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RFID News Roundup

Invengo releases high-performance EPC Gen 2 RFID inlays for retail apps; Container Centralen deploys Confidex tags in 3.5 million plant trolleys; Telefónica, Visa Europe, la Caixa complete NFC-enabled Spanish mobile shopping project; Savi's RFID hardware passes global field tests for standards compliance; Motorola Solutions' MC9190-G handheld computer comes with built-in RFID tag; FIATECH publishes guide on RFID for construction industry.
Jan 13, 2011The following are news announcements made during the past week.

Invengo Releases High-Performance EPC Gen 2 RFID Inlays for Retail Apps
Invengo Technology Corp. has announced the launch of two new high-performance ultrahigh-frequency (UHF) EPC Gen 2 RFID inlays measuring 70 millimeters by 19 millimeters (2.8 inches by 0.7 inch). Designed so that they may be used as a stick-on label or encapsulated inside an apparel hangtag, the inlays can be employed to track item-level retail goods, the company reports. The inlays operate at a frequency of 840 to 960 MHz. One model incorporates Impinj's Monza 4 chip, while the other utilizes NXP Semiconductors' G2iL RFID chip. Both inlays offer high sensitivity, Invengo reports, and are suitable for tracking retail goods, such as denim and basics, when stacking goods in close proximity is required. According to the company, the RFID inlays have undergone stringent testing on stacks of up to 15 pairs of denim, and perform as well as—if not better than—previous inlay designs of a longer dimension. In addition, the inlays will now undergo independent tests conducted through the Arkansas Radio Compliance (ARC) Center at the University of Arkansas' RFID Research Center (see Arkansas Radio Compliance Center Aims to Avert Clashing Requirements). "A key challenge came when we were asked to demonstrate a read from a tag which was in the middle of a stack of 15 pairs of denim jeans," said Philip Calderbank, Invengo's VP of sales and marketing in North America and Europe, in a prepared statement. "Our design engineers did not see this as possible until we had the release of the NXP Ucode G2iL and the Impinj Monza 4 chips. These chips offer a huge step in sensitivity and work to levels of -18dBm. Consider that the industry was working to a maximum of -15dBm just two years ago; now a -3dBm increase means that only half the power is needed to activate the chip." In addition to increased sensitivity, each new inlay offers its own unique properties, depending on the model used. More specifically, the XC-TF8032-C08 (the version with the G2iL chip) features an electronic article surveillance (EAS) alarm for item-level theft protection, a read-protect feature that allows for consumer privacy, and tag identification (TID) and Electronic Product Code (EPC) numbers that can be protected independently. While it does not actually hide the data, this feature restricts read access. It also features the ability to reduce read ranges, and supports 32-bit access and kill passwords (used to operate the read-protect feature). The XC-TF-C06 is available with any of Impinj's four Monza 4 chips (4D, 4E, 4QT and 4U). All four Monza 4 chips feature True3D antenna technology, removing blind spots, and thereby providing consistent read range regardless of tag orientation. With the 4QT chip, the tag offers full privacy controls of data stored on the tag (according to Calderbank, Impinj's 4QT technology hides its information in a fashion similar to how cells can be hidden in an Excel spreadsheet). With the Monza 4QT chip, the XC-TF-C06 tag offers 128 bits of EPC memory and 512 bits of user memory; with the Monza 4E version, it has 496 bits of EPC memory and 128 bits of user memory.

Container Centralen Deploys Confidex Tags in 3.5 Million Plant Trolleys
Confidex, an RFID tag provider headquartered in Tampere, Finland, has announced that its custom-designed special ultrahigh-frequency (UHF) EPC Gen 2 RFID tags have been fully deployed by horticulture logistics supplier Container Centralen's "Operation Chip It!" RFID initiative. Confidex developed and delivered the tags to IBM Denmark, which has been working on the initiative, and this tag is currently being used as an electronic seal (e-seal) by Container Centralen on its fleet of 3.5 million plant trolleys (or CC Containers) in Europe (see Container Centralen Says It's Ready to Roll Out RFID in Europe). Container Centralen is utilizing the RFID tags as part of its efforts to better control its inventory of CC Containers used to transport plants, as well as display them in retail stores, and to reduce the shrinkage and counterfeiting of those containers. The firm had originally planned to have all of its CC Containers tagged by February 2010, but in response to requests for additional time from its customers (various members of the horticultural supply chain), the cutoff date was postponed to Nov. 1, 2010, and then extended again, to Jan. 10, 2011. "This is the largest UHF RFID tag implementation in RTIs (Returnable Transit Items) worldwide and also the largest purchase order of EPC Gen 2 specialty tags ever," said Torbjörn Andersson, Confidex's VP of sales, in a prepared statement. By utilizing its patent-pending tag design, Confidex developed an RFID e-seal that can securely authenticate the origin of the CC Container, and that meets tough customer requirements. This anti-tampering feature, Confidex notes, was achieved without compromising the small tag size and read-performance requirements of logistics operations. The e-seals are identified and verified with RFID handheld devices supplied by Nordic ID and other companies.

Telefónica, Visa Europe, la Caixa Complete NFC-enabled Spanish Mobile Shopping Project
Telecommunications services provider Telefónica, Spanish mobile-services provider la Caixa and Visa Europe have announced their completion of what they describe as Spain's first mobile-payment project. The three companies say the initiative—which lasted six months in the Barcelona-area town of Sitges, and involved the Sitges Town Council, Samsung and Ingenico—indicates that there is wide acceptance of contactless payment technology. The success of the initiative, dubbed "Mobile Shopping Sitges 2010," has prompted the companies involved to keep their infrastructure at merchants and customers in Sitges indefinitely. Mobile payment could be rolled out massively throughout Spain over the next three to five years, the partners report. The initiative entailed shopping via a mobile phone equipped with Near Field Communication (NFC) technology, with approximately 1,500 individuals and 500 merchant customers of la Caixa and Telefónica participating. During the pilot, la Caixa issued a Visa card that was placed on the SIM cards of each user's mobile phone, making the same banking service available as if that customer used a bankcard. It also equipped participating merchants with payment terminals. Of the customers participating, 90 percent utilized their phones to make payments, while 80 percent of merchants in the project carried out transactions using this system. Moreover, the companies note, customers carried out 30 percent more e-transactions, with a 23 percent increase in average purchase per user with their cards. Users mostly made micro-payments with their phones—60 percent of the purchases were for amounts equal to or less than €20 ($27), though there were also many for larger amounts, and 75 percent were made during working days. Mobile shoppers made the largest number of purchases at supermarkets (57 percent) and restaurants (14 percent). Also noteworthy, according to the companies, was the technology's acceptance by all groups of people. The average age of customers using their mobile phones to pay for their purchases was 46. The project also found that participants were satisfied with the service's usability, with the majority of customers considering the system to be quick and easy. What's more, the companies report, 85 percent of users indicated they considered the protocols for operating with the NFC system to be sufficiently secure, and participating merchants considered it to be flexible and fast. The intention to use the system in the future was also high—90 percent of users indicated they would continue to use their mobile phone for normal payment.

Savi's RFID Hardware Passes Global Field Tests for Standards Compliance
Savi Technology has announced that its RFID hardware recently passed field tests conducted by the Pacific Northwest National Laboratory (PNNL), an independent testing authority working on behalf of the U.S. Department of Defense (DOD), as well as interoperability tests undertaken by the Dash7 Alliance, a nonprofit industry consortium that promotes the use of the ISO 18000-7 standard for wireless sensor networking. Using its tests, Savi reports, PNNL "verified and validated" that the company's RFID tags and readers meet the new ISO 18000-7 requirements under the DOD's $429 million RFID III contract, a competitively bid indefinite-delivery indefinite-quantity contract. The RFID III contract calls for active 433.92 MHz RFID tags and interrogators compliant with the ISO 18000-7 standard, established by the U.S. Army on behalf of all U.S. armed services (see U.S. Defense Department Picks Four for RFID III). The PNNL tests were performed several months ago in the state of Washington, according to Mark Nelson, a spokesman for Savi Technology. The tags were tested in multiple combinations, and while traveling through a reader field created by mounting readers on a truck. The tests were performed multiple times to ensure reliability, Nelson says. Savi's products achieved Dash7 Certified status in tests conducted last spring during a testing event known as PlugFest (see RFID News Roundup: Damco Joins Dash7 Alliance) and administered by Met Laboratories, an independent testing authority working with the alliance. More recently, Nelson says, following those tests, Savi participated in testing held as part of interoperability and conformance test methods (based on the ISO 18047-7 standard) that are captured in Dash7 specifications, and that form the basis of the Dash7 certification program launched in September 2010. To date, he says, Savi is the only vendor that has brought products to the Dash7 alliance for this type of testing. The Savi products were submitted to extensive testing, conducted at a MET Laboratories facility in Baltimore, Md. MET Laboratories, he explains, used an automated testing tool platform that simulates both reader and tag performance activity, and that can be used to interrogate or send commands to the tag or reader, and then measure responses to check whether they're in conformance with the ISO 18000-7 standards. Dozens of tests were conducted on both Savi tags and readers, he says.

Motorola Solutions' MC9190-G Handheld Computer Comes With Built-in RFID Tag
Motorola Solutions Inc. recently unveiled its Next Generation Enterprise Mobility solutions, designed to address growth in mobile workers and facilitate more accurate and real-time asset visibility, with an initial focus on the retail sector. Among those solutions was the MC9190-G, a new industrial mobile computer that includes a built-in EPC Gen 2 passive RFID tag to help customers track their MC9190-Gs throughout their enterprise—thereby eliminating lost or misplaced devices. The MC9190-G series of industrial mobile computers provides a multitude of keypad and scan engine options, including a new long-range imaging option that offers standard 1-D and 2-D bar code reading capability from up to 30 feet away, as well as image-capture functionality. This is not Motorola's first handheld reader with a built-in RFID chip; in November 2009, the company released its MC3100 series with a similar chip (see Motorola Embeds RFID Tags in Its Handheld Computers). The MC9190-G is not available with an RFID reader at this time, but Motorola Solutions spokesman Bill Abelson says, "We will evaluate and plan appropriately based on customer requirements." The MC9090-G, which became available with an RFID reader in mid-2010, is "still the leading product in its class," Abelson says, "and there have been a number of enhancements made to this product during the past year to serve the needs of the market."

FIATECH Publishes Guide on RFID for Construction Industry
FIATECH, an industry consortium of companies from the industrial, power and retail markets that, of necessity, build large assets such as refineries, power plants, large commercial buildings or manufacturing facilities, has published a guide designed to help businesses through the process of accessing and mastering the requirements of RFID and applying it on a construction site to leverage the technology's full potential. The publication, entitled "RFID for Materials Management and Productivity Improvement," is a collaborative effort, compiled from information on products from manufacturers, data from capital projects industry companies, input from experts in the RFID technology field, standards from global organizations, and contributions from academic institutions. According to FIATECH, the construction industry is only just beginning to realize the benefits of radio frequency identification. "The current material available for implementing RFID technology centers on the manufacturing and retail industries," explained Todd Sutton, business unit manager at Zachry Construction Corp., a FIATECH member company, in a prepared statement. "The benefits and true potential of implementing this technology are virtually untapped by the construction industry because the industry as a whole has not seen the value it can provide. I see 'RFID for Materials Management and Productivity Improvement' as a concise resource for accessing the requirements, implementation, and usage of RFID on a construction job site." Copies of the book can be ordered here, at a cost of $70 apiece for the general public, or $50 for FIATECH members and students.
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