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Impinj Expands Gen2 RFID Chip Portfolio

Gen2 chip supplier Impinj has expanded its portfolio of offerings with the addition of two new chip products. The fabless semiconductor firm will now complement its flagship Monza chip with the Monza/ID and Monaco/64 chips that feature, respectively, factory-programmed production identification and user-programmable memory.
Aug 11, 2006This article was originally published by RFID Update.

August 11, 2006—Gen2 chip supplier Impinj has expanded its portfolio of offerings with the addition of two new chip products. The fabless semiconductor firm will now complement its flagship Monza chip with the Monza/ID and Monaco/64 chips that feature, respectively, factory-programmed product identification and user-programmable memory. RFID Update spoke with Impinj CEO William Colleran about the new products.

The Gen2 Monza/ID chip is targeted at anti-counterfeiting applications such as those in the pharmaceutical and apparel industries. It is pre-programmed during the manufacturing process with a unique identification number that cannot be erased or overwritten and, because it is encoded during manufacture, is intrinsic to the chip itself. This secure identification technique makes cloning or counterfeiting extremely difficult, according to Impinj's Colleran. By tagging products like pill bottles with such technology, pharmaceutical vendors and consumers alike can feel assured that the medicine is not phony.

The Monaco/64 is the first in Impinj's new Monaco family of Gen2 chips that are characterized by having user memory. The Monaco/64 offers 64 bits, and subsequent models will offer incrementally more. User memory allows end users to store additional information on Gen2 RFID tags beyond what is required in the base EPCglobal Gen2 specification. This additional information is often particular to an end user's application, organization, or industry. For example, the airline industry might use the memory to store baggage handling information or equipment maintenance and inspection data. The pharma industry might store electronic pedigree, manufacturing lot and date codes, or expiration dates.

While Impinj had long planned to expand its product portfolio, the timing for the introduction of the Monza/ID and Monaco/64 is quite good, according to Colleran. "There is definitely user pull for this type of enhanced functionality," he said. The company has already begun shipping in small volumes, and limited quantities of converted, ready-to-use tags that include the chips should appear on the market "very, very soon." Large volumes of Monza/ID- or Monaco/64-equipped tags will probably be seen in a couple months. "We can ramp very quickly depending on demand, so that won't be a limiting factor," assured Colleran. Furthermore, because the new chips have the same footprint and antenna designs as the original Monza, incorporating them into the inlay manufacturing process will be relatively seamless.

Colleran said that he expects the base Monza chip will continue to be the company's most popular product in the near term, appealing as it does to the lowest-common-denominator deployments. However, as RFID adoption matures, the technology will penetrate deeper into vertical industries that require increasing functionality from Gen2 tags. Two years out, Colleran sees the Monza/ID or Monaco chips possibly outselling the baseline Monza.

The Gen2 chip space has seen a flurry of activity in recent weeks. Last Monday, Texas Instruments announced the launch of its Gen2 chip product (see Texas Instruments Announces Gen2 RFID Chips). Then later in the week, STMicroelectronics went public with the availability of its competitive offering, the XRAG2 (see Gen2 RFID Chips from STMicro Hit Market). Both of these product introductions challenge Impinj's role as the market's sole provider of Gen2 silicon; previously, every Gen2 tag in deployment included the Monza chip. It appears that with the expansion of its product line, Impinj is pushing back against the new competition and aiming to maintain its leadership in the space.
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