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RFID News Roundup

Barnes & Noble's CEO says Nooks and books to incorporate RFID technology; Ecom Instruments, Intermec partner on handheld mobile computer with RFID capability; Peoplesafe adds RTLS to portfolio of worker-safety products; Identec Solutions certifies container terminal solution with Navis.
May 03, 2012The following are news announcements made during the past week.

Barnes & Noble's CEO Says Nooks and Books to Incorporate RFID Technology
Barnes & Noble plans to add Near Field Communication (NFC) RFID capability to its Nook e-reader, according to a recent news article that appeared on the CNNMoney Web site. In the article, a reporter for Fortune magazine interviewed the retailer's CEO, William Lynch, regarding the future of Barnes & Noble's Nook business, its focus on digital content and a strategic partnership with Microsoft, in which Microsoft will invest at least $605 million in a new subsidiary that includes Barnes & Noble's Nook e-reader and college textbook businesses. Lynch described how the book retailer might employ NFC technology in the Nook and within its stores. In discussing opportunities for integration between the stores and online, Lynch told Fortune that Barnes & Noble plans to integrate NFC reader chips into the Nooks. In addition, the retailer will work with publishers to ensure that they ship copies of hardcover books with NFC RFID tags embedded in them. While shopping at B&N's brick-and-mortar stores, customers could utilize their Nooks to communicate with the NFC inlays in the books, in order to access related information, such as reviews, on the device. Lynch also indicated that NFC RFID technology would enable a "frictionless purchase experience," though he did not elaborate, nor did he indicate when he expects any of these plans to become a reality. He did note, however, that this might occur this year.

Ecom Instruments, Intermec Partner on Handheld Mobile Computer With RFID Capability
Ecom Instruments Inc. and RFID equipment manufacturer Intermec have announced a new intrinsically safe handheld mobile computer for use in hazardous environments, including oil refineries and drilling platforms, petrochemical, pharmaceutical production, agriculture processing and other explosion-classified environments. The new i.roc Ci70-Ex handheld includes the option of RFID capability, along with various bar-code scanner capabilities. According to Gerald D'Entremont, Ecom Instruments' sales and marketing manager for the Americas, the RFID capability supports a variety of protocols and ISO standards, including low frequency (LF) at both 125 kHz and the 134 kHz TIRIS protocols, high frequency (HF) at 13.56 MHz, and ultrahigh frequency (UHF) in the 898 to 902 MHz range. "The value-add of RFID functionality is tremendous in this industry, due to the robustness and flexibility of RFID technology to mark and track assets, both in the upstream and downstream side of the petroleum industry," D'Entremont states. "We work with a wide variety of both software integration partners and system integrators to provide solutions for multi-national companies that are absolutely mandated to have products which are certified as intrinsically safe." He cites one of Ecom Instruments' software partners, Merrick Systems, as an example. Merrick Systems created a solution that inserts a hardened RFID transponder tag into an oil-well drill pipe, which is then moved downhole into environments that can reach temperatures of 400 degrees Fahrenheit (204 degrees Celsius) and pressures of 30,000 PSI. "Oil and gas drilling and exploration companies then use these tagged assets to track their drill string inventory and deployment," D'Entremont says. He also references Invensys Wonderware Mobile Solutions Group, which offers a solution for tracking assets at refineries and petrochemical plants via passive RFID tags and its IntelaTrac software. The i.roc Ci70-Ex handheld is the first offering resulting from a strategic partnership between Intermec and Ecom Instruments, announced in December 2011. The mobile computer will be exclusively sold and distributed by Ecom Instruments. Features include comprehensive wireless networking capabilities, including WWAN (3G CDMA or UMTS via Qualcomm's Gobi 3000 embedded module), WLAN (IEEE 802.11 a/b/g/n) and Bluetooth 2.1, to allow for flexible data exchange—even in areas with challenging reception conditions—as well as long-range bar-code imaging technology, developed by Intermec and now adapted for intrinsically safe environments. The i.roc Ci70-Ex device is fully compatible with Intermec Development Library tools and applications, and carries global certifications ranging from NEC to ATEX and IECEx. In a prepared statement, Michael M. Haley, a technology consultant with oil and gas company BP's Chief Technology Office, said, "At BP, we believe technology can make a significant impact on the enterprise. We focus on a few technologies with immediate impact that will also benefit long-term business needs. The integration of current and emerging RF communications for large industrial sites could yield greater efficiencies for business operations." Production-deliverable units are expected to ship to end users during the third quarter of 2012, according to D'Entremont, though Ecom Instruments plans to deliver preliminary units to such companies as Merrick Systems and Invensys for software integration testing during the next 30 to 45 days.

Peoplesafe Adds RTLS to Portfolio of Worker-Safety Products
Peoplesafe, a provider of fully managed lone-worker safety systems, has added real-time location system (RTLS) technology from 9Solutions to its product portfolio. Peoplesafe provides lone-worker systems to clients concerned with the welfare of their lone workers on large sites, such as campuses, data centers, manufacturing plants, warehouses or logistics centers. The addition of RTLS technology, the company reports, enables Peoplesafe to enhance its lone-worker services, by overcoming the lack of coverage from GPS satellite and mobile networks within buildings. Lone workers can suffer from slips, trips or fall as a result of their environment or task, Peoplesafe indicates, adding that without the RTLS technology, locating those employees would be difficult if they were located indoors, since GPS signals will not penetrate brick, glass or metal structures. 9Solutions' Indoor Positioning and Communication Solution (IPCS) employs Bluetooth battery-powered RFID tags and reader nodes that plug into power outlets, as well as a cloud-based hosted server running 9Solutions software (see Lipa Betoni Uses Bluetooth-Based RTLS to Manage Production). Peoplesafe will offer several different types of 9Solutions tags—some designed as ID badges, for applications involving the tracking of personnel, as well as others designed to monitor equipment or other assets. All of 9Soutions' tags are battery-powered, and include a Bluetooth radio transceiver powered by a cell battery. The ID badge tag has a button that, when pressed, can be used, for example, to indicate a need for assistance. The new solution from Peoplesafe and 9Solutions will provide a manager with access to live information—because the RTLS technology has been integrated with Peoplesafe's lone-worker devices and Vision Web application—thereby allowing a manager to be made aware if an employee has raised an alert, and also to confirm that individual's location via the Bluetooth connection.

Identec Solutions Certifies Container Terminal Solution With Navis
Identec Solutions has announced that it has received NavisReady certification from Navis for its CTAS container terminal asset-management system, which provides real-time container terminal intelligence and control. Navis provides technology and services for managing the movement of cargo through terminals. The new NavisReady certification means that the CTAS system can now interface as standard with Navis' SPARCS 3.7 and N4 terminal operating system (TOS), with no need for additional modifications. CTAS combines software with the latest identification, location and sensing technologies, including active RFID, RTLS, DGPS, wireless sensors and telemetrics, and is designed to help ports and terminals automate operational processes and control complex business events, live and in real time. According to Identec Solutions, CTAS solutions are currently deployed worldwide in both manned and automated container-handling operations, by regional and global terminal operators, including APM Terminals, DP World (see DP World Ramps Up Its Dubai Deployment and RFID Boosts DP World's Productivity in Australia), the Georgia Ports Authority, International Container Terminal Services (ICTSI) and Total Terminals International (TTI) (see RFID Brings Safety to Spanish Port. Key applications include street and terminal truck tracking; job stepping and promotion in container-stack operations; container and equipment position detection; driver and personnel identification; and fleet management, monitoring and scheduling. The Navis certification is part of the NavisReady certification program, which is open to vendors supplying handheld devices and other hardware technologies that generate XML-RTD messages within a marine container terminal operating environment. The program, according to Navis, ensures that specific handheld devices and XML-RDT messages have been tested, and that they possess reliability in terms of plug-in capability with specified versions of Navis' SPARCS terminal-operating systems. Certification is performed against major releases, and partner products can be re-certified upon each new key release. The Identec Solutions certification ensures that the key TOS software interface in CTAS is compatible with SPARCS Release 3.7, as well as the XPS and ECN4 versions of Navis N4.
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