When I first wrote the RFID market overview, one of the key things I identified was that RFID hardware couldn't exist without RFID middleware and applications, and neither could RFID middleware and applications exist without RFID hardware. What has also become clear is that no longer are organisations just looking at passive or active tags, what they want is for their RFID middleware and applications to be able to work with a mix of different tags, both active and passive, and even at different frequencies. It is a case of choosing the right horse for the course!
On January 12th, Zebra announced they have entered into a "cooperative relationship and licensing agreement" with Checkpoint Systems. This relationship brings together Zebra's active location solutions with the passive RFID, auto-ID, Wi-Fi and sensor capabilities of Checkpoint division OATSystems' OATxpress middleware. The objective is to provide increased visibility of assets across an enterprise. The agreement is a non-exclusive contract and provides Zebra with an OEM software license for OATxpress
A reminder for those of you who are not sure about the two organisations involved. Zebra is one of the leading suppliers of bar code, receipt, card, kiosk and RFID printers and supplies, as well as real-time location solutions. Over the last year or so they have also developed a real-time location solution (RTLS), WhereNet ISO/IEC 24730-2. This provides robust location performance both indoors and outdoors with a long tag to sensor range. WhereLAN III RTLS tag delivers 1 meter locating accuracy, lower deployment and ownership costs, lower power consumption, and 802.11 b/g Wi-Fi backhaul.
Checkpoint Systems is a leader in shrink management, merchandise visibility, apparel labeling and asset tracking solutions. Checkpoint has some 40 years of experience of RF technology and shrink management requirements. In 2008, Checkpoint Systems acquired one of the leading RFID middleware companies, OATSystems (see OATSystems acquired by Checkpoint). This strengthened their RF capability and RFID customer base and has allowed OATSystems, as a division of Checkpoint, to further develop supply chain, manufacturing and inventory management applications on top of their RFID middleware for a number of verticals ranging from Apparel to Aerospace.
So what we have with this agreement is that Zebra can now offer Checkpoint's OATxpress device and data management capabilities in conjunction with their WhereNet RTLS solution. This makes it easier for a potential customer to purchase a complete solution from one point. From Checkpoint's viewpoint it gives access to Zebra customers and to the Zebra partner network thus providing further global access. From Zebra's viewpoint it can be summed up by a quote from Phil Gerskovich, senior vice president, new growth platforms at Zebra Technologies, "The addition of OAT's passive RFID and other auto-ID technologies capabilities will enable Zebra to play a larger and more meaningful role in helping organizations to make smarter decisions in managing their operations." Zebra has stated that they will announce details around its first product with the capability to implement applications that combine both active and passive RFID in the coming months, so watch this space!
In my view this relationship makes perfect sense to everyone and, most importantly, to potential and existing customers of Zebra and Checkpoint Systems.