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RFID News Roundup

NFC Forum adopts Logical Link Control Protocol (LLCP) spec; Infineon, Inside Contactless partner on security solution for public transport smart cards; Bombardier to deploy TagMaster 2.45 GHz RFID system on Asian trains; U.S. Air Force selects ODIN to monitor passive RFID network; RFID tag maker Syrma Technology joins Dash7 Alliance; SkyBitz unveils satellite-based remote asset-management and -tracking system.
Jan 28, 2010The following are news announcements made during the past week.

NFC Forum Adopts Logical Link Control Protocol (LLCP) Spec
The NFC Forum, a Wakefield, Mass., organization formed in 2004 to advance the use of Near Field Communication technology, has announced the adoption of the Logical Link Control Protocol (LLCP) specification, which supports bi-directional communications between NFC-compliant devices. The organization has also announced a new NFC Signature Record Type Definition (RTD) candidate specification, which defines how to digitally sign data records in NFC Data Exchange Format (NDEF) messages. The LLCP specification, based on the IEEE 802.2 standard, is designed for small applications with limited data-transport requirements. It defines an OSI layer-2 protocol to support peer-to-peer communication between two NFC-enabled devices—an essential function for NFC applications that involve bi-directional communications, such as the exchange of electronic business cards, the transfer of a Web URL from one phone to another, or the initiation of Bluetooth communications. Two types of services are defined—connectionless and connection-oriented—and are organized into three link service classes: connectionless service only, connection-oriented service only, and both connectionless and connection-oriented service. The connectionless service offers minimal setup, with no reliability or flow-control guarantees, while the connection-oriented service adds in-order, reliable delivery, flow-control and session-based service layer multiplexing, according to the NFC Forum. The final, adopted LLCP specification had only minor changes from the previous, candidate version. The Signature RTD candidate technical specification helps users verify the authenticity and integrity of data within NDEF messages, the organization reports, by specifying the format to be used when signing single or multiple NDEF records. The specification defines the required and optional signature RTD fields, and also provides a list of suitable signature algorithms and certificate types that can be employed to create the signature. It does not define or mandate a specific public key infrastructure (PKI) or certification system, nor does it define a new algorithm for use with the Signature RTD. "For NFC to succeed globally, it is essential to provide a means to verify the authenticity of data in NDEF messages and to ensure smooth interoperability with earlier NFC implementations and existing contactless infrastructure," said Koichi Tagawa, the NFC Forum's chairman, in a prepared statement. "These two specifications provide these capabilities, giving NFC developers both the tools and the confidence to create solutions that can succeed globally." Both specifications are available to the public for download at no charge, at www.nfc-forum.org/specs.

Infineon, Inside Contactless Partner on Security Solution for Public Transport Smart Cards
Smart-card manufacturers Giesecke & Devrient (G&D) and Oberthur Technologies, as well as chip suppliers Infineon Technologies and Inside Contactless, have announced their launch of an industry initiative to provide a new security solution for next-generation smart-card-based public-transport applications. The solution, the group reports, will build on an open standard now being implemented by the four partner companies, and will eventually be governed by an independent body. The industry initiative is based on Infineon's development of a hardware-based security system designed for public transportation smart-card applications, that includes an authentication scheme using the Advanced Encryption Standard (AES) with 128-bit key length and file types, as well as command sets based on the ISO/IEC 7816 standard. According to the group, the use of AES, an encryption algorithm also utilized for commercial transactions, will boost security over less-robust security schemes widely used in current public transportation systems. Inside Contactless has already signed an agreement with Infineon to implement the security scheme for its chip platforms. In addition, G&D and Oberthur Technologies have agreed to develop public transport applications based on the scheme. The group is currently inviting other companies active in the smart-card arena—providers of chips, smart cards, application-specific operating software, reader devices and transportation systems—to join the initiative

Bombardier to Deploy TagMaster 2.45 GHz RFID System on Asian Trains
Plane and train manufacturer Bombardier's Transportation division has selected an RFID system from TagMaster, a Swedish maker of RFID solutions for rail and transportation applications. The system, which will include heavy-duty 2.45 GHz interrogators and active RFID tags, will be installed in Asia. The readers will be mounted onboard the trains, and will provide both train location and accurate positioning information to the Bombardier CITYFLO 650 CBTC (communication-based train control) onboard system that is also being installed as part of the project. The RFID system's ability to identify train position is particularly important, TagMaster explains, because the train has to be stopped at a precise position in order to align with the platform. The project also employs the TagMaster Field Programmable version of the tag (as opposed to read-only tags), which will allow Bombardier to program tag location information in the field, as required by the site installation team. The total equipment value for the project exceeds 3.5 million Swedish kroner ($477,000). According to TagMaster, the company made the first equipment delivery in December 2009, and all remaining equipment—which includes more than 100 readers and 800 tags—is slated to be delivered and installed this year.

U.S. Air Force Selects ODIN to Monitor Passive RFID Network
The U.S. Air Force's Global Logistics Support Center has selected RFID software and solutions provider ODIN Technologies to monitor and maintain its entire network of passive RFID readers deployed within the continental United States (CONUS), Alaska and Hawaii. The contract covers nearly 150 passive RFID interrogators deployed across seven Air Force bases and one Navy base, according to ODIN, which will be responsible for updating firmware, determining proper configuration and keeping performance optimized. The contract, including two option years, extends until January 2013. The Air Force is utilizing RFID to improve business processes, the company reports, ranging from tracking hazardous materials to receiving goods from suppliers. ODIN will use its Web-based EasyMonitor software to monitor all of the RFID readers, as well as optimize their performance and perform periodic device maintenance. Introduced in 2008, EasyMonitor includes the EasyReader module for site layout and maintenance of the interrogators. EasyReader is designed to automate a variety of processes involved in installing RFID, including site design, bill of material development, configuration and acceptance testing. Other features of EasyMonitor may be added to the Air Force deployment, ODIN notes, if warranted by the contract. The bases covered under the contract are Charleston Air Force Base (AFB), in South Carolina; Dover AFB, in Delaware; McChord AFB, in Washington; McGuire AFB, in New Jersey; Norfolk Naval Base, in Virginia; Travis AFB, in California; Elmendorf AFB, in Alaska; and Hikam AFB, in Hawaii.

RFID Tag Maker Syrma Technology Joins Dash7 Alliance
Syrma Technology, an India-based company specializing in the design and manufacture of custom RFID tag solutions, has announced it has joined the Dash7 Alliance, an industry group working to expand the use of active RFID technology based on the ISO 18000-7 standard (also known as Dash7). The addition of Dash7 technology expands the capabilities that Syrma Technology has in support of its original equipment manufacturer (OEM) customer base in launching new solutions to market. Syrma Technology offers building-block engineering, manufacturing and testing services that, according to the company, enable OEMs to more effectively deploy Dash7 technology in new RFID and machine-to-machine communication products. The firm's existing RFID product offerings include passive tags and transponders in 125 kHz and 13.56 MHz frequencies. "Participation in the Dash7 Alliance will enable expansion of our RFID tag solutions to include Dash7-based technology products," said N.G. Sreedharan, Syrma Technology's engineering general manager, in a prepared statement. The alliance now has more than 40 members which consist of manufacturers, systems integrators, developers, regulators, academia, and end-users, including Analog Devices, Arira Design, Confidex, Dolphin RFID, Dow, Evigia Systems, Hi-G-Tek, Identec Solutions, KPC, Lockheed Martin, Lyngsoe Systems, Melexis, Michelin, Northrop Grumman, OnAsset Intelligence, RFind, Semtech, Savi Technology, ST Microelectronics and Texas Instruments. In November 2009, Savi launched a new licensing program that reduced the fees that companies pay for the right to manufacture hardware based on the ISO 18000-7 standard (see Savi's New Licensing Program Slashes Costs for ISO 18000-7).

SkyBitz Unveils Satellite-based Remote Asset-Management and -Tracking System
SkyBitz, a provider of satellite-based asset-tracking and information-management services, has introduced a new asset-management device based on its global locating system (GLS) technology. The SkyBitz GLS400 Mobile Terminal is designed for operations within the transportation, oil and gas, chemical, intermodal shipments, government and other markets that rely on heavy equipment or remote assets. Like SkyBitz's older tracking units, the GLS400 utilizes the company's proprietary application-specific integrated circuit (ASIC) that communicates with commercial satellites. The chip captures data from the satellite, then relays that information back to the central server at SkyBitz's data center in Virginia, via the satellite. The server calculates location based on the data it receives (including each unit's unique ID number), and then delivers the information to SkyBitz's Customer Insight application, a Web-based monitoring and information-management tool. The SkyBitz GLS400 was put through more than 160 independent tests to ensure product quality, the company reports. The system, powered by eight off-the-shelf AA lithium batteries, is encased in weatherproof Lexan polycarbonate, which has been used in space helmets worn by astronauts, SkyBitz indicates, as well as in stock-car windshields and helmets worn by NASCAR drivers. The GLS400 is designed to accommodate a suite of sensors, such as door, tank-level and tire-pressure sensors.
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