Kovio’s Technology Enables Nedap !FaST Tags to Change the EAS Market



For major retailers, Electronic Article Surveillance (EAS)  devices are a necessary inconvenience in order to cut down on theft. However, for consumers, bulky “hard tag” plastic attachments are an irritation that can even damage the goods, and thin and light “soft tags” are notorious for continuing to send signals even after they have been deactivated.

However, Kovio has developed a high-tech solution to this problem. Nedap Retail, a European specialist in anti-theft systems, unveiled !FaST, its new EAS tag system based on Kovio’s EASD technology.

A privately held Silicon Valley company, Kovio designs, develops and manufactures printed silicon products for the near field communication (NFC) and EAS markets, including RFID tags and NFC barcodes. Kovio combines its high-performance silicon inks with low cost graphics printing technology.

The new !FaST tags, which are embedded into clothing, shoes and other products, will ultimately lower shrinkage as well as drive operational and cost efficiencies within the fashion and retail industry. It will also be unnoticeable by customers, as the tags will be deployed in the lining of the clothing and in the soles of shoes.

Amir Mashkoori, Kovio’s CEO, said that the technology has been in the works for five years.

“!FaST is ideal for the EAS or loss prevention market for high value goods,” Mashkoori said. “There are presently two types of tags: soft tags, which are simply antennas, and hard tags, which are large systems that have to be taken off at the counter. Unfortunately, soft tags can reactivate after just a few minutes, which ruins the idea in the first place. Hard tags are physical elements that require time-consuming application and removal. As a result, they are very expensive to deploy.

“We now have more robust electronic tags that are embedded in the item, such as the soles of shoes or the lining of clothes,” Mr. Mashkoori added. “This allows for a more robust product that also changes the consumer experience in a positive way while reducing theft. This means that the store can put a pair of expensive shoes on the floor instead of just one, or avoid piercing the shoe material with a hard tag.”

The clothing and shoe markets are often targeted for theft, and the !FaST tags can change that.

“Clothing and shoes are absolutely the markets that need it the most,” Mr. Mashkoori said. “It is the lowest hanging fruit. This market is so big that it will take time. It could reach billions of tags.”

Mr. Mashkoori said that the roll-out of the!FaST system will begin shortly, adding that several world-class retailers have already decided to trial the !FaST technology throughout their store locations. !FaST technology is compatible with the present 8.2MHz EAS detection and deactivation systems, which are used by many leading worldwide retailers.

“The infrastructure is already deployed, and we are already working with several retailers,” Mr. Mashkoori noted. “They are comfortable with the system and are ready to move forward. Customers will start seeing stores with this system by mid-2013. The rollout will be product by product, retailer by retailer.”

Mr. Mashkoori said that Kovio is already in production for these tags, and is preparing to add manufacturing capabilities.

“We are scaling up as we speak,” he said. “We use multiple print processes for our stainless steel foil platform. Silicon-based ink is the ideal mechanism for getting the material down, as production speed is critical. We have screen printing, inkjet and coatings capabilities, depending on what materials we are putting down.”

“Printed electronics can lift the intelligence to new levels while providing affordability,” Mr. Mashkoori concluded. “Printed electronics will allow us to go to new territories and to bring intelligence into new things. This is a very exciting opportunity. It is printed electronics at its best.”