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SandLinks Announces Combo Tag-Reader RTLS Chips

SandLinks, an Israeli startup that previously kept a low profile, will soon announce its first product, which combines UWB sending and receiving capabilities on a single chip with 16 kilobits of memory. Each chip can serve as a tag and reader and will sell for $5 in volume, according to the company.
Apr 20, 2009This article was originally published by RFID Update.

April 20, 2009—Later this week SandLinks will announce a new ultra-wideband (UWB) RTLS system-on-a-chip that combines an RFID receiver and transmitter. Using mesh networking principles, the system reportedly can support hundreds of thousands of tags in a network. Tags have a range of 40 meters indoors and 150 meters outdoors and provide location accuracy within 1.5 feet, according to the company.

"Each tag is a mini reader. The tag has two-way communication, and memory," SandLinks CEO and co-founder Avi Menkes told RFID Update. "It is designed as a network product so we can talk with hundreds of thousands of tags."

The tags measure 50 by 49 by 14 millimeters and are powered by a watch-type battery that lasts three to five years. Standard features include 16 kilobits of memory and an integrated temperature sensor. Tags can be integrated with other sensors and have the ability to communicate directly with other tags and with readers.

The tags will be the first products released by SandLinks, an Israeli company that was founded in 2005. Two-way communication from a single chip is a first for active UWB RTLS and, together with the system-on-a-chip (SoC) design, provides several advantages for performance and production cost, according to Menkes. SandLinks plans to sell the chips for $5, a price point it believes will open new market opportunities for active RTLS tracking systems.

"The whole concept for our company was to change the face of the active RFID and sensing industry by bringing to market something that is very high tech and low cost," said Menkes.

SandLinks' initial target markets are high-volume (needing potentially hundreds of thousands of tags) manufacturing operations. Menkes said secondary markets include less-than-truckload (LTL) and other logistics, waste management, and oil and gas operations. "We're looking at companies who would never use passive RFID because of their environments," he said.

Tag-to-tag communications can enable different types of asset tracking processes, Menkes explained. For example, assets that are meant to be kept together, such as a group of pallets that make up a shipment, can continually monitor each other using their tags' send/receive capabilities. If one tagged pallet is removed from the group, other tags in the group would detect it through their reader capabilities and could generate an alert message. Events can also be recorded in the tags' on-board memory, along with sensor input, to build traceability records.

SandLinks plans to start pilots next quarter and go into full production in early 2010. Strategic partners and pilot customers may be announced soon.

SandLinks employs 21 people and has an office in Dallas that is focused on partner support and channel development. After setting up its pilot systems, the company plans to use a completely indirect sales model that relies on solution providers and systems integrators. The privately-held company is currently pursuing its second round of venture funding.

In late 2007 industry research and analyst firm IDTechEx tabbed SandLinks as a company to watch in the UWB RTLS space (see UWB Finding a Place in the RTLS Market). At the time SandLinks was little known and somewhat mysterious, with no web presence and a very low profile. SandLinks joins Dublin-based DecaWave in offering a UWB RTLS system-on-a-chip, and will also compete with Zebra Technologies-owned Multispectral Solutions (MSSI), Time Domain and Ubisense in the UWB RTLS market.
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