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RFID News Roundup

Trimble expands functionality of ThingMagic RFID readers; Omni-ID unveils three new RFID tags for tracking tools, containers; Thailand's petroleum exploration firm PTTEP deploys emergency-evacuation RFID solution; FileTrail, BlueStar offer RFID-enabled asset-tracking system; Axios announces first purchase order for its tagged pallets.
Aug 16, 2012The following are news announcements made during the past week.

Trimble Expands Functionality of ThingMagic RFID Readers
Trimble has announced a firmware upgrade that provides new capabilities for its ThingMagic Mercury 6e (M6e) RFID reader module and Mercury6 (M6) finished RFID reader. The added functionalities are designed to help users develop and deploy RFID-enabled solutions for a variety of applications, the company says. The firmware upgrade includes a redesign of its Universal Reader Assistant, a graphical user interface used to initialize readers and perform common tasks, including selecting application specific performance settings that the company says simplifies the use and deployment of ThingMagic RFID readers. There's also an improved Web interface with configuration and management screens, new performance tuning settings, and enhanced tag data access and displays. The upgrade increases read rates by up to 75 percent for passive UHF tags (compliant with the EPC Gen 2, ISO 18000-6C and ISO 18000-6B standards), according to Trimble. The average read rate of the Mercury6 prior to this upgrade was about 400 tags per second; now, the M6 is capable of reading more than 750 tags per second in many use cases, according to the company. Several application-specific features designed to read RFID tags in diverse and challenging conditions have also been introduced. A new "fast search" tag reading mode forces tags to respond rapidly and repeatedly for optimal read performance; this feature supports applications such as tolling, vehicle management and race timing where fast-moving tags need to be distinguished from each other with a high degree of accuracy. This feature supports tags moving at speeds up to 200 kilometers per hour. The upgrades also include the ability to obtain up to 128 bytes of data with every tag read, a feature that is ideal for security sensitive applications, such as anti-counterfeiting or brand protection, that may include more data on the tags, such as serial numbers, that need to be automatically read with no impact to performance or tag encoding activities. Other upgrades include support for IDS Microchip SL900A EPC Class 3 Sensor Tags. The firmware upgrade is available now; existing RFID reader customers with a current support contract can acquire the upgrade at no additional cost. Trimble also introduced a new version of its Trimble AllTrak Asset and Tool Management System that includes an RFID scanner for its Trimble Nomad outdoor rugged handheld computer running the Microsoft Windows Mobile operating system. The AllTrak system is an asset management solution designed general contractors, as well as concrete, steel, mechanical, electrical, plumbing and site prep subcontractors who use tools with embedded or attached passive UHF RFID tags compliant with the UHF EPC Gen 2 (ISO 18000-6C) standard. By using the Trimble Nomad with the new RFID scanner (see RFID News Roundup: Trimble Announces RFID Reader for Nomad Handheld), contractors can perform a variety of functions such as asset check-in, checkout, transfers and inventory validation much faster than with traditional bar-code scanning. Alternatively, they can use a ThingMagic USB RFID Reader plugged into a desktop or laptop when a portable solution is not required. Trimble AllTrak distributors can also provide RFID tags that can be attached to assets.

Omni-ID Unveils Three New RFID Tags for Tracking Tools, Containers
RFID tag manufacturer Omni-ID has announced three new rugged RFID tags designed for tracking small tools, returnable transport items (RTIs) and shipping containers. The new models—the Exo 200, Exo 400 and Exo 400P—have heavy-duty thermoplastic encasements and are IP-68 rated, signifying they are water- and dust-proof, and can resist application temperatures ranging from -40 degrees to +302 degrees Fahrenheit (-40 degrees to +150 degrees Celsius). All three models leverage Alien Technology's Higgs3 integrated circuit. The tags are available with intrinsically safe certification (ATEX in Europe, Class 1 Div 1 in the United States and Canada, and IECEx in Asia), indicating they are safe for operation in explosive atmospheres and under irregular operating conditions. The Exo 200 measures 14.5 by 12 by 5.4 millimeters, weighs 1 gram, and has a read range of up to 2.5 meters (8.2 feet) with a fixed reader, and up to 1.25 meters (4.1 feet) with a handheld reader. The Omni-ID Exo 400 measures 19 by 13 by 5.9 millimeters, weighs 2.5 grams, and has a read range of up to 4.0 meters (13.1 feet) with a fixed reader, and up to 2.0 meters (6.6 feet) with a handheld. Both the Exo 200 and Exo 400 are designed for attachment to metal assets. The Exo 400P, optimized for plastic assets, measures 23.5 by 13 by 6.9 millimeters and weighs 3.5 grams. It has a read range of up to 3.5 meters (11.5 feet) with a fixed reader and up to 1.75 meters (5.7 feet) with a handheld. The tags are available now.

Thailand's petroleum exploration firm PTTEP deploys emergency-evacuation solution with active RFID tags
Identify Ltd., an RFID solutions provider in Thailand, has announced that its RFID-enabled personnel evacuation-tracking solution is being used by one of the Thailand's largest petroleum exploration companies: PTT Exploration and Production Public Co. Ltd. (PTTEP). The Identify Evacuation Solution is designed to increase the safety in tracking people by providing real-time visibility into the location and identification of workers and increasing the efficiency in the evacuation operation. Using 2.45 GHz active RFID tags from Free Alliance, the solution automatically locates personnel within the premises, eliminating the human error of manual headcounts. The solution also can integrate with access-control systems, eliminating the need to operate two different systems. Each person is outfitted with an active RFID tag, and details, including that individual's name and department, are registered into the system and associated with the unique ID number encoded to the tag. During an emergency evacuation, a manager can use a handheld RFID reader that can read tags at a distance of up to 8 to 10 meters to locate individuals and to check if there are any persons in the area. If any personnel are within the reading zone, their names will be automatically displayed on the handheld reader. At PTTEP, each employee is issued an active RFID card, with associated housed in a database. Generally 200 to 300 people work at the PTTEP site, and they will be able to use the same RFID card for both access-control and emergency-evacuation applications.

FileTrail, BlueStar Offer RFID-enabled Asset-Tracking System
FileTrail, a provider of browser-based records-management software and RFID technology, and BlueStar, a Florence, Ky., distributor of point-of-sale, hospitality, RFID and other auto-ID products, have announced a new asset-tracking system that leverages ultrahigh-frequency (UHF) RFID technology compliant with EPC Gen 2 standard. The Web-based solution was developed by FileTrail and is being distributed exclusively through BlueStar. RF Asset Express includes three user licenses, software for a handheld RFID reader, installation, configuration and training, first year's support, maintenance and upgrades. The solution is designed to work with Motorola Solutions' MC3190-Z and MC9090-Z handheld RFID readers; these are purchased separately and not included as a component of the solution. RFID tags must also be purchased separately. FileTrail handles the software installation, configuration and training. Users can change the RF Asset Express software's language settings to Spanish, Portuguese or French, as needed. A member of the FileTrail team works directly with the customer to configure the software to suit the organization's specific needs, according to FileTrail. Installation is done remotely with a FileTrail team member based in San Jose, Calif. FileTrail also remotely trains end users using remote desktop tools that enable screen-sharing; these remote training tools have been used by FileTrail for remote training and customer support since 2001, FileTrail says. The solution features unlimited use-defined fields and configuration tools designed to make the system easily configurable. BlueStar works with customers to understand what type of assets can be tracked and which models of EPC Gen 2 passive RFIDtags will be most suitable for those assets.

Axios Announces First Purchase Order for Its Tagged Pallets
Axios Mobile Assets, a manufacturer of lightweight plastic pallets, is providing its RFID-enabled pallets to Ongweoweh Corp., which distributes, manages, recovers, and recycles more than 17 million pallets yearly throughout North America. Axios has announced that it has received a purchase order for the first 20 percent of Axios' first-year requirements as part of a blanket order for its recently announced five-year $300 million contract with Ongweoweh. Axios declined to specify how many pallets it will ship this year, stating that actual volumes are proprietary. Each pallet it is shipping to Ongweoweh is a 47-pound soy bio-resin reusable pallet that has four Invengo XCTF-8030A-CO2 passive EPC Gen 2 ultrahigh-frequency (UHF) RFID tags—one in each of the pallet's four corners. Axios will begin shipments to Ongweoweh in October and complete shipments for the order by Dec. 31, 2012. In May, Canadian logistics firm J.D. Smith and Sons announced it had completed a trial of RFID-enabled pallets provide by Axios (see J.D. Smith Tracks Pet Food Shipments Via RFID).
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