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RFID Provider Intelleflex Lands $15.5m

Intelleflex, the Silicon Valley-based provider of battery-assisted RFID platform solutions, today announced $15.5 million in a Series B round of equity funding. Led by Morgenthaler Ventures, the round was over-subscribed.
Jul 27, 2006This article was originally published by RFID Update.

July 27, 2006—Intelleflex, the Silicon Valley-based provider of battery-assisted RFID platform solutions, today announced $15.5 million in a Series B round of equity funding. Led by Morgenthaler Ventures, the round was over-subscribed. Woodside Fund, Alloy Ventures, and Selby Venture Partners, all of whom participated in the $11.3 million Series A round in 2004, were return investors.

The Intelleflex RFID offering is battery-assisted, also called "semi-passive" or "semi-active". Unlike standard passive tags, battery-assisted tags include a battery that provides power to the tag chip. This allows for all of the energy received from the RFID reader to be allocated to broadcasting information, which results in a stronger signal from the tag. In contrast, pure passive tags use the RFID reader energy to power the chip and transmit information. Semi-passive tags differ from fully active tags in that they still require stimulation by an RFID reader to broadcast information; in the absence of a reader signal, they lie dormant.

Intelleflex's semi-passive tags are Gen2 compliant, which, according to chairman and CEO Richard Bravman, make the company's solution a "best of both worlds combination". It offers all the benefits of the standardized Gen2 platform but with read ranges more commonly seen in active RFID technology. Whereas an average Gen2 tag typically transmits between three and four meters, Bravman says that Intelleflex tags can reach up to 100 meters under ideal conditions. Furthermore, the tags include a number of enhancements that expand their functionality, including 64 kilobytes of user memory (versus the 96 - 256 kilobits in Gen2) and partitioning capabilities that allow sections of the memory to be secured and accessed only by authorized parties. The company has also taken pains to make the tags highly efficient. By shrinking the form factor down to a single chip embodiment, the cost and power consumption has been reduced. In a future version of the tag, temperature sensing capabilities will be added. The tags currently cost about five dollars in 100,000-unit quantities.

Bravman says Intelleflex is not going after the ultrahigh-volume supply chain and retail markets where Gen2 passive RFID will be pervasive. Instead the company is targeting applications that are typically the domain of active RFID solutions: asset tracking and management, yard management, high value manufacturing and work-in-process control, supply chain container tracking, security control, and cold chain.

In April, Intelleflex was selected by Boeing to provide the RFID tags that will sit on all maintenance-significant parts of the upcoming 787 Dreamliner. Boeing wanted a tag solution that offered both Gen2 compliance and the ability to store a tagged part's entire maintenance history locally, directly on the tag. Because of the relatively small memory space in standard Gen2 tags, they would not suffice. (Typically Gen2 tags store just an identifier, which is associated with a record in a centralized database where the tagged object's data is actually accessible.) The ample 64 kilobytes of memory on the Intelleflex tags, however, would allow this functionality. Boeing chose Intelleflex, whose tags will be included on designated parts of all 787 aircraft. The required volumes will eventually ramp to one million tags annually, according to Bravman. It was a very significant win for the company, not only because of the near-term revenue realization but also for the long-term impact of having Intelleflex technology deployed throughout Boeing's far-reaching aircraft manufacturing ecosystem. "Our technology is being threaded across that entire supply chain," pointed out Bravman.

Intelleflex was founded December 2003 and currently has about 35 employees. Bravman, who joined the company in September of last year, has a long and distinguished career in the automatic identification industry. He was the fifth employee at Symbol Technologies, where he stayed for 26 years, eventually rising to become CEO before leaving in 2004 and hiring Bill Nuti as a replacement. He initiated the acquisition conversations with Matrics, the RFID hardware company that Symbol ultimately bought for $230 million as an aggressive entrée into the RFID market.

Read the Intelleflex announcement
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