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Article | June 4, 2009
Conair: DIY RFID
It’s challenging enough for a consumer packaged goods company to commit to RFID at the bare-bones tag-and-ship level.
It’s altogether another thing when that CPG company decides to “do it yourself” to the extreme: Conair produces RFID devices of its own design based on Monza™ 3 chips from Impinj® (www.impinj.com). Conair, which markets hair dryers and other products under brand names like Cuisinart and Waring, was the subject of an April Webinar presented by RFID Journal.
Conair’s entry into RFID was motivated by two calls to action: Walmart’s request for pallet- and item-level RFID and post-9/11 appeals from Homeland Security to assist in securing U.S. ports.
Its plan: Develop best-in-class RFID at best value. To that end, it formed a subsidiary, United Security Applications ID (USA ID, www.usaidtracking.com), and hired Paul Arguin as director of technology and engineering to handle its own RFID development program.
Why bother with in-house development?
“We tested tags in the market and determined that the sensitivity and, especially, the range, did not meet our needs for a nice, compact tag,” says Arguin. Conair’s 1⁄2 x 1-in. RFID tag with 30-ft range is effective and unobtrusive. It’s used on Conair products delivered to Sam’s Club and is also planned for Walmart.
Other outgrowths of Conair’s DIY initiative include an RFID-enabled ISO 17712 high-security cargo tag; high-sensitivity GPS devices; and combined RF and AM (acousto-magnetic) EAS (electronic article surveillance) sensors. John Mayorek, senior vp, USA ID, says it is going to be offering these products to the market soon.
Its program started with RFID-encrypted electronic seals (e-seals) on cargo containers (for more on e-seals, see www.packworld.com/article-19444); Conair is the 34th largest importer of merchandise into the U.S. that arrives at the Port of Newark, NJ. That security also permits the containers to cut the processing time through customs by up to two-thirds. The solution, which relies on a combination of GPS and a GSM cellular network, works in or on steel containers; it also uses some signal-processing software.
Mayorek points to another internal benefit it gains from RFID: Conair can automatically conduct inventory counts using AWID (www.awid.com) readers: “It’s a more accurate way to do that without using manpower out in the warehouse. It works extremely well for our inventory.” And he adds, “I’m sure there are 400 more applications where RFID could be used.” •
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