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RFID News Roundup

MTI releases new products in its RFID ME family; Balluff intros new software for its RFID handhelds; RF Code intros temperature-humidity sensor with extended battery life; GAO RFID announces UHF RFID interrogator PC card; ClearCount unveils new RFID-enabled surgical sponge system, implements products at Irvine Medical Center; Dash7 Alliance announces open-source license for specification.
Mar 22, 2012The following are news announcements made during the past week.

MTI Releases New Products in Its RFID ME Family
Microelectronics Technology Inc. (MTI) has announced the availability of its RU-824 Read Me reader, a small USB desktop interrogator with an integrated antenna. Previously, the Read Me device had been available as only an engineering prototype. MTI has also announced its RU-827 Mini Me reader solution, designed to instantly convert Android Ice Cream Sandwich USB OTG host mode-powered smartphones and tablets into EPC Gen 2 UHF RFID readers. Both systems are part of the firm's RFID ME product line of reader solutions that includes the company's USB dongle UHF readers (see RFID News Roundup: MTI and Partners Unveil RFID Kit for Small Office/Home Office Market and Home-Shopping Theme Park to Employ RFID). The RU-824 Read Me measures 80 millimeters by 57 millimeters by 14 millimeters (3.1 inches by 2.2 inches by 0.6 inch), and is based on Impinj's R1000 reader chip. The RU-824 reader features adjustable transmit output level control of up to +24 dBm in 1 dB steps, as well as dense reader mode (DRM), anti-collision and remote firmware upload capabilities. MTI offers development kits that include the RU-824 reader, a .NET software development kit (SDK), graphical user interface (GUI) demo software and MTI's low-level command-set application programming interface (API). The RU-827 Mini Me device enables users to read and write all EPC Gen 2 tags at a range of up to 25 centimeters (9.8 inches), though the actual range depends on the tag and environment. A video of the RU-827 Mini Me plugged into the micro USB port of a Samsung Galaxy Nexus mobile phone and running the RFID ME GUI can be viewed here. MTI provides a low-level command-set API that can be employed by developers with Android's 4.0 SDK, in order to create custom UHF RFID software applications. Pricing starts at $249 for the RU-824 reader, and $199 for the RU-827 Mini Me.

Balluff Intros New Software for Its RFID Handhelds
Balluff Inc., the North American subsidiary of Germany's Balluff and a manufacturer of a range of sensors, has announced two new software solutions: BIS Template and BISPortal. Both are designed to let users more easily customize and display their RFID and bar-code data. The software requires no programming, according to Balluff, and users can display the data in the way that they would like to view it. BIS Template and BISPortal are both designed for use by personnel such as factory workers, shipping and receiving staff, delivery-truck drivers and machine-tool operators, and both software packages are intended for multiple applications, according to Mark Sippel, Balluff Inc.'s marketing manager for industrial identification. "But each does fit certain applications a little better than others," he states. "The BIS Template software is optimal for our RFID-based Tool ID and work-in-process (WIP) applications. It makes it very easy and fast to see specific preformatted and repetitive data, like the type used on machine tools and WIP pallet-based manufacturing lines. The BISPortal software is much better-suited for applications like manual manufacturing-rework stations, where lots of different part types may be reworked; interlogistics tracking, where bar-code and database reference data is required; tracking where different asset types need to be tracked using the same handheld; and, basically, anywhere where multiple tag-data formats, bar codes and even database reference data need to possibly be combined by one device." The BIS Template and BISPortal software solutions enable RFID data to be accessed anywhere, the company reports, using mobile Balluff/Psion handheld readers. In addition, both software packages utilize the same Microsoft Windows-based PC configuration software, allowing a user to configure the data descriptions and data format displayed on the handheld with a simple "template" format developed on the PC and uploaded to the handheld. The information can be displayed in different formats, including ASCII, binary, BCD, byte, integer, long integer, floating point and hexadecimal. Both software programs also enable a user to save and transfer data files using the handheld's cradle USB connection, a built-in Bluetooth radio or an optional WLAN card. The BISPortal software supports bar-code reading, RFID tag data and database searching; linear and 2-D bar codes can be displayed directly into the user-created handheld data screen, enabling a mix of RFID and bar-code data without having to switch between multiple types of software on the handheld. What's more, the BISPortal software allows a user to search through large amounts of RFID tag data with a special query screen, or to compare any information read from RFID tags or bar codes with a user-loaded database, and to then load from matching data into the open template data screen, thereby providing a complete visual data record. Balluff offers a full line of industrial RFID systems for data-tracking and error-proofing solutions, the company reports, such as machine tools, flexible assembly, production, automation, warehousing, logistics and distribution tracking. All of its RFID handhelds employ Psion's Workabout Pro (WAP) G3 as the base platform. The company has four RFID frequencies available for the Psion handhelds, including a proprietary dual-band low-frequency (LF) system known as the BIS C series, designed specifically for metal-mounted tag applications. The L series is a standard 125 kHz system, the M series is a 13.56 MHz solution compliant with the ISO 14443 and 15693 standards, and the BIS U series is a UHF system compliant with the ISO 18000-6C and EPC Gen 2 standards. All of these base units come with options for a bar-code reader pod for linear and 2-D bar codes, as well as a WLAN card option for wireless network connections. The WAP G3 device comes standard with built-in Bluetooth. Balluff offers RFID tags within all four of the frequency ranges and standards mentioned above for the handhelds. The firm provides several different industrial versions (hardened reusable tags) for each family, measuring 7.5 millimeters to 50 millimeters (0.3 inch to 2 inches) in diameter for the 125 kHz and 13.56 MHz systems, high-temperature versions of up to 200 degrees Celsius (392 degrees Fahrenheit) for high-frequency (HF) and UHF, hardened machine tool tags, and RFID labels and inlays for the HF and UHF systems, among others. Balluff works with selected tag partners to provide as many solutions as possible, Sippel says. Balluff will display its line of RFID products at this year's RFID Journal LIVE! conference and exhibition, to be held on Apr. 3-5, 2012, in Orlando, Fla.

RF Code Intros Temperature-Humidity Sensor With Extended Battery Life
RF Code, a provider of IT asset-management and environmental- and power-monitoring solutions, has announced a new version of its R155 RFID sensor tag that monitors and reports relative humidity and ambient temperature within its immediate environment. The new version, which extends the tags' expected battery life to five years, is designed for use in environmentally sensitive areas, such as IT data centers. According to the company, the new tag employs a power-saving technology developed by RF Code that enables the sensor to combine a battery life of five years with a 10-second beacon rate. Typically, sensors must sacrifice beaconing rates to preserve battery life, RF Code reports, but because data-center environmental conditions can change quickly, it is vital to immediately know about a change. The previous version of the R155 tag had a battery life of approximately three years. "Our customers depend on timely information in order to run their data centers most efficiently," said Chris Gaskins, RF Code's VP of product development, in a prepared statement. "Therefore, we wanted to make sure that extending the battery life didn't come at the expensive of the beacon rate. Our new R155 temperature-humidity sensor achieves the twin goals of long life and real-time monitoring. This gives customers the most affordable, accurate solution available." The R155 is based on the same 433 MHz active RFID technology underlying all of RF Code's RFID tags and sensors, the firm reports, thereby eliminating the need to use cabling for deployment. According to RFID Code, the R155 tag is part of its environmental-monitoring solution, which automates the capturing of sensor data, including temperature, humidity, fluid detection, power usage and air pressure. The tag periodically reports its unique ID number, along with its sensor data, and is designed for use in combination with RF Code's fixed and mobile readers. Its operating range is -4 degrees to +158 degrees Fahrenheit (-20 degrees to +70 degrees Celsius), and 0 percent to 95 percent relative humidity. It features a low-battery alert, and will continue to monitor humidity and temperature for at least three months following such an alerting. The five-year temperature-humidity tag will become available next month, the company reports.

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