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RFID News Roundup

Trapeze Networks buys Newbury Networks; U.K. fast-food chain offers customers contactless payments; Swissôtel Chicago pours RFID into operations to cut costs; RF Code intros on-command solution for its active RFID tags.
Dec 18, 2008The following are news announcements made during the past week.

Trapeze Networks Buys Newbury Networks
Wireless LAN infrastructure provider Trapeze Networks has announced its acquisition of Newbury Networks, a manufacturer of Wi-Fi-enabled real-time location systems (RTLS). Terms of the deal have not yet been disclosed. The acquisition will expand Trapeze Networks' wireless LAN portfolio by adding Newbury Networks' RTLS, which can calculate the position of any Wi-Fi device and also any RFID tag following the IEEE 802.11 Wi-Fi protocols when transmitting its identity over the 2.45 GHz band. The deal also includes Newbury Networks' location software, such as its Active Asset application, designed to help health-care organizations track and manage medical devices and critical care equipment. Newbury Networks will operate as an independent business unit within Trapeze Networks, and all 16 Newbury Networks employees will remain at the company, which has offices in Boston. According to Trapeze Networks' executives, none of Newbury Networks' existing products will be discontinued, and all of its OEM and channel partner relationships will remain in place. The two companies are currently working on a product integration strategy, and indicate they plan to deliver a product roadmap in 2009, highlighting a suite of products resulting from the product integration.

U.K. Fast-food Chain Offers Customers Contactless Payments
Pret A Manger, a fast-food chain that originated in the United Kingdom and specializes in sandwiches, filled baguettes, soup, salad and coffee, is rolling out contactless payment services to its customers in its nearly 180 U.K. stores. The contactless cards were developed by Commidea, a provider of card payment processing solutions, and are being issued by Barclaycard. The phased rollout, slated to be completed by April 2009, follows a pilot in seven Pret A Manger shops across London. Contactless payments enable customers to make purchases of £10 ($15) or less without the need to enter a PIN or provide a signature—a customer can simply wave the card in front of the RFID reader. All newly issued Barclaycard Platinum cards now include contactless technology, Barclaycard reports, and more than 1 million contactless cards have already been issued to date.

Swissôtel Chicago Pours RFID Into Operations to Cut Costs
Luxury hotel Swissôtel Chicago is employing Capton's RFID-enabled Beverage Tracker system to monitor its bar operations. The system is helping the hotel match pours against drinks that have been rung up. Beverage Tracker consists of RFID-enabled spouts that can be fitted into liquor bottles, as well as an RFID interrogator and software. The spouts contain a battery-powered 418 MHz RFID tag and a measuring device. Whenever a bartender pours a drink, the tipping of the bottle activates both the tag and the measuring device, allowing the spout to measure the volume of liquor poured (in ounces) before the employee tips the bottle back up. The tag then transmits that information to the interrogator's antenna, along with the microchip's unique identification number, and the brand and size of liquor bottle to which it is attached. The spout's tag has a maximum read range of up to 100 feet from the antenna. The hotel says it is already seeing benefits from Beverage Tracker. In a prepared statement, assistant restaurant manager Katy Kessler reports that common problems such as drink substitutions and free drinks are now being eliminated. She also notes that the hotel's inventory cost-reduction goals have been met, and that liquor costs have dropped by 3 percentage points. Other hotels using Capton's Beverage Tracker include the Vendue Inn in Charleston, S.C. (see RFID News Roundup: Charleston Inn Using Capton's Liquor-Monitoring System) and Treasure Island, a Las Vegas hotel and casino (see Vegas Hotel-Casino Uses Tags to Keep Tabs on Liquor).

RF Code Intros On-Command Solution for Its Active RFID Tags
RF Code, an active RFID hardware and systems provider based in Austin, Texas, has unveiled its A600 Tag Controller—a solution that lets customers control the company's 433 MHz M-Series or R-Series active tags by waving a controller over them. The solution, according to RF Code, is ideal for organizations with rapid inventory turnover, and enables them to quickly deactivate a removed inventory-tracking tag from an item just purchased, and to easily restart that same tag on a new item, when appropriate. The A600 can also be used to switch a tag's beaconing function on or off for items on an assembly line; once an item moves through a line's tracking checkpoint, the device can put the tag into a sleep state, or turn it off completely to maximize its battery life. The device emits an audible beep to indicate it has caused the tag to awaken, beacon or go to sleep. To control the tag's beaconing states, the A600 works with the Tag Controller Utility, which communicates with an RF Code reader. Powered by a USB connector, the unit can be deployed in a stand-alone scenario in which the utility has no communication with a fixed or mobile interrogator, and in which all input data is entered manually into the application. It can also be used in a reader-assisted scenario in which the utility communicates with a fixed or mobile interrogator.
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