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RFID News Roundup

Integral upgrades hotspot test features, functions; Trolley Scan sells first RFID Radar system; JCB developing RFID payment system; Unisto unveils mobile yard management app; Syscan reader certified for Canadian livestock.
By Andrew Price
Mar 17, 2006The following are news announcements made during the week of Mar. 13.

Integral Upgrades Hotspot Test Features & Functions
Richland, Wash., systems integrator Integral RFID has announced the release of version 2.0 of its Instant EPC Hotspot software, which it introduced about a year ago (see Integral RFID Looks for Hot Spot) to enable end users of RFID to determine the best, most RF-friendly location for EPC tags on their goods. The company says the product has been well received by customers, including Nestlé and Johnson & Johnson. Version 2.0 supports the testing of EPC UHF Class 1 Gen 2 tags, and now also supports HF tags, rather than just UHF tags. Integral says it added the latter to make the software useful for pharmaceutical companies wanting to place HF tags on individual containers of drugs—an approach some companies in the industry are taking. In addition, version 2.0 supports the testing of active tags and pallets composed of mixed SKUs. The company has upgraded the software to support most new RFID interrogators on the market, but because new readers are being introduced at a pace that sometimes exceeds Integral's ability to support them, it has also released the Reader Interface Development Kit, a set of tools allowing third-party developers to write their own software interfaces to different readers. A commercial license for Instant EPC Hotspot version 2.0 is available for $1,800. Full-time students, universities and colleges are eligible for a $250 academic license, while providers of RFID training courses can license the software for $250.

Trolley Scan Sells First RFID Radar System
Trolley Scan, a Johannesburg, South Africa, developer of radio frequency identification technologies, says it has completed the first sale of its RFID Radar system to a European IT firm. The RFID Radar system uses a single interrogator (reader) and an array of antennas to identify the location of UHF RFID tags, whether passive or active. It then calculates the distance from the reader within an accuracy of 0.5 meters and a pointing direction of 1 degree. Other RFID location systems usually rely on three or more interrogators to triangulate the transponder position, requiring a large amount of radio spectrum to determine location. Trolley Scan says its system uses just 10 kHz of spectrum. (For more information on the RFID Radar system, see Company Aims to Turn Readers to Radar.) The Radar system could add a wide range of positioning applications to existing RFID systems—for instance, its interrogators could be mounted on a forklift and used inside a warehouse to locate specific tagged goods. Additionally, Trolley Scan says it is experimenting with receiving and transmitting antenna designs and power consumption to increase the read range of passive tags without increasing power. It says it has been able to locate passive tags at distances up to 40 meters (130 feet) using 0.5 watts of transmitter power, and hopes eventually to offer these long-range antennas as an upgrade. The company has not released pricing for the RFID Radar, but interested parties can request more information online using this form.

JCB Developing RFID Payment System
International credit card organization JCB says it will deploy an RFID-powered contactless credit card program, issuing cards with the technology by year's end. JCB will use the same air-interface protocol and payment transaction specification utilized by MasterCard's PayPass and Visa's contactless payment systems. The specification uses the ISO/IEC 14443 air-interface protocol. JCB is developing its own security application, including a cryptogram that will encrypt the account data transmitted to RFID-enabled point-of-sale terminals. There are approximately 56 million JCB cardholders globally, mostly in Japan, Korea, Taiwan and mainland China. In Japan, cardholders are already being issued JCB RFID-based cards, but these cards are based on Sony's FeliCa air-interface specification. JCB has not yet decided if it will issue new cards in Japan that support both FeliCa and the MasterCard-based specification. The ISO 14443 cards are expected to have the largest acceptance base in Taiwan, where some merchants accept MasterCard ONEsmart cards, combining PayPass and contact-based smart card technology. In order to accept the JCB RFID cards, merchants will need to upgrade ISO 14443-based reader terminals with the JCB security application still in development. JCB says it expects its network of issuing banks to start sending the RFID payment cards to cardholders by the end of the year. Though JCB issues few cards in the United States, those it issues are accepted at approximately 1 million merchant locations in North and South America. The RFID-enabled cards will be accepted at any of these locations equipped with readers able to process the JCB cards.

Unisto Unveils Mobile Yard Management App
Swiss company Unisto (formerly Encrypta) has developed an application called iTrak, which lets mobile devices utilize its YardTrak software for yard management and vehicle security. Part of Unisto's GateSuite distribution center management software, YardTrak provides information on the location and status of RFID-tagged shipping containers, trailers and tractors. With iTrak installed, PDAs and other mobile devices can now communicate with the GateSuite platform over a wireless LAN. The iTrak application was developed to provide authorized shipping yard workers up-to-the-minute information on the status and security of shipments. Users can monitor the security of cargo using GateSuite's YardTrak software module, announced last year (see Encrypta's GateSuite Provides On-Site Security).

Syscan Reader Certified for Canadian Livestock
Montreal-based active RFID systems provider Syscan International says the Canadian Cattle Identification Program (CCIP), an animal-tracing system for the containment and eradication of animal disease, has certified Syscan's new LiveTrack interrogator in its program. The CCIP was initiated by members of the Canadian livestock industry and is enforced by the Canadian Food Inspection Agency. According to Syscan, both the U.S. Federal Communications Commission (FCC) and Industry Canada have approved the use of the LiveTrack pursuant to the regulations of both agencies. The Syscan LiveTrack is a handheld 134.5 kHz interrogator compliant with the ISO 11784 and 11785 standards, which describe the data structure and air interface for RFID animal identification systems. LiveTrack is designed for use in outdoor environments and can withstand shock and water exposure. It has a range of up to 30 centimeters and can communicate with back-end systems through a serial port or wireless Bluetooth communication.
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