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RFID News Roundup

ThingMagic says new OS boosts reader performance; forklift attachment integrates RFID; TI unveils new HF reader chipset; Avery, Vue Technology joining forces for retailers; Fluensee, Intelleflex combine offerings; Spartan stores accepting RFID payments; Manakoa to leverage newly acquired wireless license; Atmel and SkyeTek partnering.
By Andrew Price
Tags: Apparel
Jan 12, 2007The following are news announcements made during the week of Jan. 8.

ThingMagic Says New OS Boosts Reader Performance
Cambridge, Mass., RFID reader developer ThingMagic has released an upgraded operating system for its Mercury 4 and Mercury 5 interrogators. The new OS, dubbed Yagi, is version 2.4 of the software. The company claims a new algorithm allows Yagi to provide performance improvements when operating in areas full of RF interference from other readers, wireless networks and other sources of RF, such as cordless phones. Written by ThingMagic cofounder Yael Maguire, the algorithm enables a reader to estimate the number of tags within its interrogation field at any given time so that it can read more of them more efficiently, according to Kevin Ashton, the company's vice president of marketing. Yagi enables the Mercury interrogator to read more tags more accurately and quickly overall, he says, including weak or poorly performing tags. The company has observed that Mercury readers running the Yagi OS can achieve read rates of up to 200 unique tags per second, even when the tagged objects are in motion. Previous versions of the software, says Ashton, read up to approximately 100 tags per second. Mercury5 and Mercury4 read all EPC Gen 2 and Gen 1 tags, as well as ISO 18000-6B and UCode 1.19 tags. However, the new algorithm applies only to the EPC Gen 2 (ISO 18000-6C) protocol. The software upgrade is available now through several ThingMagic resellers, including AbeTech, Acsis, BuyRFID, Conectag, Creek Systems, Fujitsu, IconNicholson, M/A-COM, Markem, NCR, Quest Solutions, Retek Solutions, RFID Global Solutions, Rush Tracking, VeriSign and Venture Research. The fee to install Yagi as an upgrade to existing interrogators depends on the reseller; many service contracts include free upgrades. The manufacturer's suggested retail price is $1,995 for the Mercury5, $995 for the Mercury 4, with volume discounts available.

Forklift Attachment Integrates RFID
RFID hardware manufacturer Intermec has teamed up with Cascade, a Portland, Ore., manufacturer of material-handling equipment. Together, the partners will codevelop a means of retrofitting a forklift to be RFID-enabled by mounting an Intermec IV7 vehicle-mount RFID reader onto Cascade's load backrest (the area on a forklift attachment against which loads are carried). The companies say the backrest is adaptable because it can be used on most forklifts on the market today, and that they have also developed an antenna cell device, which houses the antennas linked by cable to the reader. The cells can be mounted at different places around the forklift to read tags in various placements—such as those attached to pallets or cases, embedded in warehouse floors and used for locating the forklift, or embedded in shelving and used to track product placement within a warehouse. The antenna cell and load backrest are each designed for use in compliance with the OSHA rules requiring a forklift driver to have a clear view of his surroundings at all times. The load backrest and antenna cell will be demonstrated at next week's National Retail Federation meeting in New York. The load backrest is available in North America, Europe, the Middle East, Africa and Latin America through Cascade distributors. The antenna cell and other RFID hardware developed for forklift applications, including the IV7 reader, are available now through Intermec and its dealers.

TI Unveils New HF Reader Chipset
Texas Instruments (TI) announced this week two new HF reader chipsets. The TRF7961 and the TRF7960 offer improved performance with a smaller footprint than the company's earlier chipsets. The TRF7961 supports the ISO 15693, Tag-It and ISO 18000-3 protocols. The TRF7960 also supports these, as well as the ISO 14443A/B standards. Key improvements, TI says, include regulators built into the device that reduce RF noise and improve overall performance. The TRF7961 also uses a single 13.56 MHz crystal, which is shared by the reader and microcontroller. Using a single crystal lowers cost, requires fewer components for the chipset and is more power-efficient, says Johnsy Varghese, product manager of the reader IC family. Both chipsets are available for purchase by RFID hardware manufacturers, to be incorporated into the interrogators they sell.

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