|From: Glenn Petersen||6/12/2016 10:07:48 AM|
|Under My Skin: The New Frontier Of Digital Implants|
"Biohackers" are putting microchips and magnets in their bodies for everything from unlocking the front door to detecting moon earthquakes.
Amal Graafstra's Hands
[Photo: courtesy of Amal Graafstra]
06.11.16 6:00 AM
Tim Shank can guarantee he’ll never leave home without his keys. Why? His house keys are located inside his body.
Shank, the president of the Minneapolis futurist group TwinCities+, has a chip installed in his hand that can communicate electronically with his front door and tell it to unlock itself. His wife has one, too.
"You have mental checklists as you’re coming and going out of your home," Shank says. "One of those things is my wallet, keys, all those things I have with me. Once you start to eliminate all those things, you start to see all the mind space it actually clears not to have to worry about them."
In fact, Shank has several chips in his hand, including a near field communication (NFC) chip like the ones used in Apple Pay and similar systems, which stores a virtual business card with contact information for TwinCities+. "[For] people with Android phones, I can just tap their phone with my hand, right over the chip, and it will send that information to their phone," he says. In the past, he’s also used a chip to store a bitcoin wallet.
Shank is one of a growing number of "biohackers" who implant hardware ranging from microchips to magnets inside their bodies.
Some biohackers use their implants in experimental art projects. Others who have disabilities or medical conditions use them to improve their quality of life, while still others use the chips to extend the limits of human perception. Shank, for instance, has experimented with a portable distance sensor that vibrates a magnet in his hand; it's like a sonar system that lets him sense how far away obstacles are. He also considered installing a chip that would track his body temperature. But not every use case is so ambitious—for some, the chips are merely convenient ways to store data and unlock doors.
Experts sometimes caution that the long-term health risks of the practice are still unknown. But many biohackers claim that, if done right, implants can be no more dangerous than getting a piercing or tattoo. In fact, professional body piercers are frequently the ones tasked with installing these implants, given that they possess the training and sterilization equipment necessary to break people’s skin safely.
"When you talk about things like risk, things like putting it in your body, the reality is the risk of having one of these installed is extremely low—it’s even lower than an ear piercing," claims Amal Graafstra, the founder of Dangerous Things, a biohacking supply company.
Graafstra, who is also the author of the book RFID Toys, says he first had an RFID chip installed in his hand in 2005, which allowed him to unlock doors without a key. When the maker movement took off a few years later, and as more hackers began to explore what they could put inside their bodies, he founded Dangerous Things with the aim of ensuring these procedures were done safely.
"I decided maybe it’s time to wrap a business model around this and make sure that the things people are trying to put in their bodies are safe," he says. The company works with a network of trained body piercers and offers online manuals and videos for piercers looking to get up to speed on the biohacking movement.
At present, these chips are capable of verifying users’ identities and opening doors. And according to Graafstra, a next-generation chip will have enough on-board cryptographic power to potentially work with credit card terminals securely.
"The technology is there—we can definitely talk to payment terminals with it—but we don’t have the agreements in place with banks [and companies like] MasterCard to make that happen," he says.
Paying for goods with an implantable chip might sound unusual for consumers and risky for banks, but Graafstra thinks the practice will one day become commonplace. He points to a survey released by Visa last year that found that 25% of Australians are "at least slightly interested" in paying for purchases through a chip implanted in their bodies.
"It’s on the minds of people," he says. "It just needs to be brought to fruition."
Other implantable technology has more of an aesthetic focus: Pittsburgh biohacking company Grindhouse Wetware offers a below-the-skin, star-shaped array of LED lights called Northstar. While the product was inspired by the on-board lamps of a device called Circadia that Grindhouse founder Tim Cannon implanted to send his body temperature to a smartphone, the commercially available Northstar features only the lights and is designed to resemble natural bioluminescence.
Grindhouse founder Tim Cannon with his Northstar implant looking out over the skyline of Pittsburgh from Mt. WashingtonPhoto: Ryan O'Shea
"This particular device is mainly aesthetic," says Grindhouse spokesman Ryan O’Shea. "It can backlight tattoos or be used in any kind of interpretive dance, or artists can use it in various ways."
The lights activate in the presence of a magnetic field—one that is often provided by magnets already implanted in the same user's fingertips. Which brings up another increasingly common piece of bio-hardware: magnetic finger implants. Hackers say these small magnets allow users to sense the presence of electromagnetic fields, to diagnose electrical problems like faulty wiring, and even to pull small metal objects like paper clips and bottle caps toward you, making you into something of a low-rent Magneto. Despite the power of these implants, they're fortunately not strong enough to trip metal detectors, wipe hard drives, or interfere with MRI scans.
Tim Cannon's hand (right) minutes after implant with Justin Worst's healed Northstar implantPhoto: Ryan O'Shea
"Most [Northstar clients] already have the magnets," says Zack Watson, a piercer who installs implants for Grindhouse. "The magnets are kind of like a baby step into the heavy mod community. It’s not so much visible as it is modifying the body to get that magnetic vision, and then the byproduct is that you’re able to activate the implant."
According to O'Shea, a second-generation Northstar will include a Bluetooth transmitter and gesture-recognition sensors, which will let it communicate with a smartphone to control Internet of Things-type technology. That's not the only reason many early adopters may eventually choose to upgrade their implants. Another has to do with the limited battery life.
"[The device] will die, much like a pacemaker will die," he says. "When a pacemaker does die, it is removed in a procedure and is completely replaced with a new unit. That is similar to what will happen with Northstar."
Luckily for users, the Northstar can be inserted or replaced in about 15 minutes by a skilled piercer, says O'Shea.
"It’s just a small incision, usually in the side of the hand," he adds. "The skin is separated from the hand there, and the device is just inserted, and the skin is stitched up."
As long as they're inserted properly, the implants leave minimal scarring, says Watson. He has magnets in his hand that let him do "little parlor tricks" and pick up needles while he works. "My kids are convinced I have a magic finger," he says. Meanwhile, an RFID chip in his hand lets him unlock his phone and automatically load his Instagram portfolio for potential customers to see.
"My phone has a reader in it, and you’re able to use that reader to scan my hand," Watson says. "It’s a cool way to show off your work."
Grindhouse is also working on an enhanced version of the Circadia device that tracks founder Cannon’s body temperature. Cannon says that in the future, Circadia could potentially track other vital signs like blood oxygen, heart rate, and blood glucose. That, however, could pose tricky regulatory challenges for the company, he acknowledges, potentially bringing the device closer to medical sensors regulated by the Food and Drug Administration.
The line between medical devices and personal electronics has already begun to grow fuzzier. In recent months, the FDA has tentatively said it doesn’t want to impose the same red tape on "low-risk devices" like fitness trackers that it would impose on medical equipment. Even the White House has weighed in, saying it's exploring options to bridge the gap between expensive, regulated hearing aids and cheaper amplification or tracking tools technically not certified for medical use.
Grindhouse’s foray into blood sugar tracking would follow projects like the Open Artificial Pancreas System, which lets diabetes patients build their own automatic blood sugar regulation tools using a Raspberry Pi computer to talk to an insulin pump and a glucose monitor. Some in the biohacking community have already used custom-built tools to overcome other disabilities or limitations. Artist Neil Harbisson, for instance, who was born color blind, used an implanted antenna to translate colors into audible sounds.
O’Shea says Grindhouse isn’t at all opposed to regulation: The company already does extensive testing to make sure its products are safe and won’t break down in the body—not even after physical trauma—and would welcome regulations that ensure people don’t unwittingly put something toxic or otherwise dangerous into their bodies.
"With Northstar right now, if there’s something that you encounter that’s going to destroy the Northstar in your body, you’re probably already dead at that point," he asserts.
What the company doesn’t want to see, O'Shea says, is the same full-on regulation of medical devices brought to bear on implantable products like the Circadia, which could make them impractical for startups and hackers to develop and prohibitively expensive for many potential users.
Photo: Flickr user Yagmur Adam
"The issue with FDA regulations is not only does it take an expensive amount of time and money that many bootstrapped companies do not have access to, but it also limits the people who can do these procedures," O'Shea says. "We want these augmentative devices to be open to as many people as possible for as cheap as possible, so there aren’t people who can’t have access to this technology."
In the meantime, with implants essentially flying under the regulatory radar, hackers are exploring how they can use the devices to manipulate and receive input from the world around them without a great deal of scrutiny from government bodies.
One of these hackers is artist, dancer, and self-proclaimed cyborg Moon Ribas, who has an Internet-connected implant in her arm that vibrates to alert her to earthquakes around the world—information she can incorporate into her choreographed routines.
She hopes to add additional, more precise implants that would communicate the continent where the earthquake took place, and perhaps another that reports quakes on the moon.
"This would allow me to be here and be in space in the same time," she says.
Ribas is also working on a commercial implant that would let users feel a vibration when they face due north, potentially training them to develop a directional sense similar to some animals. That's a far cry from Tim Shank's comparatively unambitious door-unlocking implant.
"I like things that are related to nature, space, or animals," she says. "Everyone has his own interests—it’s just that it doesn’t fulfill me as much to think about having an implant to open a door."
|RecommendKeepReplyMark as Last ReadRead Replies (1)|
|To: Glenn Petersen who wrote (1660)||6/12/2016 10:40:11 AM|
|it is a good article as bit coin and currency all have the problem of can it be replicated. I know not if the implant has a heat sensor or life sensor type thing as then if a portion of the body were detached to get into another persons account it would not work . |
Stealing a credit card becomes minor when you have to steal the hand to get into the account.
The more progressive and innovative we become the more difficult it is to be assure secure.
I was thinking that when metal was currency the metal had a value. Then the metal had an asset value on its own that could end up being more valuable than the currency it represented,
|RecommendKeepReplyMark as Last ReadRead Replies (2)|
|To: Ahda who wrote (1661)||6/12/2016 3:10:08 PM|
|There is a bit of social engineering aspect to using implants to make mobile debit transactions. Ostensibly, the main attraction of being a thief is easy gains, a parasitic shortcut to ownership of property and financial security. If society takes away the parasitic 'easy' then the new 'easy' becomes the non parasitic means of legitimate service, barter or commercial endeavor that the former thief is already familiar with when operating outside their previous professions. Then society would be left with only thieves who are drawn to it for the risky behavior excitement value.|
However, the use of fingerprint ID sensors built into secure devices, like iPhones (more devices to come later), fulfills the same need remarkably well, and negates the need for specialized RFID implants for mobile debit transaction verification. And potentially, stealing the phone without the fingerprint, is as useless as stealing the credit card without the RFID implant.
|RecommendKeepReplyMark as Last Read|
|To: Ahda who wrote (1661)||6/12/2016 3:26:46 PM|
|From: Glenn Petersen|
|Implanting chips into humans was a controversial subject when this board was started 12 plus years ago. Less so now. Biohacking has become quite the rage.|
Biohackers implant computers, earbuds and antennas in their bodies
By Jurica Dujmovic
Published: Feb 10, 2016 10:47 a.m. ET
They’re trying to improve human performance — to be smarter, more capable
Body implants are a staple of science fiction. They turn members of futuristic societies into super-humans, making them stronger, smarter and more capable than an average person.
Implants helped Johnny Mnemonic increase his memory capacity; they fuel Iron Man’s suit and keep him alive; and they do much, much more.
As amazing as body implants sound, though, how close are we normal humans to getting one of those? In other words, are contemporary science, medicine and technology advanced enough to allow us to seamlessly meld with the technology and actually improve our lives? Keep reading to find out.
We’ll start by introducing Northstar, a subdermal LED sensor that lights up when it’s in the vicinity of a magnet. It can be used to detect the magnetic north and act as a compass. Implanting such a basic device may sound like a silly and needlessly dangerous procedure to go through, but these biohackers did it anyway.
Ryan O’Shea/Grindhouse Wetware
Before dismissing it for being an “LED tattoo,” note that the device, dubbed Northstar V1, is still in its first iteration. The next version due to be released sometime this year will allow users to control the device via hand gestures. Grindhouse Wetware, the company behind the product, acknowledges that Northstar may seem like a simple gadget, but its purpose is to be much more than just subdermal bling — it exists to “prove the possibility of implanting technology in the human body, and will pave the way for more advanced and functional augmentations.”
If you think having LEDs in your forearm is silly, you may like this better: an antenna implanted in the skull. In 2004, Neil Harbisson had the device implanted in his cranium in an effort to fight color blindness. A camera at the far end of the device records whatever he is seeing and converts the image color data into a series of sound waves, which he has memorized. Instead of seeing various hues, he “hears” them with the help of a camera he calls Eyeborg.
Speaking of senses, here’s one implant that gave Rich Lee, a biohacker, one sense that humans usually don’t have: the power of echolocation.
Can you spot it? The implant is in his earlobe! To be more specific, within the tragus, the fleshy protrusion in front of the ear opening. On both of his ears are tiny magnets that Lee uses to listen to music without earbuds ( here’s how) and sense objects in his vicinity. He achieved echolocation by converting data from an ultrasonic range finder (a device used to determine how far away an object is) into audio, which he then sends wirelessly to his headphone implants.
If you had trouble seeing magnets in Lee’s ear, I reckon this one will be much easier to spot. That huge lump under this biohacker’s skin is actually a bulky biometric computer that’s capable of transmitting body temperature and pulse data wirelessly. While using a simple thermometer seems like a much better idea than having an electronic device inserted under your skin (without local anesthesia), the company behind it (yet another Grindhouse Wetware project) says that the device (Circadia) is merely in the early stages of development. Many more features are coming soon — hopefully a more compact size will be one of them.
John Rogers, University of Illinois
If these implants seem too much, here’s something a bit lighter — and in my opinion, much closer to mass adoption: flexible, wireless tattoos that can be used to track vital body stats. Data about sweat (which can be used to assess the metabolic health of the wearer), heart rate and more are captured by the tattoo and then sent wirelessly to a device, such as a mobile phone or a computer. Although these tattoos aren’t exactly implants (they are non-invasive and can be easily removed), they still prove that the integration between the human body and technology isn’t something that’s easily dismissed.
If you’re like me, many of these implants will make you cringe. They seem crude, basic and impractical. Biohackers may seem like people who don’t care much about their health or safety. Experiments they’re currently conducting seem to show just undeveloped biohacking is and how little it can do for us — for the time being.
However, there’s a different side to this story. If history has taught us anything, it’s that even the greatest inventions had humble beginnings. Seeing the recordings of the first planes trying to take off invokes exactly the same thoughts about the pioneers of flight. Were they brave or foolish? Were their machines laughable or simply in “early development”? If it weren’t for them, we wouldn’t have planes today.
Does the same apply to biohacking? Only time will tell. Until then, we’ll keep a close eye on the biohacking community and perhaps one day become a part of it. What do you think about these implants and biohacking in general? Please let me know in the comments below.
|RecommendKeepReplyMark as Last ReadRead Replies (1)|
|To: Glenn Petersen who wrote (1663)||6/12/2016 4:48:00 PM|
|In the field of neuro science some day the benefits I hope will be enormous. The brain controls the body and the key is to aid control of the brain. Fabulous to think of the body ridding itself of parts that are not working properly or creating new parts minus the surgical procedure.|
In the field of entertainment I can visualize a series of wires intertwined with tattoos the bearer of said walks into a toy shop lights up totally and walks out with every magnetic toy in the store attached to him.
Of course if the antennae pop up like rabbit ears the mall would empty out pretty quick,
|RecommendKeepReplyMark as Last Read|
|From: Glenn Petersen||7/23/2016 10:57:21 AM|
|RFID tag maker Impinj prices IPO at $14, shares soar in rare public offering|
by John Cook
on July 21, 2016 at 9:39 am
Impinj’s Monza chip
Wall Street likes what they see in Impinj, a 16-year-old Seattle-based maker of Radio Frequency Identification technology that today went public on Nasdaq at $14 per share. That was the upper end of the range for the company, which makes RFID chips that allow retailers to track inventory or manufacturers to track parts.
It marks the first initial public offering for a Seattle-based technology company this year. Impinj sold 4.8 million shares, raising $67.2 million. It also granted underwriters the option to buy 720,000 shares at the offering price.
Impinj, which is trading under the ticker PI, is doing well in its debut. The stock shot up more than 20 percent, and it is now trading around $17.17.
The company, which expects to post a net loss this year, is backed by ARCH Venture Partners, Intel Capital, Polaris Partners, Madrona Venture Group and GF Private Equity. But revenues are on the rise. It is led by founder Chris Diorio, an affiliate professor of computer science and engineering at the University of Washington.
The company posted revenue of $78.5 million last year, up from $63.8 million in 2014. It first turned a profit in 2013, and showed net income of $900,000 in 2015. Even so, it has accumulated a deficit of $187.6 million over the years.
More on Impinj and its financials in this SEC filing, where it offers this explanation of its business:
Our platform connects billions of everyday items such as apparel, medical supplies, automobile parts, drivers licenses, food and luggage to applications such as inventory management, patient safety, asset tracking and item authentication, delivering real-time information to businesses about items they create, manage, transport and sell. We believe connecting everyday items and delivering real-time information about them is the essence of the Internet-of-Things, or IoT.
|RecommendKeepReplyMark as Last Read|
|From: Glenn Petersen||9/20/2016 9:14:04 AM|
|When Information Storage Gets Under Your Skin|
Tiny implants can replace keys, store business cards and medical data—and eventually a lot more
By Nina Adam and William Wilkes
The Wall Street Journal
Sept. 18, 2016 10:11 p.m. ET
Patrick Paumen doesn’t have to worry about forgetting his keys and being locked out of his apartment. That is because he doesn’t need a key anymore—he simply unlocks the door with a wave of his hand.
The 32-year-old IT expert from the Dutch city of Heerlen is one of a growing number of people with electronic implants under their skin, mostly to use as keys or for identification.
Mr. Paumen has several such implants, or tags, embedded in the fatty tissue of his hands and his lower arm. He uses separate tags to unlock not only his apartment door, but also his office and the gate to a secure parking lot at work. Another stores information he would otherwise put on a business card—name and contact details—and yet another holds similar information for nonbusiness encounters.
The implants can be activated and scanned by readers that use radio frequency identification technology, or RFID. Those include ordinary smartphones and readers already installed in office buildings to allow entrance with a common ID card.
Mr. Paumen says the tiny devices simplify his life. When nearing the secure office parking lot, he says, “I just roll down the window, stick my arm out and let the reader at the gates scan the implant, which is just below my little finger. I don’t have to worry about losing my access card.”
Done in secondsThere is no comprehensive data on how many people have RFID implants in their bodies, but retailers estimate the total is 30,000 to 50,000 people globally.
The fact that the tags can’t be lost is one attraction. Another, users say, is that the tags don’t operate under their own power but rather are activated when they’re read by a scanner. That means they can never be rendered useless by a dead battery like smartphones.
It only takes a few seconds to inject the small glass cylinder containing a tag, the size of a grain of rice, under the skin. It can be done by anyone, but proponents say it is best done by a trained person with sterilized equipment to lower the risk of infection.
Once a tag is implanted, there can be an adjustment period: “They can move a little bit depending on skin type and activities,” says Quentin Inglis, owner of the Kalima Emporium, a tattoo and piercing studio in Worthing, England, who has implanted tags for several customers. Mr. Inglis keeps his business card on an implanted tag. “I do a lot of climbing, so mine moved around a bit until it found a position it was happiest with,” he says.
Medical potentialImplanted tags have a demonstrated potential for use in travel. Andreas Sjöström, the head of digital solutions at Sogeti, a technology consulting unit of Capgemini Group, used an implanted tag loaded with information identifying him as a Scandinavian Airlines customer to board an SAS flight from Stockholm to Paris for the first time in December, and has since used the tag several times for SAS flights. The tag contains the same information some SAS passengers normally have on a sticker used for the same purpose, and is read by the same scanner the airline uses for those stickers.
Electronic RFID tags that go under the skin are being used to store personal information and give users access to secure areas. Photo: Henrik Andree/Telefónica BASECAMP/Digiwell.com
Some people list emergency contacts on an implanted tag. And others see potential for the use of the tags in medicine, though one big challenge needs to be addressed for those visions to become reality: Medical personnel or anyone else trying to help someone in a medical or emergency situation will need to have some way to know that the person they’re trying to help has potentially lifesaving information available under his or her skin.
For instance, Kevin Warwick, deputy vice chancellor at Coventry University in England and an expert in cybernetics, says that people who suffer from epilepsy often wear pendants that identify them as having epilepsy and sometimes provide emergency contacts and some basic information on how to help a person having a seizure. But the pendant can be lost or forgotten—a tag cannot. Paramedics and other first responders could be trained to check for tags, he says, and perhaps people with epilepsy could have a small tattoo or some other marker to help other people find the tag.
Another idea for medical use: “In hospitals, you could have a small thing implanted to make sure this is the right patient or person for this operation, to reduce the number of errors there are in medical operations,” Dr. Warwick says.
The tags also can be used to access medical records. Information stored on a tag can easily be updated with the tag remaining in place.
Advocates also hope it won’t be long before the implants will allow them to make payments in cafes or shops, the way smart cards are used. Mr. Sjöström says the technology is capable of enabling such transactions, if software standards are developed to allow them. Data security is also an issue here, he says, as the current generation of implants isn’t capable of the same level of encryption as existing electronic payment systems.
Ethical issuesSkeptics point to ethical concerns that will have to be addressed before tag implants become more common. While there may be no issue with implanting a tag under the skin of consenting adults, things could become tricky if a person doesn’t want it or isn't in control of the tag’s content.
For instance, the use of a tag “is ethically straightforward and even useful” for people who can’t grip a key because of extreme arthritis or the loss of a hand, says Arianne Shahvisi, a lecturer in ethics at the Brighton and Sussex Medical School in the U.K. But while tags also could be used by people with dementia to carry identifying information and to ensure that they would never lose their keys, it would be “troubling” in such cases because the patient may not be able to give proper consent to the procedure.
Privacy concerns will also have to be addressed before tag implants can reach their full potential. Although people promoting them say the implants currently on sale can only be picked up by readers in very close range, some people worry that strangers could still tap their personal information without their knowledge or consent.
And while many adults are repelled by the idea of manipulating a perfectly healthy body, young people may accept it as they do most technology surrounding them. Take Patrick and Birthe Kramer, a couple in Hamburg, Germany, who have implants that unlock the door to their home. Their 2-year-old son, whose body remains chip free, already imitates his parents by trying to open the front door with a swish of his hand.
Ms. Adam and Mr. Wilkes are Wall Street Journal reporters in Frankfurt. They can be reached at email@example.com and firstname.lastname@example.org.
|RecommendKeepReplyMark as Last Read|
|From: Glenn Petersen||3/25/2017 9:11:59 AM|
|Impinj the ‘Best Way to Play’ the ‘Tipping Point’ in RFID, says Morgan Stanley |
By Tiernan Ray
February 23, 2017, 11:45 A.M. ET
Shares of Internet of Things technology maker Impinj ( PI) are up $1.45, or 5%, at $29.94, after Morgan Stanley’s Craig Hettenbach and Joseph Moore today offer up a team effort, initiating the stock at Overweight, with a $40 price target, writing that it is the “best way to play” what they see as a “tipping point,” in so-called “radio-frequency ID,” or RFID, technology.
“We see the company leveraging its technology leadership (200+ patents) and strong market position (60% share), capitalizing on a $10bn+ opportunity in RFID and connectivity,” write the duo.
RFID, the authors write, is “reaching a tipping point,” and Impinj is the company that has all the parts to capitalize on that:
We see accelerating RFID adoption, as evidenced by a strong uptick in end point IC shipment growth for Impinj to 71% in 2016, up from 21%/52% in 2014/15 (Exhibit 1). The company’s initial focus markets of Retail and Healthcare offer a substantial ~$10bn opportunity by 2020, while newer verticals such as Data Center, Travel, and Automotive should propel growth further. Importantly, with less than 10% penetration in retail and 1% overall, there is still significant runway for growth in RFID technology in the coming years. The company is the only supplier with all 3 elements of the RFID solution (End point ICs, Reader ICs/Readers and software). As a founding member of the Radio Frequency Identification Alliance (RAIN), we also think Impinj is in a strong position to optimize its technology solutions. The company has over 60% market share in end point and reader ICs, while competitors such as Zebra and Alien buy its ICs. In addition, we see merits to its platform sales approach allowing the company to sell higher margin connectivity and software solutions and expand upon its already entrenched position in end point ICs.
They like the growth outlook:
We model a 3-year revenue CAGR of 26%, which could prove conservative relative to recent growth of 43%. In addition, we see favorable GM trends, estimating 310 bps of expansion to 57.1% through 2019. We view the next 1-2 years as a time for the company to reinvest in the business and drive outsized growth, followed by a period of substantial operating leverage in 2019/20. Our PT of $40 is based on a EV/S multiple of 4.2X. This is above the current multiple of 3.6X, but essentially in line with other high growth small cap stocks, despite Impinj’s faster growth and greater operating leverage.
Mind the looming lockup expiration on insider shares, though:
On March 2, 2017, an additional 1.34mn shares (6.5% of Impinj’s outstanding stock) will be eligible for sale in the public market. The company has no other lock ups after that. We recommend using any volatility around this lock up to add to positions. Impinj has traded off 19% since earnings last week vs. the SOX index up 2%, which we view as an attractive entry point ahead of the upward revisions we anticipate for 2017 revenue and EPS.
|RecommendKeepReplyMark as Last Read|
|From: Glenn Petersen||4/24/2017 10:57:24 AM|
| How 7-Eleven Will Beat Worker Blues |
By Andy Mukherjee
April 23, 2017 4:00 PM EDT
A 7-Eleven store in Japan can no longer afford its most prized possession: the checkout clerk.
The nation's employee shortage is now too acute to waste pricey labor on routine tasks -- like scanning low-value merchandise -- that have proven frustratingly expensive to automate.
But now an old technology is coming to the rescue. 7-Eleven owner Seven & i Holdings Co. is joining forces with rival operators Lawson, Ministop, FamilyMart UNY Holdings and East Japan Railway to introduce radio-frequency identification, or RFID, by next year. That should preclude the need for manual bar-code scanning, Nikkei reported last week, adding that by 2025 all Japanese convenience stores would have fully automated checkouts.
RFID tags are already widely used by retailers in anti-shoplifting devices. Turning them into price tags would enable customers to walk out of stores without having to scan items at checkout counters. Exit gates would open when mobile or card payments have been received.
At 7-Eleven alone, the switch could translate into 50 billion yen ($460 million) in demand for RFID tags, Pelham Smithers Associates wrote in a research note on the Smartkarma website.
New scanner orders for hardware makers like Toshiba TEC Corp., Panasonic Corp. and Fujitsu Ltd. may be a blip on earnings reports; a bigger winner would probably be Sato Holdings Corp., a maker of labels and tags, especially if supermarkets and drugstores follow suit, according to Pelham Smithers researchers. The company's shares have risen almost 10 percent on news of RFID adoption.
What's likely to matter much more to investors, however, is the extent to which Japanese retailers can embrace automation to boost margins. Bloomberg Intelligence analyst Thomas Jastrzab expects operating profit growth at Seven & i to outpace sales gains over the next two to three years, aided by fewer money-losing stores and demand for its higher-margin private-label offerings.
Lawson, meanwhile, is expecting its first decline in annual profit in 15 years, partly because of investment in labor-saving technologies as well as in a newer product mix to appeal to an aging population.
While convenience stores should still come out OK, it's the large-format retailers in Japan that are particularly in need of a miracle cure for weak profitability. As my Gadfly colleague David Fickling noted recently, margins in the core business of supermarket and mall giant Aeon Co. are now so abysmal that it garners the bulk of earnings from financial services and mall development, which account for less than 10 percent of revenue.
Although fashion retailers like Zara use RFID extensively to manage inventory, investing in a 10 yen tag to sell stuff priced 200 yen or lower at a 7-Eleven is a far more challenging proposition. To help consumers warm to the technology, Japan's Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry might offer subsidies, the Nikkei article said.
The government's involvement is understandable. With the unemployment rate at 2.8 percent, and more than two job openings in Tokyo for every applicant, the country needs to extract the most out of a scarce resource.
Commerce will never entirely move online. But needing a checkout clerk to sell a soda at 7-Eleven is just too expensive a luxury -- both for Japanese society and for shareholders of Seven & i.
This column does not necessarily reflect the opinion of Bloomberg LP and its owners.
To contact the author of this story:
Andy Mukherjee in Singapore at email@example.com
To contact the editor responsible for this story:
Matthew Brooker at firstname.lastname@example.org
|RecommendKeepReplyMark as Last ReadRead Replies (1)|