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NXP Doubles Memory on Gen2 RFID Chips

Semiconductor manufacturer NXP announced two new UHF RFID chips, including a 512-bit model that is believed to be the highest-memory EPCglobal Gen2-compliant chip available. Smart labels containing the new chips are expected to be available near the end of October.
Sep 24, 2007This article was originally published by RFID Update.

September 24, 2007—NXP Semiconductors has announced two new smart label integrated circuits (IC), including a model with 512 bits of rewritable user memory, which will be the highest-capacity Gen2 chip available. Recall that ICs, or chips, are the "brains" of an RFID tag, the component that responds to reader commands and stores data.

The new UCODE G2XM and G2XL each have a 64-bit preprogrammed serial number (twice as much as the Gen2 specification requires) and need significantly less power than NXP's previous-generation product, resulting in more range and reliability. The products differ only in memory. The UCODE G2XL has 240 bits of user memory and is on par with NXP's original Gen2 chip, while the G2XM has more than twice as much memory available to users -- 512 bits.

"We do see real market demand for the high-memory product," Ralf Kodritsch, UCODE marketing manager at NXP, told RFID Update. "For example, some customers in the automotive industry asked for more memory so they could encode additional information for spare part tracking. Airline baggage tracking is an application where additional memory is an absolute necessity."

NXP is a semiconductor manufacturer that was formed last year following a spin-off from conglomerate Philips. The company delivers RFID chips to tag and label manufacturers, who add antennas and convert the components into smart labels that are available to suppliers and end users. NXP will deliver the first wafers for its two new products to customers this week, and thinks the first smart labels to include the new ICs may be available to customers near the end of October, according to Kodritsch. The products have also been submitted to EPCglobal for interoperability testing and certification.

The new chips only need to receive 30 microwatts of power to be read, compared to 50 for NXP's first generation Gen2 chip, according to Kodritsch. He said the increased sensitivity provides longer range and better read performance, especially for tagged cases deep within a pallet. Engineering efforts also focused on reducing chip performance variations related to the item being tagged.

"Now, regardless of what material you put these products on, you'll get very consistent performance whether its paper, plastic, or whatever," said Kodritsch. He noted that UHF technology is becoming more accurate and reliable when used around liquid and metal, but an insulating layer between the tag and the metal is still required.

NXP, then part of Philips, introduced its first Gen2 product about a year ago (see Philips Enters Gen2 RFID Chip Fray) and was among the first manufacturers to earn Gen2 certification from EPCglobal (see Interoperability Certified for 12 Gen2 RFID Products). The UCODE G2XM and G2XL are its first Gen2 products introduced since then. The chips have different prices, but both are priced lower than NXP's previously available Gen2 chip.

"Customers are always glad to hear that, and we've had excellent feedback from their testing of our new products," said Kodritsch. Tag and label manufacturers including KSW Microtec, RSI ID Technologies, TAGSYS, and UPM Raflatac have tested the new chip, and undisclosed end users have also tested it. "People are very willing to pay a premium for the higher memory, because they can see the benefits very clearly. The market for pure license plate Gen2 tags is more price sensitive," he said, referring to those with memory for encoding an EPC number and little else.

The new NXP chips will compete against Monza chips from Impinj, which power the lion's share of all deployed Gen2 tags, and Higgs chips from Alien, which power Alien's own Gen2 tags. While other semiconductor manufacturers have announced Gen2 chip products, sources tell RFID Update that their market share is negligible.
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