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RFID News Roundup

U.K. retailer John Lewis trials ZBD's electronic signs, displays; Novadis unveils rubber-encased UHF tag for harsh environments; RF Technologies consolidates product offerings; Danish agency seeks tenders for auto-ID and tracking in hospitals; MasterCard announces contactless-payments gains in Asia Pacific, Middle East and Africa.
Feb 14, 2013The following are news announcements made during the past week.

U.K. Retailer Trials ZBD's Electronic Signs, Displays
John Lewis, one of the United Kingdom's largest department store retailers, is trialing an electronic-paper solution in its new shop in Exeter. The trial includes several hundred of ZBD's fully graphic e-paper displays, which have replaced traditional print ticketing, to provide customers with product information, pricing, promotions, reviews as well as QR codes in a digital format. The solution is managed by Pierhouse's NetTickIT software, which manages all the data, processes and compliance as well as the design, publishing, production and integration of all product and signage information. The software works with various electronic signage and display technologies, including e-paper. According to ZBD, the John Lewis project is aimed at automating the communication of offers and product information in-store, so associates can pay more attention to providing customers with better service. In a prepared statement, Karen Dracou, head of omnichannel for John Lewis, said the e-paper technology is a key part of creating a really integrated experience for customers. "The tickets allow us to trial how we can break down some of the barriers traditionally associated with shopping through different channels, they have an option to include QR codes which allow customers to access information online, compare products and check stock." The e-paper system is designed to help John Lewis automate frequently changing product information in-store. ZBD's e-paper solution includes epops, which are small, high resolution, LCD displays that attach wirelessly to a shelf edge. Epops are fully graphical and capable of displaying rich content including any combination of text, images, barcodes and logos. The ZBD software consists of Bounce Architect (to manage data related to pricing and product details) and Bounce Processor (to prompt the changes to epop labels via RFID). New data input into Bounce Architect is transmitted via the Bounce Processor to the Bounce Communicator software, running on a computer located at a store. The Bounce Communicator then forwards appropriate pricing and product data to each epop unit, based on that unit's unique ID number, via an 868 MHz transmission, using a proprietary air-interface protocol. The technology is being used in other stores, including T-Mobile Austria's stores (see T-Mobile Austria Updates Prices Wirelessly).

Novadis Unveils Rubber-Encased UHF Tag for Harsh Environments
Novadis, a Switzerland-based global developer and manufacturer of fasteners, rubber and plastic components, technical films and industrial packaging and identification solutions, has unveiled a new, ultra-high frequency (UHF) passive RFID tag designed especially for use to track goods in the industrial laundry, leather and textile industries, or for any products that undergo chemical and mechanical stresses. The Nova-Tag, compliant with EPC Gen 2 and ISO 18000-6C standards, contains an Impinj Monza 4 or 5 chip with 128 bits of memory, and an antenna all encapsulated in a specially formulated rubber material that, according to Novadis, is resistant to water, acid, high-pressure, high temperatures and common chemical products. The Nova-Tag is available from 0.6 to 2 millimeters in thickness, depending on the required protection against stresses. The tag is hypoallergenic and can be inserted, sewn or sealed into a product. It can withstand temperatures in the range of -50 to +200 degrees Celsius (-58 to +392 degrees Fahrenheit), has an average reading range of 2 to 3 meters, and can remain operational after more than 200 washing cycles.

RF Technologies Consolidates RTLS Product Offerings
RF Technologies has announced a restructuring it says will enable it to better serve customers in the health-care, education and hospitality markets. RF Technologies, which offers Code Alert, Safe Place and Sensatec RFID-based real-time location system (RTLS) solutions, will move all products from its PinPoint Technologies spin-off division back under the RF Technologies brand. PinPoint products consisted of the Help Alert and ExacTrack RTLS solutions. In a prepared statement, RF Technologies' senior VP and GM, Sean Daugherty, said the move will "better align us to serve our customers so we can provide a more comprehensive solution for their safety and security needs." Help Alert uses mobile panic alarms, or pendants, as a proactive, cost-effective solution to protect staff, patients, teachers, students and guests. It includes a Wi-Fi RFID pendant that that can be worn so that if a problem arises or tensions escalate, the nearest employee can simply press the button on his or her pendant. A discreet alert will then be instantly transmitted to the appropriate team members, so that they will know who called in the alert, as well as that individual's precise location at the moment that the alert was issued. Each pendant contains a battery-powered Wi-Fi-based RFID tag that transmits a unique ID number associated with an individual user. The tag's 2.4 GHz signal is received by Wi-Fi access points, and that data is forwarded to PinPoint software that calculates the location of the pendant's wearer. Help Alert includes a mobile app so incident responders can receive on their mobile phones the name and a photo of the person who triggered the alarm; real-time visibility on a map that indicates the alarming pendant's location; and the ability to acknowledge the alarm from within the application. In 2008, Shorewood High School, located near Milwaukee, became one of the first schools to install the Help Alert system (see Wisconsin High School Gets 'Help Alert'). With ExacTrack, small Wi-Fi-based RFID tags can be attached to valuable mobile assets, such as medical equipment or shared resources. Each tag transmits a unique ID number, so system users can easily locate assets and review their status, helping save time and increase productivity. Heartland Health, which includes a Heartland Regional Medical Center, Heartland Clinic, Heartland Foundation and a Community Health Improvement Solutions in St. Joseph, Mo., is using ExacTrack, as well as Help Alert. Both systems are integrated into a single Wi-Fi network and user interface.

Danish Agency Seeks Tenders for Auto-ID and Tracking in Hospitals
The Central Denmark Region (Region Midtjylland) seeks tenders for an automatic identification and traceability solution intended to make it easier to keep track of assets, such as defibrillators, and personnel, including staff, patients and guests. Central Denmark Region is one of five administrative units in Denmark, and its primary responsibility is health care. Initially, the plan asks suppliers to submit proposals to carry out proof-of-concept implementations in existing hospital wards or other hospital environments. Once those are successfully completed, the government wants to implement the necessary infrastructure in The New University Hospital in Aarhus, a hospital being built in Aarhus. The hospital is expected to be fully complete in 2019 and treat about 100,000 patients admitted annually. The project proposal does not specify the exact types of tracking and asset management technology (in fact, it specifies that layered and parallel methods supporting multiple reader-ID and data transport methods must be applied), but does outline an overview of the functional, technical and strategic requirements connected. For the initial system ready for use by June 2014, the system will be used to track and manage the transport of items and people within and between hospitals and to perform quick searches of items and people via multiple devices. In addition, the system will be used to manage the whereabouts, cleaning and maintenance of beds, and the management of data for processing, storage and transfusion of blood components. Overall, the plan calls for middleware that includes methods for discarding and processing data, and for a maintainable database. In addition, suppliers' systems must work in real time, use open, standardized interfaces, and support the ISO 27000 family of information security standards. The basic infrastructure elements and the basic applications must be in operation by June 2014 in The New University Hospital in Aarhus. While that hospital is identified in the proposal, the Central Denmark Region authorities want to use the tracking and management solutions in all of that region's hospitals. In addition, the other four Danish regions are expected to be given the option of using the contract that Central Denmark Region will enter into with the chosen contractor. Denmark has 53 public hospitals with 18,303 beds, according to Esben Wolf, the Central Denmark Region's senior project manager. The Central Denmark Region invites interested applicants to apply for prequalification for the design contest on IT support of traceability and identification of items for the hospitals of Central Denmark Region. Deadline for submission of the prequalification application is March 12, 2013. The Central Denmark Region will then contact selected applicants by early April to invite them to make project proposals, with a deadline in mid-May. Additional information about the tender can be found at Union's tender Web site http://ted.europa.eu/udl?uri=TED:NOTICE:40246-2013:TEXT:EN:HTML.

MasterCard Announces Contactless-Payments Gains in Asia Pacific, Middle East and Africa
MasterCard has announced record growth of its contactless payments technology, MasterCard PayPass, across the Asia Pacific, Middle East and Africa (APMEA) region in 2012, citing a 28 percent year over year increase in the number of merchant locations. According to MasterCard, by the end of 2012, there were nearly 700,000 merchant locations in 51 countries on the PayPass contactless payment network. The company attributes the growth to a strong demand from consumers for a faster, more convenient payment alternative to cash for everyday purchases in the APMEA region, including those in emerging markets like Vietnam, which last month launched contactless payments for the first time. According to MasterCard, more than one in 10 card transactions under $100 is now being made with PayPass in Australia, and in New Zealand, all new consumer credit and debit cards issued are enabled with PayPass. In United Arab Emirates, MasterCard PayPass terminals were installed across more than 1000 stores in 2012. Early last year, MasterCard worked with E.Sun Bank, one of Taiwan's top tier issuers and a top chain hypermarket to roll out a new MasterCard PayPass co-branded card, and in less than one year, E.Sun Bank had issued 600,000 cards. Earlier this month, MasterCard and Vietnam Export Import Commercial Joint Stock Bank (Eximbank) announced the launch of contactless cards enabled by MasterCard PayPass with hundreds of merchant acceptance locations countrywide. According to MasterCard, Vietnam has made progress in recent months in its goal towards an increasingly cashless society, partly due to a government initiative that aims to reduce cash payment to below 11 percent of total transactions, and have some 250,000 card-accepting merchants and 200 million transactions per year by 2015. Initial PayPass-enabled merchants in Vietnam include fast-food restaurants, convenient stores and supermarkets.
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