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RFID News Roundup

GS1 US launches initiative with food-service companies; Ramtron announces RF-enabled wireless memory; Microplex opens shop in the United Kingdom; RF Code announces integration module for IBM's Tivoli Monitoring software; GEL Interactive launches RFID solution to track event attendees; Zebra updates RZ Series RFID printers.
Oct 08, 2009The following are news announcements made during the past week.

GS1 US Launches Initiative With Food-Service Companies
GS1 US, the U.S. branch of international standards-setting organization GS1, has announced that 55 food manufacturers and distributors have launched the Foodservice GS1 US Standards Initiative. This initiative recommends the adoption of a common timeline for voluntary individual company implementation of GS1's global standards—which include GS1 identification schemes such as the Global Trade Item Number (GTIN), a unique GS1 system identification number for products and services that could be printed as a bar code or encoded on an EPC RFID tag. The standards are designed to help identify and track goods as they traverse the food supply chain, in order to drive out waste, improve product information for customers, and establish a foundation for improving food safety and traceability. The 55 companies have also committed to funding the initiative, and 45 of the founding members have already voluntarily committed to the initiative's timeline. Among the founding members are Heinz North America Foodservice, PepsiCo Foodservice, Coca-Cola Foodservice, Campbell North America Foodservice, Hormel Foods, Kellogg Co. Specialty Channels, Kraft Foodservice, ConAgra Foods, Land O'Lakes, Sara Lee Foodservice, Tyson Foods Inc. Food Service, General Mills Inc., Nestlé Professional and Unilever Foodsolutions North America. The initiative strives for 75 percent adoption of GS1 standards throughout the food-service industry by 2015, measured in terms of revenue, and is endorsed by the International Foodservice Manufacturers Association (IFMA), the International Foodservice Distributors Association (IFDA), the National Restaurant Association and GS1 Canada Foodservice. "The Foodservice GS1 US Standards Initiative will have tremendous benefits for restaurants, their guests and their supply chain, and is an important step forward in our continuing efforts to ensure the highest standards for our industry," said Dawn Sweeney, the National Restaurant Association's president and CEO, in a prepared statement. The initiative is the result of a six-month planning process, during which presidents of food companies and their supply chain leaders worked with GS1 US, GS1 Canada and Future Perfect Consulting Services (the consultancy hired to facilitate the process) to draft a timeline that individual companies could choose to employ in their voluntary adoption and implementation of GS1 standards. "We chose GS1 standards because they're in use by more than two million companies worldwide—it takes the guesswork out, so that we can focus on serving customers to the best of our ability," said John Martin, Martin Brothers Distributing Co.'s CEO and the IFDA's chairman of the board, in a prepared statement. Near-term steps include companies assigning GS1 Global Location Numbers to their corporate headquarters by the fourth quarter of 2009, and manufacturers assigning GTINs to products and including them on order guides and other trading-partner documentation by the third quarter of 2010. By the second quarter of 2011, manufacturers and brand owners aim to publish product and company identification and related logistics information to trading partners, and distributors should be able to retrieve product data and populate back-end systems and customer product catalogs. Trading partners choosing to adopt and implement GS1 standards will access standard product information through the GS1 Global Data Synchronization Network (GDSN), an open platform enabling the real-time exchange of product information among supply chain partners. More information on the initiative and timeline can be found here. In support of GS1 US' work with the food-service industry, the Food Marketing Institute (FMI) and GS1 US have announced the launch of Rapid Recall Exchange, an online service designed to facilitate the exchange of food-recall information between retailers/wholesalers and suppliers. Rapid Recall Exchange replaces an existing recall system, the Product Recall Portal, and GS1 US and FMI report that the new service is easier to use and has greater capabilities. Accessible via the Internet, Rapid Recall Exchange complements existing recall practices, complies with the requirements of the FDA Reportable Food Registry, and features secure user-authentication, two-way messaging between trading partners, e-mail alerting and the ability to target notifications to specific companies, as well as standardized forms, processes and instructions. All firms already participating in the FMI Product Recall Portal will automatically receive Rapid Recall Exchange subscriptions. The current subscriber list, according to FMI, includes eight wholesalers, 45 retailers (representing 157 banners, 11,076 stores and more than $209 billion in sales) and 40 manufacturers (representing more than $300 billion in annual revenues). The new service is available for a nominal fee to cover operating expenses. To encourage quick and widespread adoption of the system, FMI and GS1 US are offering free trial subscriptions to retailers and wholesalers that sign up by Oct. 30, 2009. The trial period will run through Dec. 31 of this year.

Ramtron Announces RF-enabled Wireless Memory
Ramtron International, a Colorado Springs, Colo., developer of specialized semiconductor memory and integrated semiconductor solutions, has announced its MaxArias wireless memory device, designed to enable wireless data-collection capabilities. The MaxArias WM710xx product line features 4, 8 or 16 kilobits of F-RAM user memory integrated with an EPC Gen 2 passive RFID tag, and can be encoded and read by an RFID interrogator. According to Ramtron, the WM710xx family is ideal for applications spanning many industries, including aircraft/industrial manufacturing, inventory control, maintenance tracking, building security, electronic toll collection, pharmaceutical tracking, and product authentication, among others. "By employing the global EPC Gen-2 RFID protocol, coupled with our industry-standard, nonvolatile F-RAM, MaxArias can enhance efficiency in today's fast-paced, global supply chains," said Dan Secrest, Ramtron's senior marketing manager, in a prepared statement. The first devices in the MaxArias line—the WM71004, WM71008, and WM71016—have virtually unlimited read/write endurance (100 trillion writes) and 20-year data retention, according to Ramtron. MaxArias' wireless memory offers fully symmetrical operation for reads and writes, in terms of range, sustained memory access bandwidth and reliability—all at the maximum data rates allowed by the EPC Gen 2 standard. The company is now offering beta samples to customers across several industries, and indicates that production of the WM710xx family is scheduled to begin in the first quarter of 2010.

Microplex Opens Shop in the United Kingdom
German printer manufacturer and systems integrator Microplex is expanding its presence to the United Kingdom. The company has established Microplex UK and will begin offering a cut-sheet laser RFID printer-encoder, the Solid 34RFID, to the U.K. market. Cut-sheet printers are designed to print on separate sheets of paper. First available in March 2009 (but only in certain markets), the Solid 34RFID can be used as a standard laser printer, but also enables RFID printing and encoding on A6, A5 or A4 label formats. The Solid 34RFID was designed for general-purpose RFID applications. However, says Hans Guelbert, Microplex's operations director. "We also see applications where the delivery note that will be placed inside the tote box, and the content can be copied to the RFID chip and therefore can be scanned without opening the box, giving a portable data file without line of sight and absolute security. For example, this could be utilized in a pharmaceutical operation or secure storage of back-up tapes without divulging the boxes' contents." The printer could also be utilized to print RFID tags for use by legal organizations that want to track the whereabouts of any given file throughout a large building. Another provider of cut-sheet RFID laser printers is Lexmark, which in 2007 introduced an RFID-enabled option for its T640rn laser printer, enabling it to print 8.5-by-11-inch paper and encode RFID tags (see New Office Laser Printer Encodes Tags). Earlier this year, Lexmark added RFID capability to its T654 printer so that it can print multiple documents with some pages containing an adhesive RFID label, and other pages consisting of inexpensive plain paper (see Metal Finishing Co. Makes Monitoring Work-in-Progress More Efficient).

RF Code Announces Integration Module for IBM's Tivoli Monitoring Software
RF Code, an active RFID hardware and systems provider based in Austin, Texas, has announced that its environmental monitoring solution, Sensor Manager, has been certified by IBM to work with IBM's Tivoli Monitoring software, which is designed to help companies monitor and manage operating systems, databases and servers in distributed and host environments. RF Code's Sensor Manager consists of wireless sensors based on active RFID technology as well as monitoring software that generates customer-configurable reports, alerts, thresholding, mapping and more. The interoperability of the Tivoli Monitoring software and the Sensor Manager platform leverages RF Code's recently announced support for Sun Microsystems' JMX monitoring standard, the Java standard for monitoring and managing applications written in the Java development language, and is achieved via RF Code's new Integration Module for Tivoli. With the introduction of the integration module, RF Code reports, Tivoli Monitoring users can now take full advantage of real-time environmental information generated by the Sensor Manager solution, including temperature, humidity, door position, dry contact and fluid detection. The integration module includes a custom Tivoli monitoring agent, which employs RF Code's new Sensor Manager JMX support as the data source. All information collected from the wireless sensors by RF Code's Sensor Manager is published to Tivoli Monitoring, which then utilizes the information in customized situations, policies and actions. For example, RF Code explains, real-time temperature and humidity information can be proactively monitored via Tivoli Monitoring to identify environmental problems before a crisis develops.

GEL Interactive Launches RFID Solution to Track Event Attendees
Marketing solutions software provider GEL Interactive Technologies has launched its Immerse Precision-ID, an RFID-enabled software solution designed to let organizations leverage RFID to track and engage attendees at conferences, tradeshows and events. The solution requires GEL Interactive's Immerse Exhibit, an event-intelligence platform for exhibit and event marketers. Attendees receive passive RFID devices (such as an RFID-enabled card, key fob or sticker) with unique ID numbers associated with the individual attendees in the Immerse Exhibit database. Whenever they visit an exhibiter booth, the attendees can choose to register their information at that booth by scanning their RFID devices by Precision-ID receivers; the individuals are then identified through the Immerse Exhibit database. Using the Immerse software, exhibitors can serve custom content to each attendee (using a back-end engine that enables customer segmentation), verify that person's participation in activities, and collect data on his or her interests based on the information captured. The software helps organizations manage lead acquisition, conduct surveys, capture responses, leverage interactive tools that attendees can use, and compile and manage data for future online marketing communications with those in attendance. "We are putting the RFID power in the hands of the attendee," said Michael Kelly, GEL Interactive Technologies' senior director of customer engagements, in a prepared statement. "This is not a tracking device—attendees are not recognized until they take action in the exhibit. The RFID technology is being used to enhance personal relevance of the exhibit experience for the individual visitor."

Zebra Updates RZ Series RFID Printers
Zebra Technologies has announced the availability of a firmware update for its RZ400 and RZ600 RFID printers, both of which comply with the EPC Gen 2 and ISO 18000-06C standards. The update, the company reports, is designed to enhance traditional compliance labeling by offering customers additional printing applications, such as item-level tagging, package validation, document tracking and product authentication. According to Zebra, the firmware provides the ability to print smaller labels, allows for direct-to-inlay printing, increases printer throughput for faster, on-demand printing applications, and reduces media material costs and waste, as more labels can be printed per roll. The RFID firmware update is available as a download from Zebra's Web site, or as a CD, and will be shipped with all new RZ400 and RZ600 printers.
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