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ThingMagic brings RFID tech to supply chain

Posted: 30 Dec 2013 ?? ?Print Version ?Bookmark and Share

Keywords:ThingMagic? MIT? RFID? wireless reader? supply chain?

ThingMagic, founded by five MIT Media Lab alumni in 2000, has helped bring radio-frequency identification (RFID) technology to the supply chain. The technology, which includes wireless readers and data-transmitting tags, has allowed companies to track products, from the warehouse to delivery.

This mission served as the technological spark that catapulted ThingMagic into a leading role in a new generation of RFID systems that were, among other things, cheaper, faster, and more efficient than similar technologies.

At the time of ThingMagic's founding, available RFID readers, which collect information by reading tags that transmit electronically stored information over radio waves, were insufficient for supply-chain use: They were too pricey, could only read one tag at a time, and suffered from other technological issues.

Based on work at MIT's Auto-ID Center, ThingMagic developed RFID readers for the supply chain that could read many tags, simultaneously, across multiple radio frequencies and from greater distances. They were also powered by software, meaning users didn't need to rework the hardware to make modifications.

UHF RFID reader modules

ThingMagic's product line of embedded ultrahigh-frequency (UHF) RFID reader modules, which include (from left) the Mercury5e-Compact, the Mercury5e, the Mercury6e and the Micro.

Growing from a Somerville, Mass., garage to an office in MIT's neighborhood of Kendall Square, the company, according to its co-founders, became one of the world's first profitable distributors of RFID technology in the mid-2000s.

"We found ourselves in the middle of a booming RFID market. Customers were hungry for the technology and they needed the skills we had assembled coming out of MIT," said Bernd Schoner, a ThingMagic founder and the company's VP of business development.

Schoner wrote early code for ThingMagic's software, but ultimately became one of the company's key business strategists, focusing on sales, technology management and administration.

In its early years, ThingMagic sold products to retail firms, but eventually expanded and diversified its product line to include embedded RFID modules and in-vehicle devices, becoming a leading developer of these technologies.

In 2010, ThingMagic sold to Trimble, a positioning and navigation-technology company; ThingMagic co-founders Schoner and former VP of advanced development Ravi Pappu, now a platform architect at Trimble, are working in Kendall Square to help incorporate RFID technology into Trimble products.

Other ThingMagic co-founders include Rehmi Post, a principal at ThingMagic, and co-chief technology officers Matt Reynolds and Yael Maguire. The World Economic Forum, Red Herring and the Boston Globe have recognized ThingMagic as a top RFID innovator.

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