What comes to mind when you think of Colorado?
Answers may vary by person, but I think we can all agree that skiing and marijuana would be among some of the more popular replies. Colorado continues to experience year-over-year growth in revenue from tourism and marijuana sales, but I’ll bet most people don’t know that the skiing and marijuana industries are two very large employers of RFID.
What is RFID?
If you don’t know about RFID, or radio frequency identification, it is a technology that allows for almost any object to be wirelessly identified using data transmitted via radio waves. I highly recommend this article for a better understanding of RFID, but at a high level, a basic system is composed of tags, reader(s), antenna(s), and potentially other accessories, as well as software, which ties the system together. Without line-of-sight, an RFID system detects tags mounted on items, reads and captures data encoded on the tags, and then the software can help make data-driven decisions to improve efficiency and business operations.
The skiing industry was the earlier adopter of RFID. I think anyone who went skiing before the year 2000 loved skiing but would agree that the experience could be better if you didn’t have to spend as much time waiting around, especially considering the cost. After you waited all year for your ski trip, you’d get into town and wait to purchase your pass, wait to rent your equipment, wait to get on the mountain, wait to board the lifts, etc. And not only was the customer experience cumbersome, but the old processes weren’t optimized to accurately capture important ski and customer-centric data to help the mountains and surrounding businesses run as efficiently as possible.
In the 2000’s leading up to 2010, mountains and resorts began investing in RFID systems to integrate into and improve their ski experience. What resulted was a near friction-less experience for the customer along with decreased fraud, increased overall security, and enhanced data capturing capabilities enabling mountains to make data-driven decisions that would continue to improve the customer experience over years to come.
Today, RFID tags are embedded in ski passes, and mountains have a network of checkpoints containing readers and/or antennas. Once a tag is read at a checkpoint, the unique data from the tag is transmitted through the reader and can be converted into ski traffic data, controls access to ski lifts, monitors a skier’s last known whereabouts in case of an emergency, etc. A lot of resorts accept your ski pass as a method of payment providing even more customer-centric data available to the resort.
Why is this data important?
The data compiled on the mountain allows resorts to anticipate, plan, and enhance the customer experience and overall business operations for the area.
- How many skiers pass before moguls need repair?
- How many skiers can ride before ski lifts need repair?
- How many skiers can we anticipate on a particular day of the week based on the weather forecast that day?
All of these questions are able to be answered and planned around based on actual, hard data that RFID can help to accurately capture.
RFID + THC
While skiing found RFID through natural selection, the marijuana industry landed on RFID as state regulators sought after efficient tracking solutions to maintain integrity and transparency throughout the marijuana supply chain. After medical marijuana was legalized in Colorado, regulators ultimately agreed that “seed-to-sale” traceability would be imperative to hold businesses and customers accountable within this new industry.
Over years of exploring options through research and development, a scalable software made to power a real-time tracking RFID solution was developed to meet the state’s qualifications for a MITS, or Marijuana Inventory Tracking Solution. The current software under contract with the state is METRC, the Marijuana Enforcement Tracking Reporting Compliance. It was developed by Franwell, an RFID systems integrator out of Florida and is now used by nine other states. Marijuana plants are literally tracked from seed to sale using this software to empower an all-encompassing RFID system.
Once a cutting, seedling, or clone is planted with the intention to sell, each potential plant is assigned an RFID tag with a unique 24-digit ID number that stays with the plant until it is sold for consumption. Each plant is monitored in a greenhouse until harvest and the yield from each plant is broken down and tagged with a corresponding ID number as it is prepared for sale. With reader checkpoints throughout the supply chain, each shipment is tracked to the destination dispensary where the products are monitored by in-store RFID hardware until sold.
Similar to the skiing industry, the use of RFID decreases points of friction in the process and empowers Colorado’s marijuana industry with a multitude of actionable data.
- How long does a specific strand take to grow in differing conditions?
- What is the growth rate of a cutting vs. a seedling?
And because the supply chain is so transparent and has real-time data readily available, compliance is checked in real-time and a solution to a problem can be deployed in real-time.
- Buying practices of dispensaries can be monitored to police any abnormal discrepancies in amounts purchased or sold.
- If a particular strand was found to be defective, every bit that had not been sold would be able to be pinpointed immediately.
Colo-Radio Frequency Identification
RFID enables a user to capture data where data did not exist, and in Colorado, RFID is deeply woven into two very important state industries. So now when someone asks you, “What comes to mind when you think of Colorado?”, clearly the answer SHOULD be, “RFID.” Of course, if you don’t want to have to explain, just say, “skiing and marijuana” like a normal person, but feel free to share this blog with them.