RFID and the IOT

RFID's unique contribution to the Internet of things is by adding the value of what's going on at a particular point on a specific object at an exact time, says Patrick Rae Bauer, Synertech New Business Executive.

Read time 11min 40sec

"The Internet of Things (IOT) is the inter-networking of physical devices, vehicles (also referred to as "connected devices" and "smart devices"), buildings, and other items embedded with electronics, software, sensors, actuators, and network connectivity which enable these objects to collect and exchange data" (Wikipedia definition).

As the use of the Internet has grown (social media being a huge contributor to this), and the convenience of having a single front end that mashes software together and provides the user with a single and simple GUI that interacts with many different software applications around the world (i.e. Facebook), the need to connect anything to everything, from machine-to-machine (M2M), radio frequency identification (RFID), wearables, and now artificial intelligence (AI), IOT has become not just the Next Big Thing, but a viable business initiative.

Although we have coined a new term and of course allocated a three-letter acronym, says Patrick Rae Bauer, Synertech New Business Executive, the idea of an interconnecting network of smart objects collaborating with each other has been around for almost half a century now!!!

Let's take a look at the IOT Timeline:

Here are some extract's from - A Very Short History Of The Internet Of Things as published by Gil Press, Forbes Contributor (18 June 2014):

* 1949: The barcode is conceived when 27-year-old Norman Joseph Woodland draws four lines in the sand on a Miami beach. Woodland, who later became an IBM engineer, received (with Bernard Silver) the first patent for a linear bar code in 1952. More than 20 years later, another IBMer, George Laurer, was one of those primarily responsible for refining the idea for use by supermarkets.
* 1955: Edward O. Thorp conceives of the first wearable computer, a cigarette pack-sized analogue device, used for the sole purpose of predicting roulette wheels. Developed further with the help of Claude Shannon, it was tested in Las Vegas in the summer of 1961, but its existence was revealed only in 1966.
* 1967: Hubert Upton invents an analogue wearable computer with eyeglass-mounted display to aid in lip reading.
* 29 October 1969: The first message is sent over the ARPANET, the predecessor of the Internet.
* 23 January 1973: Mario Cardullo receives the first patent for a passive, read-write RFID tag.
* 26 June 1974: A Universal Product Code (UPC) label is used to ring up purchases at a supermarket for the first time.
* Early 1980s: Members of the Carnegie-Mellon Computer Science department install micro-switches in the Coke vending machine and connect them to the PDP-10 departmental computer so they could see on their computer terminals how many bottles were present in the machine and whether they were cold or not.
* 1990: Olivetti develops an active badge system, using infrared signals to communicate a person's location.
* September 1991: Xerox PARC's Mark Weiser publishes "The Computer in the 21st Century" in Scientific American, using the terms "ubiquitous computing" and "embodied virtuality" to describe his vision of how "specialised elements of hardware and software, connected by wires, radio waves and infrared, will be so ubiquitous that no one will notice their presence."

*The below is Not From extract, But a worldwide milestone from SOUTH AFRICA!!!:

*In January 1994, a demonstration of a supermarket trolley containing 35 items and being scanned in a couple of seconds was shown around the world on television. This system was based on a patent entitled "Electronic Identification System " claiming priority from 1991. This system had been developed in a South African government research laboratory by the Mining Systems programme. The inventor of the system, and the person who lead the development and commercialisation up to the demonstration was Mike Marsh (a founder of RFID Technologies).

* 1994: Xerox EuroPARC's Mik Lamming and Mike Flynn demonstrate the Forget-Me-Not, a wearable device that communicates via wireless transmitters and records interactions with people and devices, storing the information in a database.
* 1995: Siemens sets up a dedicated department inside its mobile phones business unit to develop and launch a GSM data module called "M1" for machine-to-machine (M2M) industrial applications, enabling machines to communicate over wireless networks. The first M1 module was used for point of sale (POS) terminals, in vehicle telematics, remote monitoring and tracking and tracing applications.
* 1999:
The Auto-ID (for Automatic Identification) Center is established at MIT. Sanjay Sarma, David Brock and Kevin Ashton turned RFID into a networking technology by linking objects to the Internet through the RFID tag.
Neil Gershenfeld writes in When Things Start to Think: "Beyond seeking to make computers ubiquitous, we should try to make them unobtrusive.... For all the coverage of the growth of the Internet and the World Wide Web, a far bigger change is coming as the number of things using the Net dwarf the number of people. The real promise of connecting computers is to free people, by embedding the means to solve problems in the things around us."

* January 1, 2001: David Brock, co-director of MIT's Auto-ID Center, writes in a white paper titled "The Electronic Product Code (EPC): A Naming Scheme for Physical Objects": "For over twenty five years, the Universal Product Code (UPC or 'bar code') has helped streamline retail checkout and inventory processes... To take advantage of [the Internet's] infrastructure, we propose a new object identification scheme, the Electronic Product Code (EPC), which uniquely identifies objects and facilitates tracking throughout the product life cycle."


* Chana Schoenberger and Bruce Upbin publish "The Internet of Things" in Forbes. They quote Kevin Ashton of MIT's Auto-ID Center: "We need an internet for things, a standardized way for computers to understand the real world."

* Jim Waldo writes in "Virtual Organizations, Pervasive Computing, and an Infrastructure for Networking at the Edge," in the Journal of Information Systems Frontiers: "...the Internet is becoming the communication fabric for devices to talk to services, which in turn talk to other services. Humans are quickly becoming a minority on the Internet, and the majority stakeholders are computational entities that are interacting with other computational entities without human intervention."
* Glover Ferguson, chief scientist for Accenture, writes in "Have Your Objects Call My Objects" in the Harvard Business Review: "It's no exaggeration to say that a tiny tag may one day transform your own business. And that day may not be very far off."


* Bernard Traversat et al. publish "Project JXTA-C: Enabling a Web of Things" in HICSS '03 Proceedings of the 36th Annual Hawaii International Conference on System Sciences. They write: "The open-source Project JXTA was initiated a year ago to specify a standard set of protocols for ad hoc, pervasive, peer-to-peer computing as a foundation of the upcoming Web of Things."
* Sean Dodson writes in the Guardian: "Last month, a controversial network to connect many of the millions of tags that are already in the world (and the billions more on their way) was launched at the McCormick Place conference centre on the banks of Lake Michigan. Roughly 1 000 delegates from across the worlds of retail, technology and academia gathered for the launch of the electronic product code (EPC) network. Their aim was to replace the global barcode with a universal system that can provide a unique number for every object in the world. Some have already started calling this network 'the internet of things'."


* Science-fiction writer Bruce Sterling introduces the concept of "Spime" at SIGGRAPH, describing it as "a neologism for an imaginary object that is still speculative. A Spime also has a kind of person who makes it and uses it, and that kind of person is somebody called a 'Wrangler.' ... The most important thing to know about Spimes is that they are precisely located in space and time. They have histories. They are recorded, tracked, inventoried, and always associated with a story... In the future, an object's life begins on a graphics screen. It is born digital. Its design specs accompany it throughout its life. It is inseparable from that original digital blueprint, which rules the material world. This object is going to tell you - if you ask - everything that an expert would tell you about it. Because it WANTS you to become an expert."
* G. Lawton writes in "Machine-to-machine technology gears up for growth" in Computer: "There are many more machines-defined as things with mechanical, electrical, or electronic properties--in the world than people. And a growing number of machines are networked... M2M is based on the idea that a machine has more value when it is networked and that the network becomes more valuable as more machines are connected.
* Neil Gershenfeld, Raffi Krikorian and Danny Cohen write in "The Internet of Things" in Scientific American: "Giving everyday objects the ability to connect to a data network would have a range of benefits: making it easier for homeowners to configure their lights and switches, reducing the cost and complexity of building construction, assisting with home health care. Many alternative standards currently compete to do just that-a situation reminiscent of the early days of the Internet, when computers and networks came in multiple incompatible types."
* Robert Weisman writes in the Boston Globe: "The ultimate vision, hatched in university laboratories at MIT and Berkeley in the 1990s, is an 'Internet of things' linking tens of thousands of sensor mesh networks. They'll monitor the cargo in shipping containers, the air ducts in hotels, the fish in refrigerated trucks, and the lighting and heating in homes and industrial plants. But the nascent sensor industry faces a number of obstacles, including the need for a networking standard that can encompass its diverse applications, competition from other wireless standards, security jitters over the transmitting of corporate data, and some of the same privacy concerns that have dogged other emerging technologies."


* A team of faculty members at the Interaction Design Institute Ivrea (IDII) in Ivrea, Italy, develops Arduino, a cheap and easy-to-use single-board microcontroller, for their students to use in developing interactive projects. Adrian McEwen and Hakim Cassamally in Designing the Internet of things: "Combined with an extension of the wiring software environment, it made a huge impact on the world of physical computing."
* The International Telecommunications Union publishes the 7th in its series of reports on the Internet, titled "The Internet of things."
* June 22, 2009: Kevin Ashton writes in "That 'Internet of Things' Thing" in RFID Journal: "I could be wrong, but I'm fairly sure the phrase 'Internet of things' started life as the title of a presentation I made at Procter & Gamble (P&G) in 1999. Linking the new idea of RFID in P&G's supply chain to the then-red-hot topic of the Internet was more than just a good way to get executive attention. It summed up an important insight-one that 10 years later, after the Internet of Things has become the title of everything from an article in Scientific American to the name of a European Union conference, is still often misunderstood."

As you can see in the historical timeline, RFID has had its contributing factors in a number of eras throughout.

But how does RFID contribute to this new era of IOT?

Summed up in a single sentence: "Radio frequency identification's (RFID) unique contribution on the Internet of things is by adding the value of what's going on at a particular point on a specific object at an exact time."

To achieve this, data collection, process automation and optimisation are vitally important.

Data value is derived from the ability to continuously gather information on the item, its condition, location, ownership, who interacted with it last, temperature etc. These are strong use cases for RFID: applications for components in operation, tracking and updating product quality or high-value assets that need to be tracked and traced. All these need ongoing data about the items stored for their lifetime, from inception to end of life, creating a complete audit trail.

RFID enables process automation and optimisation in the context of multi-stage or multi-enterprise processes. Read/write RFID with additional storage space can collect more data as the item passes from stage to stage, and RFID with sensors can make the item "Smart" by enabling a trigger to kick off a process automatically, while collecting and providing additional data about the item and its condition -- temperature, location, status.

The availability and sharing of this RFID gathered information within the IOT is where longevity and value is derived, thus providing a broad and long-lived return on investment for both.

Synertech have for over a decade now been actively researching, developing, implementing and supporting various RFID Applications, which is now considered "Industrial IOT" (like sensors and SCADA) that are fit to purpose and have been tried and tested, successfully.

Synertech's core business solution consists of the automation with radio frequency identification (RFID) and ensures the provision of unique yet sustainable services and solutions harnessing a combination of technical, management, innovative, quality and entrepreneurial capabilities including:

* RFID systems and solution engineering;
* Project management (RFID-related);
* Product support and upgrading;
* Software development;
* Manufacturing and integration of various components;
* Installation and commissioning of complete solutions; and
* Rapid ramp-up ability and flexibility to deliver any RFID project.

For more information:

Editorial contacts
Synertech Patrick Bauer (+27) 010 350 5200
See also