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RFID News Roundup

Mapúa Institute of Technology library adopts CSL UHF RFID technology; Metalcraft announces NFC tags; Red Cell Innovation unveils handheld PDA with RFID; NFL Draft picks Fish Technologies; University of Salento researchers develop RAMSES passive RFID sensor tag; NXP Semiconductors joins ZigBee Alliance Board of Directors.
By Beth Bacheldor

NFL Draft Picks Fish Technologies

Interactive kiosk at NFL draft
Fish Technologies has announced that during the 79th National Football League (NFL) Draft, held last month at Radio City Music Hall in New York City, its RFID-enabled solution was used to provide fans in attendance with a variety of NFL and brand content, special offers, promotions and shared experiences via social media. Fish Technologies' solution leverages RFID-enabled kiosks and RFID-enabled credentials that support either ultrahigh-frequency (UHF) EPC Gen 2 standard or high-frequency (HF) technologies (such as Mifare, Tag-it and Icode tags). The solution is not limited to a specific brand, but Fish Technologies' current partner supplier is Precision Dynamics Corp. (PDC), according to Rick Weldon, Fish Technologies' president. For the RFID readers, the solution leverages a proprietary UHF reader for the Fish Track Tower—a kiosk that can be used by event attendees, and that also enables the event organizer to track active attendee engagements and measure attendee engagements. For tablets used with the solution, Fish Technologies leverages the RFID ME and RFID Mini ME readers from Microelectronics Technology Inc. (MTI). During the NFL Draft show, EPC Gen 2 RFID tags and readers were used, Weldon reports. Fans at the show needed only to register once; their RFID-enabled credential could then be used throughout the multiday event. The NFL Draft included a pre-registration website, a platform for registering credentials via a fan's own mobile phone, 10 interactive RFID kiosks that allowed fans to request content and post messages to social networks, 30 Microsoft Surface Tablets, and numerous photo interactive experiences installed throughout Radio City Music Hall. In a prepared statement, Aidan Lyons, the NFL's VP of fan-centric marketing, said that the RFID-enabled solution allows fans to spend less time standing in lines filling out forms, and more time engaging with brands and collecting NFL content. "For us it is all about the fans, and giving them an enhanced experience," Lyons said in the statement. Fish Technologies' RFID solution has been used at other events as well, including the 2013 Australian Open (see RFID Scores High at Australian Open).

University of Salento Researchers Develop RAMSES Passive RFID Sensor Tag

RAMSES prototype
Since 2005, the RFID division of the ElectroMagnetic Lab Lecce (EML²) at the University of Salento, in Italy, has been proposing RFID-based sensor solutions. Recently, Danilo De Donno, a postdoctoral researcher at EML², announced that he—working under his advisors, Luciano Tarricone and Luca Catarinucci—has developed a prototype EPC Gen 2 ultrahigh-frequency (UHF) RFID sensor tag that extends the range necessary for the tag to harvest the RF energy emitted by an interrogator. RAMSES (RFID Augmented Module for Smart Environmental Sensing) is designed as a fully passive RFID device with sensing and computation capabilities. In a paper slated for publication in the July 2014 issue of IEEE Transactions on Instrumentation and Measurement, the researchers write that the tag prototype is fabricated on a printed circuit board using low-cost, off-the-shelf discrete components, and has been extensively tested through experiments conducted both in lab and real-world application scenarios. The results, they report, demonstrate RAMSES' ability to harvest the RF energy emitted by an interrogator placed up to 32.8 feet (10 meters) away and autonomously perform sensing, computation and data communication. The researchers believe that this is the longest range ever reported for fully passive RFID sensors. For applications requiring larger operating distances, RAMSES can operate in a battery-assisted passive (BAP) mode, extending the communication range to 22 meters (72 feet). The prototype tag employs Impinj's Monza X-2K RFID chip with a dual interface: a wired I²C interface managed by an ultra-low-power TI MSP430 microcontroller unit (MCU) and a wireless EPC Gen 2 UHF RFID interface for communicating with the reader. RAMSES is self-powered by an RF energy-harvesting circuit enhanced by a DC-DC charge pump in silicon-on-insulator (SOI) technology, but it is also equipped with a CR2032 lithium battery for battery-assisted passive (BAP) operations. RAMSES' available sensors comprise a temperature sensor, an ambient light sensor, a pressure sensor and a three-axis accelerometer. The researchers are offering firmware for download at the RAMSES wiki website. De Donno, who is carrying out postdoctorate work at the University of Salento's Department of Innovation Engineering, and is RAMSES' designer and principal investigator, says he would like to encourage students and researchers involved in academic projects, as well as electronics hobbyists and developers, to include RFID functionalities in their projects and PCB designs. "For these reasons, I decided to offer RAMSES firmware and code examples for download to the general public," De Donno states. "I think that such kind of initiatives can bring a lot of benefits to the RFID community and expand diffusion, knowledge, and potentialities of the RFID technology." Do Donno says he plans to continue improving RAMSES by adding additional sensors and solar energy-harvesting capabilities through what he describes as a novel DC power-summation network. "In the last few years," he reports, "monitoring the environment, capturing significant events and interpreting physical space information with sensors have been increasingly demanded in several application fields, such as disaster prevention and recovery, surveillance, home automation, health care, structure and machine diagnosis, advanced traceability systems." However, he notes, current IEEE 802.15.4-based wireless sensor networks (WSN) have a lifetime measured in weeks or months, which is generally unsuitable for long-lived applications requiring truly unobtrusive sensing. "In my opinion, RFID technology, recently maturated and enhanced by computational RFID sensor tags (e.g., RAMSES), has a number of key aspects, such as small form factor, zero-power backscatter communication, and standardized EPCglobal identification of nodes (tags), that make it a promising candidate to supplant or complement existing WSN." RAMSES schematics and PCB fabrication files will be released shortly on the wiki website, De Donno adds.

NXP Semiconductors Joins ZigBee Alliance Board of Directors
The ZigBee Alliance has announced that NXP Semiconductors is now a new member of the organization's board of directors. The ZigBee Alliance is an association of companies working to define ZigBee standards, provide interoperability and conformance testing specifications, and promote the technology's adoption. NXP had already been a member of the ZigBee Alliance, and has been active in ZigBee standards development prior to joining the board of directors, explained Pieter Hooijmans, NXP's VP of R&D BU security and connectivity, in a prepared statement. The new role, Hooijmans added, is "a logical next step in our relationship." Among its many product offerings, NXP supplies microcontrollers and transceivers for smart homes, connected lighting and energy efficiency applications based on ZigBee standards. NXP has also developed a variety of ZigBee-certified platforms and reference designs for key markets, including energy efficiency, connected devices, security and health, the company reports. NXP joins Comcast Cable, Freescale Semiconductor Inc., Itron Inc., Kroger, Landis+Gyr, Legrand Group, Philips Electronics, Schneider Electric, Silicon Labs and Texas Instruments on the ZigBee Alliance board of directors. "NXP's addition to the ZigBee Alliance Board is a significant endorsement of the strategic leadership ZigBee plays in the marketplace for the Internet of Things," said Tobin J. M. Richardson, the ZigBee Alliance's president and CEO, in the prepared statement. "NXP's commitment to open, global standards and its portfolio of innovative products will help spread adoption of ZigBee standards and promote Internet of Things applications around the world."

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