Tracking Systems Follows Mooving Cows

July 28, 2009

A new RFID-enabled livestock tracking system enables dairy farmers to keep track of their cows’ milk production in real time. The system, which uses glass-encapsulated RFID tags injected into the animals’ legs, deploys three elements to create a comprehensive tracking environment.

The first element, a gate reader, can be installed either on gates of a wide variety of dimensions. Or it can be directly embedded in the ground to create a sort of virtual gate. The elements on the gates monitor the cows as they pass through specific checkpoints.

The second element, a position reader, provides a more general image of the locations of herd members, especially their milking positions. The third element, a wireless ZigBee coordinator collects data from up to 75 position readers.

The entire system is tied together by a single, front-end application software system. All components of the system are encased in water and dust proof housings. The system is also accompanied by a built-in database for storage and retrieval of current and historical milking data.

The new system joins an increasing variety of RFID systems used on food and livestock that are offering proven paybacks. Pigs are tagged in Thailand and many other countries; in Spain, hams are tagged right through to the retail shelf. Fish are RFID tagged in the millions in Canada and elsewhere for conservation studies and control. In Australia, leading tomato grower Moraitis tags its cardboard trays. The U.S. military uses RFID interrogators in its forklifts which read pallet loads of food as they are lifted and placed.



China Hangzhou Dragon Hotel Incorporates RFID into “Smart Hotel” Plans

July 23, 2009

The China Hangzhou Dragon Hotel is determined to harness the power of technology to become Hangzhou City’s first five-star platinum hotel ( More than that distinction, however, the Dragon Hotel is aiming to leverage new information technologies, such as RFID, to create an instrumented, interconnected, and intelligent hotel management system—a “Smart Hotel.”

The project is three-pronged: First, a dynamic IT infrastructure system, comprising more than 20 subsystems and solutions, will be built. Then the hotel will upgrade its rooms and infrastructure to achieve an environment of luxury. Throughout the upgrade process, hotel management and staff will be trained to use the systems and offer a level of service consistent with the world’s most desirable hotels.

One of the hotel’s new offerings is a one-stop service center, including a personal digital assistant (PDA) system, self check-in kiosk, interactive TV, RFID system, Internet telephony, cell phone system, and room control system. RFID will be used, for example, in the hotel’s “smart cards,” which will allow guests to directly check into the hotel in minutes.

After check-in, the RFID smart cards will relay guests’ information to staff members’ PDAs, and the data will be used to provide highly personalized guest service. For instance, guest information will be transmitted to the interactive TV system and IP phone system in the hotel room, so that personalized welcome messages greet guests upon entering the room. Even electronic devices in hotel rooms, such as light, temperature, and humidity, will respond and automatically adjust to customers’ unique preferences.

According to Eric Du, the Dragon Hotel’s general manager, some of the objectives for the $1 billion upgrade are to “…improve significantly the operational efficiency and productivity, the response time to client demands, and most of all, the client experience.”

Top Ideas for Generating Value in the Supply Chain

July 21, 2009

In a recent issue of Supply Chain Management Review, Sumantra Sengupta, vice president at Hitachi Consulting offered “The Top Ten Ideas for Generating Value” in supply chain innovation.

“It is rare to find an organization thinking about—let alone investing in – supply chain innovation. However they will readily spend hundreds of millions of dollars on product and service innovation,” writes Sengupta.

The following are the Top Five ideas on Sengupta’s list, which, he says if “applied aggressively during turbulent economic times like these, can yield powerful results that will position companies well for the upturn we hope and expect to come.”

  1. Shift the focus from order-to-delivery to design-to-support. This shift enables companies to fully explore their inherent strengths in product design and innovation while continuing to drive down supply chain costs.
  2. Look for hidden values in reverse logistics. Returns represent a prime source for discovering significant value that can immediately drop to the bottom line.
  3. Globalize the functional processes and adopt a “follow the sun” model for skill deployment. Just as they have outsourced their IT departments, companies globalize their supply chain functional processes using talent pools that are available across the world.
  4. Manage the supply chain using the concept of floor-and-surge to deliver with increased agility and less waste. The floor-and-surge approach allows the corporation to benefit from the longer production run economics as well as the labor arbitrage that many seek.
  5. Focus on real-time updates and adjustments to increase agility and shape responsiveness. Planning and forecasting is still necessary, yet it now needs to be conducted in near- real-time.


Marigold Industrial Taps into RFID to Improve Production and Inventory

July 17, 2009

Based in Poiares, Portugal, Marigold Industrial ( produces protective gloves for workers who handle sharp materials, hazardous chemicals, or frozen packages. To achieve better visibility of the materials used to make those gloves—and track the finished gloves through the supply chain—the company turned to RFID.

The RFID system has replaced a paper-based tracking system, and includes passive EPC Gen 2 RFID tags and interrogators. Also crucial to the solution are RFID label printer-encoders, which workers use to print labels for pallets loaded with boxes of materials. Those labels contain RFID inlays made with EPC Gen 2 chips, which hold ID numbers unique to specific boxes.

As the boxes pass through an RFID portal on the dock, Marigold’s backend software records the incoming shipment information and reconciles it with the purchase order information. If there are any discrepancies, the software sends an alert to the appropriate employees, who then search for and amend the error.

After the tagged boxes of materials are stored in the warehouse, inventory is taken once each month—a significant reduction from the time-consuming weekly manual inventory that workers used to perform. The RFID system is also being used to track and improve Marigold’s manufacturing and shipping processes.

While the RFID solution is currently only being used at Marigold’s Poiares location, the company hopes to eventually deploy the system throughout its distribution center (

European Youth Olympic Festival to Deploy RFID Tags for Access Control

July 17, 2009

This year’s European Youth Olympic Festival (EYOF) will take place in Tampere, Finland, from July 18 through July 25—and RFID will play a crucial role in the festivities.

The EYOF is a multi-sport event for young athletes from the 49 European Union member countries, in association with the European Olympic Committee. It is the only all-European multi-sport event, and this year, more than 2,600 athletes will compete. To enhance security and facilitate access procedures, RFID tag identification passes will be issued to all authorized individuals involved in the event.

The tagged ID passes will allow access to accommodation and dining, as well as enable individuals to use the public transportation system in Tampere free of charge. Meanwhile, for volunteers and organizers in charge of giving people access to competition venues, the tagged ID passes offer an efficient and cost-effective solution while easing the strenuous workload.

RFID is being increasingly used in various capacities for large events. Most recently, the Cannes Lions International Advertising Festival used RFID to help attendees connect with a massive interactive display wall. Similar to the EYOF system, the Cannes Lions Festival gave RFID-enabled badges to event attendees. To access information about the event and nearby accommodations, dining, and more, all the attendees had to do was touch the badge to the display wall.

Could your company find use for a similar RFID-enabled access control system?

RFID Helps Canadian Oil Drilling Company Manage Assets

July 14, 2009

Drilling for oil is a very expensive business with many key assets to manage and maintain. Nabors Canada, a land-drilling product and services provider with drill rigs located across Canada, is installing passive high frequency RFID tags on its rigs and equipment to better manage its assets and its business.

With the new system, managers will be able to track assets and the required maintenance and inspections of hundreds of items at remote sites. Previously, asset management was accomplished using paperwork. Drill yards are large, busy places and items that Nabors Canada once had to write off as missing or stolen will now be easier to find and put back where they belong and keep from leaving the premises in an unauthorized manner.

In addition, drilling companies are required to have some of their equipment inspected and to keep documentation of those inspections. The new system will streamline those efforts. The handheld units are programmed to alert workers who are using the handhelds when an asset needs to be inspected or certified. The device also lets them know what needs to be done.

Nabors Canada plans to tag 100 assets at each of its 86 drill rig sites by year end and tag components at its well servicing rigs by the end of 2010. Once data on each tagged item is stored in the system’s database, items can be linked to each other in the back-end system. Workers on site can use wireless handheld devices to read the tags and send the data via satellite to the back-end server in near-real time.


Barcodes Turn 35

July 9, 2009

On Friday June 26, 1974, a supermarket in Troy, Ohio, sold a pack of Wrigley’s Juicyfruit gum, one small purchase for a consumer, but one big leap for retailers! The pack of gum was the first retail item to be sold with an official UPC (universal product code) and a scanner. It was a day that would forever change the way that POS was done and soon after, barcodes could be found everywhere.

While barcodes were in developmental stages years before this historic sale, prior to the barcode, there was no universal system for assigning products a unique identifier. Each company had its own way of doing things, which lead to an error rate of approximately 1/300 characters, as opposed to 1/36,000,000,000,000 with barcode scanners.

Today, 35 years after its initiation, UPC’s are scanned more than 10 billion times a day, across 25 different industries. Because of this, the advent of the barcode produced significant economic and productivity benefits for shoppers, retailers, and manufacturers alike.

Those looking to celebrate the barcode’s 35th birthday may enjoy Melina McLean’s history of barcodes where she reports that before barcodes were ever dreamed up, grocers often discussed how they needed some way to track their merchandise. Then, in 1948, Bernard Silver, a graduate student at Drexel, overheard a conversation between the dean and the president of a large food chain. While the dean turned down the president’s request for a graduate student project involving automated checkout, Silver mentioned the conversation to his friend, Norman Woodland. For the rest of the story, click here. And take a look at the site that Motorola’s put together in honor of the celebration here.