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RFID News Roundup

Turkey's GarantiBank issues contactless credit card; Idesco unveils EPC Gen 2 reader with long read range; new RFID tag factory to open in India; SmarTrac buys Sokymat Automotive; Aethon raises $14 million in funding round; Sirit management to invest in company.
Sep 25, 2008The following are news announcements made during the past week.

Turkey's GarantiBank Issues Contactless Credit Card
GarantiBank, a Turkish credit card issuer, is deploying Dutch digital security company Gemalto's EMV contactless banking cards and Dexxis Central Issuance solution that enables in-house personalization in Garanti's new Bonus TRINK program. Gemalto also supplied consultancy services to assist the bank in the product specification. The agreement involves an initial order of 300,000 Gemalto Optelia contactless cards, which feature RFID inlays that comply with the ISO 14443 standard for high-frequency (HF) tags. Bonus TRINK cardholders will be able to use the contactless cards at 4,000 acceptance points and at 20 retailer chains, including major fast food restaurants and supermarkets across Turkey, as well as at movie theaters and entertainment centers. In addition, customers may utilize their banking cards as e-tickets for public transportation in major Turkish cities, or on shuttle boats and sea taxis across Bosporus, the strait forming the boundary between the nation's European and Asian sections (Rumelia and Anatolia, respectively).

Idesco Unveils EPC Gen 2 Reader With Long Read Range
Idesco, an RFID tag and reader maker based in Oulu, Finland, has introduced a new long-range reader compatible with the EPC Gen 2 (ISO 18000-6C) standard. The new interrogator, which supports the ETSI EN 302 208, ETSI EN 301 489-1 and ETSI EN 301 489-03, V.1.4.1 European UHF regulations, provides read ranges of 3 to 5 meters (10 to 16 feet). It can work with one external and one internal antenna. Each antenna can be employed to both transmit and receive RF signals simultaneously, or one can be used to send while the other receives. The reader can be connected to a back-end system via one of three options: configurable Wiegand, RS-232 and ZigBee. It can operate in a temperature range of 20 to 60 degrees Celsius (60 to 140 degrees Fahrenheit), and comes with an IP67 protection rating. The EPC Gen 2 reader is available now in the European frequency ranges, and the company plans to introduce support for other regional frequencies in the near future as well. The price of the interrogator depends on the specific configuration and the number of readers ordered.

New RFID Tag Factory to Open in India
Indian startup company PVL Tag Factory Pvt. Ltd. is opening its RFID tag manufacturing facility near the cities of New Delhi and Noida. Production is set to commence in November, the company reports, and the plant has the capacity to produce up to 10 million RFID tags in various frequencies, including low-frequency (LF), high-frequency (HF) and ultra-high frequency (UHF). The firm's management includes Pim van Loosbroek, its president, who previously launched several companies, including AIS (Automatische Identificatie Systemen), which focused on auto-ID solutions. He later sold those companies to Zetes Industries, a Brussels, Belgium, provider of RFID and other auto-ID systems. In a prepared statement announcing the new Indian factory, van Loosbroek said, "We understand the need for bringing down the cost of implementing RFID systems worldwide; the company has been set up with a vision to help achieve the same."

SmarTrac Buys Sokymat Automotive
SmarTrac, an RFID inlay supplier headquartered in Amsterdam, the Netherlands, has announced that it has acquired 75 percent of Sokymat Automotive, a German manufacturer of RFID transponders primarily for the automotive industry. Prior to the sale, Sokymat Automotive was owned by The Swatch Group Ltd., a Swiss manufacturer and distributor of watches. Manfred Rietzler, SmarTrac's CTO, has purchased the remaining 25 percent of Sokymat Automotive shares. Under the new ownership, Sokymat Automotive and its 75 employees will remain in the German city of Reichshof-Wehnrath. The Swatch Group says it sold the company to more sharply focus its activities on its core business of watches and jewelry. For its part, SmarTrac indicates the acquisition will open up additional growth opportunities, enabling access into the market of RFID components for the automotive industry. Sokymat Automotive also produces RFID inlays and discs for manufacturing industries, logistics, laundry, animal and science applications. EM Microelectronic-Marin SA, a semiconductor manufacturer owned by the Swatch Group, will remain a key supplier of RFID integrated circuits to Sokymat Automotive, the companies report.

Aethon Raises $14 Million in Funding Round
Aethon, a Pittsburgh firm that has developed mobile, RFID-enabled robots designed for hospitals, has announced the close of a $14 million financing round led by two new investors, Nexus Medical Partners and Radius Ventures. Aethon first introduced the Tug robotic system—which can retrieve and deliver pharmaceuticals or test specimens around a hospital—in 2005, and began testing an RFID-enabled version two years later, known as Homer. This model performs the same tasks as a Tug, but also carries an RFID interrogator used to locate RFID-tagged assets as it moves around a hospital (see Aethon Adds RFID to Robotic Hospital Helpers). The new funding, the company says, will support Aethon's goal of continued business growth, accelerated sales and intensified research-and-development efforts. The two new investing partners were strategically selected by Aethon because of their track records in the health-care sector. Existing investors Trident Capital, Pacific Venture Group, Salix Ventures, Draper Triangle Ventures and Ascension Health Ventures also elected to participate in this round of funding.

Sirit Management to Invest in Company
Canadian RFID vendor Sirit has announced plans for its management to invest in the company. Sirit's management and board of directors will complete a private placement to increase their ownership interests in the company; the total funds invested will be $785,000.00 before associated fees. The shares will be issued at a price representing the five-day volume-weighted average trading price prior to board approval of the private placement. The proceeds will be used for general working capital purposes. In October 2006, Sirit laid off more than 25 percent of its staff—approximately 17 people—and closed two locations in an effort to balance its cash flow. At the time, Sirit executives said the cuts were necessary to restructure the company following its purchases of TradeWind Technologies and SAMSys Technologies, which took place in April 2006 (see Sirit to Buy SAMSys Technologies). Upon the announcement of this private financing, Sirit said its outlook for the second half of 2008 remains unchanged. Last month, the firm reported that it expects a continued slowdown in the third quarter but expects to near a cash-neutral position by year's end.
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