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RFID News Roundup

Lenovo offers ThinkPads with NFC module from NXP Semiconductor, Toppan Printing; Zebra unveils next-gen ultra-wideband real-time locating system; U.S. Marine Corps deploys more RFID tracking kits to forces in Afghanistan; Buffalo, N.Y., Metro to deploy TagMaster RFID train-tracking solution; CAEN RFID announces new UHF desktop reader; more than 2 billion RFID tags to be sold this year, IDTechEx study says; HID Global, Inside Contactless team up on secure NFC mobile phones.
Jul 15, 2010The following are news announcements made during the past week.

Lenovo Offers ThinkPads With NFC Module From NXP Semiconductor, Toppan Printing
Computer company Lenovo has begun selling ThinkPad laptop computers with built-in Near Field Communication (NFC) RFID reader modules, available as an option with Lenovo's T410, T5120 and W510 laptop models. The TN33MUE002L reader module, jointly developed by NXP Semiconductors and Toppan Forms, is built with NXP's PN533 NFC transmission module. The system is compatible with contactless smart cards and RFID tags made with NXP's Mifare RFID chips, as well as Sony's FeliCa RFID chips, which are commonly used in Japan for payment or transportation purposes. Mifare and FeliCa RFID chips comply with the ISO 14443A and ISO 14443B standards, respectively. NFC technology operates at 13.56 MHz, and combines the functions of a contactless card or RFID inlay (FeliCa and Mifare), an RFID reader and peer-to-peer functionality. Lenovo laptops that have the TN33MUE002L reader module can be utilized for NFC-enabled security applications, such as those involving a badge or ID card containing an RFID chip complying with the ISO 14443 A or B standard. When such an RFID tag is presented to a laptop's module, it reads the tag's unique ID number, and the laptop reader module software then determines whether that tag's owner is permitted to use the computer. Retailers could also use the RFID-enabled Lenovo laptops as secure-payment devices for customers with NFC-enabled credit or loyalty cards. Since the modules were first made available three months ago, Lenovo reports that it has sold 1,000 RFID-enabled ThinkPads. Lenovo laptops containing the modules are commercially available globally.

Zebra Unveils Next-Gen Ultra-Wideband Real-Time Locating System
Zebra Enterprise Solutions (ZES), a division of Zebra Technologies, has announced it will launch a next-generation real-time locating system (RTLS) in the fall of 2010. The RTLS, known as Dart Ultra-Wideband (UWB), is built on the current Sapphire UWB RTLS core capabilities, but will provide a common platform for UWB active RFID tags for personnel and equipment location tracking, in operations in the United States, Canada and the European Union (EU) markets. Specifically, the Dart UWB portfolio is complaint with FCC 15.250 and the new Draft ETSI EN 302 500-1 V2.1.1 regulations, according to Craig Fransen, Zebra Enterprise Solutions' product manager. Upon the release of Dart UWB, he says, the portfolio is targeted to be sellable in the United States and Canada, as well as EU and European Free Trade Association (EFTA) nations, with additional countries that align with these UWB regulations to be certified on a continuous basis going forward. In addition, the company notes, DART UWB features improved overall system robustness, allowing for both indoor and outdoor operation in the harshest industrial environments. It can be used in environments that have wide temperature ranges (-40 to +70 degrees Celsius, or -40 to +21 degrees Fahrenheit), and features an external bulkhead sensor combined with a weatherproof antenna that allows the sensor to be placed within a weatherproof enclosure for outdoor use. ZES will also offer this bulkhead sensor in a pre-assembled ATEX-certified enclosure, Fransen notes, providing similar performance in extreme, regulated environments, such as the oil and gas and aerospace industries. Finally, Dart UWB offers improved ease of use, as well as system flexibility and scalability. It furthers the number of trackable assets in a system, for example, thereby increasing hub throughput and capacity by approximately 40 percent compared with Sapphire. Dart tags will include a low-frequency (LF) interface, enabling configuration of the tag in terms of on/off state, blink rate and—in the future—payload capabilities. According to Fransen, ZES has also extended its current RTLS planning and configuration tool, System Builder, to include Dart UWB attributes, enhancing a customer's ability to pre-plan a site and populate these site attributes directly to the hub for improved setup.

U.S. Marine Corps Deploys More RFID Tracking Kits to Forces in Afghanistan
The U.S. Marine Corps has placed an order with Savi Technology for 50 Portable Deployment Kits (PDKs) to locate, track and manage RFID-tagged supplies regardless of location or time, in support of expeditionary force surges in Afghanistan. The PDK integrates, in a single carrying case, several wireless-tracking and data-collection technologies, including 1-D and 2-D bar codes, active 433 MHz RFID tags (complying with the ISO 18000-7 standard) and GPS location systems with satellite communications. It also includes a laptop, a handheld computer, a label printer, software and communications equipment necessary for asset tracking, as well as cargo and personnel manifesting. The PDK's mobile RFID reader is used to read active 433 MHz tags attached to weapons, vehicles and other military assets. It can be taken into the field for military use, and is designed to withstand a drop of up to 4 feet. According to Savi, this most recent order from the USMC Automatic Identification Technology office brings the total number of kits procured to nearly 1,300 over the past several years by the U.S. Department of Defense (DOD), the National Guard, NATO and allied international defense forces. The DOD first began utilizing the PDKs in 2005, and had approximately 300 of the kits deployed by 2007 (see U.S. Military Ramps Up Adoption of Satcom-RFID Kits).

Buffalo, N.Y., Metro to Deploy TagMaster RFID Train-Tracking Solution
The U.S. division of AnsaldoBreda, a rail transport engineering firm based in Italy, has announced it has selected TagMaster AB, a Swedish manufacturer of RFID solutions for rail applications, to install an RFID system as part of the rebuild program of Metro Rail in Buffalo, N.Y. The solution's installation will be carried out by TagMaster's North American division, TagMaster North America. The company's solution leverages 2.45 GHz RFID technology, and will include its heavy-duty readers mounted on trains to provide location information to an onboard passenger information system, and to between-car barriers, which need to be activated when trains approach stations. Between-car barriers create a deterrent to prevent someone from accidentally entering the space between the cars while the train is at rest, thereby reducing the risk of injury. The RFID system's ability to identify train position is particularly important, TagMaster explains, because the vehicles can change direction on track sections according to varying route schedules, as well as travel on single-track sections. The project also employs the TagMaster Field Programmable version of the tag (as opposed to read-only tags), which will enable AnsaldoBreda to program tag location information in the field, as required by the site-installation team. The equipment value for the project exceeds 1 million Swedish kroner (about $137,000), according to TagMaster. AnsaldoBreda began installing the RFID equipment on the Metro vehicles last month, with a subsequent delivery schedule linked to their rebuild program through to 2012.

CAEN RFID Announces New UHF Desktop Reader
CAEN RFID, a European supplier of ultrahigh-frequency (UHF) RFID products, has announced the availability of a new desktop reader as part of its easy2read family. The reader, called the Slate, is a multiregional UHF interrogator compliant with both European and U.S. regulatory environments. It features an integrated circular polarized antenna for short- to medium-range applications, the company reports, and is powered and controlled directly by a USB cable, thus allowing it to read EPC Class 1 Gen 2 UHF RFID tags in a desktop environment. The device is designed for use in point-of-sale, document tracking, access-control and other similar applications, and can also be used as a building block for smart shelves and smart displays for retail applications, the company reports.

More Than 2 Billion RFID Tags to Be Sold This Year, IDTechEx Study Says
This year, 2.31 billion RFID tags will be sold worldwide, up from 1.98 billion in 2009, according to a new study by market research firm IDTechEx, entitled "RFID Forecasts, Players & Opportunities 2011-2021." The RFID market—including tags, readers, software and services for RFID cards, labels, fobs and all other form factors—is estimated to be worth $5.63 billion in 2010, IDTechEx reports. Last year, the company valued the RFID market at $5.03 billion. Much of the growth in this period is due to an increase in the use of passive ultrahigh-frequency (UHF) tags, the research firm indicates, adding that last year, 550 million passive UHF tags were sold, and that the quantity sold is expected to rise to at least 800 million this year. For passive UHF tags, the biggest category of use is asset tracking in many closed-loop systems. The study points to apparel tagging as one such asset-tracking application, and cites U.K. retailer Marks & Spencer's use of RFID. The retailer will use almost 200 million UHF tags this year, IDTechEx reports. High-frequency (HF) RFID-enabled contactless cards make up the biggest sector, with 450 million tags, while HF RFID tags for transit ticketing are expected to come in at about 380 million tags. As for RFID interrogators, the market is expected to grow from $0.92 billion in 2010 to $4.99 billion in 2021. North America will purchase the most RFID tags this year, according to the study, with 43 percent of tags expected to be sold and used in North America. But in the future, IDTechEx notes, China will be a huge consumer of the technology. During the past year, RFID events in China have been five times bigger by attendance than the largest RFID events in the United States and Europe. Active RFID also continues to grow, and that market (including active tags and real-time location systems) is expected to be worth approximately $610 million in 2010.

HID Global, Inside Contactless Team Up on Secure NFC Mobile Phones
Secure identity solutions provider HID Global and contactless chipmaker Inside Contactless have announced plans to embed access control and identity credentials in Near Field Communication (NFC) controllers for mobile phones. This, the two companies reports, will open the door for a variety of new applications for NFC-enabled phones, such as using the phones for physical access control, as well as secure PC log-on, time and attendance monitoring, equipment and material checkout, authorized access to office equipment and manufacturing machinery, private-label retail payments, prepaid transit passes, and customer loyalty and membership programs. Inside Contactless is currently in the process of updating its NFC controller to implement the iClass command set and protocol of the iClass 13.56 MHz read/write contactless smart card technology that will allow it to communicate with HID's iClass readers, and iClass support will be a feature of all of the company's future NFC products. According to the companies, any mobile phone utilizing Inside Contactless' iClass-enabled NFC controller with an associated secure element will be able to support the use of iClass virtual credentials.
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