With the NRF’s Annual Big Show moving to a virtual platform for its January 2021 program, Avery Dennison hosted a virtual booth, highlighting its latest advances in RFID and NFC. Amir Khoshniyati, head of NFC business for Avery Dennison Smartrac, discussed these new products, as well as what the company is seeing in the RFID space in light of the COVID-19 pandemic. Khoshniyati notes that consumers are moving toward buying their products online, which plays to the strengths of RFID.
“What we’ve been seeing across the board is that people are relying on online shopping and brick and mortar is slowing down,” Khoshniyati said. “This is driving brands to invest more in traceability solutions and inventory management.
“Brands and retailers depend on insights, and consumers are demanding more from the brand and want more personalized experience,” Khoshniyati adds. “From our perspective, it really has to do with innovation and the products we have. We grow our RFID business on two sides. Our UHF RFID side is focused on inventory, and at the end of the supply chain is where NFC comes in.”
The ability to provide consumers with the opportunity to interact with the brand owners is unique to NFC, and Khoshniyati sees excellent possibilities for all of the stakeholders.
“The beauty within retail is that the value of RFID is seen throughout the supply chain,” Khoshniyati observes. “NFC opens a whole new world of possibilities post-sale as the consumer takes their purchase home and the brand can start connecting with the consumer on an on-going basis. The brand can see who they are interacting with, and can do one-to-one messaging.”
One example was the company’s collaboration with Mammut Sports Group AG, a major Swiss outdoor brand. Mammut embedded Smartrac Circus Flex NFC tags, equipped with the NXP NTAG 213 IC, into some of its outdoor products. Through the Mammut Connect app, consumers can tap their smartphones on the product’s NFC touchpoint, while Mammut also gathers supply chain visibility.
“Mammut is an exciting use case which leverages our NFC embedding capabilities,” says Khoshniyati. “It shows what we can do with either heat pressing or sewing the tag into the garment, and it can also withstand wash cycles.”
Khoshniyati sees lots of potential ahead, with the company’s new products driving opportunities for growth.
“Together we now have the broadest product portfolio across UHF RFID and NFC,” he reports. “There's been a lot of knowledge sharing. The integration has gone well, bringing together two of the leading players in the market.
“On the inlay manufacturing side, we are getting a lot more creative with labeling and converting tags in unique ways as well as the development of new, small form factors, he noted. We collaborate closely with the market leading suppliers to bring innovations to our customers.”
“This has echoes out into the market, including suppliers on the chip side, software producers, and from the front of supply chain,” adds Khoshniyati, noting the company has recent collaborations with EM Microselectronic’s em|echo-V and em|linq along with Impinj’s M700 series or NXP chipsets.
“For example, our Circus Pro series is an exciting development,” he continues. “We have been collaborating closely with EM on our chip sets and other areas, and this has opened a new opportunity for the mid-market.”
Khoshniyati said that the world of retail has changed from focusing on the supply chain to emphasizing the complete value chain.
“The value chain extends much further than even a few years back,” he added. “We now offer customers visibility into manufacturing, lead times, the shop floor and insights from the dressing room to the checkout counter. We also have visibility through the life cycle of the product, and contactless pay is accelerating adoption of NFC. Bigger brands are looking for more consumer data in a confined way, and NFC gives a world of possibility. If you can market one-to-one, you can build much more value for the brand.
“Traditionally, the authentication play was the first play and the consumer side came second, but if you get more from an NFC tag now that you know the process and technology, consumers will be more prone to keep using NFC,” Khoshniyati concluded.