By Tom O’Boyle
In fact, Gartner, Inc. predicts that there will be 20.8 billion connected things by 2020. Businesses are recognizing IoT’s potential and are constantly looking for ways to utilize these devices to improve efficiencies in operations to generate cost savings. But with the rapid progression, it can be hard to understand the full potential of technology and keep on top of the latest trends. So in order to help those who are actively seeking the best solutions, here is a look at the three biggest trends that are expected to play a central role in 2017 and how they will have an effect on applications in the years to come.
- RAIN RFID
The RFID industry has coined a new name for passive, ultra-high frequency (UHF) RFID: RAIN RFID. RAIN RFID—an acronym derived from RAdio frequency IdentificatioN—is a wireless technology that connects, stores, manages and shares billions of everyday items via the internet. This enables businesses and consumers to identify, locate, authenticate and engage with each item.Here’s how it works: during the manufacturing process, a RAIN RFID tag is either attached or embedded into an item. Using a real-time monitoring system that is mounted on a ceiling, also referred to as a RAIN RFID Reader, the tagged item is read and data is collected – locally on a server or on the cloud. This creates an audit trail, or chain of custody, which details information that can be used to reduce operation costs and increase efficiency. So for instance, if there is a recall, a manufacturer can review the collected data, pinpoint the batch that contains the affected products and quickly pull that batch from store shelves. Meaning time and money is not wasted searching for the bad batch of product.While RAIN RFID is not a new idea, its use in covering large zones called “wide-area” technology is projected to take off in 2017 and become a predominant RFID method for companies in manufacturing, distribution and retail environments where traditional RFID portals constrain their ability to track important items. In fact, according to the global alliance promoting RAIN RFID, it is predicted that 28 billion devices and items will be connected in 2020 with RFID.
- Bluetooth Low Energy Beacons
Businesses already rely heavily on Bluetooth-enabled devices within their enterprises, such as smartphones and tablets. So it comes as no surprise that they’re adopting the Bluetooth-technology in other areas of their business. For example, a growing number of industries are using Bluetooth Low Energy (BLE) beacons or tags to continuously and accurately track information about a selected asset’s presence, temperature and movement. Not only do these BLE beacons function as signal transmitters, but they are also majorly battery-powered and can be configured with the help of a mobile app, as well as permit smartphones to primarily act as the receivers. In doing so, these highly accessible proximity detection devices broadcast outbound signals, further ensuring that there is no inherent security risk in the transmission.Compared to RAIN RFID, these easily deployable BLE beacons systems are much less expensive since RAIN RFID tags require more powered readers to reflect/transmit their signal. Also, since deploying an RFID system calls for a number of different components (tags, readers, reader control and application software), businesses that utilize RAIN RFID have to plan ahead and invest upfront.While this may work for some businesses, it is not ideal for all. This is why those looking for an alternative solution are turning to BLE beacons in 2017. Previously, BLE beacons were specifically made for consumer grade applications or for retail customer experience systems. However, in 2017 BLE tags are taking an industrial turn and becoming an affordable and realistic option for more industries.
- Hybrid RFID Systems
Last, but not least are Hybrid RFID Systems. Businesses are beginning to see that that they can utilize both RAIN RFID and BLE beacons to provide one, unified visibility solution for tracking assets within a facility. So there is no longer the debate of having to select one type of tags over the other. For instance, BLE tags may be used to track large equipment, while RAIN RFID tags are used to track the individual pallets or containers of product. As both types of assets are tracked, operators can view everything in real time from a software interface, making hybrid solutions even more affordable and an attractive option in 2017.
With lower system costs, greater solution reliability and higher adoption rates, it is no surprise that RFID-based technology is poised for an explosive year. We’ve already seen a large number of businesses focus on the real deployment and monetization of IoT systems, including both RAIN RFID and BLE beacons, which means there is no better time than now to be proactive and deploy these solutions. Implementing a RAIN RFID, BLE beacons or a Hybrid RFID system will enable you to operate more efficiently and accurately, while positively impacting your entire enterprise and improving your bottom line.
Tom O’Boyle, director of RFID for Barcoding, Inc., possesses 17 years of experience in RFID technology and more than 25 years of experience in sales, product, and channel management for leading technology companies. At Barcoding, O’Boyle leads the company’s dedicated practice, RFID by Barcoding, in the design, integration, and deployment of RFID solutions for a wide range of industries including supply chain, manufacturing, healthcare, education and defense.
O’Boyle came to Barcoding in May 2013 as a result of the company’s acquisition of Miles Technologies, Inc., which he joined in 1999 as a partner/principal. Prior to Miles, O’Boyle held positions with Zebra Technologies and Silicon Engines, and successfully led RFID implementations at major companies such as Kodak, Hospira, CDW, Kenwood, and Emerson. O’Boyle graduated from DeVry Institute of Technology in Chicago with a Bachelor of Science in electronics engineering technology and is certified in RFID Technology by Zebra Technologies, Alien Technology, Impinj, Intermec, and others. In addition, O’Boyle was a contributing technical editor for the book, RFID+ Exam Cram 2, was named a 2014 Provider Pro to Know by Supply & Demand Chain Executive, and is a frequent industry speaker.