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RFID News Roundup

Omni-ID announces 3-year warranty on its RFID tags; Xerafy intros tiny tags for surgical instruments, small tools; Austriamicrosystems announces high-performance NFC reader IC for payment, automotive apps; HID Global adds general-purpose UHF tags to its RFID portfolio; Rygg Maskin tags RFID for equipment management.
Nov 03, 2011The following are news announcements made during the past week.

Omni-ID Announces 3-year Warranty on Its RFID Tags
Omni-ID has announced a new three-year warranty program for its passive ultrahigh-frequency (UHF) RFID tag products. The company's customers will now benefit from a free extended warranty on its encased hard tag products, including the Prox, Flex, Max and Ultra product lines, all of which support the EPC Gen 2 RFID standard. The new extended warranty is a standard product-replacement assurance, which Omni-ID reports that it is able to offer due to its comprehensive product testing. During the company's product-development process, all tag models undergo testing via the Highly Accelerated Life Testing (HALT) program. Under this program, Omni-ID reports, the company puts a large sample of tags through a series of tests, including several weeks of exposure to extreme environmental conditions, as well as repeated cycling between high and low temperatures, ingression testing to insure waterproofing to indicated IP ratings, and high-impact mechanical blows. Once development is completed and a tag model moves to commercial production, each tag is tested at three points during the manufacturing process: a read test is conducted at the component level; a test in which the tag is written to and then re-read is performed; and finished tags are then read-tested at a far-field calibrated level, in order to validate tag performance in comparison with the required read range that Omni-ID indicates on each product's datasheet. Every Omni-ID tag is put through this three-point testing before it can be sold to a customer. "Asset tracking and other RFID applications require tags to function over many years," said George E. Daddis Jr., Omni-ID's CEO, in a prepared statement. "We recognize the cost of replacing a tag in the field is very high in both capital and human resources, no matter what the size of your business. Over the years, Omni-ID has been synonymous with quality and durability—this new program is just one more way we're ensuring that when end users need rock-solid RFID tag technology and assurance of supply that Omni-ID is the only choice."

Xerafy Intros Tiny Tags for Surgical Instruments, Small Tools
Xerafy has introduced its XS Series of RFID tags, which the company claims is the world's smallest passive EPC Gen 2 read-on-metal RFID tag, designed for source tagging of small tools and surgical instruments that had previously been impossible to tag. According to Xerafy, the XS Series tags are built to comply with U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) requirements for its Unique Device Identification initiative for medical devices to enable automatic tracking for improved productivity and reduced risks in foreign object debris (FOD), infection control and product recalls. The new tags, the company reports, offer 512 bits of user memory, are biocompatible to ensure safety in medical applications and have been tested to survive high temperatures during repeated autoclave cycles and industrial chemical washes that normally complicate the application of RFID devices. Not only do the XS Series tags have wide operating temperature ranges, -22 degrees to +185 degrees Fahrenheit (-30 degrees to +85 degrees Celsius), they can withstand temperature extremes ranging from -40 degrees to +302 degrees Fahrenheit (-40 degrees to +150 degrees Celsius). The XS is available in two form factors: the Dot XS and the Dash XS. The Dot XS is round, measuring 6 millimeters in diameter by 2.5 millimeters (0.2 inch by 0.1 inch) in thickness, and supports a read distance of 1.5 meters (4.9 feet). The Dash XS, measuring 12 millimeters by 3 millimeters by 2.2 millimeters (0.5 inch by 0.1 inch by 0.09 inch), and offers a read distance of 2 meters (6.6 feet). The tags can be mounted directly on metal parts, or be embedded in the metal at the point of manufacture. Headquartered in Hong Kong, Xerafy produces tags designed for extreme environments, such as those having high temperatures and a high metal content—for example, in the automotive manufacturing, aerospace, energy, IT and construction markets. Prior to the launch of the XS Series, Xerafy's smallest RFID-on-metal tags (in the X family) included the PicoX, a 512-bit rugged ultrahigh-frequency (UHF) RFID read-on-metal tag the size of a fingernail. Sample quantities of the new Xerafy XS tags are available now at $8 per tag, Xerafy reports, with production quantities available with a six-week lead time, for less than $5 per tag.

Austriamicrosystems Announces High-Performance NFC Reader IC for Payment, Automotive Apps
Austriamicrosystems has announced its AS3911 Near Field Communication (NFC) high-frequency (HF) RFID reader IC. According to Austriamicrosystems, the AS3911 IC has capabilities not yet available on the market, and is designed to enable a number of applications, including EMV payment cards, access control, automotive, NFC Infrastructure and ticketing. The reader IC has an on-chip capacitive sensor that requires only 5 µA of current, and can awaken in the presence of a tag—a feature, Austriamicrosystems claims, that allows for the lowest current consumption in the industry. There are reader chips on the market that offer tag detection, says Mark Dickson, Austriamicrosystems' marketing manager for RFID. "But they require the field to be on, as they need to poll for the presence of a tag, meaning a higher sleep current consumption," he states. "We use capacitive wakeup, which is unique on the market, allowing for a current consumption of around 5uA if polling every 100 milliseconds." In addition to the capacitive sensor detecting the presence of an RFID tag without needing to switch on the reader field, Austriamicrosystems reports, the chip can also recognize a tag's presence by performing a measurement of amplitude or phase of the signal on the antenna. What's more, the AS3911 reader IC contains a low-power RC oscillator and a wake-up timer to activate the system after a defined period of time and check for the presence of a tag. According to the company, the IC is qualified for use in automotive applications, so it can be utilized for car access, ignition and diagnostic functions; features automatic antenna tuning, to eliminate manual tuning; and provides 1 watt of output power, thereby eliminating the need for an external booster circuit. Automatic antenna tuning, the firm notes, is an important feature for the 650 mW of power required to read the tag in credit and debit cards. Competing solutions require an external booster circuit, Austriamicrosystems reports. The AS3911 also has on-chip error handling for EMV applications, the company says, while alternative reader ICs, in contrast, perform error correction on the host microcontroller. Additionally, the AS3911 IC includes an analog front end (AFE) and an integrated data-framing system for handling ISO 18092 (NFCIP-1) initiator, ISO 18092 (NFCIP-1) active target, ISO 14443 A and B reader (including high bit rates) and FeliCa (Felicity Card) reader functions. Other standards and custom protocols can be accommodated by adjusting the AFE and implementing framing in an external microcontroller, the company notes. Furthermore, the reader IC supports the Very High Bit Rate (VHBR) draft amendment to the 14443 standard, allowing for data rates of up to 6.8 megabits per second. According to Dickson, the AS3911 reader IC is the first chip on the market to support this amendment. "Customers repeatedly requested a reader chip designed for NFC applications," said Bruce Ulrich, Austriamicrosystems' wireless product line director, in a prepared statement. "Customers need flexibility, RF performance, and speed to enable them to overcome the weaker performance of the NFC-enabled phones. This is where users need peak RF performance and flexibility combined with low power. The AS3911 reader IC gives designers a system solution to speed their time to market." The AS3911 operates over a wide power supply range—from 2.4 to 5.5 volts—and over a temperature range of -40 degrees to +185 degrees Fahrenheit (-40 degrees to +85 degrees Celsius). The IC, which is housed in a 32-pin QFN package measuring 5 millimeters by 5 millimeters (0.2 inch by 0.2 inch), is available now in sample quantities, with volume quantities scheduled for availability during the first quarter of 2012.

HID Global Adds General-Purpose UHF Tags to Its RFID Portfolio
HID Global has introduced its first general-purpose ultra-high frequency (UHF) tags—the InLine Tag Ultra passive contactless transponders—designed for a variety of applications, including automation, logistics, returnable transport items (RTIs) and industrial waste management. The new InLine Tag Ultra is compliant with the EPC Gen 2 standard, the company reports, and includes HID Global's patented 3D antenna, built to offer omnidirectional read ranges of up to 26 feet (8 meters) on all materials, including metal. According to HID Global, the tags' broadband capabilities meet worldwide standards, and can thus be employed to make international logistics processes and infrastructure simpler and more cost-effective. The tags provide 512-bit user memory with 128-bit EPC. InLine Tag Ultra transponders are available in five configurations for mounting on virtually any material, using standard screws, industrial adhesives or welding. The four Slim versions are for space-restricted applications, HID Global explains, and the Curve version is arched to hug metallic kegs or gas cylinders. All tags are waterproof, provide high resistance to aggressive liquids or physical impact, and offer high performance and reading stability across fluctuating temperatures, the company reports. Although the InLine Tag Ultra transponders—which are available immediately—are the first general-purpose UHF tag from HID Global, they are not the first UHF tags from the company. In May 2010, HID Global unveiled the On Metal RTI tag, its first UHF tag. That EPC Gen 2 tag, designed primarily for use in the beverage, chemical and petroleum industries, features a curved housing suitable for cylindrical RTI containers. The On Metal RTI tag's curved design, the firm indicates, enables the transponder to be welded onto metal surfaces. It is designed to withstand exposure to harsh environmental conditions, and supports the simultaneous reading of multiple items in a single pass.

Rygg Maskin Tags RFID for Equipment Management
Rygg Maskin, a construction company located in Randaberg, Norway, has announced that it has chosen to utilize software from TraceTracker, a provider of product-traceability, asset-tracking and business-intelligence solutions, at all of its project sites. Rygg Maskin will use TraceTracker Asset, a Web-based system leveraging RFID, for managing and tracking its equipment and tools in near real time. The TraceTracker Asset software is designed for use by construction or warehouse companies in keeping tabs on inventory and assets. Once the items are tagged, the tag data is then input into the software, which provides such capabilities as search functions based on name, number, location or status, that can be leveraged across numerous projects. The software also enables the viewing of large maps indicating tool locations, with drill-down features for item details, equipment histories, project inventories, special reports (such as equipment utilization) and alarming mechanisms in the event that tagged tools are removed from project sites. TraceTracker Asset and the newly announced TraceTracker Asset Mobile (see RFID News Roundup: TraceTracker Announces New Mobile Asset-Tracking Application) work with a variety of RFID equipment and solutions. Rygg Maskin's main goal is to use the system to improve its internal leasing calculations and equipment utilization, and to have an overview of where equipment is located in the field. What's more, TraceTracker reports, the company plans to use the system to maintain service and maintenance records, manage safety certification and protect against theft. The construction company will employ a combination of RFID, GPS and cellular technology in conjunction with the TraceTracker Asset system. During the first phase, the solution will provide an overview of select machine and compaction equipment. The TraceTracker Asset software is also being used by another Norwegian construction firm, Grunnarbeid, as part of a solution to track its tools as they are transported to—and stored at—construction sites (see Grunnarbeid Begins Full-scale Rollout of Tool-Tracking System).
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