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RFID News Roundup

Ennovasys announces RFID-GPS solution to improve school safety; medical body area networks (MBANs) to drive wireless sensor growth; Metratec intros new UHF RFID tunnel for logistics; Glacier Computer launches line of RFID-enabled rugged tablets; GE Capital launches contactless credit card in New Zealand; Nordic ID partners with Midwich on distribution agreement.
Aug 18, 2011The following are news announcements made during the past week.

Ennovasys Announces RFID-GPS Solution to Improve School Safety
Ennovasys, a provider of enterprise mobility solutions, has introduced TrakSchool, a safety and security management solution that leverages RFID, GPS and GPRS to help both parents and school authorities keep track of the whereabouts of children under their care. The solution includes an integrated RFID-GPS device that is used for data collection and monitoring, and the information is then sent through GPRS to a server hosted in a cloud-computing model for processing. The TrakSchool application provides real-time visibility of children, a location manager for planning, scheduling and rerouting the school buses, a trip planner, integration with school management systems, and mapping functions using Google and other commercial maps. It also provides on-time alerts in the form of SMS and email to keep parents and school authorities informed, the company says. The device supports either active or passive RFID technology. "Active comes with longer read range and passive with shorter reader range," explains Uday Shankar, Ennovasys' CEO. The active RFID technology works at 2.45 GHz and has a battery life of four to six years for the ID tags, Shankar notes. The passive readers support the ISO 18000-6B and Gen 2 specifications. "Depending on the type the customer chooses, the correct RFID reader will be integrated with the GPS unit. Active technology is preferred since it guarantees reads without any manual interventions. Passive is recommended where children are required to swipe or go near the reader to get a read," Shankar says. He adds that the cost of an active RFID implementation can increase if the student population is large, in which case a passive RFID solution might be more cost-effective. "Another factor to consider is the age of the children, for smaller children, active is preferred as it is difficult to make them to follow the process. Another factor to look for is whether you need continuous reads or only during the entry or exit." Ennovasys is working with Chinese RFID manufacturer New Force Communication on the development of the integrated RFID-GPS device, and is currently actively marketing the solution in India and the Middle East with plans to expand its market to the United States, Canada and the United Kingdom, Shankar says. Ennovasys is currently piloting the solution in the Middle East, but is not at liberty to release project details at this time.

Medical Body Area Networks (MBANs) to Drive Wireless Sensor Growth
A new study from market research firm ABI Research estimates that the worldwide market for Wi-Fi-based access point hardware, software and services in the health-care market will grow to $1.34 billion by 2016. The study, "Wireless Technologies in Professional Healthcare," examines the size of the market for Wi-Fi-based hardware and services. Wi-Fi has already been widely adopted in the U.S. health-care market, but ABI Research says the use of the technology is growing in other regions of the world. Wi-Fi-embedded consumer devices are also making their way into professional health-care locations, furthering the demand for access to professional healthcare Wi-Fi networks, and the firm expects the number of smartphone and handheld computing devices leveraging professional health-care Wi-Fi networks to grow by close to 20 percent in this market in 2011. Another driver is the growth of what ABI Research deems a new generation of "medical body area networks" (MBANs), which the firm says are positioned to also leverage Wi-Fi-based connectivity through gateway devices that take advantage of Wi-Fi-based connectivity to support mobile monitoring capability. According to ABI Research principal analyst Jonathan Collins, MBAN devices don't compete with existing Wi-Fi-based devices from real time location system (RTLS) providers such as Ekahau and AeroScout. "MBAN devices will be wearable sensors with limited connectivity range and low battery usage, unlike the Wi-Fi-based offerings from those players. MBANs are actually separate and different from Wi-Fi. They are ultra-low-power short-range wireless protocols such as Bluetooth Low Energy, 802.15.6 , 802.15.2 and proprietary offerings," Collins says. He adds that MBAN devices do not connect directly to Wi-Fi but require some kind of gateway devices that can communicate both to the MBAN device and the Wi-Fi-based network. ABI Research estimates that the global MBAN market within professional health care will see nearly 30 million devices shipped annually by 2016; the MBANs market is an emerging market with shipments last year of under 1 million within the professional health-care market worldwide, Collins notes. North America is the largest region for adoption. Collins says there are multiple drivers for MBANs, including the need to reduce labor-intensive practices currently used to collect data regarding a patient's condition. "Wearable sensors using MBANs mean the potential for longer monitoring or full-time monitoring without requiring a patient to be tethered to a machine," he says. "Longer and more comfortable data collection is better for the patient and the health-care provider." Also, MBANs can record and communicate patient status automatically and electronically, thus reducing errors incurred when data has to be read by staff and then entered into a digital health record.

Metratec Intros New UHF RFID Tunnel for Logistics
RF specialist Metratec has introduced a new generation of UHF EPC Gen 2 RFID tunnels, the UT55 and UT75, that the company says are designed to reach a nearly 100 percent read rate even under difficult conditions. This includes reading 300 or more UHF transponders with unknown orientation inside a box, the presence of metal between the objects or reading tags applied to bottles of liquid, the company says. The improvements are based on a new construction principle developed and patented in cooperation with the Fraunhofer IFF research institute in Magdeburg, Germany. "Thanks to continuously decreasing prices for UHF tags as well as some big RFID projects having a signaling effect, more and more companies evaluate using item-level RFID to optimize their supply chain," said Metratec's CEO, Klaas Dannen, in a prepared statement. "The key point in these projects is the read rate—only when 99 percent or more of the tags are found you can fully rely on the system and achieve the planned cost savings. This is the goal we want to reach with our UT product family." Metratec believes that the UT55 and UT75 are ideal for the pharmaceutical and fashion industries. The UT55 features inside dimensions of 55 centimeters by 55 centimeters, which allows scanning boxes with a standard size of 60x40x40 cm, and the UT75 has inside dimensions of 75 centimeters by 75 centimeters, which allows for the scanning of half-sized Euro pallets. Each version includes all the necessary RFID components, and also features integrated light sensors for entry/exit detection and a manual roll conveyor. Optionally, a motorized conveyor belt can be integrated, the company notes. According to Dannen, Metratec's strategic partner, XQS-Service, which develops RFID-based track and trace solutions for the pharmaceutical industry, is currently supplying the new tunnels to its parent company, drug wholesaler Max Pharma, which is utilizing RFID to track medicines internally (see German Drug Company Tracks Products With UHF Tags).

Glacier Computer Launches Line of RFID-enabled Rugged Tablets
Glacier Computer, a developer of rugged industrial computing solutions, has announced the addition of several new rugged tablets to their existing product line of vehicle and fixed mount terminals, handhelds, and wearable rugged computers. The tablets, which come in several different sizes, offer standard configurations that are loaded with wireless 802.11 b/g/n, bar-code imaging, camera, an HF 13.56 MHz RFID reader complying with the ISO 15693 standard, and sunlight readable and resistive touch screens. Windows XP or 7 Pro is also standard; all have an IP54 rating, which signifies the tablets are dust- and water-resistant. The T570K offers a 7-inch display with ultra-low power consumption and dual hot-swappable batteries, providing up to eight hours of use. The T508 tablet is designed with ultra-low power consumption and dual hot-swappable batteries, providing up to eight hours of continuous usage. It features a 2-D bar-code scanner, a camera, multi-network connectivity with Bluetooth, a Gobi 3000 3G module, optional GPS and an 8-inch display. The T510F (in gray) and TF10H (in white) each features a 10.4-inch display, 2-D bar-code scanner, Bluetooth, a GOBI 3000 3G module, front and back cameras, as well as a hot-swappable battery. The T510K portable tablet weighs only 2.42 lbs and has a 10.4-inch display, a 23-key keypad, a 2-D bar-code scanner, a camera, 802.11 b/g/n, Bluetooth and a Gobi 3000 3G module. Dual hot-swappable batteries provide up to nine hours. All are available now.

GE Capital Launches Contactless Credit Card in New Zealand
GE Capital New Zealand has introduced to the New Zealand market the Gem Visa credit card, an RFID-enabled contactless credit card. With the card, New Zealanders can make purchases of $80 or less by simply waving the card over the contactless terminal. Purchases over $80 can be made with a signature or PIN authorization. Gem Visa also offers consumers long-term interest-free promotional finance (up to six months on every Visa purchase over $250) at around 2,500 retail stores and health-care practices nationwide. According to GE Capital, Gem Visa cards are the first payment cards in New Zealand to incorporate the Visa payWave. Gem Visa cards are based on the secure EMV chip technology and payment information includes an encrypted security code that is unique to each transaction, the company notes. The EMV acronym comes from the initial letters of Europay, MasterCard and Visa—the three companies that originally cooperated to develop the standard. Retailers around the country are installing Visa payWave contactless acceptance terminals to speed up customer service and shorten queues at checkouts, the company notes. "We are proud to be supporting GE Capital with the launch of this innovative new product. With one wave of the card we're enabling merchants and consumers to speed up the transaction time when accepting or making a purchase," Visa country manager Sean Preston said in a prepared statement. "Studies have shown transaction times can be up to three times faster with contactless technology than cash."

Nordic ID Partners with Midwich on Distribution Agreement
Nordic ID, a Finnish manufacturer of RFID handheld readers and other devices, has announced that Midwich, a U.K. technology distributor, will become the RFID company's U.K. distributor for its RFID and bar-code portfolio of handheld terminals. As part of the announcement, Midwich also announced that it is relocating its bar-code solutions division, Synergix, to its Diss, Norfolk, headquarters. The distribution agreement is designed to help Nordic ID broaden its U.K. distribution strategy, the company says, adding that Midwich's broad market approach of selling a variety of solutions beyond automated ID systems will help. "Midwich has tremendous credibility within the distribution sector, and resellers that have been previously benefited from Synergix's auto-id expertise can now also benefit from the fact that all of our products have been made available in-stock to Midwich, as our sole U.K. trade-only distributor. This is exactly what the reseller community required, good service, keen pricing and fantastic products," said Nordic ID's U.K. managing director, Mark Tailford, in a prepared statement. A trade-only distributor means Midwich will sell only to resellers and not directly to end user organizations.
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