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RFID leaders showcase latest products at NRF BIG Show 2016

By David Savastano | January 28, 2016

RFID has achieved its greatest market share in the retail space, and industry leaders continue to develop new solutions.

Retail is a massive industry, covering many fields. Every year, the National Retail Federation (NRF) hosts the BIG Show at the Javits Center in New York City; this year’s four-day show, held from January 17-20, was atended by more than 35,000 people.

RFID plays a major role in the retail field. Estimates place RFID in at least 50% of the top 100 retailers in the US. Apparel is the largest market, with jeans being the first product that was converted to RFID years ago.

“We are seeing adoption increasing in the US at the Top 100 retailers, with 50% doing something with RFID,” said Bill Hardgraves, dean and Wells Fargo professor, Raymond J. Harbert School of Business at Auburn University. “We continue to see the numbers increase.”

In particular, one trend that was evident at the 2016 BIG Show is how RFID is utilized. Where once RFID was primarily an inventory tool, it is now a way to both communicate with customers and provide date to retailers and brand owners. This is adding to the value that RFID brings.

RFID Leaders at the BIG Show
It is not surprising that the leading companies in RFID were exhibiting at the BIG Show. What is interesting is the new array of products and services that attendees witnessed.

Impinj showed an array of solutions for customers, bringing in partners such as Detego, Inmotion, Nedap, RetailNext, RIoT and ShopWithMe. These indcluded smart fitting rooms, smart tables and data analytics systems.

Goetz Pfifferling, senior director business development, global retail at Impinj, said that RFID provides visibility, which is huge for a retail business compared to online retailers.

“Retailers can either tag for inventory visibility or to improve the customer experience, like having smart fitting rooms,” Pfeiferling noted. “With Shop With Me, we have developed a smart table that provides information on a product when it is picked up.”

Jill West, Impinj’s director, marketing communications, added that Impinj has shipped more than 12 billion tags. “This is our second year at NRF, and it is a good show for us,” she added. “Retailers are blown away by what we can do.”

Among its latest offerings, Avery Dennison showcased its new 9419 In-Store Printer, its RFID Interactive Mirror and the Freshmarx 9417 automated date coding printer for fresh food. Francisco Melo, VP global RFID for Avery Dennison Retail Branding and Information Solutions (RBIS), said that RFID continues to grow.

"Retail apparel has been the largest market and the fastest growing in the UHF segment," Melo noted. "Key markets include apparel and fresh food, which we see as the next big market. Retailers want ROI, and they see what RFID brings. Brick and mortar stores have to maximize their opportunities, as store are becoming more like local warehouses for the buy online pick up at store channel, or click and collect.

"This is by far the biggest show for us in terms of the technology side," Melo added. "It is well attended. You find a mix of IT people and retail. It is the perfect audience for us."

Todd Berner, VP Zebra Commerce for Zebra Technologies, said that stores are a key part of the omni-channel supply chain, with customers utilizing options such as ship from store and pickup from store. Retailers have to have the means to satisfy their customers.

To help meet these needs, Zebra Technologies brought a wide range of new technologies to the BIG Show this year, beginning with its new ZD410 and ZD420 printers. The ZD410 and ZD420 are compact printers with WiFi and Bluetooth capabilities. Zebra’s new IQ Color label system allows retailers to print color on demand thermally, through heating an invisible ink.

“The ZD420 fits very well with these models, and offers an easy to replace cartridge,” Berner noted, adding that retail is Zebra’s leading market, and the BIG Show offers many opportunities to meet with current and potential customers.

“The BIG Show is our number one show,” he said. “Retail is our biggest vertical, and transportation and inventory are also major assets. Pharma is also a growing market. We are seeing more use of RFID in the retail space.”

Karin Fabri, head of corporate communications and marketing for Smartrac, reported that Smartrac released a host of new services and products at NRF this year. “NRF is a big show for us,” she said. “Metrics in an in-store analytics system that allows brand owners to track engagement points and items. Blue Bite is a product authentication system that uses NFC tags. For example, adidas places an NFC tag in its shoes, which connects the customer to the item and to the cloud. It also offers real product authentication as it cannot be counterfeited.”

In addition, Smartrac launched several new RFID transponders for retail, including its Accessory and Bling inlays and the new dual frequency inlay Web DF.

Alien Technology made its first appearance at the BIG Show this year, and Neil Mitchell, Alien’s senior marketing director, said the show was a success. "This is the first year we have exhibited at NRF, and it has been pretty good,” he noted.

Alien Technology was highlighting its ALR-F800 reader at BIG Show 2016. “The ALR-F800 has a new novel architecture at a price point no one can match but with all of the performance features customers expect,” Mitchell said.

“We continue to see growth in retail for RFID,” Mitchell added. “All big retailers are using RFID or are rolling it out. For Alien, 60% of our business is retail. We are in a very fortunate position is that we are vertically integrated in UHF. We can do the ICs, tags and readers.”

Tyco Retail Solutions specializes in electronic article surveillance (EAS), and is moving into the inventory segment. One of its key brands is Sensormatic. Patty Harney, senior manager, marketing communications for Tyco Retail Solutions, noted that Tyco has been coming to NRF for at least the past five years. “It’s a good show and we love being here,” she said.

“We are bringing RFID into the inventory and loss prevention segments,” Harney added. “We are exclusively retail. We provide real time data to the item and SKU levels - order management, inventory, accuracy. Without RFID, typical inventory accuracy was 65%; with RFID, accuracy is now 99%. The sweet spot is apparel and shoes, which have proved the ROI, and RFID is definitely more widely adopted.”

Headquartered in China, Invengo is best known for its RFID systems in transportation; the company supplies the RFID tickets used by China Rail, and is making headway globally. Scott Medford, chief sales officer for Invengo, noted that the company manufactures RFID inlays, tags, handheld and fixed readers and antennas. He added that overall, RFID has had the most success in retail.

The NRF BIG Show 2016 hosted more than 35,000 visitors.
“Retail is the largest market for RFID, while healthcare is starting to emerge as a huge market,” Medford said. “Toll tags, baggage tags and asset management are also important markets.”
Invengo showcased a new UHF reader during BIG Show 2016. “We have developed a new UHF reader that is a smart phone that can compete with handheld readers,” Medford said. “We have already sold thousands of these in China.”

Cybra is an RFID and bar code specialist, and Harold Brand, chairman and CEO of Cybra,said that RFID’s opportunities are growing. Cybra showcased the newest generation of its EdgeMagic software program. “The hot applications are loss prevention, cycle counting and omni-channel,” Brand said. “Apparel is the biggest retail market. NRF is an important show for us, and we are very happy with NRF."

Checkpoint Systems brought an array of new RFID products to the BIG Show, including Micro RFID label for the health, beauty and cosmetics markets, and an RFID-based solution for grocery stores to monitor fresh meat.

Su Doyle, RFID applications director, Checkpoint Systems, noted that RFID is a key part of the omni-channel system.

“The fact is that you better have the product the customer wants in your store, or the person will walk. If pick and pack takes 25 minutes, it’s a fail. RFID data and automation makes the system more efficient,”said Doyle.

“NRF is an important show for us,” Doyle concluded. “The people we talk to here are in the supply chain and IT. The BIG Show is an institution.”

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