What if every consumer product had its own digital identity? How many items would need to be
tagged to make that a reality? There are the everyday consumer items, such as clothes and food and
household goods, a huge variety of commercial assets, such as tools, equipment, documents and
pharmaceuticals, and all the packages and returnable transport items used in the supply chains.
Digital identities enable efficient management and usage of all these items, with potential to cut
down the unsustainable usage of natural resources.
Note: This is the second blog in our series on RAIN RFID with Voyantic, following
technical aspects of RAIN RFID encoding.
RAIN RFID technology is a leading choice for giving items a digital identity which can be
connected to the IoT. This enables systems and people to manage, interact and engage with everyday
things. Several market sectors, including retail, aviation and automotive, are already adopting
RAIN RFID. Other industries are at an early stage of RAIN RFID adoption too, such as healthcare,
logistics, food and parcel services.
According to the
RAIN Alliance, growth is strong. An estimated 21 billion RAIN RFID tag ICs were delivered in 2020 an increase
of 15% from the previous year. So even though every year billions of items are being tagged,
the RAIN Market Research report that the potential is actually in trillions.
Evolution of Tagging Strategies
RAIN RFID tagging already provides visibility in many industries but how tags containing the
digital identity are attached to the items is an entirely distinct process, adding a separate
additional process for the item's manufacturing and packaging.
We see an evolution where RAIN RFID tags transition from being added as an afterthought to where
RAIN RFID is an integral part of the item. In other words, we see a future where everything is
Embedded RAIN RFID Tags: Born Digital
There are several reasons why it’s a good idea to embed a RAIN RFID tag into either a product’s
packaging or the product itself.
From a manufacturing standpoint, embedded RAIN RFID ICs remove the manual step of attaching tags
to the finished products for a more streamlined approach to production.
From an operational point of view, giving each item a unique RAIN RFID identity means items can be
tracked through the supply chain, distribution and retail, all the way to the end customer and
even recycling. Companies can increase inventory efficiency and improve visibility that is
essential building blocks for operations such as ‘buy online, pickup in store’ (BOPIS) and omnichannel sales during an era where commerce moves online.
Taking it a step further, embedded RAIN RFID means companies can be more effective with their
after-sales services and warranties, because guarantees and other rights of ownership can stay
with items even when they’re resold, returned or recycled.
Removing Bottlenecks to Support Growth
Although the tag manufacturing value chain is generally understood, the path to ensuring capacity
over time, as adoption continues, has some obstacles. Perhaps the trickiest of these is encoding
or personalisation, which is when each item is assigned its unique digital identity.
Whether the RAIN RFID tag will be part of an external label or embedded into the item itself, the
unique identifier is encoded usually as the very last step in production or packaging machines
that run at high speeds. This can create a potential bottleneck. Couple this with the increasing
volume of tags expected and it’s clear to see that scaling to support growth could become a real
How to Keep Up with Demand
As a general rule, it is more economical to perform personalization – that is, make the connection
between the physical item and its digital identity – as early as possible in the supply chain.
Ideally, it happens as part of the item’s manufacture.
There are two ways to do this, either by outsourcing or bringing the task in-house:
The manufacturer uses a third-party company that acts as a service bureau to encode tags in a
completely separate process. It’s important to recognise that this process also includes the
management of digital identities, to ensure that no two items of a certain type have the same
identity. This is a non-trivial process that can add complexity to the outsourcing task. Price
tickets and external labels are likely to continue following this method
The encoding process is implemented at the packaging or manufacturing lines. This requires
connectivity, data management, reliability and minor changes to the established processes,
production-grade solution is needed. The upside is that companies can customize their products, eliminate the
extra step of outsourcing and be more responsive and nimbler when it comes to delivery.
A Bright Future
As RAIN RFID continues to be recognized for its abilities to connect everyday items to the IoT,
there will be greater demand to design products that have RAIN RFID at the heart of their identity
and are born digital. As products transition from being tagged as an after-thought to having tags
as an integral part of the item (or at least their packaging), product manufacturers will have to
decide how best to meet demand for increased volume, either by outsourcing encoding or making
encoding an integral part of their own processes.
Look out for the final blog in the series from Voyantic to understand the choices related to smart
label manufacturing process and machinery.
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