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RFID News Roundup

Australian NFC trial indicates consumers like paying with mobile phones; Rfidium, Ramtron partner on RFID antenna inlays; Utah Transit Authority expands contactless payment deployment; Telenor, bus company run NFC-enabled mobile phone pilot in Norway; STid intros new UHF reader for vehicle identification; Lion & Rose restaurant and Chumash Casino adopt Capton's Beverage Tracker system.
Feb 26, 2009The following are news announcements made during the past week.

Australian NFC Trial Indicates Consumers Like Paying With Mobile Phones
In a recently completed three-month trial that allowed Australian consumers to make payments using mobile phones supporting Near Field Communications (NFC), a majority of participants reported they would likely use such a system in the future. Telecommunications provider Telstra, the National Australia Bank (NAB) and Visa conducted the trial in Docklands, a suburb of Melbourne. During the pilot, consumers were able to pay for purchases of less than AU$35 (US$29) by waving their mobile phones at Visa payWave readers at participating merchants. The purchases were then charged back to their NAB Visa credit card accounts. In a survey, 90 percent of participants said they were very or extremely satisfied with the contactless mobile phone payment system, while 95 percent indicated they were likely or extremely likely to use the technology in the future. What's more, 78 percent said paying with a mobile phone was better with than cash. According to the three partners, merchants involved in the trial also provided positive feedback, deeming contactless mobile phone payments a quicker, more efficient and convenient way to serve customers.

Rfidium, Ramtron Partner on RFID Antenna Inlays
Rfidium, a Sunnyvale, Calif., producer of custom and specialty RFID inlays and antennas, and Ramtron International, a Colorado Springs, Colo., developer of specialized semiconductor memory and integrated semiconductor solutions, have teamed up to develop and prototype RFID antenna inlays utilizing Ramtron's new line of high-memory, EPC Class1 Gen 2 RFID chips, which utilize nonvolatile ferroelectric random access memory (F-RAM). As part of the agreement, Rfidium will deliver near-field and far-field ultrahigh-frequency (UHF) aluminum antenna designs to Ramtron's specifications, producing prototype samples combined with Ramtron chips. Rfidium, founded in mid-2008, offers a service for custom and low- to medium-volume production of inlays and high-volume antenna production. "We evaluated many suppliers of RFID antenna inlay design and production services," said Danny Secrest, Ramtron's senior marketing, in a prepared statement, "and found Rfidium's proprietary manufacturing processes provide the best combination of design prototyping to volume production."

Utah Transit Authority Expands Contactless Payment Deployment
The Utah Transit Authority (UTA) has expanded its use of an electronic fare collection system, first trialed by the transit agency in 2006, to enable riders to pay fares using contactless credit and debit cards, such as Visa payWave, MasterCard PayPass and American Express ExpressPay, on more than 600 buses and a fleet of light rail and commuter rail trains. UTA's initial contactless payment trial utilized ski passes and credit cards with embedded RFID chips, and involved 40 UTA buses serving four ski resorts in the Big and Little Cottonwood canyons (see Utah Buses to Get RFID-Enabled Fareboxes). UTA's current electronic fare system lets customers tap their contactless credit or debit cards to electronic readers on a train platform or bus, thus authorizing payment. Riders are also asked to tap off when exiting, in order to complete their trip and obtain an electronic transfer. The rider is then able to tap onto a new bus or train without being charged an additional fare. The final charge is processed through a back-office system that matches up individual card "taps" within the two-hour transfer window, to create a complete trip and calculate the final charge. Customers may also pay for more than one rider by tapping on and off multiple times, once for each rider. In addition to providing a new payment method for customers, the "tap on/tap off" approach provides UTA with valuable data that the transit agency says it plans to utilize in order to adjust services to better reflect its riders' actual travel patterns. According to the authority, the system, which officially launched in January 2009, is employed daily by thousands of UTA riders.

Telenor, Bus Company Run NFC-enabled Mobile Phone Pilot in Norway
In the fall of 2008, Telenor Research and Innovation, the research and development division of telecommunications company Telenor Group, teamed with Cominor, the local bus company in Tromsoe, Norway, to test an NFC-enabled payment system. Approximately 30 participants used NFC-enabled mobile phones provided to them during the trial, which lasted for about four weeks. The system leveraged Mifare DESFire, a high-security contactless card technology from NXP Semiconductors. The trial's goal was to determine whether consumers would like to use their mobile phones to make payments, said research scientist Erlend Pedersen, project manager for Telenor's development work, in a prepared statement. "We want to give our customers a faster service and a more flexible change-over between various means of transportation," added Thor-Harald Lauritsen, head of Cominor's ticketing systems and manager of the NFC pilot.

STid Intros New UHF Reader for Vehicle Identification
STid, a French manufacturer of RFID interrogators and tags, has announced a new ultrahigh-frequency (UHF) reader for vehicle identification and access control. The new interrogator, known as URD, is compliant with the ISO 18000-6C (EPC Gen 2) and 18000-6B standards, and can be configured with up to four remote antennas, enabling the reader to simultaneously and automatically scan UHF tags affixed to up to four vehicles traveling in four independent lanes. The interrogator, also available in a configuration with a built-in antenna, works with STid's Teletag, a UHF tag that can be affixed to the inside of a vehicle's windshield, and Vehicle Metal Tag, a multipurpose UHF tag designed for affixing to metal surfaces, such as a truck's body. The URD's read range is up to 7 meters (23 feet) with the Teletag, and up to 10 meters (33 feet) with the Vehicle Metal Tag.

Lion & Rose Restaurant and Chumash Casino Adopt Capton's Beverage Tracker System
Two more establishments have picked Capton's RFID-enabled Beverage Tracker system to monitor their bar operations, the company reports. The Lion & Rose British Restaurant and Pub, based in San Antonio, Texas, began using the system to determine why liquor costs were significantly higher at one of its three locations (a fourth is slated to open soon). By employing the Beverage Tracker system, Lion & Rose was able to determine where problematic pouring was occurring. Beverage Tracker consists of RFID-enabled spouts that can be fitted into liquor bottles, as well as an RFID interrogator and software. The spouts contain a battery-powered 418 MHz RFID tag and a measuring device. Whenever a bartender pours a drink, the tipping of the bottle activates both the tag and the measuring device, thereby allowing the spout to measure the volume of liquor poured (in ounces) before the employee tips the bottle back up. The tag then transmits that information to the interrogator's antenna, along with the microchip's unique identification number, and the brand and size of liquor bottle to which it is attached. The spout's tag has a maximum read range of up to 100 feet from the antenna. The Chumash Casino Resort in Santa Ynez, Calif., has also recently implemented Capton's Beverage Tracker. Other hotels using Capton's Beverage Tracker include the Vendue Inn, in Charleston, S.C. (see RFID News Roundup: Charleston Inn Using Capton's Liquor-Monitoring System), and Treasure Island, a Las Vegas hotel and casino (see Vegas Hotel-Casino Uses Tags to Keep Tabs on Liquor).
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