Frontline Expo 2000
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Frontline Expo 2000 was held at the Rosemont Convention Center near O’Hare International Airport October 3-5,2000. Frontline Expo is the renamed Scan-Tech show and it was my 17th year attending it. The show has out grown the Rosemont facility. Three hundred exhibitors had to be turned away from exhibiting because there wasn't enough space. To accommodate the larger number of exhibitors, next year's show will be held at McCormick Center in downtown Chicago in November 2001.
The following are my choice of the Top Ten New Products for Frontline Expo 2000. My choice is, in the end, subjective, however I do use some criteria. Products that show breakthrough technologies get the highest marks. Next, I look for products which establish a trend in the market. Finally, I look for products that offer a great price for their performance. I do include prototype products in the list if a working model is shown, and a projected production date is given. With this in mind, here is the Adams' Top Ten New Products for Frontline Expo 2000.
Number One - Scanner Momentum
The Best New Product goes to the Momentum Bar Code Scanner from PSC, Inc. (now owned by Datalogic). It is a scanner plug-in module for the Handspring™ Visor™ handheld computer (Handspring is now owned by Palm). The Momentum scanner contains 256K, 2MB, or 4MB flash memory for storing scanning application programs and databases in the module without using the memory of the Visor. Doubling as a flash memory module, Momentum is great for backing up programs and information from the Visor handheld. Since it is flash memory, the Momentum scanner won't lose its programming or database files even if the Visor's batteries run out. And to ensure that the batteries won't run out quickly, Momentum has its own rechargeable internal battery that provides thousands of laser scans on a six-hour charge. That solves the problem that Symbol Technologies SPT 1500 bar code scanner version of the Palm Pilot had - the scanner depleted the AAA batteries quickly. This is a trend setting product for its use of the Visor as an auto ID platform.
Number Two - RFID PDA
The number two product was Hand’IT RF-ID tag reader from Inside Technologies. The Hand’IT is a Springboard module integrating an advanced 13,56MHz contactless reader, designed to operate with the HandspringTM Visor handheld computer (Handspring is now owned by Palm). The Hand'IT module slides easily into the SpringboardTM slot on the back of the VisorTM to provide it with communication capability for use with contactless smart cards, RFID tags or other contactless readers. This product is following the trend of using the Visor as an auto ID platform
Number Three - C-Pen
Number three is C-Pen from C Technologies. C-Pen is a pocket-sized, handheld computer that combines a miniature digital camera, OCR and memory. The product works as an electronic highlighter that scans to remember printed text and bar-codes. The scanned text and bar-codes can be stored in C-Pen or transferred to a PC using infrared communication. The C-Pen was shown in the Marconi InfoChain Booth programmed to read 2D Snowflake code. The pen can be programmed to read any 2D code, and that is why it made the top ten. It's a 2D scanner that fits in your pocket, and that's why I picked it as number 3.
Number Four - In-Hand Scan
The In-Hand Scan PC card from Socket Communications, Inc. makes the number 4 slot. The Type II PC card turns any pocket PC or handheld PC with a type II PC card slot into a high performance mobile bar code scanner. Socket's In-Hand Scan™ Card combines Socket's Battery Friendly® CompactFlash CF+ technology with a laser scanner from Symbol Technologies. All you have to do is plug the card into your Windows-powered pocket PC or handheld PC, launch Socket's SocketScan™ keyboard emulation software, and read bar code data into any Windows program. This product opens up the possibility to turn any handheld PC with a type II PC card slot into an auto ID device and that's why I picked it as number 4.
The company also demonstrated their Bluetooth technology in association with Intermec and O'Neil. The demonstration showed Socket's Bluetooth Personal Network Card plugged into the industry-standard CompactFlash I/O slot of Intermec's Windows CE®-powered 6651 computer, allowing the recently introduced pen tablet to establish a wireless connection with a variety of peripherals, such as O'Neil's mobile printer. I predicted at Scantech 1999 show that products using Bluetooth would start showing up - here they come!
Number Five - WebScan Verifier
The New TruCheck ANSI Bar Code Verifier from WebScan makes number 5. The device saves you time in bar code verification by eliminating the hassles associated with wands or other handheld devices. TruCheck provides automatic 10 scan analysis. Simply place the code on the platform, press one button, and TruCheck performs a full ANSI test of the bar code! The TruCheck system supports both 1D and 2D bar code symbologies. Webscan is the first to introduce a fixed mount verification system for 2D bar codes such as PDF 417. Because the verification is automatic, any chance of operator error is removed. The TruCheck system complies with ANSI X3.182-1990 methodology and is calibrated using standards traceable to the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST). I picked this product because it is the first verifier that uses raster scanning to verify. That allows 10 scan analysis to be automated and this innovation got it number 5.
Number Six -SafeShip
SafeShip from SafeShip International made number 6. The company offers a service that uses very sophisticated environmental data recording technology, the Internet and all new patent pending processes and methods to define relative handling quality for the global distribution system. The data is accessible via a web browser and a desktop PC. This information is essential for package design and selecting a carrier and delivery option based on the safest way to ship. If what you are shipping can be broken or damaged, you need SafeDesign and/or SafeShip It! In this day of e-commerce, perfect customer satisfaction is critical to e-survival. A customer won't be very satisfied if the product is destroyed during shipping. They won't blame the carrier. They will blame the shipper. SafeShip's service is the first to help solve this problem, and that's why it received number 6.
Number Seven - e-Stamp
What the heck is e-Stamp, an Internet postage company, doing at an automatic ID show, let alone in the Adams Top Ten? This company made the list because of its presents at the show and because they are not just an Internet postage supplier any more. E-Stamp has grown from "The Internet Postage Company" into a leading provider of secure Internet-based solutions designed to help companies streamline their critical business processes. With their new suite of web-based shipping and logistics products, DigitalShipper and e-Warehouse, they are positioned to help small to medium sized e-commerce companies use the Internet to automate important back-end processes such as fulfillment, warehouse management, delivery and receiving. E-stamp's complete service and software product line earned it number 7.
Number Eight - Casio Color Handheld PC
Coming in at number 8 is the Casio EG-800STD, Industrial Cassiopeia. The unit is a 65,536 Color Palm-size device which uses the new Microsoft Pocket PC operating system. The EG-800STD can be used with such optional hardware accessories like Bar Code Laser Cards, In-Hand scan Bar Code Cards, Bar Code Wand Cards, GSM Data Communications or with the Casio Digital Camera Compact Flash Card. The EG-800STD is splash proof, shock resistant, and has a wide working temperature range of 20ºF-122ºF. The unit's size is 3.35” (W) x 5.31” (L) x 1.00” (H) and weighs 10.33 oz. The product's color display and Type II card capability along with it's size make it number 8.
Number Nine - Vista
The ScanPlus 1800 Vista™ from Intermec is my number 9 pick. It is a high performance and compact CCD handheld scanner for non-contact applications. Designed for Retail, Health Care, Office & light Industrial environments, it can read long, damaged, poorly printed barcodes and extremely small bar widths (0.05mm, (2mils)). This unique reading performance allows the Vista 1800 to read barcodes at 49.2 cm (19.4") distance with a scan rate of up to 225 scan/sec. It has a snappy response and is easy to aim. Also, it can read any type of codes, whether they are poorly printed, damaged, 18cm (7") long, or if they incorporate code 39 with a barcode width of 0.05mm/0.2mil (unique in the market place). It is operational in any lighting conditions, from total darkness to full exposition to sunlight (100,000 lux). The list price is $345, which make this CCD scanner a "laser killer", and earned number 9.
Number Ten - Fixed Assets In A Box
Number 10 is Fixed Assets in a Box from Barcoding.com. The package comes with fixed asset software, a roll of preprinted labels and a Symbol Technologies SPT 1500 Palm PDA with built-in laser scanner. What makes this interesting is the bundling of a portable, low cost scanner, and preprinted labels. You can be inventorying fixed assets literally in 10 minutes from opening the box. The slick packaging and including preprinted labels rather than blank label stock and printing software made it number 10.
Trends at this Show
A new trend at this show was the introduction of many web-based barcode label printing systems based on an ASP model. ASP stands for Application Software Provider and the idea is you don't buy the application, but rather rent its use. The advantage in a supply chain environment is the customer contracts with an ASP to serve up its label template to the vendors. The vendors can print labels for shipments to the customer using any computer and web browser.
There are two classes of these products. One is browser-based using standard image formats to display the label to be printed. The label is printed as a bit-mapped image using standard Windows print drivers. The problem with this class of web-based printing products is the resolution of the label. It will generally only be 72 dpi and will grade as an ANSI C barcode (not the best quality). One company that offers this is Unibar.
The second class uses ActiveX or Java applets that are downloaded by the browser. The ASP sends control strings, like ZPL for Zebra barcode printers, to the applet. The problem here is the user must have a special barcode label printer, however the quality of the labels are good. A company that offer this is Acsis.
In fact, ASP was a trend in general for most supply chain software shown at the show. Heaven help us!! The big problem with an ASP approach to software deployment is its dependency on 100% uptime for the Internet connect. The Internet, which was a redundant network, is no longer so. Backbone providers and ISPs are using routing techniques to squeeze every ounce of bandwidth out at the expense of reliability. If you insist on using ASP deployed applications in your enterprise, please try this experiment. Have your IT chief shut off your Internet connect and see if you can still conduct your mission critical business. If you can't, you have a problem.
Trends to Watch in 2001
This year many companies introduced modules for Handspring™ Visor™ (now owned by Palm) handheld computer. Next year look for adapters to allow more than one module to be attached to this innovative hand held. What I expect is an 802.11 radio module that can also accommodate the PSC momentum scanner too. Handsping is also planning to offer a CDMA and GMA module soon. That opens up wireless WAN possibilities galore for the data collection industry. Look for some very exciting products for this platform next year.
Look for the first BlueTooth auto ID products to be shown at next year's show. Bluetooth is a short-range, cable replacement, radio technology championed by Ericsson, Nokia, IBM, Intel, and Toshiba. The BlueTooth 1.0 Specification was released in July 1999. This wireless technology has a range of between 10 cm to 100 m and supports up to 8 devices in a piconet. Speed is only 1 Mbps using the 2.45 GHz band. It’s original intended use was to provide a wireless "sync" for cellphone PDA’s and computers, but it has potential for cordless bar code readers and wireless LAN connections.