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RTLS Innovation Continues with New Card-Size Tags

AeroScout and Ekahau separately introduced new RTLS tags in the approximate size and shape of cards that can be used for ID badges and other applications. The new tags include several other innovations: Ekahau's has a 60-character LCD screen, and AeroScout's has two programmable call buttons.
Feb 26, 2007This article was originally published by RFID Update.

February 26, 2007—AeroScout and Ekahau have both just introduced new card-size RTLS tags that pack more power and functionality into ever-smaller form factors.

The new AeroScout T3 and Ekahau T301-B tags each have a card-shape form factor that is thin enough to use as an ID card (Ekahau's new tag is 8 mm thick, AeroScout's 10 mm) or to attach to a variety of objects for asset tracking applications that require a low tag profile. Each also adds new features and functions to the RTLS tag category.

Ekahau's T301-B tag includes an LCD screen that can display tag data and wireless text messages sent over WiFi networks, features the company says represent an industry-first for RTLS tags. The display is approximately two lines by 30 characters, with slight variances based on the text size and font used. Ekahau's director of product management Artu Huhtiniemi told RFID Update the tags could be used both as ID cards and to replace pagers. The company said other potential uses of the LCD include displaying maintenance histories, work order codes for service personnel, and tag location history.

The Ekahau tag also has two call buttons and a strap that can be pulled to call for emergency assistance. A second model is available without an LCD. Either model can be used with any 802.11b/g-standard WiFi network.

AeroScout's new T3 WiFi tag also includes two call buttons, which are programmable to allow for a wide variety of uses depending on the application or vertical. For example, a hospital could set one button on the tag to call for maintenance on a piece of medical equipment, and the second button could enable notification in case of a change in the equipment status.

"We've received a lot of requests from our customers for new features," AeroScout's marketing director Josh Slobin told RFID Update. "There is a wide range of needs, and there is not a single function that's needed across all the vertical markets that use this technology."

The tag has other features new to AeroScout's product line, including a tamper evidence feature that automatically transmits an alert if there is an attempted removal of the tag. The T3 tag includes a motion sensor, which can be used to have the tag transmit its location constantly when it is in motion or at less frequent intervals when it is at rest, thus conserving battery power. The new tag is completely backward compatible with AeroScout's legacy software and infrastructure technology, including the recently announced asset tracking system it is co-marketing with Cisco Systems (see Cisco, AeroScout Team to Market WiFi RFID).

Both companies claim improved power management in their new tags. AeroScout says the battery in its T3 tag can last more than four years. Ekahau's battery life varies according to how much the LCD display is used, but the new tag has a rechargeable battery.

Neither company released specific tag prices. AeroScout said the T3 price is "in the ballpark" with its T2 tag. Ekahau said the new T301-B will cost more than the T301-A it released last June (see Smaller, Cheaper, Longer-Lasting RTLS Tag Hits Market), which is in the $50 range, depending on order volume.

Ekahau's T301-B announcement is here, and AeroScout's T3 announcement here.
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