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Alien Releases New IC With Longer Read-Write Range, Error Protection

The company's Higgs-EC chip and inlays, as well as an Android-based handheld reader, are all designed to accommodate the rapid growth of item-level RFID tagging and the need to read those tags in high volumes.
By Claire Swedberg
Apr 27, 2016

RFID technology manufacturer Alien Technology has released a new integrated circuit known as the Higgs-EC—which, the company reports, offers improved read and write sensitivity, as well as error-correcting memory that can be written to as many as 200,000 times. According to the company, the Higgs-EC (model number ALC-380) enables the development of smaller tags featuring greater sensitivity, faster reading and encoding, and longer read and write distances. The error-correcting memory is designed so that if a chip is damaged—cracked, for instance—a reader can still capture its encoded data.

The company is releasing the Higgs-EC, as well as three inlays made with that chip, and a new Android-based handheld RFID reader, in anticipation of next week's RFID Journal LIVE! conference, taking place in Orlando, Fla., on May 3-5. The new products, says Chris Chang, Alien Technology's CEO, are timed to meet the needs of the EPC ultrahigh-frequency (UHF) RFID tag market, which is surging, he says, partly due to the demand by brands and retailers for item-level visibility of goods. At present, Chang says, approximately 5 percent of all retail goods are being tagged, with about 6 billion tags applied to goods annually. He expects it won't be long before that number is closer to 10 billion per year.

Alien Technology's Higgs-EC chips
Along with the greater need to RFID-track goods and assets, Chang suspects, will come the necessity for faster, more sensitive tags containing more memory for bulk reading and encoding. And, he says, while the incidence of damaged tags may not yet be high, tags used in greater volumes can lead to increased errors, which is something that Alien aims to prevent with its new chip.

"We want to make sure our customers can really, really, trust the integrity of data from RFID reads," says Neil Mitchell, Alien Technology's senior director of marketing. "No matter what chips and tags go through, the users need to be able to rely on the data." In the case of a damaged chip, an RFID tag may still function, but if even a single bit is no longer stored properly, the data will be flawed when read. If this occurs, he explains, users are often unaware of the problem with the tag, and it thus continues to provide an incorrect ID number throughout a supply chain or at a retailer's store.

The Higgs-EC offers what the company calls Sentinel memory—the error-corrective memory architecture detects and corrects single-bit data errors that may result from damage caused by cosmic rays or cracks. The chip comes with additional unused bits that can provide the necessary data if one of the bits being used becomes damaged. "As volumes of tags increase," Mitchell states, "we don't want our customers to have to worry about data quality."

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