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RFID News Roundup

Call center gets assistance from RFID; UPM Raflatac introduces "Gem" EPC Gen 2 RFID tags; VDC Research says worldwide RFID market shows strength; Hy-Safe Technology uses RFID to manage inspection, safety compliance; Destron Fearing intros USDA-approved animal ID tags; ClearOrbit releases supply chain suite for government agencies.
Jan 15, 2008The following are news announcements made during the past week.

Call Center Gets Assistance From RFID
Amcom Software, a provider of call center and other communications solutions, has announced the addition of RFID capabilities to its call center suite, providing hospitals with the ability to locate personnel in conjunction with call center processes. Amcom's call center suite now incorporates Time Domain Corp.'s PLUS line of ultra-wideband (UWB) real-time location system (RTLS) tags, interrogators, antennas and software. Staff members would wear the tags, enabling the PLUS system to determine if an employee were to enter, leave or change locations within a facility, then instantly provide that information to the Amcom system. When a call center activity is initiated, data regarding an employee's whereabouts can be used to determine which method of messaging technology is most appropriate—a hospital intercom, for instance, if the worker is on the premises, or a cell phone if that person is out of the building. According to Amcom, systems integrator TrackIT Systems, which specializes in UWB systems for the health-care industry, will help hospitals either add the new RFID capabilities to their existing Amcom call center system, or implement a new system with those capabilities.

UPM Raflatac Introduces New "Gem" EPC Gen 2 RFID Tag
RFID tag and inlay manufacturer UPM Raflatac has announced a new passive EPC Gen 2 item-level tag, known as Gem, designed for tracking jewelry, watches and other small goods. Gem contains Impinj's Monza 3 inlay, announced almost a year ago (see Impinj Announces Next-Gen Monza Chip). The Gem tag, UPM Raflatac reports, features 96-bit memory and an antenna 10 millimeters by 30 millimeters (0.39 inch by 1.18 inches) in size, and has a read range of 3 to 4 meters (10 to 13 feet), depending on the application. The company has also announced that its DogBone, ShortDipole and Frog tags are now made with the Monza 3 inlay, which the firm says improves read sensitivity and reliability across long read ranges, and also improves their functionality when used on metal, liquids and closely packed products—all of which can create RF interference. The Monza 3 chip, Impinj claims, is designed to be significantly more sensitive to RF signals. As a chip's read sensitivity increases, the amount of power required for that chip to operate, or be activated by the reader, decreases. Therefore, the more read-sensitive a tag's chip is, the greater the read range (or distance from an interrogator) the tag can support. The size of the DogBone, ShortDipole and Frog tags remains unchanged: the DogBone has a 93- by 23-millimeter (3.66- by 0.91-inch) antenna, and is designed for general purpose supply chain management applications; the ShortDipole has a 93- by 11-millimeter (3.66- by 0.43-inch) antenna, and is also suitable for supply chain management applications; and the Frog has a 68- by 68-millimeter (2.68- by 2.68-inch) antenna, and is designed for applications for which inlay orientation cannot be controlled.

VDC Research Says Worldwide RFID Market Shows Strength
Although the struggling economy is likely to impact the worldwide market for RFID hardware, software and services, demand will remain relatively strong, according to new research from VDC Research Group (VDC), a technology market research firm located in Natick, Mass. In a round of webinars held in December 2008 and this month, VDC presented market figures and insight from its What's Next: Market Update, Trends and 2009 Outlook research program that reflect a downturn in the RFID market. Specifically, the firm lowered its market forecasts, dropping from a year-over-year growth rate (CAGR) of 32.7 percent between 2008 and 2012 (based on feedback from suppliers, channel organizations and end users collected between January and May 2008) to a rate of 23.2 percent (based on preliminary feedback the firm is now receiving from fourth-quarter reports on anticipated spend). More specifically, VDC cut the size of the RFID market for 2008 down to $3.7 billion, compared with earlier estimates of $3.83 billion; for 2009, the revised market size is $4.04 billion, compared with earlier estimates of nearly $5 billion. And in 2010, the market is expected to be approximately $4.7 billion, compared with earlier estimates of $6.62 billion. By 2012, it expects the worldwide market to be valued at about $8.42 billion, significantly less than VDC's earlier estimates of $12.25 billion. "RFID is not immune to market conditions," said Drew Nathanson, VDC's director of research operations, during the December webinar. "These will be a challenging 24 to 36 months ahead." But Nathanson and colleague Chris Rezendes, the company's executive VP, indicated RFID is faring—and will continue to fare—better than other technologies during the recession. "Today, RFID is more established, more global, and it's much more core to companies' operations," Nathanson said, adding that companies are still getting tremendous pressure to invest in automation technologies such as RFID in order to reduce costs, improve operations and improve customer service, and increase their competitive positions. VDC's estimates, Rezendes noted, represent only "a snapshot in time," that will likely change in the March 2009 timeframe. "Things could get bigger and better," he stated. To help spur RFID's growth, Rezendes suggested the RFID market take cues from the open-source communities and apply the principal of sharing to case studies and implementation experiences. "We need to share the evidence," he told webinar attendees. "It doesn't do our cause—the proliferation of RFID—any good if we don't."

Hy-Safe Technology Uses RFID to Manage Inspection, Safety Compliance
Hy-Safe Technology, a Union Grove, Wis., provider of fall-protection equipment and services, has announced it will begin to employ high-frequency (HF) RFID technology to track its fall-protection products and ensure their safety inspections are up-to-date. The company is using N4 Systems Inc.'s Field ID, which leverages handheld mobile computers with 13.56 MHz RFID interrogators that inspectors can use to read RFID tags affixed to the equipment. The handheld computers can hold up to 8 gigabytes of item-related data, including the serial number encoded to each item's RFID tag, which complies with the ISO 15693 RFID standard. As the tags are read, their unique ID numbers are referenced against the data stored in the handheld that walks inspectors through the necessary inspection procedures. The inspectors can also input specific information regarding the equipment, and all of that data can then be uploaded into N4 Systems' software so it can be shared. Other companies using Field ID include John Sakach Co. (see Rigging Supplier John Sakach Co. Adopts N4 Systems' RFID System), Jergens (see Hoist-Ring Manufacturer Using RFID to Carry Life-Cycle Data) and Elko Wire Rope & Mining Supply (see Equipment Inspectors Find Safety in RFID).

Destron Fearing Intros USDA-Approved Animal ID Tags
Digital Angel's Destron Fearing unit, which manufactures livestock identification solutions, is unveiling its line of CoolTags, which can be utilized with or without RFID capability. The CoolTags have been approved for use as U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) "840" devices. The USDA announced the use of official 840 animal identification tags in December 2008; approved tags employ the U.S. country code (840), along with a unique identification number, and can be used for all of the agency's Agricultural Marketing Service Programs, including mandatory country-of-origin labeling. The tags can also help producers participate in marketing alliances, quality-assurance programs and breed registries, as well as track performance records and recover lost or stolen animals. The CoolTags are available with or without RFID (those without are made of hard plastic and have the number printed on them). The RFID-enabled CoolTags have a passive 134.2 kHz RFID tag compliant with the ISO 11784 and 11785 RFID tag standards.

ClearOrbit Releases Supply Chain Suite for Government Agencies
ClearOrbit, a provider of supply chain execution solutions, has announced the availability of its Global Track and Trace Solution for Government Assets and Materials. The solution, based on ClearOrbit's suite of applications designed to help organizations manage their supply chains, has been adapted specifically to meet the needs of government agencies and can leverage RFID data, including EPC Gen 2 tags. The Global Track and Trace Solution for Government Assets and Materials includes ClearOrbit's rules engine that enables government agencies to tailor the application to their specific needs.
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