standards governing these systems and data exchanges, RFID will never achieve its full potential.

Fortunately, organizations such as the EAN.UCC-sponsored EPCglobal are developing international standards that will allow RFID to become a truly worldwide supply chain enabler. Standards development is still in an early enough stage that participation is gladly welcomed, and companies that take the initiative can help steer standards in a direction that will suit them best.

Abell further recommends that retailers get involved in efforts to develop smaller-scale standards that affect their particular verticals. "Certain retail types dont care about other retail types," he says, "but [RFID] standards will evolve faster if they provide use requirements for their type."

Chain Store Age - Magazine Story

Posted by Craig at 05:47 PM

March 06, 2004

RFID Acceptance

Albertsons, second largest U.S. food and drug retailer, plans RFID tags by April 2005.

Albertsons Announces Mandate
The second largest U.S. food and drug retailer plans to require suppliers to tag pallets and cases by April 2005
By Jonathan Collins

March 5, 2004In another significant boost for RFID deployment in the United States, Albertsons, the nations second largest food and drug retailer, has launched its first RFID pilot and announced that it will require its top 100 suppliers to tag palettes and cartons by April 2005. The pilot, which the retailer is carrying out with select partners, involves the tagging of pallets and cases of products.
Bob Dunst

The company, which operates Albertsons, ACME Markets, Jewel-Osco, Osco Drug, Savon, Super Saver Foods and other stores across 31 U.S. states, is the latest in a growing number of giant U.S. retailers that have announced RFID deployment. Last Month, Target, the fourth largest retailer in the United States, told its top suppliers that they will be required to apply RFID tags on pallets and cases sent to "select" regional distribution facilities beginning late spring 2005.

Albertsons announcement also echoed the one made last summer by Wal-Mart, the worlds largest retailer. Like Wal-Mart, Albertsons says that it expects its top 100 suppliers to tagging their shipments to the company at the case and pallet level. Albertsons deadline, however, is not until April 2005, three months after Wal-Marts January deadline.

According to Bob Dunst, executive vice president and chief technology officer at Albertsons, the company believes its RFID deployment will improve what it calls its consumer demand chain management by enabling the company to instantly locate products as they flow through its supply chain.

The company has around 2,300 stores across the U.S. supported by 19 distribution centers located in Arizona, California, Colorado, Florida, Idaho, Illinois, Oklahoma, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Texas and Utah.

Although Albertsons would not provide much detail about its plans going forward, the company said the announcement about its pilot and deadline was a way to signal to its suppliers and customers that RFID is part of its future strategy.

The company gave few details about its RFID pilot other than that it covers just one of its many project categories and that it expects it to be expanded to other categories as the trial continues. Details of the pilot and the companies involved could be made available later in the second quarter, according to a company spokesperson. The company also said it expects to hold a briefing for the suppliers its expects to meet its tagging deadline.

Albertsons first revealed its interest in RFID and in particular the Electronic Product Code (EPC) network by becoming a founding member of the EPCglobalthe nonprofit organization charged with commercializing EPC technologywhen it was formed last September. The company says it will be an active participant in the EPCglobal standardization process for retail consumer demand chain management.

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RFID Journal - Albertsons Announces Mandate

Posted by Craig at 02:36 PM

RFID Acceptance

Thanks to the power of pocketbook and protest, privacy advocates and concerned consumers are winning their war on RFID tags

By Jane Black

Shutting Shopping Bags to Prying Eyes
Thanks to the power of pocketbook and protest, privacy advocates and concerned consumers are winning their war on RFID tags

On Feb. 28, a small but boisterous band of civil libertarians braved bitter cold and more than a foot of snow to protest outside the Rheinberg, Germany, store of supermarket giant Metro AG. Protestors chanted and waved signs emblazoned with slogans such as "Hands Off Privacy," "1984 Orwell, 2004 Metro", and the one that spelled out the grievance most plainly, "Stop RFID."

Their concern is the radio frequency identification tags hidden in store loyalty cards, shopping carts, and on packages of Kraft's (KFT ) Philadelphia cream cheese, Procter & Gamble's (PG ) Pantene shampoo, and Gillette (G ) razors. Activists fear that the tiny chips, which are equipped with even tinier antennas that beam unique identification information to scanners, could be used to track how they shop and what they buy.

"WE AREN'T THE CIA". The chips are just one of the advanced technologies on display at Metro's Store of the Future, which also offers CD barcodes that cue up music samples when swiped at a kiosk, plus scales with embedded Web cams that first identify fruits and vegetables, and automatically print out price labels. But as Metro is learning, RFID chips are the most controversial.

On Feb. 27, just hours before the protest, Metro announced that it would stop testing RFID loyalty cards and replace the 10,000 that have already been issued with versions using old-fashioned bar codes -- a decision that makes it the latest retailer to accede to consumer concerns about the technology. Last year, after being hounded by Katherine Albrecht, a New Hampshire homemaker turned RFID-detractor-in-chief, Italian fashion chain Benetton (BNG ) and U.S. retail giant Wal-Mart (WMT ) also announced they would, at least for now, use RFID tags in storerooms but keep them out of their stores (see BW Online, 7/21/03, "Playing Tag with Shoppers' Anonymity").

Metro spokesman Albrecht von Truchsess insists that the decision to ditch RFID loyalty cards isn't a reaction to "people like Katherine, but to the emotional outpouring" that erupted after privacy campaigner noticed the RFID loyalty cards on a Jan. 29 tour of the Rheinberg store. "We're working to apply RFID to track and trace goods from the manufacturing plant to the store and onto the shelf. It's about product data, not customer data," says Truchsess, who maintains that the chips were only put in the cards to prevent children under 16 from watching adult-rated movie clips at store kiosks. "We aren't the CIA," he adds.

CREAM-CHEESE CONFIDENTIAL. Whatever the motivation, it's clear that industry is finally getting the message: RFID is fine for pallets of goods in a warehouse, but not for people. In an age of ubiquitous surveillance cameras, government tracking systems, and biometrics, consumers dislike the idea that they can be tracked via packages of cream cheese, razor blades, and shampoo.

State legislators share this dislike, too. On Feb. 24, the Utah House of Representatives passed a bill mandating clear labeling of any product in which an RFID chip is embedded. A bill introduced on Feb. 27 in the California Senate goes further, arguing that retailers should need consumers' permission. "Until Metro, I think the industry was still holding out hope that the opposition to RFID was confined to the U.S.," says Albrecht. "Now, I think they've got it through their heads that this is really not going to work anywhere."

A close look at the bill in California, which is so often the leader on consumer privacy issues, shows what the future of RFID might look like. The proposal is sponsored by Sen. Deborah Bowen (D-Redondo Beach), a long-time privacy activist who authored a crucial bill, now in effect, that forbids organizations from using Social Security numbers as identification (see BW Online, 8/14/03, "Why Your ID Is Such Easy Pickings"). The new bill requires any business or state agency that uses an RFID system to track products and people to follow three rules. First, tell people that RFID is tracking and collecting information about them. Second, get express consent from customers before doing that. Third, detach or destroy tags before the customer leaves the store.

MARKET POWER. Though some retailers may agree in principle with Bowen's proposals, they aren't likely to support regulations governing how they can and can't exploit RFID technology. But Bowen warns that without some sort of legal protection, RFID will be the next privacy bomb to explode: "There's no reason to let RFID sneak up on us," she says, "when we have the ability to put some privacy protections in place before the genie is out of the bottle."

Gaining such high-profile allies as Bowen -- plus the begrudging cooperation of big retailers -- is a giant step forward for anti-RFID groups such as Albrecht's CASPIAN (Consumers Against Supermarket Privacy Invasion & Numbering). But Albrecht warns that despite her recent victories, the battle over RFID is far from over. "We've accepted RFID in the supply chain," she says. "I think they're hitting the point where they will cede that chips must be killed after the point of purchase. The next battle will come over what happens in the store. Who does [the data] belong to? The store or the consumer?"

Legally, it belongs to the store. The U.S. Supreme Court has ruled time and again that individuals have no reasonable expectation of privacy in public venues. That's why RFID detractors such as Albrecht say they're prepared to use their buying power to stop practices, such as covert tracking of shoppers, which they consider anticonsumer. "We're fully grasping the power of the free market," she says. "Our message is: You can do what you want, but we're not going to shop at your stores unless you take our concerns into account."

It's a strategy that has worked well for the anti-RFID lobby so far. From Wal-Mart stores in California to the Metro supermarket in Germany, CASPIAN and others have forced retailers to feel their pain or feel their wrath. Expect further concessions as privacy advocates flex their muscle.

BW Online | March 5, 2004 | Shutting Shopping Bags to Prying Eyes

Posted by Craig at 02:29 PM

March 01, 2004

RFID Vertical Middleware

packages are aimed at the health care, life sciences, retail and telecommunications sectors.

IBM heightens vertical middleware efforts
Last modified: March 1, 2004, 9:40 AM PST
By Matt Hines
Staff Writer, CNET News.com

IBM extended its industry-specific middleware efforts Monday, introducing four software packages aimed at the health care, life sciences, retail and telecommunications sectors.

The introduction marks the second wave of vertical-industry middleware products launched by IBM in the last month. In early February, the company made its debut of software and services bundles for the banking, insurance and finance markets. The launch is part of a companywide effort aimed at pulling together technologies and services that address specific projects for companies in certain vertical markets. By matching the middleware packages to emerging or ongoing business demands in particular industries, IBM says it can better serve customers and increase sales.

IBM's strategy stems from changes in buying patterns as customers increasingly look for products matched to specific projects and dictated by specific areas of business, according to Doug Brown, the company's director of industry marketing.

"When IBM decided to go after these industries, it was with the view that a management consultant would have--or, what were the business transformation projects among the top concerns in each market?" said Brown. "In almost every case, these initiatives were oriented toward customers looking to take costs out of mature parts of their business or trying to increase revenue sources in some way."

The telecommunications industry package offers an example of the kinds of problems that the Armonk, N.Y.-based company hopes to address with the bundles, dubbed IBM Middleware Solutions. With that package, customers are offered tools to help integrate operational network technologies and billing systems. Brown said that IBM's middleware set aims to help telecommunications providers more easily introduce new services, such as downloadable games or ring tones.

Industry experts praised IBM for its focus on vertical markets but cautioned that the company will need to work hard at integrating its various products in each sector. Dwight Davis, analyst with Boston-based Summit Strategies, said the complexity of IBM's broad portfolio of products and services will make that integration a real challenge.

"Competitors will point to the complexity as a weakness, and IBM will need to have all the different elements of these packages working well together so customers aren't faced with major integration," said Davis. But, he said, "it is a very strong strategy for IBM as they have so many of the needed components in-house."

Davis said that the packaged approach will also eliminate some of the pressure put on IBM to create best-of-breed products in different markets by stitching together the strengths of its existing technologies.

"That isn't to say they won't need to develop good 'point' solutions," he said. "But it would be very hard for competitors to put together a package like IBM that reaches from middleware through to services, including the vertical expertise they gained through the PricewaterhouseCoopers acquisition."

IBM's products for the retail sector, meanwhile, dovetail with the company's aggressive pursuit of the growing market for radio frequency identification (RFID) technology. The Middleware Solutions for Retail package is made up of six individual tools aimed at smoothing over retail wrinkles in areas such as inventory management, shipment tracking and trading partner integration.

Jan Jackman, general manager of IBM's retail-on-demand business unit, said the current push among retailers attempting to streamline inventory operations and adopt RFID makes the market an ideal target for the custom-tailored middleware bundles.

"IBM is making a big investment to create product solutions that help retailers create intelligent and more responsive stores via RFID, digital media and kiosks," Jackman said. "A major part of that focus is investment in store integration frameworks, and creating store-level Web services architectures, to overhaul business processes and support this new store."

For instance, the retail package aims to help integrate data collected via RFID tags, microchips armed with antennae that transmit information about products to which they're attached. Combined with other RFID technologies and services, Jackman said the middleware could help companies process the reams of information coming in via RFID tags, in order to realize the benefits promised by the technology, such as more efficient inventory management.

IBM heightens vertical middleware efforts | CNET News.com

Posted by Craig at 08:08 PM