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RFID Leaders Highlight Gains at NRF BIG Show 2017

By David Savastano, Editor | January 18, 2017

RFID industry leaders discuss opportunities in key retail markets such as apparel, cosmetics, as well as new possibilities.

The National Retail Federation’s (NRF) BIG Show, held at the Javits Center in New York City, is one of the largest retail trade shows in the world. This year’s Big Show 2017, held Jan. 15-17, drew more than 35,000 visitors.
Walking through the halls, it is clear that RFID is playing a major role, as retailers and brand owners seek more comprehensive data on buying patterns and inventory and consumers look for new ways to connect to the brands.
RFID and the BIG Show
Industry leaders from the RFID field highlighted their new technologies during BIG Show 2017. Karin Fabri, SVP corporate marketing and communications for SMARTRAC, said that the RFID market is growing quickly
“We are seeing a lot of growth in RFID,” said Fabri. It has grown as a technology that can be used in so many different segments, from retail and supply chain to healthcare and automotive.”
SMARTRAC showcased its collaboration with Spyder, which showed its NFC-enabled U.S. Ski Team (USST) outerwear collection. An RFID tag is built into the Spyder patch, not just as an add-n tag. This allows users to get a wide range of information, from skiing and weather conditions to being able to interact on social media.
“We see RFID as the key to implementing the Internet of Things (IoT),” Fabri added. “We see a requirement that allows consumers to connect simple things to the Internet.”
“The BIG Show is an important show for us, and this year has been very successful,” Fabri noted.
Francisco Melo, VP/GM global RFID for Avery Dennison Retail Branding and Information Solutions (RBIS), said that growth in RFID has been excellent.
“In the third quarter of 2016, Avery Dennison RBIS grew 30% year on year,” said Melo. “This is a business we know, and it is still in its infancy.”
“At this year’s BIG Show, we are showing solutions in our traditional markets, such as apparel and footwear, while exploring new segments such as cosmetics and perishable food,” Melo noted. “We believe RFID is the enabler for data. With Janela Smart Product Solutions, we are creating unique IDs on each item to optimize inventory and brand protection. This digital ID allows the item to be tracked at different points in the supply chain, including post purchase.”
In October 2016, Avery Denison made a strategic investment into PragmatIC, which manufactures low cost printed flexible electronics. Melo said that there are opportunities for printed systems.
“One of the key challenges is to make the experience simple for consumers,” Melo noted. “We believe the key to unlocking the consumer element is simplicity, and the simplicity of NFC is incredible. There is also a fundamental cost challenge due to the way things are made. If you can truly make RFID at a lower cost, it could unlock the whole NFC while creating a broader opportunity that doesn’t need the higher performance. Our work with PragmatIC is still at the trialing stage.”
Avery Dennison also highlighted real-time inventory visibility with Intel’s Responsive Retail Sensor (RRS), as well as showing its partnership with jewelry designer Sarah Angold, who is embedding RFID into her customized accessory pieces.
“Connecting to customers is the next evolution,” Melo said. “Sarah Angold is putting our RFID into her jewelry, and the customer can then have unique interactions.” 
Craig Cotton, VP, marketing and product management for Impinj, said that the RFID market is doing well.

“RFID is growing,” Cotton added. “Performance has improved significantly, while costs have come down nicely.  Apparel is booming, and we see a lot of interest in healthcare and shipping and logistics. It never ceases to amaze me that so many products wind up in the wrong cities. Having accurate inventory levels is not optional anymore.”
Neil Mitchell, Alien Technology’s senior marketing director, said that the RFID market is growing rapidly.
“We shipped about a billion tags last year, and are growing at 25% to 35%,” Mitchell said. “Today’s been pretty busy.”
Alien highlighted its complete product offering, from source tagging through warehouse and distribution, retail, point of sale and identification of things. At BIG Show 2017, Alien showcased its ALR-F800 reader and its ALR-H450 handheld reader, and anticipates new antennas being launched shortly.
Checkpoint Systems highlighted its Wind RFID label for cosmetics and other applications, including apparel, electronics, pharmaceuticals and jewelry. The company reported that Wind labels can be read effectively by handheld as well as fixed readers, including Checkpoint’s RFID DC Tunnels, Wirama-based Point of Exit pedestals (E10 2.0) and ceiling-mounted (OH2) sensors.
Carl Rydon, VP of sales for Checkpoint Systems, noted that RFID allows retailers to audit 100% of their orders.
“Business has been good, and RFID is growing as tagging is becoming so much more common,” Rydon said.  “We are developing solutions that connect from the manufacturer to the customer.”
Zebra Technologies highlighted a number of new technologies, notably its Zebra SmartSense for Retail. SmartSense is an Enterprise Asset Intelligence system combining RFID, tags video and micro-location capabilities. Rob Armstrong, senior director, Americas marketing for Zebra Technologies, discussed the company’s new SmartSense platform.
“SmartSense provides excellent visibility for retailers into their operations,” Armstrong noted. “It combines the ability to sense, analyze and act.”
Armstrong noted that SmartSense is in the pilot stage at two large US retailers. One aspect of interest is video, which allows retailers to see how customers react with their products.
“Video will show dwell times and whether an action is taken by the shopper,” Armstrong said. “It may show that new pricing is needed, or that an associate should be deployed.”
Another aspect of SmartSense is the UltraSonic micro-location system. If the customer has the store’s app open on their smart phone, the overhead sensors can pick up the phone number and send coupons, or the customer can ask for an associate to come over for assistance.
Also for RFID, Zebra showed its collaboration with Tyco Retail Solutions, combining Zebra’s readers with Tyco’s RFID tags.
“The show has been really strong for us,” Armstrong concluded. “We are seeing a lot of interest in SmartSense as well as for our new scanners.”

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