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RFID News Roundup

Hitachi shrinks smallest RFID chip; Gen 2 goes mobile; Moteiv launches wireless sensor platform; Intermec, Cascade building RFID into forklift trucks; combined offerings from RedTail and Franwell; FEIG selling UHF antennas, offering firmware; MasterCard launches PayPass in Malaysia.
By Andrew Price
Feb 10, 2006The following are news announcements made during the week of Feb. 6.

Hitachi Shrinks Smallest RFID Chip
Electronics giant Hitachi reports that a technology called Silicon-on-Insulator has allowed it to reduce the size of its RFID chip, the µ-chip (pronounced 'mu-chip'), to a length and width of 0.15 millimeters each, with a thickness of 7.5 micrometers. In 2003, Hitachi managed to shrink its 0.4- by 0.4-millimeter chip down to 0.3 millimeters in length and width, 60 micrometers in thickness. Hitachi says its slimmed-down chip is the smallest and thinnest in the world to date, but with the same level of functionality as its larger predecessors. The chip transmits data at 2.45 GHz and can store 128 bits of data, which cannot be overwritten. Hitachi claims the smaller design will increase the number of chips that can be fabricated onto a single wafer, thus increasing productivity by more than four times. The company also believes the smaller chip will likely enable new applications for RFID tags. It is thin enough to be embedded in paper.

Gen 2 Goes Mobile
WJ Communications, a San Jose, Calif.-based RFID hardware provider, says a firmware upgrade to support the EPCglobal Class 1 Gen 2 standard is now available for its MPR series PCMCIA Type II RFID interrogator cards. The cards fit into any device with an available PCMCIA Type II slot, including handheld PocketPCs, bar code readers and printers, and smart label printers and applicators. WJ claims to be the first company to offer Gen 2 capability for compact RFID interrogator form factors, such as handhelds and printers. The MPR firmware upgrade, version 3, is available for download at WJ's web site.

Moteiv Launches Wireless Sensor Platform
Moteiv, a Berkeley, Calif., manufacturer of wireless sensor networks, has completed work on its Tmote Invent wireless sensor network platform, designed to help end users install customized wireless sensing applications at a lower cost than similar platforms on the market. The platform combines Moteiv's Tmote Sky sensor module for communication and computation, a rechargeable battery, an integrated suite of sensors, a microphone and a speaker, all packaged in a plastic case. The suite of sensors can detect light, temperature, sound and acceleration. Several modules can be deployed in a mesh network, communicating and exchanging data independent of human interaction and for extended periods of time. Moteiv built the system's software component using the open-source TinyOS operating system, designed by researchers at the University of California at Berkeley for use in wireless sensor networks. The Tmote Invent kit, including eight Tmote Invent units, is currently available for $1,995.

Intermec, Cascade Building RFID into Forklift Trucks
RFID systems provider Intermec is working with Cascade, a Portland, Ore.-based manufacturer of material-handling equipment, to incorporate Intermec’s RFID technology into Cascade’s lift-truck infrastructure. The companies unveiled a prototype of an RFID-enabled forklift this week at Intermec's 2006 Global Partner Conference in Dallas. The two companies say they envision the final product having antennas linked to an RFID interrogator integrated into the lift truck’s material-handling equipment. A computer built into the truck’s dashboard will collect and process RFID data from the reader. It will also incorporate a wireless real-time location-tracking system with navigational LEDs that will guide the operators in routing tagged goods through the warehouse, as well as a built-in camera for cargo documentation. The firm adds that the tracking equipment will be designed specifically to function in the rugged warehouse environment. Asurys (formerly IP Smart Packaging) is also partnering with Cascade to sell RFID-enabled lift truck attachments (see IP Smart Packaging, Cascade Offer RFID-enabled Clamp Attachments). IP Smart Packaging began selling RFID-enabled forklifts in March 2005 (see Smart Packaging Sells Forklift Readers).

Combined Offerings from RedTail and Franwell
Westborough, Mass.-based software company RedTail Solutions is partnering with RFID systems integrator Franwell, located in Plant City, Fla. The firms will jointly market and sell a solution combining RFID technology with electronic data interchange (EDI) and global data synchronization (GDS) services. Under this agreement, Franwell's RFID Genesis solution for internal RFID integration will be bundled with RedTail Transaction Manager for EDI order management and data synchronization. The RFID Genesis solution is based on RFID middleware allowing end users to generate RFID smart labels for cases and pallets of goods in order to comply with RFID tagging mandates. However, it can also be integrated into existing warehouse management systems to allow the sharing of EPC data across an enterprise. By partnering with RedTail, Franwell's solution will link electronic purchase orders and advance ship notices to tagged shipments. This will provide suppliers and retailers more visibility of the tagged goods moving through the supply chain. Reporting and analysis tools will also be developed to provide a dashboard view of all RFID, GDS and EDI activities. The combined solution will be available during the second quarter. Pricing information is not yet available.

FEIG Selling UHF antennas, Offering Firmware
Feig Electronic is now selling UHF antennas for its UHF ISC.LRU1000-A and UHF ISC.LRMU1000-A interrogators. The circular polarized UHF antenna ID ISC.ANT.U250/250-A is available in an 865-870 MHz version for use in Europe, with a 902-928 MHz version for operation in North America. FEIG says 2-foot- and 6-foot-long cables will connect up to four of the antennas to the FEIG readers. The manufacturer adds that it is now offering a firmware upgrade enabling its family of OBIN 13.56 MHz RFID interrogators to read tags made with the Jewel chip from British manufacturer Innovision Research & Technology. The OBID readers support tags complaint with ISO 14443, types A and B, and ISO 15693 transponders, as well.

MasterCard Launches PayPass in Malaysia
Malaysians can now use the OneSMART MasterCard with PayPass to make purchases at 30 locations, including Carrefour Group supermarkets, local mass transit and limosuine services, coffee bars (including Starbucks), apparel and footwear boutiques and departmental stores. The cards are also being accepted at select Ace Hardware and IMAX theaters. The cards contain both the RFID inlay used for contactless PayPass transactions, and a contact-based smart chip for transactions requiring the card to be inserted into smart chip readers. Such cards are used widely in Europe and parts of Asia. The MasterCard OneSMART card with PayPass is also being used in Taiwan, where cardholders can use it to pay their fares on the mass transit system in southern Taiwan's Kaohsiung City. It can also be used in the U.S. MasterCard has teamed with a number of card and terminal manufacturers, including Gemplus, Ingenico, Oberthur and Sagem Monétel to manufacture these dual-interface cards, which can be used for both contact and contactless payment transactions.
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