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Alien Announces Gen 2 Upgrade

Alien Technology says a firmware upgrade for its ALR-9780 RFID readers will be available in June.
By Jonathan Collins
Apr 12, 2005Alien Technology says it will deliver its EPC Gen 2 Compliant firmware upgrades for its existing ALR-9780 RFID readers beginning in June. Existing customers will be able to upgrade their readers using a capability built into the readers.

"Our readers are firmware upgradeable over the Internet. They do not require running around with a laptop and a serial cable downloading software from a CD," says Stav Prodromou, CEO at Alien Technology, which is based in Morgan Hill, Calif.

Alien says that since the fourth quarter last year, its readers have included the capability to allow network upgrades using Alien RFID gateway software.

By June, Alien says it will also provide an API so companies can develop their own applications to access the upgrade software on its readers.

Alien has been demonstrating its Gen 2 reader with simulated Gen 2 tags at the RFID Journal LIVE! conference in Chicago.

The EPC Gen 2 specification, ratified by EPCglobal in December 2004, is expected to improve the flexibility and performance of RFID systems.

While Alien says that its firmware upgrade will enable its existing and new ALR-9780 readers to read Gen 2 tags, the readers won't support all the features of the Gen 2 specification.

"To be fully compliant requires many modes of operation, many different speeds of operation, several different modulation schemes on the readers, and those will require hardware changes that are not possible with a firmware upgrade," says Prodromou. Alien will introduce a new generation of readers by the end of the year that it says will be able to support all the features of the Gen 2 specification.

Alien says its first Gen 2 tags will be available in the third quarter this year, but the company expects those tags to carry a price premium.

"Gen 2 is going to cost more than Gen 1. If it were just a 5 or 10 percent increase, manufacturers would eat that cost, but there is going to be a significant increase. Our tags today are under 20 cents, and there is going to be at least a 50 percent differential when Gen 2 tags first come out," says Prodromou.

According to Alien, that price differential will delay uptake of Gen 2 for several quarters, but demand for its Gen 1 tags remains strong. The company announced that in March it shipped its 50 millionth EPC Class 1 RFID tag. The company claims that it receiving orders for as many as several million tags, up from orders of up to 100,000 just a year ago.
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