As the demand for encoding and printing RFID labels at an affordable price continues to grow across the globe, Printronix Auto ID is invested in upgrading and pursuing new innovations for our line of RFID printers.
This month, we welcomed a new member to the business development team who will be spearheading the advancement of our RFID printers worldwide: AIDC industry veteran Chris Brown. Chris is our new RFID business development manager and brings a wealth of experience to our organization.
To learn more about his background, his new role, and his goals for our growing line of RFID printers, we sat down with Chris for a quick interview. . . .
Q: Where are you currently based, and what region do you oversee?
I’m based at a remote office in Minneapolis, Minn., but I report directly to our headquarters in Brea, Calif. I am primarily responsible for developing our RFID business in the Americas, but I’ll also be supporting global accounts.
Q: Tell me more about your role at Printronix/TSC and what it entails.
Printronix has always had very good RFID technology with RFID printer encoders, and we are continuing to invest in new engineering technologies. My role is to really make the RFID community aware of Printronix as a major player and supplier in the RFID world.
Q: Tell us more about your experience in the RFID industry and your 20+ years of experience at the software company Seagull Scientific.
I was hired by Seagull Scientific (maker of the famous BarTender software) in 1998 to open the EMEA office, so I relocated to Europe, opened our first remote office, and grew our business over there.
BarTender is a classic label software. Our knowledge of RFID when I started was really just tangential to barcoding, but we got lucky that RFID was able to be added to BarTender quite easily. It didn’t require any major changes to add RFID support to many products in the barcoding world, including BarTender and barcode printers. For BarTender, RFID was simply another drag-and-drop component added right into our product. With this new component, people could not only print barcode labels, but also encode the RFID tags as well.
We did get involved in some early RFID “smart label” projects. Since this was a new technology, it hit a bit of a rough patch, but eventually things smoothed out and took off when GS1 – a not-for-profit organization that develops and maintains global standards for business communication (including the UPC barcode) – developed the EPC UHF Gen2 standards.
Gen2 RFID is reliable and efficient enough to have made RFID very interesting again. Ever since Gen2, a fairly steady percentage of AIDC solutions, including those using BarTender, involve RFID.
Because of my experience at Seagull Scientific, I know the AIDC world and how RFID fits into that. It’s really just another piece of the puzzle as opposed to entirely new thinking.
Q: What are some interesting facts about RFID that most people don’t know about?
Most people trace the roots of RFID back to military experiments involving radar during World War II. It is even believed that the first “passive RFID tag” was used by the Soviets to spy on the American Embassy in Moscow. The tag was embedded in a wooden plaque and hung on the embassy wall for six years before it was discovered.
Today, various militaries continue to use RFID for many applications, but it is also a widespread commercial technology to, basically, improve efficiencies.
Walmart attempted the first major commercial implementation of RFID to track and record shipments in their supply chain. While there were extensive pilots, the economics did not materialize, and the project was shelved. From that time, many believed that RFID would never fulfill its promise in the commercial world. Today, however, RFID is back and going strong due to the standards settling down, advancements in tag and equipment performance, lower tag pricing, and use-cases showing a compelling ROI.
Q: Where do you see the future applications of RFID tags going?
(This is not my idea originally, so credit where credit is due): All of the RFID applications that we’re seeing right now are basically coming from the back office/tech people. RFID is complicated to the point that you need to have engineers come in and set everything up, then lock everything down. But this may change.
When barcoding became simple and commonplace enough with barcode printers pervasive throughout an organization, many “shop floor guys” started tinkering with the equipment and printing labels for their own solutions. “What if we put a barcode label at the end of each warehouse aisle so you could quickly know which SKUs were in that aisle?” Many of today’s standard commercial barcoding solutions arose from these non-specialists who had a creative idea and ran with it.
When RFID crosses some threshold in terms of cost, reliability, performance and simplicity, these same shop floor people, will be able to creatively play around with the technology. Imagine when RFID is standard on AIDC printers, and everyday users can print and encode their own label designs in minutes – and know that they will be able to read the tags with a standard reader in their iPhone XIII. I believe all kinds of ad hoc solutions will be generated and become interesting applications that other people can use. The common man will be able to dream up new applications that will become part of our everyday lives, so RFID won’t just be limited to engineers in the future.
Q: Of all of the RFID printers from Printronix, which one is your favorite (and why)?
Very soon, we will be releasing RFID printers that support “on-metal” tags for products like appliances, cables and wires, computer server racks, etc. These look like standard RFID labels, but are a bit thicker, and require that the RFID printer be slightly modified to work with them.
Q: Favorite food?
I’m a foodie. I love food. My favorite food depends on my mood. It could be Asian, Mexican, seafood, whatever. One of my favorite TV shows is Diners, Drive-Ins & Dives. I would go anywhere that is featured on that show.
Q: Where is the most interesting place you’ve ever travelled?
Q: Which TV show are you currently binge-watching?
I am binge-watching The King of Queens.
Q: What is your favorite sports team?
I was a fan of this team long before Tom Brady: the New England Patriots.