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Reshaping the Possible with the Synergy of RAIN and NFC Technologies

Reshaping the Possible with the Synergy of RAIN and NFC Technologies

The Market Landscape

The landscape across retail, industrial and healthcare is undergoing a shift. In retail, customers look for hyper-personalized experiences and omnichannel purchase journeys while brands grapple with agile supply chains and the looming Digital Product Passport. The move for the “smart” industry is the optimization of production flows, digitalization of data and regulatory compliance documents and ease of access to these documents. Healthcare faces a similar crossroads while compiling patient safety and personalized care with operational efficiency and proposing remote therapies for chronic diseases, all while battling staff shortages.

The Technology

RFID technology, which stands for Radio Frequency Identification, has seen an increased adoption in those markets, with retail leading the way. RFID uses radio waves to wirelessly identify objects by accurate reading of multiple tags simultaneously, eliminating the need for line-of-sight scanning, contrary to the barcode or QR code technology.

Two RFID technologies are used for different objectives based on the operating frequency.

RAIN RFID technology operates in Ultra High Frequency (UHF) at 860-960 MHz and allows for longer read ranges using printers or readers. RAIN RFID technology excels in supply chain management due to its long-read range using UHF frequencies. This enables accurate stock tracking, agile supply chain operations, and error prevention through automation. The market figures confirm that:

  • RAIN RFID experienced 32% annual growth from 2022 to 2023, with a total of 44.7 billion tags shipped in 2023.
  • More RAIN RFID references can be found on the RAIN Alliance website:

However, dedicated readers limit RAIN RFID use in direct customer interactions.

NFC technology, operating in the High Frequency (HF) range at 13.56 MHz, leverages the ubiquity of smartphones for a shorter but highly accessible read range. This makes it ideal for B2C applications and allows for a shorter reading range, typically just a few centimeters, with high accessibility through smartphones. This makes it ideal for customer (or patient)-centric services, maintaining a direct dialogue between customers and brands, or patients to for their remote therapies.

RAIN RFID-based labels register B2B product interactions. NFC-based labels register customer engagement with products. However, there is no correlation between RAIN and NFC-registered product interactions, resulting in a gap between product traceability and product customer engagement. This is where the holistic product view breaks. As the date and place of product purchase are not associated with NFC “taps,” the brands cannot easily identify in their supply chain the specific product that sparked the customer’s interest.

A Transformative Approach to RFID

Now, imagine a world where product supply data is seamlessly associated with customer requests.

Brands have a holistic view of their product's journey to operate faster and engage smarter with customers. Customers connect to brands through products to make conscious and beneficial purchasing decisions. This is not a dream—it is a transformative approach enabled by unique RFID technology developed and produced by Swiss production entity EM Microelectronic.

This unique RFID technology is called RAINFC—- a synergy from two abbreviations—- as it uses the synergy of RAIN and NFC worlds. RAINFC merges the benefits of RAIN RFID and NFC into a single integrated circuit (IC) and allows the exchange of information between two interfaces through a shared IC memory. The heart of RAINFC is the IC branded by EM Microelectronic em|echo-V.

em|echo-V integrated into product labels allows holistic 360°product journey visibility and correlates product data gained from RAIN RFID and NFC interfaces. It unlocks a world of possibilities in retail, industrial, and healthcare. Streamlined operations and automated data flow, agile supply chains, personalized customer experiences, and remote patient services are now accessible with a single product label.

The shared IC memory allows product labels to be encoded using either RAIN RFID or HF printers and readers or even smartphones for small tag batches.

The role of SATO printers for Activating the em|echo-V-based labels

Printers play a vital role in enabling RFID technology directly in healthcare and retail production facilities (“source tagging”). By integrating printing and encoding, RFID printers streamline the source tagging process, eliminating the need for separate encoding steps. This improves efficiency and reduces the risk of errors that might disrupt the production process.

SATO offers a range of RAIN RFID and HF printers specifically designed for retail, healthcare, and smart industrial applications. EM and SATO are delighted to announce that the CL4NX and CL6NX Plus line of RFID printers fully supports the printing and encoding of RAINFC labels.

Printers encode the tags with em|echo-V at high speed using a UHF interface and print them out right in a factory or warehouse. The compact CT4-LX desktop printer is ideal for limited volumes or specific orders. SATO offers a print-and-verify solution for its printer line to ensure printed tags are properly read.

When deploying RFID, businesses can choose to either introduce a new management system or integrate it into their existing supply chain systems. With SATO printers, native support for Loftware Cloud and NiceLabel allows for tag printing and encoding that integrates easily into existing barcode printing workflows. It is highly scalable for global deployment, and SOC 2 Type II has the highest level of security.

With the SATO labeling solution, businesses can easily define the data that needs to be written to the RAIN memory and the data meant for the NFC memory of the IC, covering Electronic Product Code (EPC) conversion and the generation of the NDEF message. EPC is used in inventory control and real-time product traceability, while NDEF format is used to store and exchange information like URLs and plain text, which can be used for consumer engagement.

Activating em|echo-V-based labels with SATO printers

Compatible firmware

CL4NX Plus RFID: 1.14.1-r1 or later (How to confirm: CL4NX Plus web manual)

CT4-LX RFID: 6.6.5 or later (How to confirm: CT4-LX web manual)

Contact your local SATO technical support representative if a firmware update is required: SATO global network

The synergy of RAIN RFID and NFC worlds in one label unlocks the full potential of RFID technology in the retail, industrial, and healthcare space.

Here at SATO and EM Microelectronic, we are delighted to support your em|echo-V implementations with the CL4NX, CL6NX Plus, and CT4-LX printer lines. Our aim is to help you maximize your RFID adoption by combining the RFID synergies in a single-label solution.