RFID News Roundup
Chicago Public Schools to implement RFID for tracking assets; Ekahau upgrades Wi-Fi-based RTLS solution; Aker Eye Vision Source uses RTLS to improve patient flow, efficiency; Numerex, Cascade Engineering partner on asset management for solid-waste market; Swedish DYI retailer installs RF-enabled e-paper for digital product pricing, inventory; Master Lock acquires Field ID; Xerafy factory in China gets ISO-9001 certification, doubles capacity; GainSpan unveils single chip supporting Wi-Fi and ZigBee.
Swedish DYI Retailer Installs RF-enabled E-paper for Digital Product Pricing, Inventory
Swedish home-improvement retailer Fredells Byggvaruhus has implemented an RF-enabled electronic paper (e-paper) solution provided by Breece System, designed to automate shelf-level product information and improve daily operations, according to Breece's parent company, Delfi Technologies, a retail technology solutions provider. The Breece system includes ZBD's Bounce Communicator, which uses two-way RF communication to send and receive information to and from the e-paper displays. ZBD's e-paper solution includes epops—small, high-resolution LCD displays that can be attached wirelessly to a shelf edge. Epops are fully graphical and capable of displaying rich content, including any combination of text, images, bar codes 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). Bounce Processor transmits new data input into Bounce Architect to the Bounce Communicator software, running on a computer located at a store. 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. For Fredells, the Breece system will display product, delivery and order information that will be correlated with the retailer's order statuses, along with price and product updates. Fredells uses Swedish-customized e-paper displays with a yellow zone to show jämförspris (price per kilo/unit) against a yellow background as part of the price information—a requirement in the Swedish retail market.
Master Lock Acquires Field ID
Padlock and related security products manufacturer Master Lock has announced that its subsidiary, Master Lock Canada, Inc., has completed an agreement to acquire N4 Systems, the company behind Field ID, a provider of safety-management solutions leveraging RFID technology. Field ID will become a new, complementary offering in Master Lock's Life Safety business. Field ID's software-as-a-service (SaaS) product offering gives the ability to manage safety more efficiently and effectively with the use of mobile applications and the Web. Approximately 25 percent of Field ID's customers actively use RFID, the company reports. For example, Field ID partnered with Engineered System, a provider of overhead cranes, trolleys and hoists, on an RFID-enabled system that leverages Field ID's inspection software, as well as passive 13.56 MHz RFID tags attached to crane, trolley and hoist components (see RFID News Roundup: Engineered Systems Improves Crane Safety With RFID-enabled Inspection Software). Using mobile reader devices and Field ID's cloud-based inspection software, Engineered Systems' safety inspectors can identify equipment at any customer location, and access such information as the date of last inspection, certification deadlines and work orders to repair safety deficiencies. Regarding Master Lock's acquisition, the two companies report that the Field ID solution will complement existing solutions offered by Master Lock's Life Safety business, such as lockout or tagout locks and accessories for industrial safety. Field ID will continue to operate independently from its Toronto headquarters, the firm notes, but will leverage Master Lock's sales and marketing capabilities.
Xerafy Factory in China Gets ISO-9001 Certification, Doubles Capacity
RFID tag supplier Xerafy has announced that its factory in Nantong, China, has received ISO 9001 certification, the requirements for which include a set of procedures covering all key business processes, such as monitoring processes to ensure effectiveness, record keeping, regularly reviewing individual processes and quality systems, and facilitating continual improvements. The Nantong plant, a 2,000-square-meter (21,530-square-foot) facility, has the capacity to produce 12 million Metal Skin labels (see RFID News Roundup: Xerafy Introduces Flexible UHF Inlay for Tracking Metal Assets) annually, plus 6 million read-on-metal tags of other types. The factory expects to see its production capacity double during the first half of this year, according to Chiff Huang, Xerafy's manufacturing director. The plant was established in March 2012, with the objective of ramping up production capacity, improving customer delivery lead-times, and providing tag commissioning and packaging services. "Quality is an important prerequisite and an obligation shared by all our customers in the industries we serve," said Dennis Khoo, Xerafy's CEO, in a prepared statement. "Xerafy is committed to quality in all aspects of our business. This certification is just the first step in as we continue [to] develop our quality control systems including the AS9100 Aerospace Quality Program and other regulatory qualifications." In addition to meeting ISO 9001 quality and business process standards, Xerafy's on-metal RFID tags also comply with many technical and industry standards, the company reports, including EPCglobal Gen 2, ISO 18000-6C, SAE AS5678, ATEX and FSTC.
GainSpan Unveils Single Chip Supporting Wi-Fi and ZigBee
Wi-Fi chipmaker GainSpan has announced its GS2000 IC, a single-chip solution based on Wi-Fi (IEEE 802.11b/g/n standard) and ZigBee (IEEE 802.15.4) technologies. According to GainSpan, the chip is expected to help spur the development and adoption of home-networked devices, and is also suitable for business-to-business asset-tracking applications, such as monitoring the locations of miners within a mine, while also measuring air quality and gas content. The chip could also be used to track patients' locations, as well as measure their heart rate and other health metrics, or to track a container's location as it moves across Wi-Fi hotspots and warehouses, and also measure that container's temperature and humidity levels. The integrated system-on-a-chip (SoC) features 802.11b/g/n and 802.15.4 PHY/MAC functionality, dual ARM Cortex-M3 processors, multiple network stacks and a large memory size to support various application profiles—all on a single silicon die. The GS2000 supports Wi-Fi wireless local area network (WLAN) software and networking features, ZigBee IP (based upon 6LoWPAN) and IP-based addressing and methods over both the 802.11 and 802.15.4 wireless standards. According to GainSpain, incorporating the two wireless IP-based technologies leverages the key benefits of each—the high data rates and widespread availability of Wi-Fi, along with the small channelization and meshing capability of ZigBee IP. For example, the company reports, in residential applications, the solution will bridge the gap between smart meters using ZigBee and the new connected white appliances, all integrating Wi-Fi functionality. The chip is designed primarily for appliance and device manufacturers, enabling them to no longer have to design systems only for one or the other protocol. Instead, they can employ the same SoC to develop a design supporting ZigBee IP and/or Wi-Fi. According to GainSpan, several customers that have been utilizing its earlier-generation technology plan to use the new GS2000 chips and modules, though the company is unable to reveal customer names due to confidentiality agreements. Customers include manufacturers of personal health-care devices, appliances, and video and video security devices, GainSpan notes. The GS2000 Wi-Fi/ZigBee IP combo SoC and associated modules will begin sampling next month, with full production slated for later this year. One of the associated modules will integrate RFID inputs, according to GainSpan.
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