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RFID News Roundup

Gen 2 tag, reader demonstrated at METRO; "RFID for Dummies" for sale; U.S. ski area completes first season using RFID; GSI UK publishes planning guide; new PC card reader from WJ Communications; Indala releases HF reader series; Lab ID introduces FRAM tag chip; LXE releases pre-Gen 2 software upgrade.
By Ari Juels
Apr 08, 2005The following are news announcements made during the week of Apr. 4

Gen 2 Tag, Reader Demonstrated at METRO
In what it calls an industry first, Everett, Wash.-based Intermec says it has completed demonstrations of tag and readers compliant with the EPC Gen 2 standard. During the demonstration—held at retailer METRO Group's RFID Innovation Center in Neuss, Germany—Intermec's Gen 2-enabled reader, the IF5, read Intermec Intellitag Gen 2 smart labels containing Philips U-Code G2 RFID chips. Intermec and Philips next plan to equip METRO's RFID Innovation Center with Gen 2 technology to test system performance. The companies also plan to update METRO's Future Store supply chain with Gen 2 capabilities to test the technology under real-life conditions. According to Intermec, more than 100 METRO Group suppliers are expected to migrate to Gen 2 RFID technology for improved asset tracking and inventory control by the end of 2005. METRO Group, which has 2,300 stores in 30 countries around the world, launched its first RFID pilot project in November 2004. To date more than 100,000 pallets have been read using the retailer's current RFID system.

"RFID for Dummies" for Sale
Wiley Publishing has issued RFID for Dummies as part of its For Dummies imprint. Patrick Sweeney, CEO of ODIN Technologies, authored the 388-page book, which is targeted at readers who want or need to know more about what RFID technology is, what it does and how it works. The book is divided in six parts. People familiar with the basic science behind RFID can skip the first two parts and go straight to chapters about how to deploy and monitor RFID networks, test tags and readers and begin a pilot project. The book also provides tips on choosing products, on outsourcing work, and on service providers (ODIN Technologies is a systems integrator). Patrick Sweeney will be signing copies of "RFID for Dummies" at next week's RFID Journal LIVE! conference in Chicago. The book can be purchased online and in bookstores. Cover price is $24.99.

U.S. Ski Area Completes First Season Using RFID
Colorado's Steamboat Ski Area first season using SafeTzone Technologies Corp.'s semi-active RFID system to help skiers and snowboarders stay connected with other, is coming to a close this Sunday. The system, launched at Steamboat in mid-December, has been used by 300 families or groups of visitors. Upon arrival, visitors to the resort rent a Steamboat MountainWatch wrist bracelet, which combines a Texas Instruments low-frequency (134.2 kHz) passive transponder and an RF Code Mantis 303.8 MHz active RFID tag. Each bracelet is linked to the name of the person to whom it is issued. The active (battery-powered) part of the tag transmits an ID number periodically to RFID readers located at the top and bottom of each of the ski area's 20 chairlifts and also throughout the base of the ski area. SafeTzone's patented real-time location system determines the location of the person wearing the bracelet along with the person's identity. At kiosks (one located outside and five indoors, scattered the resort's lodges) visitors can pass their bracelet over a RFID reader and find the last known locations (shown on a map of the ski area) of other members of their party. Users can send text messages to other people in their party by using a keypad in the touch screen. The recipients can view the messages after logging into one of the kiosks. The bracelets are rented for $5 per day and are free to children enrolled in Steamboat's ski school or child care. Steamboat is the first ski area in the world to deploy the SafeTzone system and says it would like to integrate a cashless payment system in the seasons to come so that guests could use the bracelet to purchase lift tickets, food and services.

GSI UK Publishes Planning Guide
GS1 UK, the U.K. organization formerly known as e.centre and a member of GS1 (EAN International), has prepared a U.K. EPCglobal implementation planning guide that is available free of charge at the group's Web site. The guide provides an overview of the issues that companies need to address prior to preparing an RFID trial or rollout and covers subjects such as the global standards, field trials, tags and readers selection and potential technical problems. Though targeted at U.K. companies, GS1 UK maintains the guide is generic enough to be suitable for companies around the world and across many industries. The publication is available on GS1 UK's RFID Resources Web page, where there is also a link to EPCglobal's long-standing ROI Calculator (see New ROI Calculator for RFID)—an online tool designed to help companies better understand the potential ROI of any RFID deployment.

New PC Card Reader from WJ Communications
WJ Communications, a San Jose, Calif.-based supplier of RFID readers, RF semiconductors and RF modules, has announced an addition to its series of PC card RFID readers: the MPR7000. The UHF (902 to 928 MHz) reader supports EPC Class 0, 0+ and 1 tags and can be upgraded via firmware to support UHF Gen 2 tags. The MPR7000 connects to handhelds, printers and other devices through a type II PCMCIA PC card slot and is designed for smart packaging, material handling and industrial applications. The MPR7000 is the third reader in WJ Communciation's MPR series, which include the MPR 5000 and MPR6000 PC card readers. The reader is available now; pricing information was not released.

Indala Releases HF Reader Series
Indala, a San Jose, Calif., producer of RFID cards and reader products for access control systems, has introduced the FlexSmart series of 13.56 MHz smart card readers. The series includes the DX200, MX200 and IX200 reader lines. The DX200 reader works with DESFire smart cards and is compliant with ISO 14443A and the U.S. Government Smart Card (GSC) interoperability standards. The DX Series readers offer 3DES encryption and communication speeds up to eight times faster (800 kilobits per second) than MIFARE. The MX200 reader is compatible with smart cards based on the ISO 15693 standard or MIFARE, which is a standard used for many transportation, ticketing and cashless payment applications. The IX200 reader is compatible with ISO 15693 and is designed for entry-level contactless smart card access control applications.

Lab ID Introduces FRAM Tag Chip
Lab ID, based in Bologna, Italy, has introduced a high-frequency RFID tag that has 2 kilobytes of ferroelectric random access memory (FRAM). Compliant with the ISO 15693 standard, the tag was developed at Lab ID's research and development center and uses FRAM developed by Fujitsu. FRAM is nonvolatile random access memory that uses ferroelectric film as a capacitor for storing data. It has a faster write rate and lower power consumption than EEPROM, which is the type of storage used in many RFID tags. Lab ID says the FRAM chip will be used for RFID inlays in smart labels and badges. They have a read-write distance of up to 80 cm and a data rate of 26.48 kilobits per second. The tags are available now; information on pricing, which is dependent on quantity, was not released.

LXE Releases Pre-Gen 2 Software Upgrade
LXE, the Norcross, Georgia-based developer of mobile RFID reader systems, has announced a software upgrade to its MX3-RFID rugged handheld computer that will enable users to later use a firmware upgrade (which will be available at a later date) the MX3-RFID reader to provide the reader with Gen 2 capabilities. Current users of the MX3-RFID reader can send their readers to LXE for the upgrade or LXE can send the software to current users who can run the upgrade themselves; neither option requires the reader to be disassembled. The upgrade can be administered via cable using an ActiveSync synchronization program by Microsoft for Windows Mobile and other Windows CE-based devices or via FTP or file copy over the wireless 802.11 radio in the unit. It can also be done by opening the unit and installing the software via CompactFlash. The software upgrade will also provides support for 96-bit tags and allow users to translate reader output to either HEX format or EPC Tag Data Standard format. With the EPC Tag Data Standard option, operators will be able to see, on the MX3-RFID's screen, tag and product details, which will simplify the exception handling and verification process. Supported formats include SGTIN-64, SGTIN-96, SSCC-64 and SSCC-96. LXE has added the capability for customers to specify masks and filters when reading tags, providing operators the means to find specific cases on a fully loaded pallet that meet the criteria entered into the unit. This feature will also help operators to track products and implement product recalls. The release date for the Gen 2 upgrade firmware for the reader has not been determined, and LXE says it is still evaluating whether the upgrade will allow dense-reader mode operation.
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