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Mister Beacon Episode #154

Tag Converters in the IoT

July 26, 2022

In their role as a “converter”, Tadbik have been at the forefront of creating tags and connected packaging with RFID, NFC & BLE. Industry veteran David Beit-on, who heads up Tadbik’s business operations in Germany, explains the role of the converter in the world of IoT.

He shines a light on what solution designers need to consider when adding auto-ID tags to “things.” We discuss Tadbik’s role as a pioneer in this space and then get their perspective on their work with Wiliot on battery-free Bluetooth. Then, we answer the question of which use cases have some of the biggest potential in this new world of massive IoT.

Transcript

  • Steve Statler 00:00

    Welcome to the Mr. Beacon podcast. This week, we're getting into the world of tag assembly conversion. If tag conversion is puzzling to you, it's actually a key technology. It's a key process, a key step in adding intelligence to packaging, whether it's NFC RFID, or BLE, Bluetooth. It's a whole ecosystem. There's a ton of companies that approach this in different ways. And if you're interested in massive IoT, the scalability of the internet and adding intelligence and sensing, whatever the approach but doing that via labels, then this is a good show to watch or listen to, we're talking to David byte on who is a executive at a company called Tadbik who are very interesting player in this space. So 1000 person company doing a lot of really cool stuff. And David does a good job of explaining what a converter is, they'll talk a bit about what Tadbik does, specifically. And then because Wiliot has been working with Tadbik from the early days, we get into a bit of the direction that we're taking and some of the use cases that we're working on together. And then finally, in our Easter egg at the end of the show, you'll hang around. It's always interesting learning about the guests. And you'll learn a bit about David and the music he likes and his story in terms of how he got to where he is. So thanks so much for joining the show and enjoy. The Mr. Beacon podcast is sponsored by Wiliot. Intelligence for everyday things, powered by IoT pixels. So, David, welcome to the Mr. Beacon podcast.


    David Beit-on 02:02

    Hi, thank you for having me.


    Steve Statler 02:05

    It's a pleasure. So in this show, we try and give people insights into all the different aspects of digital to physical convergence. And we spend a lot of time talking to people that make beacons and gateways and cloud software and so forth. But you know, where I see the future, and I've voted with my my feet in terms of joining Wiliot is this use of the label to join the digital and physical worlds. And of course, he can do that in a number of ways. Wiliot, it's very focused on battery free Bluetooth and tiny, printed battery tags as a secondary option. And but then, of course, there's NFC RFID QR codes, and Tadbik has a role in all of those. And you guys are what some people would describe as converters. And I remember when I first started at Williot out, and we started looking at Hey, is there some way of getting Bluetooth into a label and we came across converters? I had no idea what converters were so can you can we start this off by explaining a bit about what a converter is and then we'll talk a bit about Tabik and and what you do and how you do it. And some of the things that you do that are different to a traditional converter, but imagine I've just arrived in this ecosystem from Mars, what is a converter?


    David Beit-on 03:38

    Oh, basically a converter is a manufacturer that know how to turn materials, different type of material, plastic material, paper materials into a label with some smartness or with some intelligent in it, and that intelligent of course, is coming from a connection between a chip and antenna on any type of surface, and if an inverter know how to take that, to put it an encoder, encode it into in a special way and add some of course adhesive to it. So that that can be deliver information seamlessly. So


    Steve Statler 04:37

    if life was simple, there would be one label, you could put it on everything and that would be great. But the reality is, that's not the case. What are some of the complexities that you have to deal with as a converter? What makes one customer different from another?


    David Beit-on 04:55

    Actually, just think about the different items Every customer has, not every one of them wants just to tick boxes. And even a box is not just the box because it can be made from different materials. And I would say that there are three main things that make every single RFID inquiry very special. First of all, it's, it's the question of which materials are the items that we want to tag because they need to be recognized. So ever materials react, of course, by physic differently to RF signals. So a glass is transmitting RF or blocking RF, better or worse than paper or metal. So first of all, you have to analyze what type of material you have in front of you to find the right label, this is already distinguishing a lot between the one label and the other the one project and the other. The second level, of course, it's, it's, what are the expectations of the customer? In in on on read performance on? How do How far do I want to reach mainly in the RFID world. In the NFC world, it's a little bit different, because it's a near field communication. But in the UHF RFID, I'm expecting already to have couple of meter. And not only couple of meters distance, I also have sometimes in a book, The wish to have that also going through a gate and a certain speed. So how do I get the best performance out of my label on the items that I want to attack. And it has to do by nature with the size of the antenna, as much as the sensitivity of attack, the better the sensitivity and the larger the antenna. So I will just get the better read distance. So it's very easy in 50 centimeter up to 20 meters in, in that technology. And let's not forget, Steve, we're speaking about battery free technology. Okay, we didn't get into that battery assisted, we didn't get into anything, which would assist with the assistance of more energy to get better distance. And last but not least, of course, every customer has the he's very unique situation on the product. Sometimes we we have customers that they just want to have a very durable face of them of the label, so that when you're working with a forklift, and even if such a label is going to get heard that it's one that it will continue working other saying, Oh no, no, that's not so important. I just put it on my boxes, and I just want to have it with a simple paper. So between paper and inmode technologies, you will find an entire scale on solutions that need to be considered to find the right to find the right solution for customers inquire.


    Steve Statler 08:26

    And can you explain what in mold is you use that term


    David Beit-on 08:30

    immortal, this is very, very simple. All the aspects of injection plastic injection, or poorly written injection into a form to create a box simple, simple carrier simple crate is is based on injection technology. And that in mold means that I'm adding, not within a deceive, I'm making just part of the box material. I'm using that as the connection to my wireless technology. It doesn't matter what it is. So


    Steve Statler 09:17

    now instead of a sticker, you actually have the tag built into the material of the of the label or the box.


    David Beit-on 09:26

    Absolutely. With all the with all with all the complexity of again, considering which materials I'm using for the head for that for that injection. Some materials has metal inside and that of course, need to be considered because metal is RF unfriendly. So


    Steve Statler 09:47

    it's a complex world you did it's like a Rubik's cube because I'm assuming you're dealing with marketing people and your customers who care about aesthetics, you're dealing with industrial engineers who are looking at production processes, there's the kind of the, the business aspect as well. So you must, what sort of disciplines do you have to have in your company to solve this Rubik's Cube?


    David Beit-on 10:18

    First of all, I think you, you need to be to understand a lot from materials on one hand and RF technology. On the other hand, I think those are the main, the main subject you need to bring with you if you want to start conversion. And then of course, it's a question of how well, you are able to understand and to go together with your customer in his processes, because every process will create a different different risks, or different constraints for your labor development. Just think about that. It's a total different solution, when I'm using an RFID label or a label, a Smart Label, where it's in with my warehouse, or labels that I need to use outside of my warehouse, where it might rain, or it might snow or might be very hot. And those will of course, even though it's the same box, will require totally different handling of materials.


    Steve Statler 11:36

    So I can see, there might be some situations where you're basically shipping reels of labels to, to a company, I know you supply one of the big pharmacies in here in the US and just price labels. So relatively, to me, it seems relatively simple integration, you send them reels of labels, but how do you deal with more complex packaging? I've seen you guys dealing with shrink wrap and so forth? And it seems like the I can't quite get my head around what role a converter has in when it comes to label application and, you know, in molding? And is the customer doing that? Is there another entity that you work through? How do you how do you orchestrate that more complex scenario,


    David Beit-on 12:31

    that beak itself orchestrate the whole thing as a one stop shop? Others are offering only consulting or consulting plus on the shelf product? Other goes further than then whatever we we speak about. It's always the question, what is your domain? What is your focus and how far are you willing to to deal in your r&d team to deal with with such inquiries, we also don't do everything we don't have a domain for instance, in very specialized on high temperature or on metal applications, there are companies like only idea which bring much much more knowledge and much more more understanding in that environment. But in every all the environment, which are around smart packaging, well if it's for beverage food, pharmaceutical logistics you know, airports, luggage whatever. I think that due to the fact that the topic is since 40 years handling different type of raw materials and converting them and working with them in different applications that gave gifts that make so much know how that we can go along with our customers a very very, very interesting way. And I think with Wiliot that was probably exactly the reason why that week was such an a good partner for that because as you remember it it to find to find the right coating for such a new technology such an a fantastic technology was very constrained just think about blocking light, having a different type of adhesive and and seeing how they tune how that type of material is detuning the tag, you know, finding which which materials can can reduce pressure on the tag, and so on and so on at the end, the idea was to get from every single pixel, the best performance you can, and then put that in a machine that produce 30 million attacks in half a year. That's, that's an that's an that's an a different scale of capability. So thinking that from development where you make basically handmade pieces to 30 million, streamline production and beyond? It's, it's definitely something that demand flexibility and expertise, for sure.


    Steve Statler 15:49

    Yeah, absolutely. And you guys did more than just produce labels, you've helped us design hardware, which can be used for the testing and QA process. And so this has been, you know, certainly very valuable for us. And the fact that you were headquartered within a short distance from each other has been really helpful as well. So maybe we should do a proper introduction to Tadbik. How big are you? What's what's the what's the history of the company? What, what what are the areas that you focus on?

    16:31

    Well, topic is, is a family company established 40 years ago, with one big mission to help developing betters packaging, smart packaging, we started with basically just normal label and sleeves for the beverage and pharmaceutical industry, and develop from there basically uncovered everything between special applications up to just normal logistics labels. In the touch pick group, you will find 1000 People who are engaged for touch pick, and those are spread on three continents in three different production sites, with seven factories and 48 countries, happy customers. So it's quite interesting midsize company for Israel, definitely the number one worldwide topic is significantly leading in in area for emerging technologies. And we are helping big companies that are global, like Nestle like Unilever, but at the same time, we are very, very keen and, and, and eager to work also with the small startups in Israel, to help those great ideas that are being developed in that environment, to make them peak, and then whatever we can offer them if it's our labs, if it's our expertise, if it's the knowledge that we have in in different areas, or even goes up to our sales infrastructure worldwide. We are happy happy to share with them and and make and make that family feeling and that feeling of the power of one real. And that's also the logo, the slogan of our company. We try maybe just just to quote the our founder mantra was, let's make the impossible possible.


    Steve Statler 19:07

    We certainly did with us and that relationship, right from the early days is something that I really appreciate. Let's put a bit more flesh on the bones in terms of how our two companies are working together. So you're you're no stranger to NFC tags, RFID tags, you've worked closely with Omni ID where you came from, but can you describe what you bring to market with respect to the without bluetooth technology?

    19:47

    Well, in a, if I understand the question, right, is it just about what do we do in the area of BlE. Ferdinand for Wiliot or including Wiliot, well, actually, Wiliot made that great idea or developed that great a great product, great cheap that is, is using a standard or using Bluetooth protocol. And on one hand, and on the other hand use battery free technology for for creating products or sensors that are solving different types of problems that are giving an answer to different applications that we were not able to fulfill like that. So near that type of build II development, we actually not having anything comparable to that. But I think that there is a such almost only the active bill in the market that is compared to that. And that is a field that we don't we don't go into we try really to keep the magic of the battery free concept. And I would say 100% or almost 100%, there is no never 100%. But almost 10%, we are very much focused on battery free. Man, technology. However, I didn't say 100% because for Wiliot, we did also adopted development, which we're very, very proud of


    Steve Statler 21:41

    battery assisted the product. So basically, if a company is interested in integrating battery free Bluetooth technology into their packaging, they can come to tab back. And you guys have a lot of background, you know, what works, what doesn't work, what needs to be done to make things work. And you can provide tags and advise people on the best process for applying and association and testing and that sort of thing. Is that a reasonable summary?

    22:19

    Steve, in one word, it's the holistic approach, we don't look at one aspect or at one challenge or at one requirement that customer is giving us it's always in the environment in that ecosystem where that product needs to be integrated. So those that that covers all the different aspects that you of course, spoke about and far beyond that, and we're very happy probably means also that if if customers comes to us, and they want to speak about totally different type of technology, we are happily doing that with them. And we have couple of very interesting examples for that.


    Steve Statler 23:07

    What are some of the use cases that you find most exciting, most most interesting of this battery free Bluetooth technology given that you've got this up close experience with it.

    23:24

    I think that it's fantastic to see what now happened just recently, with the use case of the grocery chain in Israel in combination with the Wiliot tags. I think for the people who doesn't know the story, they were trying every single different technology in the market before they really agreed to test the Wiliot pixel, which they really didn't really believe that something like this will will work from the beginning. And at the end, we just see that the use case is best valuate by and and found the best as the best solution with the Bl E passive technology. This is definitely one of the use cases which we think it's its target on disruptive technologies, its target on something that change the way we look at our supply chain efficiency potential. Totally different it's not any more, what can I do to solve a problem? It is really how can I avoid getting into a situation which will create the problem and in in the medicine world it means how can I keep myself healthy instead of taking any any pill to become healthy again? And I think that it's much more interesting and for, for sure it's essential for the entire industry, it doesn't matter if it's food, pharmaceutical, whatever.


    Steve Statler 25:14

    Yeah, I think we're sort of waking up to what we've got and what the disruptive impact is of this technology. But for those who don't know, you were talking about shoe for sale, which is Israel's largest retailer, their grocery stores are everywhere. And that project was tracking plastic crates that are the vehicle if you like, for produce, whether it's tomatoes, or zucchinis, going from the farm to the store. And you know, as, as a consumer, you're not you sort of assume that everybody knows everything about that supply chain, but the reality is 99% of our supply chains are in the dark, we have just like occasional glimpses as companies that are working to in in automating those supply chains up until now, you haven't really known what's going on. And now with the kind of labeling technology that you enable, and the chip and cloud that, that will the arts providing, we can get continuous visibility throughout everything that's going on in the farm in the packing shed, from the packing shed, through the distribution vehicles, into the distribution center of the grocery store, from the store. And I'm not talking necessarily just about shipper. So we've done a bunch of projects now that are like that. And what we've found is that the you know, what you would hope is happening is not always happening, that you know, the reality of the route of produce from the soil, to the shelf, from the farm to the store is not as direct as you'd want. And it's incredible how many anomalies whether it's products being kept at to colder temperature to hotter temperature being left at the back of sheds. And the you know, the reality is, there's just been no scalable way of getting continuous real time visibility of supply chains. And what we're talking about is essentially getting a godlike view of everything from its source to its destination. And, you know, the world's got on pretty well without that, but the opportunity we have to slash waste. And you know, how many times have you bought strawberries at a supermarket, you get them home and they're bad, or they go bad within half a day. Why is that it's because rather than taking two days to get from the farm to your pantry, it took six days and the only, you know you don't you don't satisfy you don't solve that problem in batch mode, you, you do it by having real time visibility. And the only way you can do that is with IoT connectivity, which is supplied down at the lowest level to the you know, the crates, and ultimately to the primary packaging of the product. And the only way that happens is if you combine amazing semiconductor design technology with the ability to put a sensor that is the size of a postage stamp and costs tiny amounts relative to anything before but when you do that the possibilities to make things safer, more efficient, less waste. I mean, it's transformational. And I think we've been working for years now and you sort of It's a bit like boiling the frog, you don't really notice what's happening around you. And then suddenly you realize, oh my goodness, this is not a small thing that is this is changing the world changing the world.

    29:16

    Yes, I'm I'm very I'm very happy that you speak about like that, because I think that there are there is one aspect that always just just hit me every time again when I'm thinking about it. When you look at the Wiliot pixels thing, it's the only tool that I know that helps you at the same time to discover a problem or to discover an inefficiency and will at the same use will reassure when that inefficiency has been gone. It will be to find the he'll that will not only make you healthy will also reassure that you are healthy. And usually in every industry, it's totally tooled set type sets of tools, or applications, to measure and to eliminate, or first of all, to discover, then, to find the, to be able to find the source to discover the problem to find the source of the problem, to improve the problem, and then to get the assurance that this problem really is been corrected, and it's not part anymore of your supply chain. And that for anytime you want, you can re use the same, the same thing, the same single tool for all of these differences, also on a long term, on a long or not long term process, and very, very interesting, never saw it something similar like that in any other technology. But it just show that when you come to a point that you have the right hardware with a very, very intelligent software. And that combination can can create an evolution.


    Steve Statler 31:28

    And to get to you make a good point. It's in summary, it's it's not just about analytics, and a dashboard that someone in management is seeing. It's about automation and driving interventions in real time in the supply chain. So the crates have been sitting for too long at the back of the shed and the FIFO. The first in first out systems stop becoming a FIFO, it's become a LIFO. And so your IT can spot that in real time send a text message to the manager to alert that this issue is happening. The produce is in the in the container and the refrigeration unit has been turned off by the driver to save gas, gasoline that can be instantly spotted. And interventions can be triggered in real time the crates have been delivered to the supermarket. And they've been sitting on the supermarket floor for two hours when they should have gone from the cooler in the back to the cooler in the front. These are all the things that are causing food to get wasted, customers to be disappointed. And it's just exciting that we can do that. And you know, at a simple level, it's just that because Bluetooth is everywhere, we can get a continuous view of everything that's going on. And because the RFID industry pioneered adding radios, into paper labels and into packaging, we can take advantage of all of that. And it's it's been really cool working with you and your colleagues to actually bring this to life.

    33:14

    I'm certainly excited about it.


    Steve Statler 33:17

    So David, where are you?

    33:22

    Hi, Steve. I'm based in Germany in in a beautiful city called Regensburg, which is just between Munich and Nuremberg in the south part of Germany.


    Steve Statler 33:34

    And how long have you lived in Germany? Well,

    33:38

    since 1988, it makes almost 35 years now.


    Steve Statler 33:43

    Oh, wow. So, um, what brought you over? Where did you grow up?

    33:47

    Well, I grew up in Tel Aviv. And I went to school there, of course, I did my duty. And after university in Tel Aviv, I moved because of my first wife to Germany, and I've stayed here since then. So it's been a while.


    Steve Statler 34:09

    And, you know, what, is it? It's interesting thinking about the different cultures, the Israeli culture and the German culture, they're kind of different, aren't they? It must have been what what do you see the differences and how's how's it been? In terms of adjusting I guess, part of what you bring to working for an Israeli company is this ability to translate between the cultures Right?

    34:39

    Absolutely. I think the cultures are fundamental different from each other. Mainly, mainly about you know, when when you can consider Germany or Central Europe as a is a less, you know, I would just say, a less emotional, more rational type of society and culture. It's, it's it puts a lot of attention about processes and make a lot of thoughts about how that living together is possible and comfortable as possible. And of course, last but not least, it's, it's of course, it's a very old tradition, society that learned perfectly to live with each other, and respect each other. So you have you have less conflict potential compared to societies that are in the Middle East.


    David Beit-on 35:41

    Yeah. So how did you get into this business where you are? Now? What's, what's your story?

    36:01

    Well, my story is very simple summarized in just one sentence, I did my hobby to my profession. And I was very lucky problem from already, from the very beginning of my career, I immediately jumped already 9093 working in the IT industry, starting at a Toshiba where a laptop or still a mobile solution. And I went through six different evolutions in the, in the, in the in the IT industry, and I never did something else. And Germany's is a place where the industry is extremely dominant part of, of the economy. And therefore, the focus is, of course, of improving quality of supply chain. And here we own. Whatever we do, whatever I did in the past was to add value, improving the main process of supply chain, and since it touched by the end, any each one of us, it doesn't matter where we are, it doesn't matter what we acquired. Supply chain is the last nerve that always meet us. Because we need the product at the right time at the right place. At the right condition to the right price. And that's, that's that's actually the story of my career.


    Steve Statler 37:45

    And how did what was the the connection with Tadbik? How did you find them? How did they find you?

    37:53

    Well, it's, it's a fantastic story, there were four since 98. Since 2015, my best customer in Israel, I was I was back at a time working for Omni ID and Omni was very well respected and appreciated worldwide for their developments in the RFID business. And that's because, as a as a converter and, and solution provider. Were happily buying, of course, my products back at Omni so that was the first contact and we liked each other so much that at the end, we decided to work together. So and here we are very cool.


    Steve Statler 38:44

    And now your your colleagues are part of each ID right on the ID got merged into that organization.

    38:51

    Absolutely. That happened last year was was a fantastic move. And HKD basically and only it went together, which I think makes a lot of sense. A JD was always one of the most, or the largest, one of the largest integrators and partners of of Omni and to go together and to put that portfolio together make a lot of sense. And yeah, I'm sure that they they did the right move. Absolutely. Steve.


    Steve Statler 39:26

    So we have this tradition on the show we ask you for three songs for that are important to you. Some people get to think about this for a long time. I just sprung it on you at the last minute so what did you come up with in the last few seconds and why? Well,

    39:43

    you know that I don't know why but a song which is really taking me since my childhood. And by the way I love to play guitar and this is one of one of one of the assure the shore songs it's of course Hotel California So that that is something that I don't know that probably in the next 100 years, it will never get old. It's it always become more and more relevant, the more often I'm listening to it.


    Steve Statler 40:14

    I totally agree. I grew up listening to that in England on my in my bedroom was a kid on the stereo, and it just gives me gave me this image of what it would be like living in California, it's California does a good job of marketing itself, most of the time.

    40:32

    I think that that's probably the most well known, I think, song about California, where which, which mentioned California, as much as another song, which I really, really like and appreciate is Alabama, it's coming back to you. So that's, but that that is was more that that energy that the the fun of, of, of kind of that that American American Vision American Dream that, yes, something which is actually very much at the roots of America, and still never get old. It's the best wine, which probably not only California can produce.


    Steve Statler 41:23

    That's interesting. Yeah. The heart of the country.

    41:26

    Yes, absolutely. Other than that, I'm a big fan of a lady called Etta James and I always appreciated her texts and her music, and I'm not very sure if you ever saw so the movie about her life?


    Steve Statler 41:51

    Which I haven't seen it. No, I have to look at it

    41:54

    calls. A record Cadillac record. It's a film that has been made a couple of years ago, not only just about edit, but she was playing there the major role. And yeah, and, of course, there are so so many songs of her, which I just cannot stop hearing and I'm speaking about the last 35 years. So the only really, really sad about is of course that I never saw her on stage. Even though Yeah, I was couple of time in the US already a few years ago where she was still alive. But I really Yeah. I missed two things. I've missed Rachel's back in the 90s. And I was staying in a hotel where there was a live show of him. And 90s Night seven in Vegas. And at the James. She died in 1018 or something. Yep.


    Steve Statler 42:57

    But very cool. Well, thanks, David. Appreciate it. It's been great to talk with you. Thanks for helping to educate us in terms of that role of the converter. Thanks for telling us a bit about what Tadbik is doing specifically, I think you really have a first mover advantage with respect to the Bluetooth technology. And thanks for giving me a little bit of an excuse to get excited. Together. So I've really enjoyed the conversation.


    David Beit-on 43:33

    I just want to I want to thank you for for inviting me to your show and for having me. It's a great pleasure and keep on doing what you're what you're doing. I'm a big fan of you and your podcast. Thanks, David. You're most welcome.


    Steve Statler 43:54

    All right. That was David from Tabik. Hope you enjoyed it. I certainly enjoyed it. Getting back to the United States. I was stuck in Finland for two weeks. I caught COVID For the first time when I was at Qoppa partner event, which was an amazing event that I had to excuse myself and basically consumed 12 days of room service and went through a real roller coaster. This thing is can be pretty serious and I don't think it was ever life threatening for me but completely debilitating. So do work. Do be safe. Try and get the right balance between living a normal life and not getting infected because man can do pretty bad. Until next time. We'll see you