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Savi's New Licensing Program Slashes Costs for ISO 18000-7

The UnwiredPlanet program, which aims to spur adoption of active 433 MHz RFID tags and readers, will reduce the fees that hardware providers pay Savi by as much as 90 percent.
By Claire Swedberg
This year, the U.S. Department of Defense (DOD) issued a $429.4 million contract known as RFID III, for which four vendors (Savi, Unisys, Systems and Processes Engineering Corp. and Northrop Grumman) are providing active RFID tags that also support up to five sensors used to detect light, temperature, humidity, shock and tampering (see U.S. Defense Department Picks Four for RFID III and DOD Tests, Buys New ISO 18000-7 Tags From Four Companies). All of the tags comply with the ISO 18000-7 standard, and must be able to interoperate. With the issuing of that contract, and the DOD's recent initial orders of ISO 18000-7 hardware, Burns says, the time was right for Savi to issue the UnwiredPlanet program, enabling vendors to similarly provide the technology for the commercial sector without paying exorbitant costs for the IP. The UnwiredPlanet licensing program is intended to accelerate market adoption for Dash 7 technology beyond the initial contracts signed by the four active RFID technology vendors as part of RFID III.

"There are a lot of different forces coming together," Burns says, the major part of which was the DOD's acceptance of the ISO 18000-7 standard from multiple vendors. "We [Savi] wanted to see the DOD's portion of this effort," he explains, adding that once the RFID III contract was signed, UnwiredPlanet was the "natural evolution."

According to Burns, the cost savings comes as a result of the elimination of an upfront fee for companies that wish to sell products under the 18000-7 patents. Previously, he says, it could cost businesses in the "seven digits"—in other words, $1 million or more. In addition, UnwiredPlanet pricing is based on the number of devices sold, rather than on a percentage of sales. Although Burns says he is unable to specify the exact percentage, he expects the cost with UnwiredPlanet to be as low as about a nickel per unit sold. "It will be massively less expensive," he states. Moreover, companies that sign up for the program before Feb. 1, 2010, will pay nothing for the first 100,000 ISO 18000-7-compliant units they sell.

The new program will make active technology much less expensive for many companies to produce and sell, Burns notes, and will especially benefit small to midsize companies that previously might not have been able to pay the patent costs. Those companies, he says, have often had innovative ideas but not the capital to pay the fees.

The new license is also broader, Burns says, and includes patents related not only to container security tags, but also to low-frequency wake-up technology and universal data blocking, to control messages over the air. Low-frequency activation is not currently required in order to comply with the ISO 18000-7 standard, but Burns predicts it will be in the future.

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