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RFID News Roundup
Invengo raises $108 million in private-placement stock offering; IDBlue unveils RFID starter kit for smartphones and tablets; GS1 Taiwan expands e-seal initiative; Texas Instruments announces low-power contactless receiver; Identive Group's TagStar Systems expands Tag-on-Metal line, reports growing demand for RFID.
Aug 11, 2011—The following are news announcements made during the past week.
Invengo Raises $108 Million in Private-Placement Stock Offering
In the culmination of a strategy to raise investment capital, announced in November 2010, Chinese RFID firm Invengo Technology Corp. Ltd. has announced that it has raised 694.1 million yuan ($108.5 million) through a private placement of 36,387,000 shares, at a price of 19.26 yuan ($3) per share. Invengo reports that the effort is an indication of the investors' confidence in its business prospects, and that it will constitute an important step in the company's goal to consolidate its lead in Greater China and the global market. As the company stated upon announcing the initiative (see RFID News Roundup: Invengo Raises Investment Capital), all proceeds will be invested across Invengo's business. According to Tim Newsom, the company's VP of sales and marketing for America and Europe, the investment enables Invengo to increase its footprint in western markets. "We will add larger facilities for our lab, quality testing and a warehouse near Washington, D.C., in Q4 this year," he says, "and we will again increase the inventory we hold, in response to the growth in the market, answering demand from our customers." The firm also expects to develop additional inlays focused on RFID's growth segments, Newsom notes, such as retail and item-level tracking, transportation and logistics, recreation and travel, and brand and pharmaceutical authentication and traceability. "We believe this investment is a strong indication that even during these challenging economic times, Invengo's position as an industry leader in UHF [ultrahigh-frequency] RFID will continue to grow," he states, "and our global position will come to the same leadership level that we currently hold in China. You certainly can expect to see continued growth and investment in our market position over the course of the coming two years."
IDBlue Unveils RFID Starter Kit for Smartphones and Tablets
IDBlue, a provider of mobile RFID readers for smartphones and tablets, has introduced an RFID starter kit to aid in the creation of RFID-enabled mobile applications, such as those used by field inspectors. The kit is focused on devices that employ Apple's iOS platform, including the iPhone, the iPad and the iPod Touch, with future support planned for the Android platform, developed by Google. The starter kit includes an IDBlue mobile RFID reader, sample RFID tags and two six-month licenses for Zerion Software's iFormBuilder mobile platform. The kit, which includes sample forms to organize and manage data collected by the IDBlue reader, guides users through the initial setup of a complete mobile RFID solution, as well as the development of custom applications specific to their business. To get started, customers can download a free IDBlue preview app from IDBlue's Web site. The app includes a built-in mobile RFID simulator, explains Mark Murphy, IDBlue's marketing director, designed to let users explore the possible uses and benefits of radio frequency identification, without the need to purchase hardware. With the preview app, a customer will have a fully functioning "iFormBuilder RFID" account, with a single user account and the ability to create up to two forms. The customer can then opt to purchase the RFID starter kit, Murphy says, which provides all of the rapid form-building capabilities of the iForms platform, with fully integrated RFID capabilities, thereby enabling the customer to create RFID applications for its smartphones and tablets. For example, the customer can use the platform to create, edit and assign tasks or work orders that can be carried out in mobile field inspections. With real-time notification, mobile workers can receive assignments wherever they are located, while RFID ensures that the work is performed on the correct assets. The kit is available for a limited time at a price of $999. IDBlue also offers RFID Pro, which allows customers to scale the solution to the required size, and includes five user licenses and two IDBlue readers; incremental users can be added in bundles of five users and two readers, for an annual fee of $3,000. Additional interrogators can be purchased for $399 apiece.
GS1 Taiwan Expands E-seal Initiative
GS1 Taiwan has expanded its RFID initiative with Taiwan Customs and the country's major ports to include active RFID. The Cargo Movement Security project launched in 2009 to investigate the use of an automated, RFID-based electronic seal (e-seal) system (see Taiwan Customs Officials Adopt RFID-enabled Container Seals), in an effort to eliminate the need for Taiwan Customs officers to escort containers from carrier yards to container terminals. Work on the project will continue through 2012, the organization reports, so that Taiwan Customs can upgrade the RFID e-seal system's capabilities and fully extend it to import, export, transit and trans-shipment containers located at the island's major ports. The initial project involved EPC Gen 2 RFID; the team plans to add active RFID e-seal technology by the end of this year, for security management of in-land transportation. According to GS1 Taiwan's James Perng, the Taiwanese government wants to leverage both active and passive RFID tags at all ports in Taiwan, in order to better ensure cargo and container safety, while reducing costs to logistics and shipping firms. E-seals incorporating active RFID technology and complying with the ISO 18185 e-seal standard will be used for the trans-shipment of containers between the country's Keelung and Taipei harbors, as well as for air cargo at Taiwan Taoyuan International Airport, and at a terminal located outside the airport's restricted area. In addition, GS1 Taiwan and the Taiwanese government have submitted a new RFID passive e-seal candidate standard to EPCglobal; the submission is a result of the organization's work on the e-seal project. "It's derived from e-seal deployment and the present business requirements of the industry," Perng states. Based on the submission, EPCglobal established the e-Seal Mission Specific Working Group (e-Seal MSWG) in April 2011. "This group is creating requirements and changes to the standards, to improve the management of container tracking at the seaport by utilizing EPC-encoded RFID to facilitate security, visibility and traceability," Perng says, noting that the work is ongoing, and that the group needs more participants. The e-Seal MSWG will take up to two years to accomplish all of its tasks, which include establishing e-seal requirements for passive ultrahigh-frequency (UHF) and active tags, a new version of the Tag Data Standard (TDS) and the Tag Data Translation (TDT) standard for e-seal conformance requirements, and prototype testing of the standards.
Texas Instruments Announces Low-Power Contactless Receiver
Texas Instruments (TI) has announced what it claims is the industry's lowest-power contactless short-range communication transceiver for Near Field Communication (NFC) technology. Suitable for infrastructure devices, the transceiver—known as the TRF7970A—extends battery life up to two times longer than competitive products, the company reports, providing eight selectable power modes ranging from less than 1 µA (in power-down mode) to 120 mA (in full-power mode). The transceiver comes with configurable software designed to help developers get started more quickly, and the royalty-free stacks are compatible across a broad range of ultra-low-power MSP microcontrollers. The transceiver supports peer-to-peer communication, used in medical equipment and payments applications, for example, as well as in card emulation. It also supports reader-writer capability, two crystal oscillator frequencies (13.56 MHz or 27.12M Hz) and a 128-byte "first in, first out" (FIFO) buffer for NFC communications, designed to enable the creation of products capable of handling large data transfers. The TRF7970A transceiver is compliant with the ISO 18092 and ISO/IEC 21481 NFC RFID standards, and supports multiple reader-writer protocols. It includes demonstration software stacks for reader-writer mode complying with the ISO 15693, ISO 18000-3, ISO 14443A/B and FeliCa RFID specifications. Available now, the TRF7970A NFC development kit costs $99.
TagStar Systems Expands Tag-on-Metal Product Line, Reports Growing Demand for RFID
TagStar Systems, a manufacturer of RFID inlays, has expanded its Tag-On-Metal (TOM) line with Near Field Communication (NFC) tags. TOM is a patented magnetic shielding technology developed by TagStar Systems, the company reports, enabling a tag's RFID signal to be read while the tag is attached directly to metallic surfaces and objects, by overcoming metal's weakening effect on RFID signals. The TOM inlays consist of a special, ultra-thin shielding layer laminated on a conventional NFC inlay. The shielding—available in various grades, and in a wide array of form, size and tag configurations—is designed for a variety of NFC and other application areas, such as mobile payments, production process control and traceability, counterfeit protection, and logistics and supply chain management. The first NFC TOM tag developed by TagStar Systems was built for a specific cashless-payment application being piloted by a banking customer, which TagStar Systems is not at liberty to name. The firm has since expanded the tag's configurations, and is now able to offer various versions of an NFC TOM tag for different applications. TagStar Systems offers its TOM tags for other applications and inlays as well, including inlays based on the ISO 15693 and ISO 18000-Mode2 (PJM) standards. Earlier this month, TagStar Systems' parent company, Identive Group, announced its second-quarter results (ended on June 30, 2011), reporting that revenue in that quarter was $25.6 million, up 21 percent from $21.2 million during the same period a year ago, and up 14 percent from $22.4 million compared to the first quarter of 2011. The company, which provides products, services and solutions for the security, identification and RFID industries, reports that sales in the second quarter were driven by a strong demand for identity-management solutions for consumer and citizen ID applications globally, as well as ongoing implementations of employee physical and IT access-control systems, offset by continued temporary project delays with some U.S. government customers. Sales highlights during the second quarter included 126 percent growth in the company's transponder division, fueled by the growing demand for core RFID inlays to support transit, library, pharmaceutical and NFC mobile applications, including more than seven million RFID inlays for the Los Angeles Metro. To meet increasing demand, Identive says it is expanding its production capacity for high-performance RFID products to support emerging applications, such as NFC tagging, mobile payments and pharmaceutical tracking.
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