Home Internet of Things Innovators: ThingMagic

Internet of Things Innovators: ThingMagic

Every Thursday evening PT we shine a spotlight on the Internet of Things, which is when everyday objects are connected to the Internet. Today we look at one of many companies making ‘things’ happen in the evolving Internet of Things. Based out of Cambridge, MA, the aptly named ThingMagic makes a range of RFID (radio frequency identification) products. Last July, ThingMagic started a campaign which caught our eye: 100 uses of RFID, a blog series which ran over 100 business days. At first we were a little skeptical, but when we checked in at the end of November the mission was nearly complete. All 100 uses are now available on the ThingMagic blog, covering a range of industries – healthcare, banking, cycling, prisons, swimming pools, and more.

RFID chips are tiny microprocessors that are embedded into real world objects. Data from the chips is read by RFID Readers, which is what ThingMagic specializes in. Over the 10 years of its existence, ThingMagic has diversified its customer base and was eventually acquired last October.

ThingMagic’s acquirer was Trimble, a provider of positioning and tracking solutions using technologies like GPS, laser and optical. Trimble, which has annual revenues of over $1 billion, bought ThingMagic to add RFID to its tracking arsenal. Jürgen Kliem, Trimble VP of strategy and business development, told RFID Journal in October that “a growing number of Trimble’s customers are showing an interest in RFID-based asset-tracking solutions.”

Founded in 2000 by a group of PhD graduates from MIT’s Media Lab, ThingMagic aimed to become “the engine in RFID.” By the time of acquisition a decade later, ThingMagic’s customers included industrial automation firms, manufacturers, automotive companies, retailers, and consumer companies.

The name ThingMagic originated from a goal of “adding magic to everyday objects.” However it took a long time for that vision to become a reality. As Gregory Huang of Xconomy put it, in an excellent profile last August, “the technology was strong but its business use was overhyped, so it got stuck on the adoption curve.”

Last year, RFID finally began to get successful uptake. ThingMagic co-founder and CTO Yael Maguire told Xconomy that “in most cases it’s [RFID] caught up with people’s imagination. People are focusing [now] on how to deploy it.”

The fact that ThingMagic was acquired by a billion-dollar tracking company proves that RFID technology is fairly mature now and so deploying it is key. What’s more, RFID combined with other Web and mobile technologies is an increasingly important part of the Internet of Things. Sensors may be the only technology that is more important.

As ThingMagic co-founder Ravi Pappu told Xconomy, “it’s not just about the RFID [it’s about] connecting to other systems, like Bluetooth, GPS, Wi-Fi.” By combining all of this, he said, “you have the Internet of Things.”

ThingMagic will be viewed as one of the early success stories of Internet of Things. Perhaps it sold a bit too early, even. One thing is for sure, RFID uptake owes a lot to this little Boston company powered by MIT Media Lab PhDs.

About ReadWrite’s Editorial Process

The ReadWrite Editorial policy involves closely monitoring the tech industry for major developments, new product launches, AI breakthroughs, video game releases and other newsworthy events. Editors assign relevant stories to staff writers or freelance contributors with expertise in each particular topic area. Before publication, articles go through a rigorous round of editing for accuracy, clarity, and to ensure adherence to ReadWrite's style guidelines.

Get the biggest tech headlines of the day delivered to your inbox

    By signing up, you agree to our Terms and Privacy Policy. Unsubscribe anytime.

    Tech News

    Explore the latest in tech with our Tech News. We cut through the noise for concise, relevant updates, keeping you informed about the rapidly evolving tech landscape with curated content that separates signal from noise.

    In-Depth Tech Stories

    Explore tech impact in In-Depth Stories. Narrative data journalism offers comprehensive analyses, revealing stories behind data. Understand industry trends for a deeper perspective on tech's intricate relationships with society.

    Expert Reviews

    Empower decisions with Expert Reviews, merging industry expertise and insightful analysis. Delve into tech intricacies, get the best deals, and stay ahead with our trustworthy guide to navigating the ever-changing tech market.