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RFID News Roundup

ThingMagic's first funding round yields $10 million; Israeli military pilots Savi's technology; LXE announces mobile reader for forklifts; Zebra adds smart label conversion capacity; EPCglobal survey shows optimism surrounding RFID; Paxar to embed SAMSys module in printer-encoders; Swiss firm offers RFID patent updates.
By Ari Juels
Sep 02, 2005The following are news announcements made during the week of Aug. 29.

ThingMagic's First Funding Round Yields $10 Million
ThingMagic, a developer of RFID technology, says it has raised $10 million in its first round of funding. The Cambridge, Mass., firm will use this funding to further its technology development and grow the company. The Exxel Group, a private equity group in Argentina, led the funding. Morningside Technology Ventures, Inventec Appliances and Top Line Growth Capital also contributed to the $10 million. The five-year-old RFID developer says it is already profitable and will continue to fund its core business from revenue. ThingMagic licenses RFID interrogators—including its Mercury4 reader, designed for large RFID deployments that use RFID tags with a range of communication protocols—to partners that include Omron and Tyco Fire & Security's ADT Security Services.

Israeli Military Pilots Savi's Technology
Savi Technology, a Sunnyvale, Calif., provider of RFID supply chain solutions, says it has completed a series of RFID-related projects with the Israeli Defense Force (IDF) to evaluate the effectiveness of Savi hardware, software and services in tracking military supplies for maintenance, warehousing and in-transit visibility. The projects, done in conjunction with Israel-based Savi partner ETCOM RFID, are being assessed for possible further rollouts. Active RFID technology was used to track and manage pallets, delivery trucks, tank power units and containers of weapons from permanent logistics centers to outposts. Used in the projects were Savi’s EchoPoint active RFID hardware (tags, readers and signposts); SmartChain Site Manager, data-collection software that filters and aggregates RFID tag reads; SmartChain Enterprise Platform, a centralized business process management system to track and manage the movement of assets; and SmartChain Consignment Management Solution (CMS), which manages consignments and supply chain assets. CMS enables the IDF to link its in-transit visibility (ITV) network with those of other defense forces, including Australia's (see Australia's Military to Track Supplies), Denmark's, NATO's, the United Kingdom's and the United States'.

LXE Announces Mobile Reader for Forklifts
LXE, a Norcross, Ga., developer of rugged mobile RFID readers, has announced a UHF RX1 rugged mobile interrogator designed to be mounted on a forklift and used for such warehouse operations as moving tagged cases of goods. The RX1 uses a reader module from Sirit Technologies, based in Mississauga, Ontario, and the IXP4XX network processor from Intel. The device currently reads EPC Class 0 and Class 1 tags, and LXE says it hopes to enable it to read EPC Gen 2 tags by the time it becomes available in January. The RX1 is designed to withstand the vibration and shock forklifts generate while reading and verifying case, pallet and location tags. LXE says it is also developing a specialized antenna that can be configured for specific forklift operations. For example, as an empty forklift approaches a warehouse shelf, the antenna's signal would be focused on a tag encoded with information about the goods stored on that shelf. As mixed cases of goods are assembled onto a pallet held by the forklift, the antenna's RF field would be directed to the top layer of cases being placed on the pallet so that the tags would be read only while the cases being loaded onto the pallet. This would reduce the volume of duplicate tag readings. LXE hopes to make this specialized antenna available during the first half of 2006. LXE says pricing for the RX1 has not yet been finalized.

Zebra Adds Smart Labels Conversion Capacity
Vernon Hills, Ill.-based RFID systems provider Zebra Technologies says it has added RFID smart label converting equipment to its Greenville, Wis., facility. There, the company converts paper into a range of products such as adhesive bar code labels and ticket stock. Zebra says adding smart label converting equipment—used to embed an RFID inlay into an adhesive label to form a smart label—will give it more control over the production of its smart labels, which it previously outsourced. Bringing the converting process in-house, the firm states, will help the company lower the price it charges for its smart labels. Zebra would not disclose how many smart labels its new equipment can produce, but says it will continue to outsource some of its RFID smart label converting. The company sells smart labels with both high- and ultra-high frequency inlays; it expects to have production quantities of smart labels with EPC UHF Gen 2 inlays within the next two months. Zebra also announced that it has been qualified by Alien Technology as a supplier of Alien Class 1 RFID inlays, which it will embed in its smart labels.

EPCglobal Survey Shows Optimism Surrounding RFID
An EPCglobal-commissioned online survey revealed that the more familiar respondents are with RFID technology, the more likely they are to consider the technology at least somewhat important to their business. The survey also showed that manufacturers are slightly more likely than retailers to recognize the importance of the technology to their business, with 87 percent of manufacturers considering RFID extremely, very or somewhat important, compared with 80 percent of retailers. That manufacturers were more bullish on RFID technology than retailers goes against the common sentiment that retailers will gain more value from RFID than manufacturers, says Mike Meranda, president of EPCglobal US. Respondents said the greatest obstacle to deployment is the cost of deployment. More than half of respondents also said a single global standard and access by RFID equipment vendors to royalty-free standards were extremely or very important to their RFID deployments. Online survey firm Decision Analyst conducted the survey between May 10 and June 3. The survey was given to more than 400 people working in supply chain management, in a range of industries including manufacturing, consumer products, health care and life sciences, and retailing.

Paxar to Embed SAMSys Module in Printer-Encoders
Paxar, a White Plains, N.Y., provider of RFID printer-encoders for the retail supply chain, says it is embedding the SAMSys MP9311 RFID UHF EPC Gen 2 reader module into its Monarch 9855 RFID tabletop smart label printer-encoders sold in the U.S. and Europe. The interrogator is manufactured by SAMSys Technologies, located in Raleigh-Durham, N.C. The MP9311 tests and encodes RFID chips embedded in thermal direct or transfer bar code labels. It also verifies that the information is correct, then prints both human-readable and bar code data (see SAMSys Releases Gen 2 Reader Module). In addition to supporting Gen 2 tag standards, new Paxar printers equipped with the SAMSys module can read tags based on the EPC Class 0+, EPC Class 1 and Philips UCODE 1.19 protocols. The SAMSys MP9311 RFID module is available as a version that can operate in any country, in any UHF band designated for RFID, and as a version that operates only at 902-928 MHz, the UHF RFID band used in North America.

Swiss Firm Offers RFID Patent Updates
Swiss research services company Centredoc has launched a member-based service to provide periodical updates regarding developments in RFID-related intellectual property. Each month, members receive an e-mail message that directs them to Centredoc's online patent watch portal, where they receive password-protected access to patent updates in English, as well as the complete text of new RFID-related patents and news about American and European patent applications. Membership costs €1,200 ($1,480). A two-month free trial membership is available by e-mailing a request to rfid@centredoc.ch.
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