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RFID News Roundup

BEA Systems, HP joining forces; RFIDSupplyChain.com offers Omron Compliance Package; Omron boosts Gen 2 tag production capacity; Hypercom adds interrogator to PIN pad; printed tags to play important role in smart packaging.
By Andrew Price
Apr 21, 2006The following are news announcements made during the week of Apr. 17.

BEA Systems, HP Joining Forces
BEA Systems, the San Jose, Calif., integration software provider that last year purchased RFID middleware provider ConnecTerra, is partnering with Hewlett-Packard (HP), which has been offering RFID services and solutions since 2004. The two companies plan to provide standards-based RFID solutions combining BEA's WebLogic RFID middleware and integration products with HP's integration and data storage services. The firms say they will initially market their solutions to retailers, retail suppliers, pharmaceutical companies and the defense industry. Specifically, they plan to help customers deploy asset-tracking systems, mandate compliance and implement end-to-end supply-chain goods tracking. The firms will also help deploy tagging systems that integrate sensors and collect data for applications in the cold chain, aimed at reducing food spoilage. The joint BEA and HP RFID-enabled solutions are available now, though pricing has not yet been released.

RFIDSupplyChain.com Offers Omron Compliance Package
RFIDSupplyChain.com, an online source for RFID goods and services, says it has become the exclusive online seller of the Omron One Day Compliance Package, a starter bundle of RFID hardware, software and training designed to help companies that supply retailers such as Wal-Mart Stores, Albertson's, Target and Best Buy, as well as the U.S. Department of Defense, to comply with RFID tagging mandates. The package includes the V740 Omron RFID interrogator (preinstalled with Gen 2 firmware, plus a one-year maintenance and upgrade warranty), one antenna, an RFID printer-encoder, EPC software, an indicator light and an antenna mounting stand. Users can choose either the Printronix SL5000R printer-encoder or the Zebra Technologies R110Xi printer-encoder, both of which can encode Gen 2 labels. Through the end of May, the package also includes 10,000 4- by 6-inch RFID smart labels. The EPC software included in the package—RFIDTagManager from EPCSolutions—enables users to commission EPCs and generate RFID-label print orders. Also included in the package are installation services from an Omron-certified systems integrator, a half-day of training on the compliance package and system documentation. The package can be ordered here for a cost of $19,995.

Omron Boosts Gen 2 Tag Production Capacity
Spurred by the growing demand for its RFID Gen 2 inlays, particularly in the U.S. market,—as well as a desire to increase its share of the RFID inlay market—Omron says that by the end of June, its worldwide Gen 2 RFID inlay manufacturing capacity will reach 250 million per year, up from the current 100 million. The expansion will necessitate additional production lines and equipment at Omron's Minakuchi factory in Shiga, Japan, and is part of the company's longstanding commitment to invest $20 million worldwide in its RFID business. Omron says it will reanalyze the Gen 2 inlay market potential later this year; by the end of September, it will decide whether to expand its operations further. If this happens, the firm expects to bolster facilities at its Minakuchi plant so thatannual production capacity will reach 350 million Gen 2 inlays by the end of March 2007.

Hypercom Adds Interrogator to PIN Pad
Hypercom, a provider of retail payment systems, has developed a personal identification number (PIN) entry device, the P4100 PIN Pad, capable of reading the ISO 14443-compliant RFID inlays embedded in certain Visa and MasterCard credit and debit payments cards. Able to read American Express ExpressPay, MasterCard PayPass and Visa Contactless RFID-enabled cards, the device supports the triple-DES encryption methods used to protect cardholder data, transmitted to the payment terminal during an RFID payment transaction. The P4100 PIN Pad can integrate with Hypercom, VeriFone and Ingenico card payment terminals, as well as a number of electronic cash register systems. It supports RS-422, RS-232, Ethernet and USB connections to these terminals and cash register systems.

Printed Tags to Play Important Role in Smart Packaging
According to a new report from NanoMarkets, smart packaging will consume $1.1 billion in printable RFID tags by the year 2011, at which time the global smart-packaging market will reach $4.8 billion. The consultancy, based in Glen Allen, Va., studies nanotechnology within the electronics, biomedical, energy and specialty-materials industries. Smart packaging contains integrated, printable electronics, such as RFID tags or other sensors, providing traceability or information on the product's condition. For example, RFID tags and temperature indicators printed into labels of pharmaceutical products could be used to authenticate bottles and monitor whether temperature-sensitive drugs have spoiled during transport. RFID tags integrated into packaging could offer a more affordable alternative to applying RFID labels onto finished packaging. Some members of the printable electronics industry predict that the ability to mass-produce RFID tags by printing them could drop tag price to as low as a penny. However, before this can happen, the NanoMarkets report warns, significant improvements are required in both the materials and printing machines used to print tags. The report also discusses how advances in piezoelectric materials, organic photovoltaics and thin-film batteries will help improve the power sources needed in some smart packaging applications. The report is presently available for purchase from the NanoMarkets Web site, starting at $2,995.
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