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RFID News Roundup

Appleton sponsors pilots with SmartStrate; Checkpoint extends lab access; French resorts order 1 million X-ident cards; three new applicators from Label-Aire; Wavetrend receives B series funding.
By Bob Violino
Dec 03, 2004The following are news announcements made during the week of Nov. 29.

Appleton Sponsors Pilots With SmartStrate
Appleton, a packaging products company based in Appleton, Wisc., is launching an initiative to underwrite part of the costs associated with any RFID product test pilot program using smart labels manufactured with Appleton's SmartStrate, a proprietary label substrate. The company says its substrate protects smart labels from the physical damage and electrostatic discharge (ESD) exposure that can occur during the placement of the tag and the transport of tagged items and that can render an inlay inoperable. The substrate uses cushioning foam to protect the RFID chip. Appleton is offering to sponsor pilots in order to get its product into the marketplace. It says that in internal testing, its substrate withstood mechanical pressures 20 to 40 times greater and ESD exposures 18 kilovolts higher than those that identical inlays on conventional label stock could withstand. Appleton will work with smart label converters, systems integrators or end users to establish to what degree it will underwrite each pilot project.

Checkpoint Extends Lab Access
Checkpoint Systems is opening up its EPC Compliance Center laboratory to the customers of four companies that have joined its new EPC Compliance Network program. Third-party logistics provider Bekins Logistics, SCM software company Control Solutions, systems integrator NCS Technologies and order-fulfillment systems specialist SI Systems will be able to use the facility to determine which vendors' UHF technology is best suited to helping their customers meet RFID tagging mandates from Wal-Mart and other retailers. The 7,000-square-foot lab, at Checkpoint's headquarters in Thorofare, N.J., uses a variety of vendors' tags and RFID readers attached to an assortment of Checkpoint antennas. It also contains RFID-enabled conveyors and dock doors to test a variety of potential tag placements on cartons and pallets to get reliable read rates. The lab has been open for seven months, and it has already hosted EPC compliance tests for around 10 customers, according to Checkpoint. Depending on the complexity of the testing as well as the number of SKUs being evaluated, the process typically requires two days in the laboratory to evaluate an average of four tags, says Checkpoint. The service is priced at $3,500 per day.

French Resorts Order 1 Million X-ident Cards
X-ident Technology, a supplier of RFID-enabled tickets and labels is supplying four French ski resorts with more than 1 million flexible plastic cards to be used by skiers and snowboarders for access to chairlifts and gondolas. The cards will be embedded with 13.56 MHz RFID chips from French RFID technology manufacturer Inside Contactless. X-ident's German partner KSW-Microtec will attach antennas to these chips, which comply with ISO 15693-2, to create RFID inlays. X-ident Technology will use the inlays to manufacture the cards, and Italian systems integrator Alfi will install RFID readers at the resorts. Local companies at each resort will handle the issuance of the RFID access cards, starting this month. Skiers using the card will pay a two-euro deposit, refundable upon the card's return.

Three New Applicators From Label-Aire
Label-Aire, a Fullerton, Calif.-based maker of RFID label printer-applicators, has released two RFID new printer-applicators and one label applicator. All of the products apply Class 0, 0+ and 1 tags, as well as tags based on the Gen 2 EPC UHF standard, now pending. The company's 3138-N RFID printer-applicator includes an automatic setup function for easy changeovers to labels of different sizes. The 2139 printer-applicator uses a patented vacuum air drum to thermal transfer or direct transfer encoded RFID labels to non-flat surfaces, such as corners, and can be used to apply labels to pallets. Both printer-applicators can be used with RFID encoder engines from Zebra, Datamax, Sato or Avery, which write data to smart labels and then feed the encoded smart labels into the Label-Aire printer-applicators, which then print the labels with bar codes and human-readable data. The units also test the RF signal of each inlay and reject faulty smart labels by diverting them from the applicator arm. The 3115 RFID applicator uses a wipe-on method, in which pre-encoded and preprinted labels are applied to items moving at speeds synchronized with the roll of labels in the application arm. The 3115 can also reject labels with faulty RFID inlays and can be configured to apply printed smart labels through contactless methods, in which labels are held in a vacuum and applied with a burst of air. Label-Aire would not release pricing information; its products are sold through distributors.

Wavetrend Receives B Series Funding
Wavetrend Technologies, the British maker of ultra-long-range RFID products—which includes RFID readers and self-powered transponders able to transmit data across distances ranging from 6 inches to over 2,000 feet—has announce that it has received its series B funding, which it says refers to growth funding rather than product development or operating capital. The a multimillion-dollar investment was made by an unnamed venture capital group located on the U.S. West Coast, with support by the existing shareholders in Wavetrend, which include Frontiers Capital. The company will use the funding to accelerate geographic expansion and increase its investment in selected market sectors and strategic partnerships. Wavetrend products are used in logistics and supply chain applications and in niche applications such as the protection of art and the tracking of wildlife in Southern Africa. Its vertical market applications include asset control at healthcare facilities and inmate tracking at prisons. The company is building partnerships with global companies such as Motorola, Unisys, Exel Logistics, Red Prairie, Isotrak, BT Auto ID and QinetiQ.

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