In 2008, Vail Resorts instituted a ticketing system based on radio frequency identification technology—including Zebra UHF cards and card printers—to improve its guests’ experiences by speeding and simplifying ski lift-ticket checking. Now, as RFID Journal reports, Vail Resorts is taking its RFID-enabled lift passes to a new level—and connecting them with social media tools to ramp up guest engagement and enthusiasm.
How, you ask? This season, the lift passes will track how many vertical feet visitors have skied. Skiers and snowboarders can see their statistics online, and share and compare stats through their Facebook and Twitter social-media accounts. And while at the resort, they can use their Web-enabled phones to see when and where their friends are skiing.
Competition. Conversation. Customer satisfaction. What more could a ski resort wish for? And to think it can start with a little ol’ RFID chip.
Can you see a use for a similar application in your business?
Read the RFID Journal article.
Also take a look at Zebra’s case study about Vail Resorts’ first-of-a-kind RFID lift access. And learn more about UHF RFID card technology, which can be read from 20 feet away, in this white paper.
RFID Growth Spurt Leads to Tech Shortages.
We’ve been talking about the growth and ROI benefits of item-level RFID, particularly in retail.
Supply Chain Digest reports that WalMart’s new apparel tagging program has helped lead to a supply drop in RFID EPC Gen 2 inlays, and that mobile RFID readers are now also in short supply. Why so? Lots of investment in RFID initiatives, including WalMart’s recent order for 20,000 Motorola mobile RFID readers, combined with “supply constraints that have lasted for months in basic electrical components that have cause delivery problems in a wide number of high tech gear, including mobile devices.”
In fact, Supply Chain Digest says that analysts at a major financial investment firm are predicting 300 percent market growth in RFID asset management for 2011.
Do you expect to join that growth, and invest in RFID for asset management and inventory visibility in the next year?
Read the Supply Chain Digest article.
See more about RFID printing/encoding here, where you can find resources such as our white paper “Traceability in Retail—Reducing RFID Media Costs for Best Value.”
We’ve explored both the use of apparel RFID tagging in retail, and the potential for QR codes. Now we’ve discovered a new use for both! Seems a charity shop in U.K. uses the two technologies to attach a personal story about each piece of clothing as told by the clothing’s donator. Shop visitors can listen to the audio clips via the shop’s RFID readers and audio speakers, or by reading the QR codes via their smart phones. The stories help enhance the value and appeal of the items for potential buyers. Thanks to RetailWire.com for pointing us to the article.
Do you see a place for such a concept in other retail applications?
For more on RFID in retail, check out this white paper: Traceability in Retail—Reducing RFID Media Costs for Best Value.
Click here to learn more about RFID printing/encoding in general.
Earlier this year, supply chain guru Bob Trebilcock, Executive Editor, Modern Materials Handling, wrote a piece that was recently republished in Logistics Management. In his piece, Trebilcock cites a recently released VDC survey of RFID users that showed some very positive results.
VDC talked to a number of Tier 1 companies on what they were planning on spending on RFID this year. Not only did they find that those companies anticipate spending 200% more than they did last year, (an average of $3.5 million) but that spending should continue into 2011.
The reason for the increase? VDC notes that companies are starting to see real ROI from the pilot RFID projects that have been running in the past several years. Basically, those users finally confident that they are going to get real results from projects they have been piloting for the last three or four years. They’re ready to ramp up and roll out. Drew Nathanson, director of research operations for VDC told Trebilcock that “Companies that have been using 250,000 tags a year are about to use millions of tags a year,” You can see the article here.
This is certainly good news for the RFID market. It seems that RFID industry shows in the past have been filled with industry to industry optimism and light on actual end users. This news indicates that not only will current pilot programs move into larger rollouts, it should also indicate that new customers will have the confidence to start new RFID projects.
Tangible benefits are beginning to be achieved with RFID to improve critical business processes. RFID provides the visibility to enable improved decision making to meet increasing market demands. Apparel, consumer electronics goods manufacturing and military operations seem to be the early adopters implementing this technology. Remember, it is about the data that can be achieved with RFID that enables improved efficiencies, reduced inventories and fulfillment maintenance.
You can get started on investigating RFID solutions by clicking here
Apparel News published a piece this week on RIFD in retail. The article discusses Wal-Mart’s use of RFID to track pallets and cases coming into its warehouses. Those early uses of the technology in a retail supply chain are credited with the deployment of RFID applications from the back of the store to the shop floor. Major retailers have begun to spend more budget dollars on RIFD to improve such things as supply chain management, inventory control which the article states can lead to greater inventory accuracy and increased sales. You can read the article here.
Tag cost is by far the biggest expense of an apparel RFID project – much more than readers, printers, and software. Tags are applied are various points depending on the retailer: in-store, at a DC, or at the point of manufacture. But regardless of the location, encoding accuracy is critical because if the tag data is wrong, the item doesn’t exist.
Item-level RFID is an enabler of perfect inventory accuracy. Perfect inventory accuracy drives the business change, but the benefit is very different for each type of retailer. Labor savings is often the first benefit identified, but that ROI is small compared to other areas: reduced out of stocks, reduced inventory, increase in sales, better timed promotional execution.
The bottom line is that the ROI’s are very compelling at current tag prices but those prices will probably not be falling much lower.
Click here for more RFID resource information.
Let’s go on the record by stating up front that we do not advocate or plan ourselves to follow cows on Twitter. Puppies maybe. Just because they are so darn cute!
But through a project with the Univeristy of Waterloo’ Critical Media Lab, a herd of dairy cows, tagged with RFID tags that track their every move, are Tweeting up a storm that has more than a few (human) heads turning.
The university teamed up with a local dairy farmer and a few of his milking cows to track his bovines’ movement to and through the farm’s computer-operated and cow-initiated milking system. As a cow makes her way to the milking pen, the RFID readers read the tag and based on the computer model, decides it the cow should be milked, based on her stage of lactation and average daily output. If the cow is ready for milking, she can go inside and be milked by a tender and caring robotic arm.
The cow’s milk output and feed input is recorded while during her visit. The data collected from the cows, which include milk production, system glitches, and eating habits are crafted into Tweets which are then sent via Twitter for the researchers to monitor. Makes you wonder who else they follow on Twitter but that is another post.
And if that wasn’t enough, there is a ice cream parlor in Minneapolis called Izzy’s that uses RFID in their freezer case. When a favorite flavor, (made in limited supplies) is placed in the case, an RFID reader reads the tag on the tub and immediately sends out a Tweet to their waiting fan base, telling them to get in quick before the flavor runs out.
You see where this is going? Bring these two together and you have total frozen dairy supply chain visibility.
Do you see any applications for RFID induced Twitter notifications?
While certainly a step forward for the emerging field of printed electronics, inventions like nano-based RFID tags are only beginning to lay for the foundation for a new generation of RFID technology. Some say that nano-based tags will replace bar codes all together but we view this as complementary technology to barcodes and traditional silicon based RFID tags.
Bar codes are the ultimate in low cost, printable on-demand identification. The technology is ubiquitous and in use in all corners of the world. Most importantly – it works. There’s a reason the major shippers in the world rely on bar code technologies to track millions of items every day. For basic, read-only identification, RFID can’t touch the barcode. Today’s technologies broadly referred to as RFID come in many forms. For examples, a $0.10 UHF EPC inlay, a $2 HF secure payment tag, and a $50 active and locatable beacon tag are all referred to as RFID. Make no mistake, RFID is here to stay and it’s thriving in many places, but it’s not a replacement for the bar code.
Where fully printable (printable, in this case means the chip isn’t based on crystalline silicon, not that you can print them on your home ink jet printer!) RFID tags have promise is the space between bar codes and low-cost RFID. There’s a cost/feature void between a sub $0.01 bar code and a $0.10 UHF or HF RFID tag. Ideal applications might be for transit tickets, event tickets, or product authentication. It will thrive in areas that don’t require a high level of security or a long read range.
The printed electronics research community is making great technology breakthroughs which will no doubt change the future of electronics, but don’t make the mistake assuming that change will be at the expense of our lovable bar code.
What do you think? Is there bar code life after nano?