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New RFID Chip Promises Major Performance Gains

RFID chip and reader manufacturer Impinj today announced version 3 of Monza, the RFID chip that powers the majority of Gen2 tags deployed in the market today. RFID Update spoke with Dimitri Desmons, Impinj's vice president of RFID marketing, about the new product and its enhanced performance.
Mar 27, 2008This article was originally published by RFID Update.

March 27, 2008—RFID chip and reader manufacturer Impinj today announced version 3 of Monza, the RFID chip that powers the majority of Gen2 tags deployed in the market today. RFID Update spoke with Dimitri Desmons, Impinj's vice president of RFID marketing, about the new product and its enhanced performance.

"Most importantly," said Desmons, "Monza 3 offers a very significant increase in performance." There are a number of chip characteristics that affect a tag's overall performance, and Desmons explained that three of them -- read sensitivity, write sensitivity, and interference rejection -- are markedly improved with Monza 3.

Read sensitivity in theory determines how far away a tag can be read; that is, read range. The higher the read sensitivity, the longer the range. In practice, it affects read reliability, or the ability of a tag to be read. High read sensitivity can boost performance around RF-unfriendly materials like liquid and metal, for example. It also enables greater flexibility in the placement of a tag. Impinj claims that Monza 3 exhibits up to a 40 percent improvement in read sensitivity.

Write sensitivity addresses how reliably tags can be encoded with data. Tag encoding is a slower process than reading, and has proven a bottleneck for many high-speed RFID systems. (One can imagine the challenge of accurately encoding tagged pill bottles traveling down a production line at hundreds of feet per second.) Impinj pegs the improvement to Monza's write sensitivity at 100 percent, or twice as sensitive as before.

When combined with so-called "mass serialization," high write sensitivity can enable large quantities of goods within a case or multiple cases to be encoded at once, in bulk. Mass serialization is a method of tag encoding that Impinj has been advocating since late last year, when it introduced a solution for the pharmaceutical industry that offered an alternative to the more challenging "inline encoding" described above. Rather than encode tagged bottles individually as they travel at high speeds down a conveyor belt, as with inline encoding, mass serialization calls for goods to first be aggregated into a case or cases at the end of the line, then encoded all at once there. (See Impinj Demos New Approach for Pharma RFID Tagging for more on mass serialization.) By enabling more cases of tagged goods to be encoded at once, Monza 3's write sensitivity could make mass serialization an even more attractive method than before. "The write sensitivity of Monza 3 is very much increased over any competitive tag on the market," said Desmons.

The third performance enhancement in Monza 3 addresses interference rejection, which has to do with a tag's ability to be read despite ambient "noise" from radios, cordless phones, or other devices emitting RF. While Desmons believes that the interference issue is currently "lower on the radar screen" than read and write sensitivity, he predicted that it will become more pronounced over time.

Like its predecessor Monza 2, the Monza 3 chip has a dual antenna port configuration, which greatly minimizes the affect of tag orientation.

Despite Monza 3's benefits, Desmons indicated that Impinj has no plans to retire Monza 2 in the near future. "We still have customers that are happy with Monza 2 and don't necessarily want to change," he said. "So there is no specific plan or schedule to [discontinue Monza 2] right now."

The Monza product line was introduced in April 2005, when it became the first commercially available Gen2 chip. It enjoyed a de facto monopoly for roughly two years, as no competing Gen2 chip emerged on the market. Essentially 100 percent of the Gen2 tags in circulation -- even those of Impinj competitors -- were powered by Monza chips. That finally began to change in 2007, as both Alien and NXP gained traction with the Higgs chip and UCODE chip, respectively. It is unclear exactly what percentage of the market they can now claim, but it is safe to say that Monza is still dominant.

Desmons confirmed that Impinj's market share is no longer 100 percent, but he echoed what many industry observers have been saying for years: competition in the Gen2 chip market will benefit RFID adoption as a whole. "Obviously you want your market share to stay as high as possible," Desmons acknowledged. "On the other hand, for the RFID industry to develop, you need more competition. So it's always been clear to Impinj that there is a place in the market for more than one Gen2 chip supplier."

Read the announcement from Impinj
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