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RFID News Roundup

DHL adds 13 locations throughout the Americas to its life-sciences Thermonet network; EM Microelectronic announces COiN Bluetooth smart beacon; SkyeTek unveils new UHF RFID module; International oil and gas company implements Precyse Technologies' RTLS to boost worker safety; RFID takes part in University of Texas at Dallas commencement ceremony.
By Beth Bacheldor

SkyeTek Unveiuls New UHF RFID Module

SkyeTek's SkyeModule Nova
SkyeTek, a provider of RFID reader technology headquartered in Denver, Colo., has announced a new ultrahigh-frequency (UHF) EPC Class 1 Gen 2 RFID module known as the SkyeModule Nova. According to SkyeTek, the Nova features a completely revamped architecture, including a fast and efficient ARM Cortex M0 microcontroller and the latest UHF chip technology from ams AG. The module measures 25 millimeters by 30 millimeters (1 inch by 1.2 inches), uses the Mini-PCI Express half card form factor, and utilizes a new micro-electro-mechanical systems (MEMS)-based adaptive antenna tuning circuit. Specifically, the Nova offers 500mW of output power with a read range of up to 10 meters (33 feet), nominal input power of 2W at maximum output power, two antenna ports (with SkyeTek Adaptive Antenna Tuning), and a sleep mode that powers current down to 10uA. It supports several host interfaces, including USB, transistor-transistor logic (TTL) level RS232, serial peripheral interface (SPI) and inter-integrated circuit (I2C).

"We now offer a product that is extremely high performance, power efficient, ultra small, and contains adaptive antenna tuning not seen before from an RFID module," said Brad Alcorn, SkyeTek's president, in a prepared statement. "We expect to embed this module into thousands of mobile computing devices in the next few years, giving our customers the perfect alternative to expensive, purpose built RFID scanners." The SkyeModule Nova is now in production, the company reports, and SkyeTek is currently accepting preorders.

International Oil and Gas Company Implements Precyse Technologies' RTLS to Boost Worker Safety

Precyse Technologies, a manufacturer of real-time location system (RTLS) and supply chain visibility solutions based on active RFID technologies, has announced that an international oil and gas company, which has asked to remain identified, is implementing Precyse Technologies' Remote Entity Awareness and Control (REAC) system at ten CO2 recovery plants, to track more than 1,000 workers in Texas. The solution supports wireless sensors, machine-to-machine (M2M) control and real-time location using a single reader infrastructure with a 1-mile range.

Precyse's solutions are designed to monitor the locations and movements of employees or physical assets inside and outside a facility, using patented assisted GPS (A-GPS) and active RFID technologies to identify the locations and statuses of personnel inside and outside that facility, as well as in transitional areas commonly found within complex industrial environments. The system employs battery-powered intrinsically safe devices, known as Bridge xPorts (which act as routers) and Micro xBeacons (standalone devices that transmit their ID numbers over the air for location reference purposes), coupled with Precyse's network infrastructure and sophisticated software, to remotely identify, locate, monitor and communicate with personnel during mustering events and normal day-to-day operations.

To date, Precyse has installed its solution at five of the oil and gas company's sites. By the end of next month, it expects to have deployed the technology at 10 facilities. Precyse says the oil and gas firm has approved the system's installation at seven additional sites, also located in Texas. The facilities span several hundred acres in size and, due to the ever-present risk of flammable gases, are rated Class I, Division 1 and 2 hazardous areas (similar to IECEx and ATEX Zone 0). According to Precyse, there will be four to five Bridge xPorts per site and an average of 75 xBeacons. The number of xBeacons, Precyse reports, depends on a particular plant's size and complexity—for example, the amount of metal present.

In addition to tracking employee locations and statuses, the system helps to improve operational efficiency via the tracking of personnel and high-value assets—for instance, worker attendance, location dwell-times and time reporting—and features built-in man-down detection. If a field worker falls, the system will automatically report that event in real time. Automated alerts and notifications can be configured against business rules. For example, if a worker falls, presses a panic button or enters an unauthorized area, Precyse's software automatically displays a message to system users—and, when warranted, sends e-mails and text messages to emergency responders, control room operators, security personnel and/or supervisors. The system also offers text-notification capabilities, Precyse adds, thereby enabling control room operators to communicate with workers in the field, and further enhancing the remote visibility and management of a workforce. Post-muster reports can help companies meet OSHA requirements to demonstrate compliance, while historical reports show workers' onsite presence and specific work areas or zones, by individual, work group (such as electricians) or other category.

RFID Takes Part in University of Texas at Dallas Commencement Ceremony

In May 2014, RFID helped the University of Texas at Dallas celebrate graduation. The RFID technology used, based on the ultrahigh frequency (UHF) EPC Gen 2 standard, ensured that family members and friends watching the ceremony, either in person or via the Web, knew exactly when their loved ones walked across the stage during the commencement ceremony. Designed by graduating electrical engineering student Johanan Rodriguez and classmates Timothy McGuire, Julian Torres and Jasmine Singh, as part of the senior design program at the Erik Jonsson School of Engineering and Computer Science, the system allowed a graduate's name, degree and major to be displayed on an on-stage video screen as he or she crossed the stage and shook the hand of Dr. Mark W. Spong, Jonsson School's dean.

The information was collected via an Alien Technology ALR-9650 reader, with which the orator scanned each graduate's RFID-enabled badge as he or she walked onstage. The scans sent a signal that was wirelessly transmitted to a computer system that then projected each student's information on a video screen. In this article posted on the university's website, the students who developed the system said they did so, in part, because graduates are onstage for such a short time—approximately three seconds—that it can be difficult for families to see them cross the stage and receive their diplomas. "What would be terrible," Rodriguez told the reporter, "is during [those] three seconds, your parents wouldn't even be able to recognize you."

According to the article, the system was developed through the senior design program, in which seniors design a capstone project using the knowledge they have acquired in traditional classroom settings and outside the classroom. The team opted to deploy RFID because the technology would not interfere with the ceremony or add to the orator's duties of reading the names. Rodriguez and Torres (also an electrical engineering major) had to learn about software and graphics, the article notes, while McGuire and Singh (computer engineering majors) had to learn about the RFID technology required for the project.

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