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RFID News Roundup

IBM, Intermec put full middleware suite in IF5; R and V Group guarantees Gen 1 labels, drops price; Bearing Point offering bag tracking consultation; study shows little change in consumer awareness of RFID; Plitek giving inlays the third degree; Cogiscan offering RFID for electronics manufacturing; OTI shipping 10 million RFID cards in 2005; Macau casino ordering 600,000 RFID gaming pieces; CISC creates products to simulate and measure portals; USDA offers grant program for NAIS trials, research.
By Andrew Price
Nov 18, 2005The following are news announcements made during the week of Nov. 14.

IBM, Intermec Put Full Middleware Suite in IF5
According to IBM, Intermec Technologies has embedded the computer giant's WebSphere Device Infrastructure (WRDI) into Intermec's IF5 RFID reader. This enables the IF5 to process the routing and management of incoming data from RFID tags, rather than sending raw read data to an external middleware layer. It reduces network traffic and allows a user to send only pertinent RFID read data upstream to its application server. The IF5 can also route this processed data to an IBM RFID WebSphere Premises Server. The new WRDI-enabled IF5 acts as a controller of RFID printers, such as the Intermec PM4i, and other devices including motion detectors that can trigger the IF5 to search for tags. Previously, Intermec offered its IF5 with an embedded WebSphere Everyplace Micro Environment, which let the reader filter and process data, but did not act as a controller of other devices. Also integrated into the WRDI framework is IBM's WebSphere Everyplace Device Manager, which provides connectivity to the IBM Tivoli Systems Management suite to provide centralized device management. This gives users the ability to download new RFID applications or device software updates to readers installed in remote locations. The WRDI-enabled IF5 will be available in December, but Intermec will begin accepting orders next week. The price is approximately $2,000.

R and V Group Guarantees Gen 1 Labels, Drops Price
Chattanooga, Tenn., label manufacturer R and V Group has announced a 100 percent performance and delivery guarantee for its EPC Gen 1 RFID labels at the same time that it has dropped the threshold of its volume pricing. The company will now charge 19 cents per label on orders of 50,000 or more. Previously, this pricing had been limited to volumes of 100,000 to 150,000. According to the company, it will replace any nonfunctioning Gen 1 tag in kind at no charge to the end user. "Our intent with the 50K was to arrive at a reasonable volume to allow new users of RFID to begin without having to buy or commit to higher label volumes," says Steve Van Fleet, president at R and V Group. The company's self-adhesive printable RFID labels are embedded with EPC Class 1 96-bit inlays from Japanese supplier Omron. In August, Paxar, a White Plains, N.Y., supplier of RFID and bar code labeling systems, guaranteed its Monarch-brand Class 1 RFID labels and tags as long as they were encoded by the company's own Monarch 9855 printer-encoder (see Paxar Giving 110 Percent).

Bearing Point Offering Bag Tracking Consultation
BearingPoint, a business consulting and systems integration company based in McLean, Va., has developed a methodology and toolset to help airlines and airports ascertain the business value and risk of deploying an RFID system to track baggage. It built the methodology based on an RFID feasibility trial conducted for Germany's Hapagfly Airlines. To conduct the study, BearingPoint analyzed the results of technology trials airlines around the world have completed to test the technological issues surrounding the use of RFID for baggage tracking and interviewed a range of Hapagfly employees, such as operations managers, controllers, customer service representatives and bag handlers. Based on this study, BearingPoint created 14 areas of analysis, or benefit-generating mechanisms, which it will use to consult airlines and airports on their individual business case for or against the use of RFID. Jeff Meyer, BearingPoint senior manager, says his firm found that Hapagfly would not reap a quick return on RFID for baggage tracking, partly because it currently loses track of fewer bags than the industry average . For larger airlines that operate on a hub-and-spoke model, wherein flights are generally routed through hubs that require extra handling of bags between flights (during which bags are often mishandled), the business case is stronger.

Study Shows Little Change in Consumer Awareness of RFID
The latest results of RFID Buzz Research, an ongoing study tracking consumers' awareness and understanding of RFID technology, show that such awareness may have plateaued. In June, 43.6 percent of surveyed consumers (adults 18 years and older) said they had heard of RFID. In the most recent survey, conducted in September, that percentage fell to 42.4 percent. The study is being conducted by Worthington, Ohio-based Big Research, in association with Fremont, Calif., research firm Artafact. When it began in September 2004, consumer awareness was at only 28.2 percent. It grew most dramatically late in 2004 and early in 2005, with levels peaking in June. The study also follows mainstream press coverage of RFID news , which appears to be waning, as well. In the first quarter of 2005, 22 general news articles in the top five U.S. newspapers mentioned RFID. This fell to 11 stories in the second quarter and only six this quarter. The full RFID Buzz Research reports are available on the Big Research web site. The price is $1,000 for single-quarter studies and $3,750 for a whole year's worth.

Plitek Giving Inlays the Third Degree
Plitek, a Chicago-based converter of RFID smart labels, is using software developed by Richland, Wash., systems integrator Integral RFID to weed out poorly performing RFID inlays. Doing so has improved the quality of the converter's product, according to Jeff Kusiciel, Plitek's RFID product manager. "Our customers are currently reporting 99.5 percent yields and above," says Kusiciel, referring to the percentage of smart labels that are successfully encoded and verified as functioning on goods prior to being shipped. The Integral RFID software is used in combination with controllers that move the roll of smart labels through the converting process and RFID antennas and readers. After each label is converted, the strength of the inlay's signal is measured as the power of the antenna is turned down, simulating less-than-perfect reading conditions. The software directs the controllers to remove labels whose inlays do not pass this test. Previously, Plitek tested inlays based only on whether each functioned under optimal conditions. As a result, fewer performed well for end users in the real world. Integral RFID's president, Chris Parkinson, says manufacturers have expressed interest in using the Java-based software for testing inlays that would be integrated into product packaging.

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