Innovations

RFID Inventory Management System

Smart Solutions by Merging Materials with ICT Technologies

Recently, utilization of UHF band IC tags has been spreading rapidly in many fields as the next generation automatic recognition technology to replace conventional barcode systems. Stock management using UHF band IC tags has several features not found in barcodes, where multiple objects can be detected and recognized simultaneously at high speeds and long distances detection and recognition. However, it has been very difficult to accurately recognize the presence of IC tags at certain areas up until now. Teijin has developed and commercialized a novel smart solution, Recopick®, which combines materials and ICT technologies to address this problem. This technology is based on a 2D communication technology developed by the Shinoda Laboratory at the University of Tokyo, whose inventions led to the spinout of the venture company, Cellcross Ltd. Recopick® is a smart management system which identifies UHF band IC tags using special 2D communication sheets. By installing these sheets onto surfaces of shelves, walls or floors, items located closely to the sheet can be automatically detected and recognized.

2D Communication Sheet and Proprietary Algorithm

Recopick® has two main features: (i) 2D communication sheet that can localize radio waves in a planar and (ii) proprietary algorithm to accurately process the input information from IC tags. We selected materials with low electromagnetic loss for the 2D communication sheet, considering the propagation characteristics of radio waves and developed a mass production method under the constraints of limited processing formability. The sheet has a three-layer structure in which a dielectric layer consisting of a low dielectric constant material is sandwiched between conductive materials having a direct current (DC) resistance value of a certain value or less. One of the conductive layers has a mesh shape optimized for the propagated frequency of radio waves. Radio waves emanating from the opening strongly propagate only to the surface of the sheet. This allows only items that are in close proximity to the sheet to be detected and recognized accurately. In addition, the IC tag data is filtered appropriately according to the application. These processed data enable location management and visualization of usage, to aid in the reduction of human errors, and cost management. In addition, data analyses can also help to identify inefficiencies such as unused stocks or actions and give insights for operation improvements.

Cross-sectional view of the sheet

*The color in the figure represents the intensity of the radio field strength. (e.g. Red =strong, Blue=weak)

2D communication sheet structure

Prospects of 2D Communication Technology

As we shift into the IoT society where everything is connected to the internet, the number of devices and sensors around us will increase significantly. Currently, wireless communication products are the focus for R&D, but since the reach of the signal is invisible, it is difficult to determine the range of communication and to control the reachable range of the signal. Therefore, 2D communication technology can be a promising alternative where radio waves can be localized. There would be no troubles as in 1D (wiring) communication and no handling difficulties as in 3D (wireless) communication. This unique 2D communication technology exhibits the advantages of both wired and wireless technology and complements the respective disadvantages.
In the future, 2D communication technology will be expected to be further utilized in various fields, not only in goods management but also in applications such as biometric sensing and wireless power supply.

Security Anti-interference Layout free Easy to connect
1D communication
(Wired)

Wired device only

Communicated only by cable
×
Need wiring
×
Need wiring
2D communication
(Sheet planar)

Signals are only in sheet

Communicated only on sheet surface

Around the sheet surface

Wireless
3D communication
(Space wireless)
×
Leak of signals and information
×
Interfere among mutual access point

Within the reach of radio waves

Wireless

Application of Recopick®

Recopick® has been adoptedin hospital for managing medical equipment. Copyright © St. Luke's International University All right reserved

In 2012, Teijin started commercializing Recopick® for libraries as a book management system. It has contributed to visualize the frequency of in-library reading, simplify lending procedures and the eliminate congestions. Such application has been readily adopted and has been expanding. In 2015, we launched Recopick® in hospital settings for managing medical equipment. With the introduction of Recopick®, device maintenance operations were optimized by grasping inventory statuses and use histories. This helped in reduction of unit purchasing, human burden related to equipment maintenance.

In 2018, we initiated the implementation of Recopick® in factory settings for process management as a part of Industry 4.0 solution. In the future, we expect further applications in individual item management in retail settings as a solution for digital marketing needs and labor savings in declining birthrate and aging population.