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RFID News Roundup
NFC Forum unveils new special interest groups to champion Near Field Communication across markets; Ubisense RTLS gains momentum in manufacturing, including implementations for Daimler; Danbury Hospital implements RF Technologies' active RFID to protect infants; Identive Group announces developer's kit for creating RFID-enabled electronic games; LAB ID introduces UHF tag for intelligent waste collection and management; ASAP Systems adds new features to its Web-based inventory- and asset-management solution.
Jan 24, 2013—The following are news announcements made during the past week.
NFC Forum Unveils New Special Interest Groups to Champion Near Field Communication Across Markets
The NFC Forum, a nonprofit industry association promoting the adoption of Near Field Communication (NFC) RFID technology, has announced the launch of five new special interest groups (SIGs) designed to support and accelerate NFC's adoption in key vertical markets. According to the NFC Forum, the SIGs—covering payment, retail, transport, health care and consumer electronics—bring together leaders from each sector to collaborate on implementation, interoperability, best practices and future requirements. In a webinar held today, Debbie Arnold, the NFC Forum's director, told attendees that there are presently more than 100 million NFC-enabled mobile phones or other devices in use, and that industry experts expect this to become the most widely used solution for mobile payments within two years. "What can we do to continue this momentum?" Arnold asked during the webinar. In answering that question, she noted that the SIG initiative was created to propel NFC's growth, and to educate and work with the various markets regarding ways to advance NFC-enabled solutions that best meet each industry's needs. "The challenge is that NFC is a very horizontal technology, and it isn't just for one type of device or just one use case," Arnold said, adding that the NFC Forum is well positioned as an organization to spearhead NFC adoption and use across markets and industries. James Anderson, the organization's vice chairman, who serves as MasterCard's group head and senior VP of mobile product development payments, reported that while NFC technology is experiencing growing use in mobile payments—particularly in contactless payments for such things as ticketing in public transportation—there is much that needs to be done with regard to large-scale deployments, and to recruit additional players in those deployments. "At the end of the day, it is about commercial deployments within the market, and not just about standards," Anderson stated. The Mobile Payments SIG will focus its attention on educating consumers about NFC's benefits, addressing their security concerns, working on NFC technology for merchant devices, and turning existing efforts into large-scale commercial rollouts. The Retail SIG will explore such applications as NFC-enabled coupons and rewards programs, as well as inventory control, employee access in secure areas, and time and attendance. The NFC Forum will work with the National Retail Federation, GS1 and other industry groups, and will also work on a number of white papers and events, in order to support NFC adoption in the retail market. The Transport SIG will focus on NFC's use in transportation, including in air travel. The NFC Forum recently announced a partnership with the International Air Transport Association (IATA), a trade group comprising airlines around the globe (see RFID News Roundup: NFC Forum Forges Links With Global Certification Forum, Int'l Air Transport Association and Wi-Fi Alliance). The IATA had already been working on its own NFC-driven project, the Fast Travel initiative, aimed at providing self-service options for airport passengers by leveraging various technologies, including RFID. The HealthCare SIG will focus on NFC's use in health care, and is working with the Continua Health Alliance, a nonprofit, open-industry organization of health-care and technology companies dedicated to establishing a system of interoperable, interconnected health solutions, with the goal of extending those solutions into the home in order to foster independence, empower individuals and provide the opportunity for personalized health and wellness management. Among the various technologies that Continua advocates is NFC for data collection and sharing. Finally, the Consumer Electronics SIG will focus on how refrigerators and other items can easily connect to a Wi-Fi network, and ultimately to the Internet, via NFC technology that automatically performs a handshake to set up the Wi-Fi connection between the appliance and the wireless network.
Ubisense RTLS Gains Momentum in Manufacturing, Including Implementations for Daimler
Ubisense Group, a provider of real-time location system (RTLS) technology, has announced that its Smart Factory System has been adopted by automaker Daimler Group to equip the assembly line for the Mercedes S-Class premium cars in Germany. According to Ubisense, Daimler first conducted an extensive proof-of-concept pilot at its plant in Rastatt, and later awarded Ubisense a contract to equip the S-Class assembly line at the Sindelfingen plant with the Ubisense Smart Factory System. This system, Ubisense explains, automates the recognition of tool and vehicle interactions on the production line, and is designed to eliminate the need to manually scan vehicle ID numbers, and to ensure that the correct tool program is being used for the particular vehicle at the station. In addition, each vehicle's exact location is tracked continuously and is matched to the vehicle's ID, which is then supplied to external worker assistance systems as the vehicle arrives at each station. The system's goal, according to the company, is to reduce unproductive assembly time, as well as eliminate errors that can occur during scanning and other manual operations. The Smart Factory System is integrated with Daimler's PLUS manufacturing execution system, and also with the tools used on the lines, as part of a partnership with industrial tool firm Atlas Copco. The two partners have long worked together on location-sensitive tools for use on production lines and in other industrial environments (see Ubisense Raises Nearly $8 Million in Fund-Raising Round). Atlas Copco leveraged a Ubisense tag module, announced in July 2010 and designed for direct integration into third-party devices (see RFID News Roundup: Ubisense Intros UWB Tag Module for Third-Party Development). The tools from the Atlas Copco-branded tool-location system (TLS) are equipped with Ubisense's ultra-wideband (UWB) location RFID tags that transmit signals to nearby receivers, with location-tracking information analyzed and visualized using Ubisense's software. For Daimler, the final solution will also control other devices and the tools of several other vendors. In addition, Ubisense has announced that its RTLS business continued to exhibit robust double-digit percentage revenue growth for 2012, which helped to help drive the company's overall performance. Momentum during the second half of the year was characterized by an increase in contract scope and size, including the Daimler contracts and new installations completed at BMW, BAE Systems, Hyundai,Lufthansa andUnited States Steel Corp. According to Ubisense, its RTLS market performance was aided by the strategic partnership with Atlas Copco, which has driven significant sales growth and introduced a number of high-quality manufacturers to Ubisense's technology, including Audi and John Deere. Overall, Ubisense reported net cash of £2.6 million ($3.5 million) at year's end (Dec. 31, 2012).
Danbury Hospital Implements RF Technologies' Active RFID to Protect Infants
RF Technologies, a provider of RFID-enabled health-care safety and security solutions, has announced that its Safe Place solution has been chosen to provide infant-security systems for Connecticut's Danbury Hospital. The Safe Place solution leverages active RFID tags operating at dual frequencies of 262 kHz and 318 MHz, in order to monitor and track patients' movements. As part of the Western Connecticut Health Network (WCHN), Danbury Hospital delivers approximately 2,500 babies annually. According to RF Technologies, three floors at Danbury Hospital are protected with the Safe Place system, including the family birthing and pediatric units. The Safe Place Infant Security Solution uses lightweight transmitters with multiple measures of tamper detection. The water-resistant transmitter is secured around an infant's ankle. Staff members can monitor each baby via automated software that alerts them if a band becomes loose, has been tampered with or has been removed from that child, RF Technologies explains. In the event that the band is cut, or if an infant wearing a transmitter comes within range of a monitored exit, the system will automatically lock the door and notify personnel of a potential security threat. The company has also announced that it has upgraded its Smart ID Location Detection technology as part of a new version of software for its Code Alert Quick Response Plus Wireless Call Solution. The company reports that its enhanced Smart ID Location Detection technology is now capable of providing accurate room-level locations. The technology is activated when a user, such as a resident at a senior-living facility, presses a button on a battery-powered RFID tag built into a pendent in order to summon help. Previously, the firm notes, the solution could provide accurate area-level locations, meaning a user's location could be narrowed to a common or general living area. For area-level location, the system utilizes wireless devices known as repeaters, mounted throughout the coverage area. The solution uses the nearest repeater location determination (strongest received signal strength indication, or RSSI), which requires no pre-mapping. For the new option of room-level location, RF Technologies has added a new technique leveraging a site survey that maps predefined locations with survey points, so when a pendant is activated, its location can be calculated based on comparison to the mapped points. The technology then employs a customized Euclidian distance-based matching algorithm to determine the most likely location for future pendant activations. Now, the company reports, the technology can pinpoint a room number. With room-level location, a resident's whereabouts can be narrowed down even further, thereby enabling faster caregiver response times. Control stations display the resident's location during an emergency event, and remote caregivers can also receive alerts from a variety of optional devices, including pagers and wireless phones that show e-mails and text messages. The water-resistant pendants can be worn on a breakaway necklace or on a belt clip. According to RF Technologies, the new version of its software is flexible, allowing customers to choose a solution that incorporates either area- or room-level location detection.
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