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Alien Technology Announces New IC, Handheld Readers and Inlays

Peter Green, the company's new CEO, says his aim is to launch Alien's products and services that cater to specific vertical applications.
By Mary Catherine O'Connor
Apr 11, 2011Alien Technology is unveiling a passel of new products—an addition to its ultrahigh-frequency (UHF) Gen 2 integrated circuit family, a line of handheld readers, and four RFID inlays—at this week's RFID Journal LIVE! 2011 conference, being held on Apr. 12-14, in Orlando, Fla.

The Higgs 4 integrated circuit is the newest member of Alien's widely used Higgs family of RFID tag chips. The company has migrated much of the performance and functionality of the Higgs 3 model into the Higgs 4 IC—though with the Higgs 4, says Mike Frieswyk, Alien's VP of sales and marketing, the company has made improvements to the chip's RF-sensitivity and noise-interference capabilities, which he says will boost the reliability and performance of the RFID tags in which the chip is used. The major change in the Higgs 4 version is a decrease in the chip's overall memory (512 bits in Higgs 4, versus 800 bits in Higgs3), and how that memory is allotted.

Alien's handheld EPC readers feature a 3.5-inch color touch screen and a built-in bar-code reader.
Whereas the Electronic Product Code (EPC) portion of the memory bank in a Higgs 3 chip (which Alien will continue to manufacture) can be configured from 96 bits up to 480 bits, the EPC field in a Higgs 4 chip is fixed at 128 bits. The Higgs 3 model has 512 bits of user memory, while Higgs 4 has 128 bits. (Like its predecessor, the Higgs 4 version stores a 64-bit unique tag ID, and sets aside 32 bits of memory for an access password and another 32 bits for a kill password.)

"We looked at how our customers were using the chip's memory," Frieswyk explains. "In 90 percent of the usage models, they weren't using [all of] the user memory." Reducing the user memory in the Higgs 4, he says, will make tags utilizing that chip more affordable than those using the Higgs 3 iteration, since memory equals cost. End users who want more than 128 bits of user memory can employ tags with Higgs 3 chips instead.

Alien intends to make samples of the Higgs 4 chip available in June 2011, with general availability scheduled for late September. The company, however, has yet to release pricing information.

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