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Axcess Back from the Brink

The company has secured new funding and has introduced a new product, an RFID container seal.
Feb 13, 2003Feb. 13, 2003 - Back in October, Axcess was forced to furlough staff as it ran low on cash. The Dallas-based company, which makes security and asset tracking systems, recently secured a round of financing, and it has introduced a new product, a reusable RFID container seal.

The amount of the financing has not yet been disclosed (it will be in a filing to the SEC), nor was the financial institution or institutions involved. Axcess says only that the financing is in the form of a convertible-debt instrument, similar to the type of financing the company closed in July of 2002. Essentially, the lender can be repaid in company stock.
Axcess cargo seal

"Our view is that this is a good solution for Axcess," says president and CEO Allan Griebenow. " The investment waters today are treacherous, but we worked long and hard to secure investment that was appropriate for investors and the company."

Griebenow says the convertible debt instrument is an interim financing vehicle and that the company has the support of its venture capital backer, VennWorks. Axcess hopes to hold a secondary share offering when the stock market improves. (The company's share price has fallen to 55 cents, from a 52-week high of $4.)

The new electronic seal is the latest in a series of security products launched by Axcess. It is affixed to a container when all the goods have been placed inside and it is ready to be shipped. The active (battery-powered) RFID tag has two wires. One has a male connector and the other a female connector. When the male end is inserted into the female, the tag is activated.

If the wires are separated, the tag will send out a beacon signal continuously. Axcess says the battery will last as much as a year in this mode. The next time the tag is read, the reader will pick up the beacon and know that the electronic seal has been broken.

"The added value is that the tag has the container ID mapped to its own ID, so at the port of entry, you know exactly which container has been tampered with," says Griebenow. "You likely wouldn't take it off the boat until it was checked out to make sure it didn't contain, for example, the dirty bomb that people are so worried about."

If the tag has not been tampered with, staff can disconnect the wires and drop it into a reader field that resets the tag to its inactive state. It will not be "armed" again until it's placed on another container and the wires are reconnected.

The tags use Axcess's own proprietary protocol, so companies using the seal would need Axcess readers as well. A standard for electronic seals is in the works but has not yet been finalized by the International Organization for Standardization (ISO). The tags cost about $30 in small quantities.

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