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RFID News Roundup

Barcoding Inc., AeroScout Industrial partner to deliver hybrid RFID solutions; SITA researches beacon use at airports, plans to establish beacon registry; mobile contactless transactions to approach 10 billion annually by 2018; RF Code launches new sensor for APC by Schneider Electric 8000 Series PDUs; NXP launches Windows-based contest for new NFC apps.
By Beth Bacheldor
Mar 13, 2014

The following are news announcements made during the past week by the following organizations: Barcoding Inc., AeroScout Industrial; SITA; Juniper Research; RF Code, APC by Schneider Electric; NXP Semiconductors, Microsoft and Lenovo .

Barcoding Inc., AeroScout Industrial Partner to Deliver Hybrid RFID Solutions
Barcoding Inc. and AeroScout Industrial have partnered to produce a hybrid RFID solution combining Barcoding Inc.'s ultrahigh-frequency (UHF) passive tags, compliant with the EPC Gen 2 and ISO 18000 6C standards, with AeroScout's Wi-Fi-based active RFID tags. The hybrid solution can collect data from a variety of tags (passive and active) in real time, and aggregates all of that information into a common software application, known as AeroScout MobileView. According to Tom O'Boyle, Barcoding Inc.'s director of RFID, the system is suitable for industrial applications in which customers are tracking a combination of supply chain-related assets or inventory throughout a facility—such as returnable transport items (RTIs) or case-level commodities—using passive technology, and deploying an active real-time location system (RTLS) for high-mobility and high-value or -impact assets that follow variable paths or are located anywhere onsite. "The active capability further adds safety and worker tracking, e-kanban, as well as WIP throughput processes, all accessible through one common software application," he states. "That common application has great depth of tracking, workflow and business intelligence reporting, and also transforms the tracking data into truly actionable business information—again, all combined in one system." The application also delivers mapping, rules-based alerting, role-based visualization and more. It is the integration and aggregation of passive and active tag data into a single application, Boyle explains, that differentiates the Barcoding Inc. and AeroScout Industrial offering. "Our solution allows the deployment of both passive tags and active tag technology within the same software, allowing a customer to apply the right technology to the right use case," he states. "As we all know, each technology has its unique strengths and weakness, as well as cost and infrastructure requirements. In the past, if a customer required both passive and active at the same site, they were compelled to run two different systems to support the different technologies. Many sites have use cases that need both technologies, but find that they force-fit the technology they have into all use cases. With this hybrid solution, they can use both in one system, all while getting the best return on their investment." The hybrid solution includes commercially available software and hardware, but is configured to meet each customer's needs. "We always customize the project read zones and infrastructure to meet the customer's use case," Boyle adds. "We select the right combination of passive tags and complementary readers to match the customer needs, and further select from an array of AeroScout Industrial's active Wi-Fi-based tags to match the specific use case desired for RTLS." According to Boyle, Barcoding Inc. has deployed this hybrid solution with AeroScout's health-care team at a number of hospitals throughout the past three years. Via the new partnership with AeroScout Industrial, the two companies are now marketing the hybrid solution to industrial customers.

SITA Researches Beacon Use at Airports, Plans to Establish Beacon Registry
Although beacon technology—consisting of indoor proximity tags that utilize Bluetooth Low Energy (BLE) to transmit signals to trigger actions on smartphones or other BLE-enabled devices—is gaining traction in such industries as retail, the jury is still out as to whether beacons are well-suited for airports. This is the finding of early trials conducted by SITA Lab, the technology research team at SITA, an information technology and services provider for the air-transport industry. SITA Lab has been conducting trials of beacon technology with a leading international airline and airport, and the researchers say the trials have produced results both promising and cautionary. The tests were conducted using Apple iPhone 5s and Estimote beacons. "The relatively low cost of beacons makes them an attractive option for airports, but we need to be careful of adopting a gold rush approach to deploying them," said Jim Peters, SITA's CTO and SITA Lab's head, in a prepared statement. "It is clear from our initial research that beacons should be treated as a common-use piece of infrastructure. Airports serve multiple airlines, and airlines travel to multiple airports. It is a very complex network—too complex for everyone to manage their own deployments. It will need careful management." Airports need to carefully manage their radio space when using beacons, Peters added, and "will need to have clear visibility of where, and how, the beacons are being set up to avoid disruption to each other's signals and existing Wi-Fi infrastructure." Specific findings of the trials reveal that deployment of the Estimote beacons is straightforward; the beacons have an adhesive layer and can be placed on most surfaces and remain permanently switched on, while the beacon ID values can be set with a companion application. While SITA Lab notes that the simplicity and mobility of deployment can be beneficial, it can also prove to be a drawback in a large deployment, and will make carefully tracking each beacon a necessity. The early tests have revealed that the beacons' maximum range within a crowded airport environment are about half of what is advertised—which is 70 meters (230 feet)—and that a smartphone app was able to detect the presence of beacons in approximately one second. The proximity accuracy, according to the early testing, varied considerably, with a typical inaccuracy of +/-5 meters. SITA Lab noted in its report that this is sufficient for most use cases, and many beacon vendors have proximity calibration capabilities. SITA Lab's research highlights that at airports where an airline lacks dedicated gates or other infrastructure, a common-use approach to beacon technology makes sense. According to SITA Lab, shared beacons that different airlines could associate with their own mobile apps, as required, would be far more efficient and effective than each airline managing a different set of beacons at each airport—a model already used effectively for other shared services at airports worldwide, such as check-in, bag drop and gate infrastructure. In addition to the research, SITA has announced that it plans to build an industry registry for all beacons. "The goal is that any airline will have a single point of contact to go to use any beacon deployed by airports around the world," Peters said in the statement. "We are already working with some early adopters but are looking for other airports, airlines and app developers who are interested in leveraging the potential of beacons in the air transport industry to join the project." Unless an industry registry is embraced, SITA Labs maintains, there is a risk that beacon deployments will be piecemeal and proprietary, thus limiting the technology's potential.

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