Acquisition Brings Mobile UHF Reading to HID Global

By Claire Swedberg

With its purchase of Technology Solutions Ltd. UK, HID's Identification Technology unit will expand its offerings to include mobile reading devices that leverage UHF, HF or LF technologies for applications ranging from event ticketing to laundry services, retail, and oil and gas.

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HID Global acquired handheld RFID reader company  Technology Solutions (TSL) UK this month, expanding its solutions to include mobile RFID tag reading functionality. HID Global will market TSL’s handheld reader product portfolio to its global audience. In the meantime, the companies say they intend to continue leveraging TSL’s design, development and manufacturing capabilities for future mobile RFID readers, as well as other multi-technology mobile device peripherals.

With the acquisition, says Richard Aufreiter, the product marketing VP for HID Global’s Identification Technology (IDT) Business Area, the TSL handheld reader family will become a standard offering within HID’s identification-technologies product line. “The TSL portfolio is completely complementary to HID’s offering today,” he says. “There is no overlap. Therefore, HID will fully benefit from the talent and know-how of the TSL team, while TSL will benefit from the infrastructure and global reach of HID.”

Richard Aufreiter

HID Global, an  Assa Abloy company headquartered in Austin, Texas, offers solutions in access control, citizen identification, extended access, identity management, the Internet of Things, and RFID identification and sensing. Its solutions leverage LF, HF and UHF RFID, as well as Bluetooth Low Energy (BLE) connectivity to identify objects and individuals. The company has been acquiring other technology firms at a rate of about two per year.

With this latest acquisition, TSL’s existing personnel and leadership will continue operating out of the firm’s U.K. office, while becoming a business unit within HID Global’s Identification Technologies Business Area and reporting to Marc Bielmann, the senior VP of HID’s IDT unit. For now, Aufreiter says, the TSL brand will be listed as “TSL, part of HID” to support recognition of both brands during the acquisition transition.

By adding TSL handheld readers to its portfolio, HID says it is poised to expand its own product offerings beyond what has predominantly been solutions designed to leverage fixed infrastructures. For 18 years, TSL has sold handheld devices along with developer interfaces, according to David Evans, TSL’s managing director. The two technology companies share a common customer base that will benefit from an integrated offering, he explains. TSL has predominantly focused on UHF RFID, though it also provides solutions leveraging HF, LF and barcode scanning.

“This perfectly complements the multi-frequency RFID tag portfolio of HID Identification Technologies,” Evans states. The TSL ruggedized handheld readers are targeted for a variety of industries and applications. The company’s products connect to a user’s back-end software or the cloud via a Bluetooth or USB connection with smartphones, tablets or other computer devices operating via the Android, iOS, Windows or Xamarin operating system, Evans says. For HID Global, the TSL adoption brings not only mobile readers to its offerings, but also UHF RFID, while most of HID’s reader products have centered around HF RFID.

The acquisition benefits TSL, Evans notes, by bringing it into the folds of a larger, global company. Although TSL has been in operation for nearly two decades, he says, it has lacked a direct sales team. Traditionally, Evans recalls, “We waited for business to come to us.” That method has enabled the firm to build a healthy brand, he says, but “being able to leverage the global footprint of HID is really exciting for us.”

Future technology developments will include new form factors such as RFID readers, Evans reports, as well as special use designs and enhancements in TSL’s software platform and developer community support. More than 100 third-party applications are already built utilizing TSL’s ASCII protocol, he says.

The companies are forecasting continued growth in the demand for RFID solutions from a variety of industries in the coming months and years, Aufreiter says, and COVID-19 has accelerated some of that trend. “In times of the COVID-19 pandemic,” he states, “contactless technologies and workflows are increasingly important and implemented at greater speed worldwide. Although the currently unique situation in the world economy was not the main driver behind the acquisition, it is a nice supporting factor.” A large percentage of RFID deployments require a handheld device, he notes, adding, “We see a great opportunity to leverage that demand.”

David Evans

Areas of growth in RFID use continue in the retail sector, Evans says, since retailers hit hard by the pandemic are trying to streamline their inventory and supply chains, as well as improve efficiencies to meet online sales demands and better serve customers at brick-and-mortar stores. He cites growth in the healthcare sector, in which TSL’s customers are using the devices to track goods ranging from medical equipment to oxygen bottles. Laundry services are increasingly using the readers to manage the servicing and utilization of linens and garments by healthcare organizations and long-term care facilities, while hospitality use cases may increase following pandemic-based restrictions on travel.

The TSL units are also in use in industrial and oil and gas sectors, Evans says. Although they are not rated for hazardous zones, the readers are capturing unique ID numbers from tags attached to equipment and tools used for oil and gas production, as well as manufacturing. What’s more, he reports, film studios are employing TSL readers to track equipment such as cameras and lighting, which often travel to temporary production siters.

In addition to UHF RFID, TSL offers 13.56 MHz HF readers compliant with the ISO 15693 standard, as well as 125 kHz LF readers to capture RFID tags at closer range, for public transportation ticketing and other applications. According to Aufreiter, HID Global expects to see growth in the events space, in which tickets to a concert, festival or conference could be captured via the handheld readers from a distance. “We see potential because we have our business unit focused in that area,” he states, “specifically transport and events,” as well as for use with HID Global’s turnstiles.