Oct 10, 2018—
RAIN RFID technology company Impinj has shipped its two millionth UHF RFID reading device since it began offering the products, the firm announced this week, reflecting the growth the technology is experiencing in retail, air transportation, supply chain, health care and food. The number of Impinj connectivity devices sold, including RFID readers, gateways, modules and reader chips, follows a pattern that Chris Diorio, the firm's founder and CEO, says he had predicted, as had many in the industry.
"I've always believed you could put a digital identification on every item in the world," Diorio says. "I think we [RFID industry members] all share that vision." The only surprise, he adds, has been the fits and spurts in which the technology has grown in numerous markets.
Impinj's Chris DiorioThe growth in passive UHF RFID technology has followed a path that has taken a few unexpected turns, Diorio notes. Initially, he says, RFID adoption was largely predicted to take off in logistics and supply chain management, with tags attached to pallets and crates, captured via portal readers and handhelds in warehouses or at retailer sites.
The subsequent slowing of logistics installations was due, in part, to restrictions in RF design that made it challenging to identify which portal (and thus which dock door) a pallet or box was passing through. The deployment of shields, walls and light sensors served as limited solutions. That problem, Diorio reports, is now being addressed with a new software-based approach that is bringing RFID deployments back into logistics and distribution centers.
Impinj has been among the companies developing software to detect the locations of tags based on signal strength and other characteristics, making an RFID system no longer dependent upon hardware to filter out stray reads. That change in read data approach means RFID technology can be better adapted to other use cases, such as electronic article surveillance, to identify when retail items leave a store.
For retail, Diorio says, RFID was initially adopted primarily for in-store inventory tracking, as well as for supply chain management in Asia. Now, however, many retailers are exploring the expansion of their existing solutions by installing RFID reader portals at store entrances in order to identify which items pass through the doorway and whether they have been purchased.
The software can detect not only if an item is passing through the doorway, but also the direction in which it is moving, while screening out stray reads of items located near the door but not passing through. "That's the general trend across multiple industries," Diorio says, "doing more and more with software," rather than trying to control the RF transmissions to single out a tag's location.