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RFID News Roundup

DHS releases minimum standards for Real ID Act; Printronix unveils new Gen 2 printer-encoder; MBTA orders 3.5 million RFID transit cards; ShopRite accepting RFID-enabled payments; CAEN builds reader module with Intel reader chip; three firms announce funding.
By Andrew Price
Mar 09, 2007The following are news announcements made during the week of March 5.

DHS Releases Minimum Standards for Real ID Act
The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) has proposed minimum standards for state-issued driver's licenses and identification cards that will be required to comply with the Real ID Act of 2005, passed into law by Congress to enhance the security and integrity of driver's licenses. According to Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff, the DHS expects that raising the security standards on driver's licenses will provide a new layer of protection to prevent terrorists from obtaining and using fake documents to plan or carry out an attack. The minimum standards call for the inclusion of a machine-readable technology in the card, and lists technologies that could be used for this purpose. The list includes an integrated RFID inlay, but the proposal later says the DHS believes this is "not deemed an appropriate technology for this particular document, as there is not an identifiable need for driver's licenses and identification cards to be routinely read at a distance." The proposal goes on to say that the proposed Real ID regulation would mandate the use of a 2-D bar code as the common machine-readable technology standard (using the PDF-417 bar-code standard). However, it appears this lack of "identifiable need" has not put RFID completely out of consideration, as the 162-page proposal-standards document later indicates the DHS "invites comments on how States would or could incorporate a separate WHTI-compliant technology, such as an RFID-enabled vicinity chip technology, in addition to the REAL ID PDF417 barcode requirement." The document will be subject to a 60-day public comment period once it's placed on the national register, and offers states an extension of the compliance deadline to Dec. 31, 2009. A number of states are introducing legislation to repeal or rewrite the Real ID Act, some citing concerns over a lack of privacy protections.

Printronix Unveils New Gen 2 Printer-Encoder
RFID printing technology provider Printronix has announced a new RFID printer-encoder, the SL4M, which produces 4-inch thermal transfer or direct thermal RFID smart labels for industrial and commercial applications. The device can print up to 10 inches per second at a resolution of 203 dots per inch. It encodes and reads EPC Gen 2 UHF RFID inlays, then verifies that each inlay has been properly encoded and is functioning. If it detects a bad inlay, the SL4m prints an error message on the label and encodes the bad label's tag data to the next consecutive label's inlay. It can also be set to stop printing after detecting a non-functioning inlay, enabling the user to collect the label containing the bad inlay. In addition, it can track the total number of inlays it encodes over a set period of time, and also keep a tally of how many nonfunctional inlays it detects. The printer-encoder is certified for compliance with radio frequency usage regulations in both North America and the European Union. Available now through Printronix's network of certified channel partners, the SL4M is priced at $3,695 for sale in North America. European pricing has not yet been set.

MBTA Orders 3.5 Million RFID Transit Cards
The Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority (MBTA) is working with Gemalto, an Amsterdam-based provider of RFID technology for payment and access-control applications, to deploy its RFID-based transmit payment system, under which commuters now use RFID-enabled payment cards to access MBTA's bus and subway system. Gemalto is providing 3.5 million secure contactless transit smart cards to the MBTA for the program, 2.4 million of which MBTA will receive this month. Gemalto will pre-encode an encrypted identification number to the tag embedded in each card it provides. Commuters can access a card and load value onto it at kiosks in MTBA stations, paying with cash or credit/debit cards. That value is then stored on the card, and fares are deducted as it is used. The cards are made of durable plastic and can be reloaded with additional value once depleted. MTBA is offering incentives in the form of fare discounts when commuters use the RFID-enabled cards instead of the older magnetic-stripe paper cards or cash, until the entire system converts to the RFID-based system. According to MTBA, 575,000 RFID-enabled cards have been issued to commuters as of January of this year since they were first introduced in 2005.

ShopRite Accepting RFID-enabled Payments
Wakefern Food Corp., the merchandising and distribution arm of the ShopRite supermarket chain, has begun accepting MasterCard's RFID-enabled PayPass payment cards at more than 200 ShopRite locations in New Jersey, New York, Connecticut, Pennsylvania and Delaware. Other grocery and pharmacy stores already accepting PayPass include Meijer Stores and CVS, but ShopRite represents the largest deployment of PayPass in the supermarket category to date. To make payments using PayPass or other RFID-enabled cards (such as those offered by Visa and American Express), consumers wave the cards in front of RFID-enabled payment terminals. Studies have shown that payments made with RFID-enabled cards are completed more quickly than those conducted with magnetic-stripe credit and debit cards, or with cash. ShopRite and other merchants believe this will lead to shorter wait times for its customers, as well as an improved shopping experience. ShopRite shoppers need not provide a signature for PayPass purchases under $25.

CAEN Builds Reader Module With Intel Reader Chip
Italian RFID hardware manufacturer CAEN RFID has developed a new reader module, the A528, that uses Intel's recently announced UHF reader chip, the R1000 (see Intel Announces UHF Reader Radio Chip. CAEN is offering the A528 to original equipment manufacturers developing RFID readers for operation under the U.S. (FCC part 15) or European (ETSI EN 302 208) regulatory environments (or both), for multiregional RFID printers, label applicators, handheld devices and any other fixed or mobile devices requiring UHF tags for programming and reading. CAEN also plans to use the R1000 in future interrogators that are part of its RFID Easy2Read product line.

Three Firms Announce Venture Funding
Wi-Fi RFID real-time location system provider AeroScout has announced a $21 million third round of venture funding, while RFID hardware company Impinj has raised $19 million and a California startup called Wirama says two of its board members have awarded it $1 million in seed money. AeroScout says it will use its new funding to expand its sales and marketing initiatives, and to publicize its successful deployments in health-care, manufacturing and logistics applications. New AeroScout investors Menlo Ventures and Greylock Partners led the round. Impinj says the money it raised in its latest round brings its total funding to $98 million. The company will use the funding, which was raised among its existing investors, to escalate product development and delivery of its EPC Gen 2 Speedway readers and Monza RFID tag chips, as well as its near-field reader antennas, designed for reading products tagged at the item-level. Wirama's president, Ben Wild, says his company is using the funds, raised by board members Steven McCanne and Jerry Kennelly, to complete development work on a UHF EPC Gen 2-compliant reader that will employ proprietary methods for reducing the RF dead zones created by RF interference in areas where multiple readers are in use.
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