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RFID News Roundup

Atmel announces low-frequency RFID transponder; Fujitsu launches new chip for high-frequency RFID tags with large memory capacity; U.S. retailers lose billions to theft, but loss-prevention technologies like RFID are helping; GAO RFID offers 4-port fixed UHF Gen 2 RFID reader; Smartrac refinances loan to strengthen financial flexibility.
Jul 05, 2012The following are news announcements made during the past week.

Atmel Announces Low-Frequency RFID Transponder
Atmel has announced the availability of its ATA5577M1330C-PP low-frequency (LF) RFID transponder. Suitable for applications in building access-control systems, industrial automation, and consumer and industrial segments, the device supports the ISO 11784 and 11785 specifications, and is a standalone, fully functional tag that includes an antenna coil trimmed to an operating frequency of 125 kHz. It supports a range of data rates (ranging from 64 kilobits per second to 1 kilobit per second at 125 kHz), the company reports, as well as a variety of modulations and coding schemes. According to the company, the Atmel-patented digital Analog Frontend Register (AFE) enables the chip's analog front-end circuitry to adapt to the transponder and reader system, thereby enhancing performance. In addition, the device's analog behavior can be tuned when it is closed and sealed. By eliminating the need to open the transponder for tuning, the on-chip AFE register helps to simplify the design and production process, the company reports. The new transponder, the firm indicates, is available in a standard lead-free, zero-pin brick package, so it can be used within rugged environments that are challenging for competing RFID devices, including under water, on metal or in dirt. The on-chip memory contains an Atmel-pre-programmed unique ID (UID) in two additional memory blocks. These locked blocks provide a unique, worldwide-traceable number consisting of an Atmel lot number, a wafer lot and a sequential die number. According to Atmel, this makes the device suited for use in applications requiring only a low, basic level of security, while ensuring compatibility with all types of existing RFID systems. Samples of the ATA5577M1330C-PP model are available now, in brick packages measuring 12 millimeters by 5.9 millimeters by 3 millimeters (0.5 inch by 0.2 inch by 0.1 inch). Pricing begins at $1.93 for bulk shipments containining a quantity of 4,000 pieces. For engineers, and to simplify the design of complete RFID systems, Atmel offers evaluation kits (models ATA2270-EK1 and ATA5505-EK1) containing the sample transponders. The kits, based on the company's AVR microcontrollers, provide Microsoft Windows PC software, C source code for programming the AVR device, and PCB Gerber data for the reader board.

Fujitsu Launches New Chip for High-Frequency RFID Tags With Large Memory Capacity
Fujitsu Semiconductor Ltd. has added a new member to its FerVID family of chips for RFID tags: the MB89R112 chip, designed for high-frequency (HF) RFID tags, that includes 9 kilobytes of ferroelectric random-access memory (FRAM) storage. The MB89R112 chip is built for use in passive RFID tags complying with the ISO 15693 standard. Fujitsu's FerVID chips utilize ferroelectric memory for fast write speeds, HF rewritability, radiation tolerance and low-power operation. The firm reports that it developed FRAM products with two frequency bands to serve as chips for high-functionality RFID tags operating in the HF band (13.56 MHz) and ultrahigh-frequency (UHF) band (860 to 960 MHz), for a wide range of applications. These include chips for data-carrier tags in the factory-automation and maintenance sectors that take advantage of FRAM's fast write speeds and high memory capacity, chips for the medical and pharmaceutical sectors able to withstand gamma radiation and electron beams, and chips with serial interfaces for embedded applications. According to Fujitsu, demand is growing for larger memory capacities, and for the ability to connect RFID chips to sensors and microcontrollers as a method of changing products' operating parameters wirelessly, or to wirelessly capture a log of environmental factors during distribution. These features, the company explains, would benefit manufacturing control in the automotive and electronics sectors, as well as maintenance applications in aircrafts, roadways, buildings and public works. The new MB89R112 chip for RFID tags addresses this demand, Fujitsu reports. It has a serial peripheral interface bus (SPI) interface that provides the chip (as well as tags made with that chip) with the ability to connect to sensors and microcontrollers. For example, the chip can be used to log environmental readings of logistics, detect equipment errors, modify electronic displays, change sensor threshold values, or update firmware settings. The addition of the MB89R112 chip to the FerVID family means that the product line now includes HF-band chips covering capacities ranging from 256 bytes to 9 kilobytes, and UHF-band chips ranging from 4 kilobytes to 64 kilobytes. For chips with serial interfaces for embedded applications, the line now includes a 4-kilobyte UHF-band chip and a 9-kilobyte HF-band chip. The new MB89R112 chip is expected to become available in sample quantities next month.

U.S. Retailers Lose Billions to Theft, But Loss-Prevention Technologies Like RFID Are Helping
A new study conducted by the University of Florida, with a funding grant from Tyco Integrated Security, found that U.S. retailers lost more than $34 billion to theft last year, including losses due to shoplifting, employee theft, administrative error and vendor fraud. But the study, titled "The National Retail Security Survey 2011," also determined that theft as a percentage of revenue was 1.41 percent, down from 1.49 percent in the previous findings. This calculates to an approximate $2.6 billion decline in losses. That decrease, according to Richard Hollinger, Ph.D., a University of Florida criminologist who conducted the survey, can be attributed to the fact that retailers have been implementing and updating loss-prevention strategies in order to reduce shrinkage. "Actively safeguarding merchandise allows retailers to keep costs down and pass that cost-savings along to consumers," Hollinger said in a prepared statement. "With the right tools in place, retailers are able to identify the cause of theft, take action and stop and limit shrink." Lee Pernice, Tyco Integrated Security's director of business development, says radio frequency identification can play a critical part in reducing the incidence of theft-related losses. RFID, she notes, can provide valuable information regarding losses at the individual stock-keeping unit (SKU) level, versus the traditional category view. That information enables organizations to take a proactive approach to identifying, analyzing and predicting areas of theft or loss, and to build new programs around them. "It also allows retailers to potentially track and manage retail shrink from all sources, in real time, and differentiate between actual store shrink and other forms of inventory distortion," Pernice states. Personnel can be assigned to departments at greatest risk, he adds, with visibility into trends by store, region, time, day and season, in order to compare theft patterns and identify long-term trends. Of the four categories of shrinkage or losses noted in the study, employee theft constitutes the largest portion, at 43.9 percent (approximately $15.1 billion). Shoplifting, at 35.7 percent ($12.3 billion), is the second largest area of lost profits, with administrative error and vendor fraud accounting for the balance.

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