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RFID News Roundup

Bay Area Rapid Transit NFC trial deemed a success; Alien Technology teams with Chinese inlay manufacturer; Canadian RFID company intros parking management systems; Amtel offers kit to develop secure 13.56 MHz RFID systems; CoreRFID announces RFID-based IT asset-tracking solution; many retailers favor mobile contactless payments, study says.
Oct 16, 2008The following are news announcements made during the past week.

Bay Area Rapid Transit NFC Trial Deemed a Success
San Francisco commuters who participated in a Near Field Communications (NFC) trial paid for nearly 9,000 trips on Bay Area Rapid Transit (BART) trains using their Samsung cell phones. The trial, which ran from Jan. 28 to May 30, 2008, allowed 230 commuters to pay by tapping their NFC-enabled handsets on top of BART fare gates. NXP Semiconductors provided the NFC modules for the trial. Participants also utilized their phones to purchase meals at local Jack in the Box restaurants, and to access information regarding NFC-enabled smart posters located throughout the BART terminal. Throughout the trial, in fact, commuters tapped their phones several hundred times on the smart posters to obtain directions to the nearest Jack in the Box restaurant from the BART station. ViVOtech provided software to power the NFC application inside each phone, and also created an online registration form in which participants entered payment information—either a debit or credit account (see SF's Transit System Offers Commuters Fast Access to Subways and Sandwiches). During the trial, commuters also increased their BART card balances more than 800 times using the phones' over-the-air (OTA) technology to communicate with, download applications to, and manage the phone's SIM card. More than 80 percent of trial participants indicated the mobile wallet application was easy to use, according to BART, ViVOtech and First Data, which provided payment-processing services for the trial. Although no decisions have yet been made regarding the future use of NFC-enabled phones, BART was pleased with the trial results. "With so many people turning to transit to avoid the ever-skyrocketing price of gas, we must do everything we can to break down the barriers that stand in the way of them using BART," BART board member James Fang said in a press release. "The NFC-enabled phone simplifies their lives because they never need to dig for a BART ticket again, and they can bypass those fumbling for change at the ticket machine, and instead go directly through the fare gates—knowing they always have the correct fare on their phones."

Alien Technology Teams With Chinese Inlay Manufacturer
Alien Technology has announced that it has contracted with Arizon RFID Technology, located in Yangzhou, China, to manufacture Alien EPC Gen 2 inlays for the Chinese market. Arizon, a wholly owned subsidiary of YFY Group, focuses on manufacturing high-frequency (HF) and ultrahigh-frequency (UHF) RFID inlays, tickets and cards and other form factors, for both customized and standard solutions. Arizon does not release its manufacturing capacity, which the company considers proprietary information, according to Alien Technology. The contract also does not specify an annual quantity of inlays, though Alien indicates that if the Chinese market demand were to outpace Arizon's capacity, it would ship EPC Gen 2 inlays from the United States to meet that demand. "China is an increasingly important market for Alien, and we have responded to the Chinese government's call to strengthen collaboration with local partners," George Everhart, Alien Technology's CEO, said in a press release. "Working with local partners lets us manufacture closer to our customers, enabling Alien to provide better services to them."

Canadian RFID Company Intros Parking Management Systems
SkyRFID, headquartered in Ontario, Canada, has introduced a suite of UHF RFID-enabled solutions designed for private parking lots, municipal parking, university and college parking, airport parking, gated communities, secured government installations, and more. The new suite includes windshield tags that can be read from a distance of 2.4 meters (8 feet) at about 6 miles per hour, to up to 10 meters (32.8 feet) at a speed of about 100 miles per hour, depending on interrogator and tag selection. SkyRFID has two different single-gate readers. One is a single-gate, single-function model able to read a SkyRFID EPC Gen 2 windshield tag inlay from a distance of over 7 meters (21 feet) and provide the appropriate response to the gate relay; the other is a shorter-distance reader (2.4 meters/8 feet) that can be used to detect vehicles for gate vending control, vehicle stop and go light control, or other purposes. For up to four gates within close proximity, SkyRFID has four separate solutions. One uses the company's new long-distance 100 millimeter by 2.5 millimeter (3.9 inch by 0.1 inch) windshield tag for a read distance of 7 meters (21 feet) or more, and is fully EPC Gen 2-compatible for 860 to 960 MHz systems. Two other close-proximity solutions, designed for higher security and faster vehicle approach speeds, utilize UHF 900 MHz tags having proprietary air-interface protocols and offering read distances of 5.5 to 7.7 meters (18 to 25 feet). The final solution employs an EPC Gen 2/ISO 18000-6C-compliant reader that can capture tag reads in a 10 meter (32.8 feet) range on vehicles moving at 100 miles per hour. Pricing for these solutions begins at under $1,000 for the single-gate, 7-meter read distance model plus windshield tags (which can be customized with color logo and graphics) at less than 95 cents apiece, based on quantities of 3,000 or more.

Amtel Offers Kit to Develop Secure 13.56 MHz RFID Systems
Atmel has unveiled a development kit for the creation of secure, 13.56 MHz passive RFID applications. The AT88SC-ADK2 Keen+ kit includes Atmel's Crypto Evaluation Studio tool suite, an application development board, CryptoRF samples (in both tag and smart card form), and a quick-start guide. The Crypto Evaluation Studio tool suite has a menu-driven, graphical user interface for CryptoRF configuration and testing, as well as development libraries and code examples for host-side cryptographic operations required for secure communication. The application development board includes Atmel's ISO 14443-B-compliant, AT88RF1354 host-reader chip; an Atmel AVR flash microcontroller; and USB connectivity to PC and power. Atmel's CryptoRF is a 13.56 MHz RFID logic-based transponder with a 64-bit embedded cryptographic engine; four sets of non-readable 64-bit authentication keys; four sets of non-readable, 64-bit session encryption keys; and up to 64 kilobits of memory. Sixteen individually configurable sectors can be customized to allow various levels of access, including read and write, read-only, and one-time-programmable. Available now, Atmel's Keen+ RFID Development Kit, including reference designs and software, costs $100.

CoreRFID Announces RFID-Based IT Asset-Tracking Solution
Systems integrator and RFID solutions provider CoreRFID, with offices in Clearwater, Fla., as well as the United Kingdom and Ireland, has launched IT-Tracker, a software solution that works with RFID tags to track IT assets. The IT-Tracker solution leverages passive UHF asset tags in a variety of formats for a wide range of desktop and portable devices that require tagging. Companies have typically had to utilize active RFID because passive UHF tags failed to perform well on IT assets containing metal, which can interfere with RF waves. But a growing number of metal-mount tags, specifically designed to mitigate metal's interference, have entered the market, offering companies new options. In addition, a recent study from Dulles, Va., RFID systems integrator ODIN Technologies shows that passive EPC Gen 2 RFID tags and interrogators can be effective for tracking IT assets (see ODIN Report Reveals EPC RFID's Effectiveness for Tracking IT Assets). With IT-Tracker, tag reads can be automatically collected using a range of RFID-equipped PDA and handheld devices, and those tag reads can then provide companies with specific data regarding their assets so they can more easily perform IT audits and spot checks. IT-Tracker can highlight assets missing from a particular location so auditors can follow up on the spot. The data collected by IT-Tracker can be integrated with corporate IT asset-management systems, as well as with help-desk systems.

Many Retailers Favor Mobile Contactless Payments, Study Says
Market research firm Aberdeen Group recently surveyed 180 companies in order to outline implications and trends related to proximity mobile payments. According to Aberdeen, the study's findings show that a number of retail, hospitality and transit companies know about and favor mobile payments and Near Field Communications (NFC). In fact, 80 percent of companies surveyed indicated they are aware of this technology (compared with 63 percent in 2007), and 52 percent said they plan to explore the use of mobile payment solutions within the next 24 months. Aberdeen selected three point-of-sale (POS) payment acceptance maturity criteria to differentiate what it terms best-in-class, industry average and laggards. For 40 percent of those companies identified as best-in-class, improved customer retention and loyalty was the key business pressure driving contactless payments. Thirty-five percent of best-in-class retailers deemed customer convenience the predominant pressure. While all three levels of companies are presently assessing cost-benefit factors in substantial numbers, best-in-class companies are twice as likely as laggards to take the next step in assessing the change-management functions—including transaction risk assessment, cross-channel process impact, data management, hardware and POS software changes—required to migrate toward the use and acceptance of mobile payments at the point of sale. A complimentary copy of this report is made available thanks, in part, to two of the study's underwriters: Gemalto and First Data. To obtain a free copy, click here.
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