Barcoding Inc.

November 25th, 2014

Bluetooth Beacons Can be Deployed Across the Enterprise

Bluetooth beacons have been deployed in consumer facing situations, however, the technology has many more potential applications throughout a wide range of business operations. While people have been focusing on consumer applications until now, the potential returns on an investment from deploying beacons throughout the supply chain in order to track assets is definitely worth investigating.

One company who is leading the way in this area is Zebra Technologies. The company has recently become one of the world’s biggest RFID technologists, having bought over part of Motorola Solutions’ enterprise business. Zebra is currently working towards more deployments of beacons in business settings. The manufacturers of beacons are attempting to integrate a larger variety of sensors into their beacon systems so that they can be applied to supply chain operations. One of the most promising sensors to be fitted is a thermostat, which could be deployed in vehicles used to transport perishable goods to monitor the temperature of containers and alert the driver if there are any problems.

At the end of 2013, Zebra announced that they were developing an Internet of Things platform called Zatar, which is intended for companies to manage their RFID readers and devices from a remote location. The product was demonstrated at the IoT World Forum when the company made it apparent that Zatar could serve enterprise customers in a number of ways, for example, wine sellers could be able to watch the condition of their products by applying a variety of RFID tags and beacons to individual bottles and in their storage units.

Zebra is also seeking to apply their technologies in the health care industry and are currently running a pilot. The intention is to help quantify emergency services more effectively. For example, if an ambulance is sent to collect someone suffering from cardiac arrest, that patient can be tagged with a beacon via a wristband, which will communicate a unique identifier to a gateway located in the ambulance. The gateway will collect timestamps to inform health workers about how much time has elapsed since the patient was picked up. Once in the hospital this tracking continues and a treatment timeline is created.

With prospective applications like these, the development of beacon technology is certainly worth investing in, and the benefits for enterprises in general could be great.

Discover what Zatar can do for your business.

November 20th, 2014

Zebra Technologies Acquires Motorola Solutions’ Enterprise Business

Zebra Technologies recently announced the completion of their acquisition of Motorola Solutions. The combination creates a leading global provider of end-to-end solutions, simplifying operations and empowering mobile workers.

Joining forces with Motorola Solutions strengthens Zebra’s product portfolio, geographic reach, go-to-market channels and industries served. In addition, Zebra will be able to offer its customers and shareholders the following:

  • Industry-leading data capture, mobile computing, specialty printing and asset tracking solutions and services
  • New product, technology and IP portfolio
  • Maximum efficiency and synergy

With the acquisition of Motorola Solution, Zebra now has approximately 20,000 channel partners in more than 100 countries with 4,300 U.S. and international patents issued and pending.

“This transformative acquisition creates one company with unparalleled capabilities and leading global brands in our industry,” stated Anders Gustafsson, Zebra’s chief executive officer.”

Learn more about Zebra and Motorola Solutions becoming one AIDC superpower!

November 18th, 2014

The Role of Lowes in Shaping the Internet of Things

While the Internet of Things (IoT) may be the preserve of digital startups and tech gurus, there is still a lot of room for conventional retailers to shape and influence growth in this area, providing they apply the correct business model.

The VP and GM of Lowes, Kevin Meagher, has been speaking recently about Lowes’ approach to IoT. Like a lot of their counterparts, Lowes began by stocking interconnected products such as door locks and light bulbs according to customer demand. However, the problems arising from this approach began to make themselves apparent after a while.

These problems started when customers became confused by the fact that certain devices were not compatible with others. Having spent considerable amounts of money on such devices, it’s no surprise that customers were put off. As more devices began to come online, Lowes was faced with a question of how they might interconnect.

Meagher states that while there is great opportunity arising from IoT, it is wholly dependent on a solid business model. He claims that some of the business models he’s come across are not fit for purpose, and that there is a problem with the standards retailers and suppliers are currently applying.

He argues that if suppliers are left to solve the problems of device integration, they won’t talk to each other or provide information about their API’s for fear of their competitors will gain the advantage over them. Lowe’s realized that in order to provide the best service for their customers. they had to take a neutral approach to the situation.

The company is in a strong position to leverage the argument—they are spending approximately $50 billion on products from suppliers of interconnected devices. Their position is simple and clear, they request that suppliers open their API’s and divert their energy towards answering the needs of the consumer.

This is not to say that Lowes is not a player in the IoT game themselves— they recently unveiled their own consumer device hub, which is called Iris. Meagher claims that they stock about sixty items which work directly with Iris using the Z-wave and Zigbee protocols to communicate with the Iris hub. In addition, it also works with Wi-Fi and will soon work across a fourth standard network communications technology.

Lowes is adamant that standards must open up if multiple devices are to communicate successfully in the home. Meagher complains that the market cannot grow if the only way to facilitate this is to buy their device and is adamant that both retailers and suppliers have to be open in order to capitalize from IoT.

What do you think about standards for IoT? Share your thoughts by commenting on this post, or on our Facebook or twitter pages.

November 13th, 2014

The Rise of Bluetooth & Interconnected Devices

Bluetooth has always been utilized as a way for electronic devices to connect over short distances. As many will testify, it facilitates this job with varying success at times—for example, how often has a “pairing failed” when trying to connect to another device using Bluetooth. However, this method for wirelessly connecting devices in a short-range network still has a role to play, particularly as we move into the era of the Internet of Things (IoT).

Despite it’s teething problems since being unveiled in 1999 as a wireless radio communications technology, Bluetooth, which is said to take it’s name from the Danish King Harald Bluetooth, is becoming the de facto means for connecting consumer electronic devices in wireless networks. As wearable devices become a viable resource for people, the means for connecting them to larger communications network is via a Bluetooth link-up. Wearable devices now include fitness trackers, home heating systems and even toothbrushes. Over the last fifteen years or so, Bluetooth has been developed in conjunction with consumer electronic devices to become a much more viable technology.

Responsible for this development is a nonprofit called the Bluetooth Special Interest Group, which currently has 24,000 companies in its membership. This group allows any company to use Bluetooth so long as they comply with their requested specifications. The people within the Bluetooth group who are responsible for designating these specifications recently sanctioned an expansion of the technology to include a whole array of new devices besides earpieces and hands-free kits. This was done so that it could be used as the integral technology for connecting our devices in the home as part of the smaller networks, which will collectively make up the Internet of Things.

This latest upgrade is known as “Bluetooth Smart,” and is designed to be used for extremely fast communications over relatively short distances. The spokesman for the Bluetooth Special interest group, Suke Jawanda, claims that we are just now starting to see the technology fulfill its potential as it facilitates the ever growing interconnectedness of consumer electronics. Jawanda even went so far as to call it the “killer enabler” of interconnected consumer technologies.

Bluetooth Smart has been around since 2010, but now it is starting to appear in a growing litany of devices. This growth can be attributed by the latest versions’ improved power efficiency—remember how the initial installation of Bluetooth used to drain your battery? With Bluetooth Smart, this is no longer the case.

Competition to Bluetooth Smart comes from Wi-Fi Direct, which lets devices be connected without the intermediary of the wireless router. Both face challenges that are synonymous with wireless networks such as range, obstacles and other interferences. Therefore, it is inevitable that our world will become one of constant communications between devices.

How do you think Bluetooth with change with the growth of IoT? Share your thoughts by commenting below, or on our Facebook or twitter pages.

November 12th, 2014

Cycle Counting: Why You Should Ditch the End of Year Model in Favor of It

Most companies are dedicated to an inventory management program, which always seems to throw up disparities between their records and what is counted during stock takes. The reasons for this can be speculated—misplaced items, wrongly recorded entries or even stolen goods are all possibilities. It would seem that these disparities are inevitable, however, someone has the responsibility to manage the stock inventory and must be extremely concerned with keeping the margin of error as small as possible.

The annual stock count is carried out in order to compare records of stock by checking them against the items in storage. The hope is that this process will provide evidence that the records match the physical inventory exactly, though this is often not the case. This task often involves suspending normal business activities on hold at a significant cost to the company.

Enter cycle counting, an improved approach to this age old process which works by separating the process of inventory verification over a period of time in order to achieve better efficiency and accuracy. Provided that the company has the correct software all that is needed to employ cycle counting is a little bit of know how, and it’s not even that difficult to understand.

The main concept of cycle counting is that it is an easy process to implement. It has two distinct qualities that make it distinct from current practices. The first is that the verification of stock takes place as part of a continuous process year on year, and the second is the special attention paid to high value items.

The benefits to this model are much greater than the effort that is required during initial implementation—any problems discovered within the inventory during cycle counting can be addressed and corrected more frequently if compared with the annual system. Each cycle count will not take up as much time and limit disruption. Overall, the process provides more accuracy and efficiency through frequent improvement.

Research has been conducted by a number of organizations to extract hard numbers to back up these claims. The University of Arkansas, and place the accuracy of bin location at between 95% and 99% under the new system, with potential efficiency gains of between 5% and 10% available according to research by Tompkins Associates. A study during 2009 by the Aberdeen Group suggests that cycle counting is among 5 characteristics displayed by industry leading performers.

The upheaval experienced when implementing cycle counting is it’s main downside. It requires a re-assignment of tasks from annual to regularly, this might require a new process leaders appointment to oversee the process. The process itself will require careful planning in order to reap the full benefits of the system while not disrupting the day to day running of the business, and a warehousing system which can support the newly implemented cycle counting approach. Master these challenges, and your organization will be well on the way to greater inventory counting efficiency.

This article has been adapted from “Cycle Counting (Part 1): What Every Inventory Manager Should Know About It,” by Adam Bluemner.