RCD Technology: Finding Profitable New Ways to Put RFID Tags to Work
Jeff White knows for a fact that the grass really is greener on the other side. “After 20 years working at Hewlett-Packard and Agilent Technologies, I jumped to the other side of the table,” says White, whose primary focus at Agilent was the acquisition of smaller companies. “I realized one day that it looked like they were having a lot more fun-especially when we were handing them really big checks!”
White is now CEO of RCD Technology-his third startup venture-which produces antennae and chip attachments for radio frequency identification (RFID) tags. RFID tags are used for a variety of applications, from warehouse tracking to anti-counterfeiting efforts for public transit cards.
The Benefits of Custom Manufacturing
“Most RFID tag vendors use traditional manufacturing processes that limit their offerings to a few standard configurations,” White says. “Our patented fabrication process can produce a virtually unlimited range of tags optimized for specific applications.” The result, says White, is consistently superior performance, durability, size and quality.
RCD’s technology also enables the company to produce shorter custom runs profitably. “Customers come to us because they can’t find anything off the shelf that suits their specific needs,” says White. Now in full production mode, RCD is producing several hundred thousand tags per month.
For example, RCD devices can be inserted into surgical sponges, which, while it may not happen very often, can be left inside a patient, with serious repercussions. “For around a dollar a piece, we can add a device to the sponge without affecting its usefulness that enables surgical teams to easily account for all the sponges used during surgery. Compared to the downside risk, it’s well worth it,” says White.
Touched by an Angel
White’s transition from corporate player to serial entrepreneur was a success by any measure. After Agilent, he took the helm of Napro, Inc., a small biotech company in Delaware. After leading the company to a lucrative buyout, he entered the world of angel investing. Early in 2004, he invested in FingerWorks, an early-stage company developing a new touch pad technology for laptops, then joined the team as CEO. In less than a year, he engineered a complete corporate buyout from Apple Computer, which put the company’s technology to use in the iPod scroll wheel.
White was introduced to RCD through the Pennsylvania Angel Network. At the time, the company was located in the Ben Franklin Business Incubator in Bethlehem. “I knew that if Ben Franklin Technology Partners [BFTP] was backing the company, it must have a good technology and a solid understanding of the market,” White says. Soon after making an investment and joining the RCD board, White was asked to run the company.
BFTP invested $434,000 over four years in the company, providing much-needed capital to refine processes and manufacturing capabilities. In addition, White says BFTP provided valuable business and networking assistance and helped steer RCD down the ISO certification path. Thanks to rapidly growing market acceptance and customer demand, RCD outgrew its incubator space in May and set up shop in a new manufacturing facility.
New Applications for Hot Technology
While the current buzz in RFID is on supply chain applications, RCD sees big potential in tracking product within a single organization. “The potential applications for saving money, reducing risk and improving efficiency within organizations through RFID is almost limitless, and our technology helps companies realize the return on investment they need to make it worthwhile,” he says.
The flexible and durable nature of RCD’s technology also makes it ideal for lowering costs and reducing counterfeit cards in mass transit systems. “Magnetic stripes on transit cards slow down the process and require readers, which are prone to break down,” White says. Magnetic stripes are also relatively easy to copy, and counterfeiters are cranking out tens of thousands of fake cards a day. “You can’t do that with RFID, and if you lose your pass, it can be shut off.”
Data backup warehouses, where huge libraries of tapes are being stored for large financial institutions, represent another opportunity for RCD. “Bar coding sounds good in theory, but you need to physically scan what you’re looking for,” White says. “With RFID, you can find out exactly where the tape you want is located almost instantly.”
Now settled into its new location, RCD is bringing on staff and increasing manufacturing capacity. In the next 24 months White expects RCD’s employment will quadruple to 30, and manufacturing capabilities will increase to tens of millions per month. “Every week, we get a new application opportunity we haven’t thought of before.”
Keynotes December, 2006
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