Christmas gifts on conveyor belts

Why Yule be Thankful for RFID Technology This December

At this time of year as we get caught up in the frenzy of gift buying, wrapping and sending, it’s easy to take for granted the RFID technology that underpins the smooth delivery of everything from the gifts under the tree to the garnish on our festive meals.

Here are just a few of the ways that RFID delivers a happy holiday season:

Tracking

When you think about it, this time of year has always been about tracking and tracing. According to the Christmas story, two millennia ago three wise men tracked a star and followed it from the East to the little town of Bethlehem, where they presented a baby king with their gifts of gold, frankincense and myrrh.

The tradition of gift giving continues to this day, although we’re more likely to be sending our offerings than carrying them ourselves.

Sending Gifts

According to the Pitney Bowes Parcel Shipping Index, 20 billion parcels were sent from the US last year, an increase of five billion since 2019. Statista reports that around 4.2 billion parcels were sent from the UK in 2020/2021, 1.3 billion more than the previous year.

Sadly, not all of those packages reach their intended destinations. According to the UK’s Citizens Advice Bureau, more than five million people complained that their parcels went astray this year. This is where RFID and its complementary technology, barcoding, can help keep track of items to maintain mail companies’ service levels and provide peace of mind to customers.

The Proof Is in the Pudding

Single malts are a popular gift at this time of year as well as being a tasty ingredient in traditional cakes and puddings. But how do you really know that your festive tipple came from that idyllic island shown on the label?

As a high value product, whisky has become a target for counterfeiters. According to a report in Forbes, more than a third of rare and collectible whiskies held in private collections may be fake. Even consumer brands face the risk of whisky fraud.

Old Kempton Distillery in Tasmania tackled this issue and protected the reputation of its brand by using HID Trusted Tag® Services. A cryptographically secure NFC tag is embedded into every bottle label and linked to HID’s cloud authentication service, allowing customers to verify the authenticity and safety of the product at the point of purchase. By tapping their smartphone on the bottle, the customer activates a secure communications channel that verifies that their bottle of Old Kempton is the genuine article. While the whisky is 46% proof, the NFC tag is 100% proof.

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Old Kempton Whisky
HID’s Brand Protection RFID tags provide your organization with an added layer of anti-counterfeiting benefits.

Warehousing and Logistics

As customers stock up for the Thanksgiving, Diwali, Hanukkah and Christmas celebrations, retailers must work hard to keep shelves fully stocked. To improve supply chain management, RFID solutions from passive tags to advanced IoT devices can deliver full visibility of the identity, location and condition of goods as they make their way from factories to distribution centers and into retail stores. RFID readers attached to warehouse doorways can quickly scan RFID tags attached to multiple pallets and products as they are unloaded from delivery trucks. Mobile readers can then be used to locate pallets in huge warehouses to speed the process of fulfilling orders, picking the right products, loading lorries and delivering the correct products to retailers and consumers.

To provide complete visibility of inventory and save time that had previously been wasted searching for stock, one of our warehouse customers attached our passive UHF RFID tags to pallets and the metal racks on which the pallets are stored. The tiny tags, powered by radio waves from the reader, provide the identity and location of every product in the 250,000 square meter warehouse. The tags and on-metal read performance enabled a successful retail warehouse inventory management system that saves time and ensures that the right goods arrive in stores and on time.

A Festive Feast

Automated warehouses are central to the business model of one of our online food retail clients which prides itself on being able to offer home deliveries of fresh produce seven days a week. RFID is used to locate and coordinate its team of robots, which race around on a giant grids, fulfilling an average 50-item customer order in under five minutes. Our passive RFID tags are mounted close together on the metal grid and provide accurate readings in ambient and chilled environments. This is how supermarkets ensure the freshest ingredients for your festive feast.

Toll Booths

Once all the festive goodies are picked, packed and loaded, trucks head out for distribution centers and supermarkets across the country. As they travel on public highways, a combination of RFID toll collection systems and NFC payment solutions enable authorities to monetize miles and maintain roads, bridges and tunnels.  Toll booth technology is based on the work of American inventor, Mario W. Cardullo, who patented an active RFID tag in 1973 that used its own power source to transmit its identity to a static reader. Although he never benefited financially himself, many other organizations developed container and vehicle tracking technology based on Cardullo’s initial concept, which also gave rise to the keyless ignition fob designed to combat auto theft. You could say that Cardullo’s idea is the gift that keeps on giving.

Contactless Payments

The past two years have driven home the message that regular handwashing is a key way to protect ourselves from infection and transmission of disease. Contactless payments over NFC have become a literal life-saver. Using the 13.56 MHz spectrum to initiate a two-way communication between a payment card held within four centimeters of a point-of-sale device also speeds transactions and reduces queuing during busy shopping periods. NFC supports encryption, and because messages are unlikely to be intercepted because the card and POS device need to be in such close proximity, it has been used for a range of security applications and contactless payment systems, including mobile wallets.

Boxing Day

While no one wants to be a grinch, there is definitely an environmental hangover to be tackled after the holiday season. According to figures from confectionary maker Konditor, 781,177,935 million mince pies are eaten in the UK alone each December, generating almost 800 tons of aluminum waste. The UK’s cardboard packaging waste would reach from London to Lapland and back, 103 times! Retailers are being pressed to introduce ways to reduce their environmental impact, and here too, RFID is playing a part. Embedded RFID within reusable packaging, combined with NFC, is being tested by a number of our customers to allow them to incentivize consumers to return their packages after use. By scanning a QR code on their phone, customers can claim reward points for every time they return packaging. Retailers can also use the embedded tag to enhance customer engagement, personalization and loyalty.

Conclusion

These are just a few of the ways that RFID helps to maintain delivery schedules, keep track of parcels, replenish supermarket shelves, protect your payments and deliver online orders to your door. Whatever you’re doing this holiday season, from all of us at HID and HID IDT we wish you a happy and healthy holiday and a prosperous new year.

For a more in-depth look into how HID’s Brand Protection technology helps to prevent counterfeiting, read our case study, Tasmanian Distillery Knocks Out Counterfeiters With HID’s IoT Platform for Brand Protection.

David Owen is an integrated Marketing Manager and brand builder with both professional agency and client-side experience. His client-side experience has included the Commercial Property sector with Vail Williams LLP and before that was in the conference, meeting, events and golf industry. In 2019, David joined Omni-ID (now an HID Global company). David and his family reside in the quiet countryside of Surrey England, where he likes to enjoy a round of golf.

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