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Today NSS is established as a provider of superior item-level RFID hardware, a unique RF solution provider throughout the North American market and now is steadily advancing into the international market. NSS’s patented WAVE technology has been a boon to item-level RFID.
Tell us about the evolution story of the company and new sectors you have been touching.
Dr. Jeffrey Gau: WNC’s core strength is in antenna and RF technology. When demand for item-level RFIDs picked up in the early 2000s, the WAVE antenna development project between WNC and NSS was a key strategic initiative that allowed us to enter the RFID market segment. There’s great synergy in this partnership, combining NSS’s expertise and WNC’s experience and scale. The success of our WAVE antenna technology is a testament to the strength of our partnership.
Dr. Den Burnside: When we entered the market, competitors were using the patch antenna to read tags. While the patch was functional for some uses, it wasn’t specifically designed for item-level solutions. As the patch sends out only one beam to read tags, many tags are missed and also it reads distant unwanted tags. For portal solutions, patches require extensive adjustment at installation and readjustment over-time. Positioning multiple patch antennas was a tedious process and expensive. WAVE antenna are easily embedded into the portal structure and require no adjustment, they are Plug&Play, highly cost-effective and time-efficient, and thus a large number of portals can be installed in a short span of time.
Barry Burnside: Six years ago, we developed a partnership with SLS RFID. In concert with SLS together we designed a unique dock door portal. Previously SLS was installing five doors per day with patch portals. Within two years of using the WAVE, SLS was installing 30 or more doors daily with not more than a five-member crew. In the last three years, these installations have been quadrupling.
Our Wave® antenna is the only antenna designed specifically for item-level RFID. It has proven to provide superior performance in a wide variety of solutions, many not previously possible
Dr. Jeffrey Gau: Given the success of the SLS smart portal, we have high expectations for this product, and its potential to set the stage for subsequent growth phase.
How is WAVE antenna superior to the conventional patch antenna?
Dr. Den Burnside: The patch creates a single beam that can reach out to 30 or more feet. For item-level, targeted tags are in close vicinity to the antenna to determine an item’s precise location. Thus, the single beam of the patch is not optimal for item-level. The WAVE sends five beams, reading tags regardless of their orientation. The WAVE uniquely enables RFID to read all tags, even on metal shelving without reading tags at a distance.
Barry Burnside: The WAVE’s five beams create a cylindrical pattern, which can be adjusted to cover 3/3/3 feet to 10/10/10 feet which you control by adjusting the power. Patch cannot perform in a similar manner. The analogy is the patch is like a strong flashlight, and the WAVE is a florescent light.
Speaking of light, could you shed some on your other innovations and offerings?
Barry Burnside: NSS’s unique RFID design capability has resulted in five patents with more potential in the pipeline. Given our portal success, we are focused on developing our smartShelf for real-time on-shelf retail inventory management. Tagging RFID to an item is not simple. Retailers who deal in very high quantities refrain from tagging every item. The tag is now just about five cents but tagging millions of items becomes a huge cost. Furthermore, labor charges to fix, keep, and maintain tags are significant. Also, planograms used in retail stores weren’t optimal, and items generating 70 percent of the revenue were given just 20 percent of shelf space. So NSS created smartShelf which provides real-time on-shelf inventory without tagging items, smartShelf can be retrofitted within existing shelves or embedded in shelves. The patented smartShelf places tags under the product-pusher springs. NSS’s patented Nobel™ reader is equipped with a small board computer that gathers and processes movement data, computing on the edge of the network at the store, so the insecurity of the cloud is out of the equation. Store personnel are given instant alerts on low stock conditions enabling replenishment, preventing an out of stock (OOS) and management is provided with detailed diagnostic sales analytics, in a format they want.
Barry Burnside: Our Nobel reader can also help prevent theft. Stores define a theft, if that defined amount of items leave the shelf simultaneously, something unscrupulous maybe happening. Store personnel will be immediately alerted via any authorized smart device.
Dr. Den Burnside: For efficiency, processing information should be done within the reader. Edge computing is now a buzzword; businesses equipped with real time data processing and zero-latency fare best. Integrating small board computers into our Nobel reader allows NSS to precisely determine inventory replenishment needed to virtually end the OOS. At one instance, a client was facing OOSs, which caused 14 percent lost sales. With our smartShelf, clients were able to reduce OOS by 60 percent in just the first two months. Furthermore, smartShelf provides deep insight into item movement, stock availability, replenishment productivity as well as planogram optimization. All sales data can be downloaded as a summary for executive action, or we can connect the raw data to a customer’s ERP system for their internal management and analytics. With numerous Nobel readers operating in stores, having these small built in computers are equal to one massive supercomputer. Thus, the need for a cloud service is unnecessary. This system is highly secure.
What lies ahead in the future for the company?
Barry Burnside: Partnering with WNC and SLS has been highly significant for us. WNC is a superb manufacturing partner as well as having excellent testing facilities and global infrastructure. SLS has performed superbly in-market and is rapidly expanding their logistics business. We now want to engage partners to follow the same developmental pathway for smartShelf. We’re in search of a smartShelf partner like WNC or SLS to focus on North America. We want synergistic strength in a partner to fully develop our smartShelf business. The potential is enormous.