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Texas Instruments Boosts Consumer RFID App

Texas Instruments and Remote Play today announced the application of TI microcontrollers in an active RFID system targeted at consumers that the companies hope will bring asset tracking to the masses.
Mar 13, 2006This article was originally published by RFID Update.

March 13, 2006—As readers of RFID Update will note, the vast majority of RFID developments occur in the enterprise domain, from retail to supply chain to manufacturing. But this enterprise focus is actually quite recent. Two of the early widespread RFID roll-outs -- E-ZPass for toll-payment automation and Exxon Mobil's Speedpass for at-the-pump gas purchases -- were both consumer applications. Recent progress with contactless payments and near field communication (NFC) promise that many more "consumer-facing" RFID applications are just around the corner.

Another example is TagAlert, billed as a "bodyguard for your valuables". Texas Instruments and TagAlert manufacturer Remote Play today announced that technological developments from TI will ensure ever wider adoption by consumers. RFID Update spoke with Remote Play president and CEO Ari Naim about the announcement and its significance for his company's products.

TagAlert is a portable active RFID system for consumers that protects against the theft or loss of portable valuables like wallets, electronics, and laptops. The user carries a small "monitor" (an active RFID reader) in his pocket, clipped to his belt, or hanging from his key chain. He tags his chosen valuables by clipping or adhering a TagAlert tag to them. (See this image of the system.) Thereafter, the monitor will sound an alarm when a tagged object -- a wallet, for example -- moves out of range. The system has two range settings, short (up to 20 feet) and long (up to 75 feet). It also includes a "snooze" feature, whereby the user can prevent the alarm while he temporarily moves out of range.

Today's announcement with Texas Instruments is about the ultra-low-power MSP430 microcontroller (MCU) which will make the TagAlert system more useful and powerful for consumers, according to Remote Play's Naim. The very efficient power consumption of TI's MCU allows the TagAlert tags to operate continuously for six months and the monitors for two years on a tiny battery. This efficiency and ultra-small form factor are keys to the success of the TagAlert system, said Naim, explaining that TagAlert is not a revolutionary concept. "Ever since people owned wallets, they've been thinking of this application," he said, adding that such applications have been tried before. But previously the technology had not been advanced enough to design a user-friendly system. As Naim put it, "You're not going to buy something as big as your wallet to monitor your wallet."

Armed with TI's MCUs, as well as a patent covering range measurement using two or more frequencies, Naim has big plans for the TagAlert product line. "What we're doing is creating a category," he said. There are currently about eleven models in various stages of production, with one targeted specifically at protecting laptops due out in May or June. Remote Play is based in Lawrenceville, New Jersey, with offices in India and Hong Kong. A three-year-old company, it has about fifteen employees.

Read the announcement from Texas Instruments
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