Alan Melling is the Senior Director of EPC Solutions at Symbol Technologies.
Symbol hopes to continue to solidify its position in the RFID market. In what areas does the company look to expand its presence?
Symbol wants to expand its RFID presence in the supply chain and government markets with readers that are easy to install and capable of performing advanced applications. Symbol continues to invest aggressively such products that enable wide scale deployment of RFID—much in the same that way we have invested in other critical technologies, such as the wireless standard 802.11. Some real-world examples of our efforts to help make RFID adoption easier and more efficient for customers include the DC600, which is our second generation dock door portal. This portal reduces installation time for an RFID reader from more than two hours to less than 30 minutes. Similarly, Symbol recently announced a new RFID reader – the XR400 – which was the first fixed reader based on the Windows CE operating system, and was designed to ease integration with a company’s overall IT infrastructure. Symbol is all about making RFID work at a large, commercial scale.
Did the Matrics acquisition yield unexpected benefits? Have there been hardships in combining the two companies?
The transition has been remarkably smooth. The key technical staff from Matrics—including the founders—are continuing their great efforts to push the edge of RFID technology. The real benefit of the acquisition was the ability to match up the core of the Matrics innovation engine with Symbol’s understanding of how to deploy and build products at scale. The end result speaks for itself – cutting edge, high performance products like the XR400 reader, ready and able to be deployed at scale in projects of national and even international scope.
Are the intellectual properties struggles characterized by the lawsuits between Symbol and Intermec holding back the RFID industry?
Today, we see most customers moving forward, operating under a reasonable and correct assumption that this is primarily a dispute between various technology vendors that will not directly affect them in the short run. Symbol’s concern is that such disputes could have a deleterious affect in the long run by greatly limiting the choices available to customers and creating a perception that the technology s not truly open. Our position is straightforward: the most basic component of EPC technology – the air interface protocol – should be open and available to all. When companies claim to own IP that can block basic implementation of the technology, no one’s interests are served. Would bar code technology be as successful and ubiquitous if a company had tried to collect an IP tax on every bar code printed? Customers need to have confidence that broadly adopted standards are truly open.
How will Symbol overcome the hurdles presented by patents on technology in the second generation EPC specification?
Most of the industry appears to be operating in good faith when it comes to Gen 2. They are working with the EPCglobal standards group with the goal of creating a true, open standard. Clearly there are a small number of companies who do not necessarily share that goal. We will continue on the path we always have with new technology like Gen 2, focusing on innovation, continuing to build our own considerable IP portfolio, respecting the valid intellectual property of other companies, and defending ourselves against invalid IP claims that any third party may assert.