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RFID News Roundup

IDTronic unveils 'elegant' RFID-enabled key fobs; Ring Theory develops smart rings for Boston subways, raises thousands on Kickstarter; Agee Race Timing chooses Thinkify's new wireless RFID reader; ByteLight unveils NFC reader alternative for retail loyalty, promotion apps; RF Code tags more than 2 million assets in data centers worldwide, launches active RFID tag promotion; NFC-enabled Skip clip unlocks Motorola's Moto X smartphone; E-ZPass celebrates 20th anniversary.
By Beth Bacheldor
Aug 29, 2013

The following are news announcements made during the past week by the following organizations: IDTronic; Ring Theory; Thinkify; Agee Race Timing; ByteLight; RF Code; Motorola; and E-ZPass.

IDTronic Unveils 'Elegant' RFID-enabled Key Fob

IDTronic's Piano RFID key fob
IDTronic, an RFID hardware provider based in Germany, has announced what it describes as an "elegant" new key fob designed for access-control systems and time recording, particularly in the lifestyle, business and hotel industries. The Piano key fob, composed of polycarbonate plastic with a high-gloss finish (like the varnished surface of a piano), is available with a variety of passive 125 kHz RFID chips supplied by EM Microelectronic, Atmel and NXP Semiconductors. Memory size varies from 8 bytes (a read-only version) to 256 bytes. The key fob is also available with NXP or Legic 13.56 MHz chips supporting the ISO 14443A/B or ISO 15693 standards, and with memory sizes varying from 512 bits to 8 kilobytes. Each fob weighs only 4 grams (0.1 ounce) and features an IP 68 rating, making it dustproof and waterproof. Made of polycarbonate and available in white, black, yellow, red or green, the 125 kHz key fobs measure 50 millimeters by 12 millimeters by 4 millimeters (2 inches by 0.5 inch by 0.2 inch), while the 13.56 MHz key fobs measure 50 millimeters by 15 millimeters by 3.5 millimeters (2 inches by 0.6 inch by 0.1 inch). The fobs operate at temperature ranging from -25 degree to +55 degrees Celsius (-13 degrees to +131 degrees Fahrenheit) and storage temperature ranges from -25 degrees to +75 degrees Celsius (-13 degrees to +167 degrees Fahrenheit). The key fobs have a metal eyelet so they can be easily attached to a key ring without damaging the fob, the company reports.

Ring Theory Develops Smart Rings for Boston Subways, Raises Thousands on Kickstarter

Sesame rings
Ring Theory, a company started by two Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) undergraduates, has launched a Kickstarter project to raise funds to further develop its wearable technology: the RFID-enabled Sesame Ring, which acts like a smart card, enabling users to leverage secure contactless payments for use with transit systems. The Sesame Ring Kickstarter Project began on Aug. 22 and will run through Sept. 14. To date, it has raised $12,222—more than double its stated $5,000 goal. The company will use the funds to develop Sesame Rings that can serve as CharlieCards, the smart cards used by Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority (MBTA) transit riders. Just as transit riders tap their CharlieCards on an RFID reader at a metro turnstile or on a bus, ring wearers can tap the ring on the same readers in order to pay for their rides. Adding fare to the rings is the same as adding fare to the smart cards. Ring Theory reports that it plans to use the money to obtain 3D printers, hardware and mass-production capability. "The pledges will cover the cost of production and delivery of the rings to our backers," says Olivia Seow, who founded and is developing the Sesame Ring with cofounder Edward Tiong. "We also intend to further develop the ring, making it sleeker, metallic, and multi-purpose." According to Seow, the Sesame Ring can be adapted to any smart card. "The specifications of the ring simply mirror that of the card, making it compatible with existing readers used. For our case, the Sesame Ring acts as a CharlieCard, allowing users to pass through gantries in a familiar way." In June 2013, Seow and Tiong approached MBTA with the Sesame Ring idea, and provided the duo with the technology needed to create functional CharlieCard rings. So far, approximately 500 people have pre-ordered the rings for use in the Massachusetts Bay area, and Seow says the company intends to ship all rings before this Christmas. Each ring features a 3D-printed face design that, according to Seow, offers optimal RF permeability. The Sesame Ring is not the first type of smart ring that Seow and Tiong have developed—they first created the Easy Ring, a college ring for students at the Singapore University of Technology and Design, which is affiliated with MIT.

Agee Race Timing Chooses Thinkify's New Wireless RFID Reader

Thinkify's TR-290-B race timing reader
Thinkify, a supplier of embedded RFID solutions, has announced that Agee Race Timing has selected its TR-290-B wireless RFID reader, an EPC Gen 2 interrogator developed specifically for race-timing applications. Battery-powered (offering up to six hours of operating time) and weatherproof, with an IP 67 rating, the TR-290-B offers cable-free setup, according to Thinkify. It features an ASCII protocol interface over a Bluetooth connection, enabling it to communicate with a host PC, as well as a universal mounting kit. "A great thing about the TR-290 is that readers can be setup in minutes and don't require the lengthy boot cycle of other models," said Brian Agee, Agee Race Timing's owner, in a prepared statement. "The wireless Bluetooth interface means that the host computer can be located up to 100 feet away, giving me a lot of flexibility on my installation. The wireless interface also means that readers can be installed on both sides of the start/finish line without the need for expensive gantries or dangerous cable mats that can present a tripping hazard."

ByteLight Unveils NFC Reader Alternative for Retail Loyalty, Promotion Apps

The ByteLight LFC Reader and a smartphone running the ByteLight app
ByteLight, a Massachusetts startup that develop software for light-emitting diodes (LEDs), has launched what it calls Light Field Communication (LFC), an alternative to RFID-based Near Field Communication (NFC). The technology is designed for used with loyalty and promotions applications, and to provide retailers with a cost-effective, fast and secure method of verifying a customer's presence during tap-and-go check-ins and checkouts via a smartphone. The solution includes the "LFC Reader"—which, technically speaking, does not function as a reader, but as a transmitter. Specifically, the LFC Reader's LED emits a modulated light signal (which blinks so fast that its modulations cannot be detected by the eye) encoded with the device's unique ID number and location. The light signal is then received by the image sensor in the camera on any type of smartphone. An app on the smartphone, which would be built by a third-party, demodulates and identifies the signal by communicating with ByteLight's back-end, cloud-based software. The third-party app would also manage the user's loyalty or promotional information. According to Kyle Austin, ByteLight's head of marketing, the LFC system lets customers easily check in to their loyalty program without having to unlock their phones and launch an app, and provides retailers with easy-to-use, affordable options for loyalty and promotional apps. "NFC has focused on mobile payments, and we are focused on loyalty, on promotions," Austin says. "And our solution is much more affordable," he notes, adding that LFC Readers are 1/20th the price of NFC readers. The LFC reader is about the size of a deck of playing cards, and can be plugged into existing point-of-sale (POS) systems. ByteLight has partnered with Appconomy, a cloud-based retail platform and mobile solutions provider, to pilot the LFC Readers with Chinese retailers; about 50 of 100 LFC Readers have already been deployed. Appconomy has developed JinJin, a smartphone app that works with the LFC Readers. According to ByteLight, the joint solution will enable these retailers to redeem and reward actual customers checking into stores, engaging in loyalty programs and making purchases.

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