Times-7

RAIN RFID from NEW ZEALAND

With an international distribution network, Times-7 is active in over 55 countries

RFID Antennas

Times-7 is a manufacturer of RAIN RFID antennas based in New Zealand. From its beginnings in sports timing in 2006 to complex multi-antenna applications with RAIN RFID, Times-7 has continuously pioneered antenna development. Jos Kunnen, Director at Times-7, spoke with Anja Van Bocxlaer about New Zealand as a technology hub, the company itself, and the production of RFID antennas.

Company story powered by: the Think WIOT Group and Times-7

Made in New Zealand

Made in New Zealand.

Jos Kunnen, Director at Times-7

Times-7 produces up to several thousand antennas per week on semi-automatic production lines. Most of these antennas are so-called patch antennas.

Times-7 is a manufacturer of RAIN RFID antennas based in New Zealand

Times-7 Research Limited manufactures niche and high-tech antenna readers in Petone in the Hutt Valley on the outskirts of Wellington, the capital of New Zealand. The company has an antenna portfolio of over 60 antennas.

With an international distribution network, Times-7 is active in 55 countries. While sales have increased threefold in five years, the number of readers produced has grown sixfold in the same period.

Kunnen: In 2006, investors, scientists and RF Engineers came together in Wellington to develop a solution for sports timing. At the time, only the performances of top athletes at major events were recorded. We equipped each athlete with a tag so that we could reliably measure and record the times of each competitor.

UHF technology was still in its infancy at the time. Back then, the team produced all components such as tags and high-end antennas, as well as the entire infrastructure and application themselves. This also included a very thin modular ground antenna with a small production volume. That was the birth of Times-7.

Over time, customers from other industry sectors approached us, prompting us to further develop the 'SlimLine' brand. We designed several specialized antennas in different sizes and beam patterns for various use cases.

Today, they are known as our Heritage Range. Then in 2016, we designed our first general purpose and high-volume production antenna: The A5010 series.

This antenna impressed the industry with its typical Times-7 aesthetic design, while still providing ruggedness and excellent tag read results. Back in those days, we didn’t have the capacity to manufacture in high volumes in New Zealand, so we worked with a contract partner in the USA. This worked out well since the USA was, and still is, our largest market.

In 2018, we designed another best-seller and absolute game changer for Times-7 and the RAIN RFID industry: the A5020 series. You won’t find a more rugged, good-looking, versatile and reliable antenna in the market. It is a well designed antenna, from its RF-qualities to its optimized and streamlined manufacturing process. On a dedicated semi-automated production line in our facility in Lower Hutt, we produce several thousand A5020s per week.

Following the huge success of the A5020, Times-7 decided to move the A5010 production back to New Zealand to become a 100 percent New Zealand company. Today the entire team of 30 people – consisting of marketing, sales, development and production – is located on the same site in Lower Hutt. Having it all under one roof drives efficiency for us, as all areas of the business are able to easily collaborate, from product design, development to production.

Times-7 is a global player, our channel partner network extends to over 55 countries. The United States is our main market, followed by Europe. Latin America and South Africa are considered growth markets. China is a challenging market for us with our high-end products as we are competing with very cheap products manufactured in country. However, building on trusting and long-term partnerships in Singapore, we are currently preparing to expand into the ASEAN market.

We work closely with channel partners around the world, who stock our products in country to shorten the lead time and provide sales and technical support to our customers. Being on the other side of the world and in a different time zone, our channel partners generate crucial proximity to the markets and provide us with insights into local market trends.

To minimize the distance between us and our channel partners, our teams operate very flexibly in terms of time. We are also travel several times a year to our partners and visit sites to understand how our customers use our antennas in the field. Plus, the time zone difference can work to our advantage in that we can turn things around whilst our key markets are fast asleep!

We have an active RFID network in New Zealand and value our long-term partnerships with pioneering companies who we helped design RFID tracking solutions for their businesses. The fact is though, that we do not have a large domestic market. Agriculture is our most prominent industry. As far as industrial test scenarios are concerned, we rely on cooperation with foreign companies. The exchange with global partners is therefore extremely important and valuable for us to look beyond solutions in the agricultural space.

However, we are working closely together with local industry bodies to promote RAIN RFID in other verticals such as health care and logistics to grow our domestic market.

The New Zealand trade and legal system is an advantage, as it is very similar to the European system. In addition, we are a young nation. We don't rely on having all products in our own country. New Zealand is therefore a nation of inventors. This is in our DNA today. New Zealand is a creative and inventive country with a large number of research institutions. Further evidence of this are the innovative companies located in the Hutt Valley. This is also where Times-7 is headquartered.

Jos Kunnen in Person

Times-7 produces up to several thousand antennas per week on semi-automatic production lines. Most of these antennas are so-called patch antennas.

Kiwi ingenuity is in our DNA

"Since we are also far away from the markets, we know that we have to work harder if we want to export. As such, Kiwis who export tend to go the extra mile to make sure they are competitive on the world stage. I'm excited about our great ecosystem."

Kunnen: Together with my team I want to add value to our ecosystem and drive smart technology to help economies prosper. Under this premise we develop products which set us apart from the market. At a time where technology is rapidly evolving it is utmost important to stay on top of the latest innovations, market demands and tech standards to inform our product road map. We are in constant dialogue with technology partners and customers, attend exhibitions and conferences to exchange ideas and collaborate.

We are an active member and sponsor of the RAIN Alliance. In 2023, I was elected to their Board of Directors.

Even though we achieved almost all of our milestones despite the pandemic, our Board of Directors (of which I am also a Director) decided to strengthen management on numerous levels. The Board always takes a longterm view by supporting investments in growth and excellence.

This is also my line of approach as CEO. In May last year, we hired a General Manager, Garry Lewis. Garry has a wealth of experience in business management, having successfully started and grown several businesses.

We hired Garry as my eventual successor, which we will initiate in early 2024, allowing me to focus on strategic product development and business governance. It will also allow me to spend more time in the northern hemisphere liaising with clients and travelling. market.

We also hired a Sales & Operations Manager, Jack McCrea, to strengthen our supply and logistics planning and develop more collaborative supplier relationships.

95 % of our business is exported to countries while a large proportion of our components are imported. As we continue to grow and support more projects, at a larger scale, we have to think about how we can minimize CO2 emissions associated with the production and transport of our Antennas and components parts.

One of the ways we’re doing this is by creating supply chain visibility through, firstly, working closely with our suppliers and customers to understand lead times or risk and our sales pipeline.

Secondly, by incorporating tools for inventory management, such as a CRM, to efficiently capture our data to inform decision making. By understanding how much stock we need and when, we’re able to use air transport more efficiently, in the form of consolidated shipments.

RAIN RFID is already a key technology in the IoT world and although it is a technology that has been proven for many years, we are just starting to explore its full potential. It happens regularly that startup companies that have heard about RFID come to us and ask, “how does it work?”, so we do a lot of educational work around the possibilities and limits of RAIN RFID to help establish this technology in a wider range of applications.

We believe that there is still room to grow and design new innovative products which complement existing IoT solutions based on other technologies to take them to the next level.

RFID Antennas

Which RFID antenna is suitable for which application? Prototypes are also developed for special requests.

Kunnen: It is important to understand the customer and ask them specific questions about what they are trying to achieve. This is because we can often solve the problem the customer has with a different approach than they might expect.

Second, it is important to look at the entire system. For example, if the tags are very sensitive, then tags outside of the actual read zone may be captured. The tags should be well matched with the antenna.

No, we would not be able to handle that anymore. As our growth increased, we decided to outsource plastic injection molding, some PCB manufacturing and similar processes.

We do the final assembly of the antennas in Lower Hutt. This is a production line consisting of six process steps, in which a lot of know-how is involved. The biggest challenge is the antenna case to protect it from water and dust. Producing very waterproof and robust antennas is not easy.

We often talk to system integrators and solution providers about use cases and specific applications and get their feedback. Since we are all in one location, it is very easy for the sales and marketing team to interact with our engineers. Our engineers also engage with customers themselves to get ideas and impetus to fix problems.

We can make changes very effectively because we can prototype quickly and produce relatively small quantities. So, when one of our standard antennas is not suitable, we are able to make a custom design for minimal investment from the customer. We have a well refined process that we follow in our innovation process.

We focus on low-profile, high-performance RAIN RFID antennas that can be integrated into a range of applications. Unobtrusive flat antennas for wall mounting for near, medium or far reading range, portal antennas and floor antennas are represented in many designs in our portfolio.

Since we have such a broad portfolio, our customers often find an antenna that has already been developed to solve their problems. Our antennas are mainly used in retail, logistics, baggage handling and healthcare. We design every antenna model for all frequency ranges.

Definitely in the healthcare sector. One of the challenges in the healthcare system is the digital registration of intensive care beds in hospitals. If the data is captured manually, then by the time it is stored in the central system, it is already outdated and incorrect.

This is why we are working with a local health care research team to figure out how we can tag beds, ventilators and similar items, and also automatically determine if there are qualified staff in the hospital. I see this as a very important task for our industry.

Which RFID antenna is suitable for which application?

The Slimline series now includes multi-purpose antennas, antennas for use in shelves and wall cabinets, floor-mounted antennas and various portal solutions, including one for airport baggage handling.

The A5020 family offers one antenna each for short, medium, and long-range applications, as well as an IP69K-rated antenna for highly rugged and mobile outdoor applications.

Times-7's True NearField antennas round out the portfolio. They are specifically designed for applications that require tag identification only at close range or where metals, liquids or other challenging materials are involved.

RAIN RFID Solutions

 

Times-7 exports to over 55 countries worldwide and is preparing for growth in New Zealand, primarily in the healthcare sector.

Benefits of RFID

Retail

Portals and floor antennas in the entrance area, antennas for shelves, cabinets and the POS – Times-7 offers the right antenna for every application.

AIN RFID antennas in retail

Baggage Handling

In combination with other antennas, the A6011 under belt antenna is perfect for baggage handling at airports.

RAIN RFID antennas for Baggage Handling

Warehouse

Antennas for real-time inventory, even in harsh environmental conditions and low temperatures, are available for short, medium, and long-range applications.

RAIN RFID antennas in the Warehouse

Healthcare

This sector is expected to see a large increase in RFID applications in the coming years in order to achieve digital transparency.

RAIN RFID antennas in Healthcare
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