Interview – “Mr. RFID”, Henrik Granau (Part 1)

As the second interview post I wanted to, hopefully, expand your knowledge about what tech can help with better traceability and transparency of food products. One of these tech’s is RFID. RFID is not new to scene of tech developments, but maybe looking to be a “revival”, due to its capabilities for easy tracking and tracing of products. So if you want to learn about RFID, from Mr. RFID himself, you have to read this.

I had the pleasure of meeting Henrik at the RFID in Denmark conference at IT University in Copenhagen this summer. I had touched upon RFID during the writing of my master thesis, and wanted to learn more about it’s potential in retail, and to know about where we are in terms of adoption by companies. To get those learnings, you have to read part 2. But for now, lets talk about RFID, here goes!

Can you start with telling us a little about yourself?

Well, I am what you would call an experienced executive, having conducted most of my career in international IT Companies, where I have developed my strategic outlook and knowledge for the successful Marketing, Selling and Implementation of high level and complex business solutions.

I was originally an IT Expert working with development of large complex IT Systems. As an example, I was Project Manager for the development of the world first distributed real time trading system for Financial Instruments (for Copenhagen Stock-Exchange 1986-1988).  Since 1990 it has been General Management at C-level.

What are RFID technology and why is it important?

RFID is an abbreviation for Radio Frequency Identification – using radio waves to identify objects or people. This could be done on very long distances (Satelites, GPS etc.) and on very short distances (Access to buildings, wireless payments etc.). Some Frequency bands are in the regulation allocated to RFID use and a lot of people only perceive these as “RFID”, but in my definition it is everything using radio waves to identify – including WiFi, Bluetooth etc.

When RFID back in 2004-2005 was hyped as the next big thing – the replacement of barcodes – it was however very much focused on what we call “passive RFID”, where the term ‘passive’ means no power source on the RFID Tag itself (no battery). A passive RFID Tag is a very simple microchip with an antenna and only when it is in the proximity of an RFID Reader the chip is powered up (by the radio waves from the Reader) and it can do very limited operations, such as telling it’s unique Identifier.

Different RFID Tags

Passive RFID Tags are now standardized and the prices has decreased to a level where it really make good sense to attach RFID Tags to single items. Because of the lack of battery, the lifetime of an RFID Tag can be considered like ‘forever’.

The technology is used across Industries and in a lot of different application areas. You can track a product throughout it’s entire lifetime establishing complete transparency in your business operation. Examples are Library books, Fashion clothes, containers, airplane parts etc. etc.

We have thousands of successful implementations – the technology is working and the cost is justified through achieved business benefits – but a lot of organizations have never learned about the technology in relation to their operation.

Great, but how did you first get involved with RFID?

I was introduced to RFID when I accepted the challenge to be heading a Danish start-up company, RFIDsec in 2005 – a company with a mission to set new standards for security and privacy in RFID. We developed our own security features at the chip level as well as at the solution level with end-to-end control. Unfortunately we had to close RFIDsec in 2010, but all our features are now a part of the new international standards which were finalized in 2015.

During my 5 years as CEO for RFIDsec (2005-2010), I established my international network within the RFID world – because I had to get involved in all formal as well as informal standardization activities around security and privacy issues with RFID technology.

I was a co-founder of the RACE Network (Racing Awareness and Competitiveness in Europe) who was advising the EU Commission in RFID matters 2008-2011. The RACE Network was later renamed to ‘RFID in Europe’.

What are your current work in relation to RFID?

In 2010 I founded the thematic network “RFID i Danmark” where I am still putting a lot of time and effort into nursing the initiative. Every year we are organizing the largest RFID Event in the Nordic countries – the 7´th of its kind was held in Copenhagen at the IT University on June 14’th 2017.

In the network I am known as “Mr. RFID” and since 2014 I have also taken on the challenge to build up a strong organization in the Nordic countries for AIM Global. I am also Vice Chairman of the Board at AIM Europe.

In addition to the networking activities, I work as an independent Management Consultant where most of my activities are in the area of tracking, tracing and locating.

I help companies select the most appropriate technologies and standards to their usage and keep myself updated on the technological development through a good relationship with the manufacturers and resellers of RFID products.

I am the guy who knows what is going on internationally and nationally within the area of RFID.

What is the most challenging for a general RFID adoption at the moment?

Well, in general Supply Chain Management, in Fashion clothes and apparel, in Libraries, in ticketing, access cards etc. I believe that we on an international level actually has reached ‘general RFID adoption’. If you look at the hype created back in 2004-2005, where RFID was predicted to be a general replacement of barcodes, though I will still state that this will never happen with the current silicon based RFID technology. It just doesn’t make sense to put RFID tags on each item of bubble gum, milk etc. – the total cost of attaching an RFID Label is still 30-40 times the cost of using a traditional barcode.

Across Industries I would however still claim that lack of knowledge is the most important reason for not implementing RFID.

Want to read about the opportunities that Henrik sees with RFID in supply chains? RFID’s possibility to create better traceability in food products? And Henrik’s thoughts on a RFID/Blockchain combination to greater traceability in food products?

Then stay tuned for part 2 next week!

© 2017 Kristoffer Just Petersen

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