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STMicroelectronics Offers Active RFID Development Kit

STMicroelectronics has released a hardware developer kit (HDK) that will help integrators and other solution providers build ISO 18000-7-compliant active RFID tags and readers for a variety of niche applications.
May 12, 2009This article was originally published by RFID Update.

May 12, 2009—Chipmaker STMicroelectronics and Sunnyvale, California-based electronic design services firm Arira Design have unveiled a hardware development kit (HDK) for building active RFID tags and readers that are compliant with the ISO 18000-7 standard for 433 MHz technology.

The Smart Web-Based Sensor HDK consists of sample boards and a Windows application that allows developers to customize sensor and wireless capabilities for new active RFID products. The platform also supports GPS and GPRS technologies.

According to an announcement from ST, the STM32 microcontroller-based platform helps integrators and other solutions providers develop wireless sensor networks for security and asset monitoring applications by allowing them to blend active RFID with other wireless networking and GPS technologies, along with built-in MEMS motion sensors and temperature and light sensors.

Savi Technology, a subsidiary of Lockheed Martin that holds the patent on the 18000-7 air interface protocol, provided technical assistance for the HDK.

"We run into developers all the time that have an interest in building new active RFID devices that require unique or unusual form factors and sensor capabilities," said Pat Burns, Savi's head of licensing. "These run the gamut from large telecommunications companies to small military systems integrators, to a company in Turkey that wanted to track ceramic bath fixtures. We can't possibly support all of these different permutations ourselves, so we have looked to third parties like STMicroelectronics who are able to support these rapidly changing markets."

Companies can use the HDK to integrate their own hardware and firmware into ISO 18000-7-based active RFID products for industrial, medical, and transportation applications, including the addition of new RFID commands or data fields. The kit was developed by engineers from STMicroelectronics' Multi-Market Competence Center in Schaumburg, Illinois, in conjunction with Arira.

"We strongly believe that the next big wave in sensors will be driven by the combination of the sensing function with wireless transmission -- and ISO 18000-7 is the right solution for security and asset monitoring applications," said Benedetto Vigna, group vice president and general manager of the MEMS and Healthcare Product Division at STMicroelectronics in the company's announcement. "The Smart Web-Based Sensor HDK is a best-in-class development platform that will help the adoption of wireless sensors across the industry."

The ISO 18000-7 standard, which specifies the wireless communications protocol between an RFID reader and tag, is used by the U.S. Department of Defense, NATO and allied defense forces. Developers planning to sell products based on the standard will require a license from Savi.

"For prototyping purposes, there's no need for a license," Burns said. "Once they get into selling a solution, that's when they need to come to Savi. We're really interested in encouraging developers to do the things that this HDK will help them do."

According to Burns, developers that need design help can work with Arira or Savi. Developers will eventually be able to get support from the DASH7 Alliance, the organization Savi founded in March to promote expanded use of the 18000-7 standard. Other members of the group include STMicroelectronics, Texas Instruments, Dow Chemical, Unisys, and the U.S. Department of Defense. (See DASH7 Alliance Forms to Advance Active RFID Standard.)

As the agreement with STMicroelectronics is not exclusive, Burns says there may be other development kits coming in the future. "I would expect other silicon vendors will hop into the game as well," Burns said.

The HDK is now in beta, and is available on Arira's website.
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