Radio frequency identification and sensor technology use radio frequency waves to exchange data between a reader and a movable object in order to locate, identify or track the object.
Sounds like the ideal technology for parents of young toddlers, who are always, well, toddling off somewhere. Kidding aside, the technology has huge implications for players of an enterprise supply chain. Retailers, suppliers, logistics providers can leverage the technology to track goods along the supply chain.
The Microsoft Company (you may have heard of it) recently announced partnering with Mojix, a radio frequency identification and sensor technology company, to offer a Blockchain-enhanced version of Mojix's Internet of Things (IoT) platform to help factories, distribution centers and retailers track goods using RIFID tags to read via Blockchain-empowered smart contacts.
Mojix's new technology uses RFID-based real-time inventory solutions that provide retailers with higher revenue and margins, omni-channel excellence, better customer service, and a more efficient supply chain, the company claims.
At the National Retail Federation (NRF) Big Show in New York city this January, the Los Angeles-based company introduced its TurboAntenna, an antenna that enables, for the first time, real-time, hands-free inventory that the company claims solves "the hardest challenges of RFID in retail by eliminating employee compliance issues with handhelds (exacerbated by a 60% employee turnover rate) and solving the 'static tag problem' that results from thousands of non-moving RFID tags," according to a company press release.
TurboAntenna spares workers from having to tote around handheld readers to capture inventory data, facilitating more competitive omni-channel execution and streamlined in-store operations.
"That provides tracking of inventory with real-time accountability," says Tom Racette, Mojix's global retail business-development VP tells RFID Journal. "Each transaction is built on the previous transaction," he explains, and all parties "can have full confidence in the integrity of that transaction data."
RFID TECHNOLOGY A BOON OVER BAR CODE TECHNOLOGY
"What's so paramount about RFID, which is often viewed as a competitor to bar coding, is that in many circumstances, RFID offers advantages over traditional bar codes," explains BCC Research Andrew McWilliams. "RFID has a higher read rate than bar code, meaning multiple tags can be read simultaneously instead of just one at a time. It's also more secure, it's difficult to replicate, the data can be encrypted, password protected, and unlike bar codes, doesn't need a scanner physically placed in a 'line of sight' to can the items. There are numerous advantages to this great technology, especially for use in tracking goods across the supply chain."
That's where Microsoft comes in, leveraging its Blockchain as a Service from Azure, with Mojix's real-time IoT software platform that allows sensor networks to collect, store, analyze and interconnect data from multiple sources including RFID, GPS and other sensor devices.
WHAT IS BLOCKCHAIN TECHNOLOGY?
Blockchain technology stores blocks of identical information identical across its network. In other words, the information, which is held on a blockchain, is shared and continually reconciled as a database. There's no single storage location or centralized version of the information at risk for corruption by hacking. The data, simultaneously hosted by millions of computers, are available to anyone on the internet.
William Mougayar, of Startup Management, uses a Google docs analogy to explain the Blockchain technology:
"The traditional way of sharing documents with collaboration is to send a Microsoft Word document to another recipient, and ask them to make revisions to it. The problem with that scenario is that you need to wait until receiving a return copy before you can see or make other changes, because you are locked out of editing it until the other person is done with it," he says.
"That’s how databases work today. Two owners can’t be messing with the same record at once. That’s how banks maintain money balances and transfers; they briefly lock access (or decrease the balance) while they make a transfer, then update the other side, then re-open access (or update again)."
Mougayar explains that with Google Docs, both parties have simultaneous access to the same document while the single version of that document is always visible to both. "It is like a shared ledger, but it is a shared document," he says. "The distributed part comes into play when sharing involves a number of people. You don’t need a blockchain to share documents, but the shared documents analogy is a powerful one."
RFID Journal reports that Mojix also has released is Retail Task Management app, which enables store employees to view inventory and replenishment details. The program, based on the company's Retail Task Management software platform, operates on an iOS- or Android-based device.
BCC Research estimates the total global market for RFID technologies at about $13.9 billion in 2015 and $16.2 billion in 2016. By 2021, BCC Research expects the market to approach $38.0 billion, with a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 18.6% over the next five years.