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NXP Releases Ucode 7, a Faster and More Sensitive Chip

The new chip promises to be the highest-functioning EPC Gen 2 UHF RFID IC on the market, the company claims, enabling the development of smaller, more versatile tags.
By Claire Swedberg
Apr 24, 2013

NXP Semiconductors has announced its latest, highest-performance ultrahigh-frequency (UHF) RFID integrated circuit, which, according to the company, promises higher read and write sensitivity for EPC UHF tags incorporating the new chip. The Ucode 7's development began approximately a year ago, says Victor Vega, NXP's marketing director for RFID products, in order to stay ahead of the retail market's demands.

During the past few months, manufacturers of RFID tags, readers and printers have been testing the technology. In addition, one tag manufacturer, Avery Dennison's Retail Branding and Information Services (RBIS) division, has already created new products made with the new chip, including a small global tag that, the company claims, provides high read sensitivity whether used in the United States, Europe or Asia. These early efforts, Vega says, which took place ahead of the public announcement, were intended to ensure that if NXP released this new high-speed, highly sensitive chip, the market was ready to provide the technology (inlays, as well as readers and printers) equipped to use it.

Furthermore, Zebra Technologies has tested the IC and confirmed that its new, faster encoding functionality will operate with Zebra printers, while Motorola Solutions has run tests involving its readers to ensure that the Ucode 7's read and write functionality operates with its existing hardware.

The Ucode 7 chip's new features include increased read and write sensitivity (meaning the chip requires less power to be read or encoded than previous NXP chips), as well as greater backscatter strength (to improve read performance), faster writing speed, parallel encoding to enable faster encoding when tags of the same stock-keeping unit (SKU) are commissioned (enabled by automatic self-serialization) and greater broadband width to enable improved functionality internationally where the frequency of the reader's RF signal varies from region to region. NXP will demonstrate the new Ucode 7 chip at RFID Journal LIVE! 2013, being held from Apr. 30 to May 2 in Orlando, Fla.

NXP's goal, Vega explains, was to create a best-in-class product for RFID tags typically used in the apparel market, in which tags must be encoded as well as read in high volumes as a product is tagged, and then shipped through distribution centers and received by stores. While sensitivity and speed in a UHF chip's read performance have recently plateaued, he says, the Ucode 7 chip aims to further increase reader performance, but also increase writing speed and sensitivity.

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