ID Expo 1995
This Visit Brought To You By
There was a fuzzy logic scanner and RF Lite, one of those products that will change the automatic ID industry. If it was May, it must be ID Expo. So here I was for the tenth time hunting for those new gems of automatic ID technology that would qualify for The Adams Top Ten.
In ferreting out the Top Ten New Products for ID Expo 1995, I do not stop at every booth. I use the eye of a Technical Editor to restrict my stops to those companies that, in my opinion, were showing innovative products. 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 ID Expo 1995.
Number One - RF Lite
The most significant product at the show was RF Lite from Hand Held Products. RF Lite is not a new product. It's a new approach to selling an existing product. RF Lite is based on the Micro-Wand RF contact scanner and the Laser-Wand laser scanner. When this product first was introduced at Scan-Tech 93, it placed number one in my top ten list then too. What puts this product back into number one is the pricing and target market. RF Lite is targeted at warehouses of less than 50,000 square feet. However, warehouses of this size account for about 80% of all the warehouses. Scott Cardais, president and CEO of Hand Held Products, put it quite nicely. "It's radio frequency for the rest of us." Compared to conventional RF systems that can cost as much as $15,000 for the first terminal, RF Lite costs less than $3,000 for the first terminal. Additional terminals cost only $1,290.
RF Lite operates in the 902-928 MHz spread spectrum frequency range and does not require an FCC license. The base station has a Gel-Cel battery, so it will continue to operate even if there are power surges or blackouts. Finally, the company supplies RF Simplicity, a set of VBX tools that allow programmers to use Visual Basic to set up specific applications. This should make the system very attractive to VARs.
This product has hit the market at just the right time. Most companies are looking for ways to break into the second tier of applications - small to medium sized businesses. Hand Held's RF Lite does this and will change the automatic ID industry.
Number Two - Fuzzy Logic Scanner
Number two goes to the LS 2600 and LS 3600 Scanner Series with Fuzzy Logic from Symbol Technologies. The LS 2600 and LS 3600 includes Fuzzy Logic Data Sampling which allows accurate digitizing and decoding of bar codes that were considered unreadable. Fuzzy logic was developed in the 1960's, and is an area of mathematics that help in solving problems like people do. While normal Boolean logic, like that used in computers, assigns a "black" or "white" value (a one or zero, a yes or not, etc.) to every condition, fuzzy logic assigns shades of gray. That's how people make decisions. They gather information, and assign different weights to the information. The weights are based on their experience, and the final decision is based on the evaluation of this weighted information.
While fuzzy logic was invented in the United States, it took the Japanese to apply it. They have used it in everything from subway systems to photographic cameras. However, it took Symbol to apply it to bar code scanning. The scanner they demonstrated could read labels that were in extremely bad shape. In fact, they passed out a brochure of bad labels to attendees that attendees could take around to other vendors. It provided that while some other scanners could read some of the labels, only Symbol's fuzzy logic scanner could read all of them. It technological advancement makes this product number two.
Number Three - A Self-Laminated Label
I stumbled by accident on the third place product. I mean, who would have thought that a forms company that's been in business for over 100 years would have anything new? I stopped at the Uarco (now part of Standard Register) booth and asked if they were showing anything new. "You might be interested in something we have over here," they said as they led me over to one side of their booth. They showed me a clear label stock on a clear backing layer. The backing layer was cut out behind each label and allowed thermal transfer printing of the label from the reverse side. If the label bar code and text are printed in reverse, you have a perfectly printed label that is self-laminated. It eliminated the need for a laminator and the stock can be used with existing thermal transfer printers. The bad news is that the label will come out of the printer upside down which will require hardware modifications for some applications. The company also has a version for paintshop applications. All in all, the self laminating label stock is a cleaver idea, and gets third place.
Number Four - A Wireless Printer/Scanner
Number four goes to Pathfinder Ultra RF from Monarch Marking Systems (now owned by Avery Dennison). The Pathfinder Ultra RF is a portable bar code printing system that integrates bar code printing, laser scanning, and spread spectrum radio communications in a single handheld unit. The unit uses the Symbol Technologies Spectrum One PCMCIA radio card and Symbol's SE 1000 scan engine. The printer can print most all one dimensional symbologies and can print PDF-417 and Maxicode 2-D symbologies. The entire unit only weighs 40 ounces.
Number Five - What's The Frequency?
Number five goes to the ScanMan Professional from CompuSpeak Laboratories, Inc. This is a departure from the normal product line of this company - voice recognition. This product has nothing to do with voice recognition. The ScanMan Professional is a self-contained frequency monitoring device that scans and records radio transmission on-site without human monitoring. Specific frequencies or blocks between 72 MHz and 929 MHz can be programmed for scanning. The data stored includes frequencies, signal strength and number of occurrences. This information can be viewed on the unit's LCD display or downloaded to a Windows program. This device should be very useful for anyone setting up an RF data communications system.
Number Six - IR Wireless Printer
Number six goes to the microFlash printer from O'Neil Product Development. This printer is an extremely small direct thermal printer designed for route accounting. What makes this product unique is its wire-free operation option. The unit comes with an infrared transceiver that allows a portable terminal or scanner to send data to the printer without wires. The portable terminal has an IR communications port and the data is transmitted to the printer up to 1 meter away. That means no wires to get in the way of the user.
Number Seven - OmniNet
Number seven goes to the 6410 OmniNet Access Point from LXE. This is an indoor wireless local bridge that allows mobile industrial computers to run standard Windows or DOS just as a hardwired PC on a network. To prove the point, LXE was showing how the 6410 could easily interface a portable wireless terminal from Fujisu running NCSA Mosaic to access World Wide Web pages off the internet. This connectivity from OmniNet plus the company's 1330 Explorer full-screen industrial wireless 486 computer means that forklift operators can "Surf" the Internet! Seriously, the 6410 opens up many EDI applications without resorting to proprietary networks. That's why it made number seven.
Number Eight - Tiny 2D Scanner
Number eight goes to the RXL 900 from Agilis, Inc. (formerly Monarch Technologies, Inc.). This scan engine is a compact 2D raster/omni line scanner and weighs only 14 grams. The engine can vary its scanning rate from 40 scans per second to thousands per second. The company's Nano Scanner and Ultrapen made number two in my Scan-Tech 94 Top Ten list.
Number Nine - Code Courier
Number nine goes to the Code Courier from Cognitive Solutions, Inc. This product is a portable thermal transfer printer with the ability to print most bar code symbologies including two-dimensional symbology PDF-417. It can print up to a 4.25-inch wide label at 200 dpi resolution at a speed of up to 2.5 inches per second. The unit weighs less than 4 pounds and is just 8.4" x 4.75" x 4", making it the smallest thermal transfer printer. Putting a thermal transfer printer in such a small package won this product ninth place.
Number Ten - Compliance Labels Made Easy
Number ten goes to Label Matrix/Compliance from Strandware. This is a bar code label design and printing software package that eases the task of producing compliance labels. The program enables anyone to meet the strict labeling requirements of major retail chains by selecting a pre-designed label format. These formats have been validated by the requiring organizations. The label formats in this first release include Sears, Wal-Mart, K-Mart, J.C. Penny, the Electronics Industries Association, the Automotive Action Group (AIAG) and the Health Industry Business Communications Council (HIBCC). Other formats will be added shortly. This product should take much of the headache out of compliance labeling for many vendors. That's why its number 10.