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Philips, Partners Testing Gen 2 Chips

The semiconductor firm says it has developed a Gen 2 chip and is working with partnering companies to develop Gen 2 tags and readers.
By Mary Catherine O'Connor
Apr 01, 2005Philips, one of the largest producers of RFID microchips, says that it has created a Gen 2 chip that is compliant with EPCglobal's ultra-high frequency (UHF) electronic product code (EPC) Gen 2 standard, and its partnering companies are testing samples of the chip.

"We've developed the first silicon for Gen 2, and we've had the silicon in our facilities throughout March," says Dirk Morgenroth, marketing manager of RFID for Philips Semiconductors, based in Eindhoven, the Netherlands. Philips developed the silicon during January and February and is now partnering with companies in what it calls the EPC G2 task force. Beginning at the end of February, Philips began shipping samples of the chips to RFID tag manufactures, reader manufacturers and system integrators. It will work with these manufacturers, using their feedback to possibly make changes to the chip to optimize its performance. Philips partners include ASK, Checkpoint, Deister Electronic, Feig, Intermec, Omron, SAMSys, ThingMagic, UPM Rafsec and X-Ident.

Dirk Morgenroth
Morgenroth says Philips and its partners are working to develop products based on Gen 2 in order to bring them to market as soon as possible. Philips is aiming to begin taking orders for the chips in September 2005, for deliveries beginning the following month, according to Morgenroth. The chip is priced at $0.09 in volume quantities of 10,000 units.

The products are being tested within its partners' laboratories, as opposed to real-world environments that contain a significant amount of RF interference, in order to test and optimize the basic performance of the products. Morgenroth says the tests are focusing on things such as communication between the readers and tags and the anticollision functionality (which eliminates interference between RF devices and allows a reader to read more than one tag in its interrogation zone). "We're still very early with the products, and this is the first step," he says, adding that once the chips and other products are tuned, they will be tested in real-world environments.

Philips says its Gen 2 chip, called U-Code EPC G2, has a one-time programmable memory for the 96-bit EPC. Its anticollision algorithm enables the reading of up to 1,600 tags per second under current U.S. regulations, and up to 600 tags per second under current European regulations, which allot a smaller band of the UHF spectrum for RFID systems, compared with U.S. regulations. The U-Code chip is designed to meet all of the required commands within the Gen 2 protocol as well as some optional commands, though descriptions of these optimal commands were not available at press time.

Philips has been selling the U-Code 1.19 UHF chip for use in RFID tags in Europe, but says it will discontinue the 1.19 once the U-Code UHF Gen 2 tag is in production.

Philips also says that European retail giant METRO Group has agreed to participate in the EPC G2 task force to evaluate the technology, but the semiconductor giant has not yet detailed what that evaluation would consist of or what role METRO will play.

The Gen 2 standard was developed by EPCglobal, the organization created by the Uniform Code Council and EAN International (now known as GS1) to commercialize electronic product code technology, to provide interoperable UHF RFID tags and readers for all end users, in order to enable global adoption of EPC. The Gen 2 standard is currently under review by the International Standards Organization for adoption under its 18000-6c standard. A numbering scheme called an application family identifier (AFI) will be written to Gen 2 EPC tags in order to distinguish them from ISO 18000-6 tags, but the two should be technically interoperable.
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