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RFID News Roundup
Alien Technology's handheld RFID reader gives Bones TV show high-tech RFID capability; German mass-transit authority sells more than one million NFC-enabled mobile transit tickets; Wavemark works with Umass Lowell student engineers to develop new RFID tag; TagMaster NA unveils new software for integrated access control; Identive launches tomPay contactless-payment tags and NFC tag-management platform.
May 24, 2012—The following are news announcements made during the past week.
Alien Technology's Handheld RFID Reader Gives Bones TV Show High-Tech RFID Capability
Alien Technology's handheld EPC Gen 2 RFID reader made a cameo appearance last week on Bones, Fox Broadcasting's television show about a forensic anthropologist named Dr. Temperance Brennan (played by actress Emily Deschanel), who works at the Jeffersonian Institute, in Washington, D.C., and writes novels on the side. In the episode that aired on May 14, investigator Angela Montenegro (played by actress Michaela Conlin) used Alien's ALH-9001 handheld interrogator to read RFID tags inside books. She was researching how a suspected killer serving time for computer hacking was managing to surreptitiously hack into computer systems while on house arrest, wearing an ankle monitor and with no Internet access. Montenegro determined that the suspect had checked out RFID-tagged books through a prison library service, re-coded the tags at home and then returned them through the service. When library employees scanned the books to check them back in, the rewritten codes—which were actually viruses, and were discovered by the investigator using the Alien reader—were unleashed onto the Internet and began affecting various aspects of the investigation against the suspect. While the RFID application depicted on TV (using library RFID tags encoded with viruses to access the Internet and hack into computer systems) was unrealistic and negative, it may mark the first time that EPC radio frequency identification technology has appeared on a prime-time TV show. Neil Mitchell, Alien's director of marketing, says that featuring RFID on these types of shows increases the general public's awareness of the technology, but adds that the plot—much like many Hollywood storylines—pushes the envelope. "In theory, anything, including code segments, could be put into the user memory of an RFID chip," Mitchell says. "The magic would be that someone would have to create a program that reads each tag and combines these code segments into a full program, and then goes off and executes this code on the targeted system. This is a bit of a stretch—but, in theory, possible." Mitchell notes that most passive EPC Gen 2 UHF tags offer only 512 bits (64 bytes) of user memory, so if the hacker used tag data to create a large software program, he would have needed to stitch together the data read from thousands of tags. The tag that the actress was reading, he adds, appeared to have been a high-frequency (HF) tag, though she was using a UHF reader. The full episode can be viewed here, and is also available to subscribers of several TV providers.
German Mass-Transit Authority Sells More than One Million NFC-enabled Mobile Transit Tickets
Cubic Transportation Systems, a provider of integrated revenue-management systems and services for the mass-transit industry, and a business unit of Cubic Corp., has announced that one of its customers—Rhein-Main-Verkehrsverbund (RMV), the mass-transit authority in Frankfurt, Germany, and the surrounding region—has sold more than 1 million Near Field Communication (NFC)-enabled mobile-phone transit tickets featuring Cubic's smartphone app and mobile-ticketing solution. RMV has been utilizing NFC technology for several years (see Frankfurt Widens Its NFC-Enabled Transit Network). RMV's "HandyTicket" service allows riders to pay for and download single rides, day passes and group day passes, all from their mobile phone, quickly, easily and without cash. In 2010, Cubic introduced a mobile app for Apple iPhone, Android and Blackberry smartphones, which the company says pushed the number of users of the HandyTicket service to more than 40,000. Additionally, Cubic reports, RMV equips its train stations and bus shelters with "ConTags" ("Kontaktpunkten" in German), containing passive NFC RFID tags that travelers with NFC-enabled smartphones can tap in order to enter the transit system and automatically enter their starting location. The destination is selected from the phone's RMV ticketing screen, and the ticket is then charged to the customer's bank card associated with his or her RMV account. According to the company, a 2-D bar-code ticket—similar to an airline boarding pass—is transmitted to the phone, and can be verified by an inspector upon request.
Wavemark Works With Umass Lowell Student Engineers to Develop New RFID Tag
Wavemark, a provider of RFID and Web-based solutions, including RFID-enabled smart cabinets for inventory management and analysis, has announced—in collaboration with UMass Lowell—a new, specialized RFID tag designed to hang one-time-use medical devices, such as catheters, efficiently within WaveMark smart cabinets. Each tag has an adhesive that can be used to attach the tag to the device; the tag has a hook that can then be hung from rails within the cabinets. The 13.56 MHz tags, compliant with the ISO 15693 standard, will be offered as part of WaveMark's CIMS enterprise-visibility system, which tracks inventory and generates reports regarding device usage, based on RFID read events, according to Rich Leitermann, Wavemark's senior director of hardware engineering and manufacturing. The company's engineers worked with a team of students in the university's plastics engineering program to invent and refine a specialized RFID tag for hospital use. Under the direction of Professor Jim Huang, the two-student team of Corey Hall and Mike Louvaris met with WaveMark's engineers during the course of their senior year, starting in September 2011. They documented the requirements of the WaveMark problem, brainstormed ideas and applied the extensive tools available at the UMass Lowell engineering department to analyze designs and build 3-D printed prototypes, Wavemark reports. The students recently provided a final presentation to WaveMark's management. According to Wavemark, the new tag improves hospital storage efficiency, enabling a greater number of products to fit into existing WaveMark RFID smart cabinets located at hospitals. "WaveMark has offered specialized hanging tags for many years, and holds a patent in this space," Leitermann says. "This new offering stands apart by enabling closer packing of medical devices, with up to 75 percent improvement, to make better use of valuable hospital floor space, while still assuring excellent RFID performance." The tags, which are expected to be made commercially available this summer, will be assembled in Braintree, Mass., by Employability, a company dedicated to providing competitive manufacturing jobs with benefits to local persons with disabilities, according to Wavemark. The company's RFID-enabled storage cabinets have been deployed at multiple hospitals and health-care organizations, including Saint Joseph's Hospital (see RFID Cabinets Help Saint Joseph's Hospital Buy in Bulk), Cordis (see Johnson & Johnson Finds Value in Multiple RFID Apps), UMass Memorial Medical Center (see UMass Med Center Finds Big Savings Through Tagging) and Memorial Hospital, in Chattanooga, Tenn. (see Tennessee Hospital Tracks High-Value Items).
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