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RFID News Roundup
NXP unveils NFC chip for mobile phones; Xterprise introduces laptop security application; STMicroelectronics announces HDK for ISO 18000-7 tags, teams with FET on next-gen battery; Cenveo acquires RFID label maker Nashua; VingCard intros new contactless locking solution; Alien Technology intros RFID custom application kit.
May 14, 2009—The following are news announcements made during the past week.
NXP Unveils NFC Chip for Mobile Phones
NXP Semiconductors has announced a Near Field Communication (NFC) chip that provides manufacturers and service providers with a standards-based platform for developing NFC devices and services. The NXP PN544 is based on the latest NFC specifications by the European Telecommunications Standard Institute (ETSI). The new chip is fully compliant with all released NFC specifications on the single wire protocol (SWP) connection with the mobile phone subscriber identity module (SIM) and the host controller interface (HCI). NXP worked with leading SIM card manufacturers, such as Gemalto, Oberthur Technologies and Giesecke & Devrient, to ensure SWP interface interoperability, including support of NXP's Mifare technology. The chip is backward-compatible and interoperable with existing contactless infrastructure for payments and ticketing. What's more, to meet the needs of differing handset manufacturers, the PN544 has been designed to support the three main architectures used to secure NFC transactions. Other features include a small footprint, low power consumption, the ability to work when a cell phone is turned off or its battery charge is depleted or low, and Mifare 1-kilobyte/4-kilobyte reader/writer functionality. Options include optimized antenna designs, among others. In a prepared statement, ABI Research analyst Jonathan Collins said that standardized, SIM-based NFC chipsets will stimulate the NFC market by providing "handset manufacturers, mobile operators, banks, transport operations and a host of other players, with a platform for their NFC developments," and will also help other organizations align their businesses to support mobile contactless services. The PN544 is currently being sampled by a number of handset manufacturers, according to NXP, which expects the chip to be widely available in the third quarter of 2009, coinciding with the commercial launch of the first NFC-enabled handsets containing the chip.
Xterprise Introduces Laptop Security Application
Xterprise, an RFID solutions provider based in Dallas, Texas, has announced the availability of a new software module for its Clarity IT Asset Management (ITAM) suite that leverages radio frequency identification to track and secure laptops and other mobile IT assets. Clarity ITAM, unveiled in July 2008 (see Xterprise Rolls Out IT Asset-Tracking Solution), is built on Microsoft's BizTalk Server 2006 R2 with BizTalk RFID middleware and a Microsoft SQL server platform. The software works with RFID tags and interrogators that operate according to the EPC Gen 2 and ISO 18000-6c standards. The new module, known as Clarity ITAM—Laptop Security System, enables companies to associate tagged assets to specific authorized users, locations and cost centers, then validate the laptops or other IT assets against the identity of individuals entering or leaving security portals to create a detailed event log of all movements. This allows security personnel to confirm an authorized user is moving the device. The new module provides local and centralized reporting of asset movement, according to Xterprise, thereby offering organizations greater visibility and control over all portable computing assets.
STMicroelectronics Announces HDK for ISO 18000-7 Tags, Teams With FET on Next-Gen Battery
Chipmaker STMicroelectronics, based in Geneva, Switzerland, has announced its Smart Web Based Sensor hardware developer kit (HDK) for active-RFID asset-monitoring and security applications. The kit, developed in conjunction with Arira Design, a hardware design team focused on board- and system-level design, consists of sample boards and a Windows application that lets developers customize the sensor and wireless capabilities for new active RFID products. It is designed to give users the ability to integrate their own hardware and firmware into ISO 18000-7-based, 433 MHz RFID products for industrial, medical and transportation applications, including the addition of new RFID commands or data fields. Using the kit, the company reports, developers can blend standards-compliant active RFID with other wireless-networking capabilities, GPS and sensors. The beta version of the Smart Web Based Sensor HDK is available now from Arira Design. In other news, STMicroelectronics has announced that it has teamed with Front Edge Technology (FET), a California-based developer of next-generation rechargeable batteries, to bring FET's NanoEnergy ultra-thin lithium battery technology to a wide range of new markets and applications. These include high-end one-time-password smart cards, battery-assisted RFID tags, wireless sensor networks, real-time-clock backup batteries and multiple medical applications, such as hearing aids, automatic insulin pumps and wearable health-monitoring systems. The company indicates it is investing in new energy technologies and nano-materials, such as FET's offerings, in order to develop new miniaturized solutions for energy storage, with an emphasis on powering portable electronic products.
Cenveo Acquires RFID Label Maker Nashua
Cenveo, a graphics communications company based in Stamford, Conn., has plunked down $44 million for Nashua Corp., a manufacturer and marketer of label products, paper transaction supplies and converted RFID tags. The stock and cash deal includes the assumption of Nashua's debt. Already approved by the boards of directors of both firms, the deal is expected to close this summer. The acquisition, Cenveo says, will enable the company to expand the range of products and services it offers customers, while at the same time enhancing its existing offerings to the pharmaceutical, retail and grocery store shelf, and pressure-sensitive label markets. Founded in 1849, Nashua reported an annual revenue of $265 million in 2008 for its operations across the United States, and has been expanding its presence in the RFID market. In 2007, for example, Nashua entered a partnership to manufacture and distribute passive RFID labels and tags using fractal antennas developed by Fractal Antenna Systems (see Nashua to Make Tags With Fractal Antennas). In a prepared statement, Robert G. Burton, Cenveo's chairman and CEO, said, "The acquisition of Nashua brings together two of the nation's most respected printers to strengthen our label platform and expand our product offerings. Nashua's operations both strategically mirror and complement Cenveo's product line and will create immediate cross-selling opportunities for both companies' customers. The acquisition of Nashua, with its storied history and strategic niche product offerings, is an example of how we intend to grow our company by acquiring leaders in high growth sectors of the printing industry."
VingCard Intros New Contactless Locking Solution
VingCard, a hospitality security provider and part of the Assa Abloy Hospitality Group, has announced a new, contactless RFID version of its electronic locking solution, Classic by VingCard. The new solution is designed for hotels and resorts currently using VingCard magnetic-stripe guestroom door locks, and will enable them to upgrade those solutions with contactless technology, as well as Near Field Communication (NFC) cell phone compatibility, without having to replace current door locks and hardware. Instead, only the end cap and card reader needs to be changed. The three-step upgrade requires hoteliers to remove the outside Classic by VingCard escutcheon and replace the end cap with the new Classic RFID by VingCard module. Classic RFID is a secure open-platform system compatible with the three ISO RFID standards (ISO 14443A/Mifare, ISO 14443B and ISO 15693), as well as the NFC transaction platform for cell phones. The system, according to VingCard, utilizes the company's anti-cloning technology for all guest and staff cards, making it virtually impossible for keycards to be cloned and used by unauthorized parties. In addition, Classic RFID will enable the hoteliers to offer guests with NFC-compatible cell phones the option of skipping the check-in line upon arrival and going straight to their room, where their NFC cell phone will unlock the door. Prior to arrival at a hotel, guests would be able to receive a booking confirmation number, room number and encrypted room key access code via a text message that would then allow them to skip the check-in line upon arrival and use their cell phones to unlock the door. Guests could also utilize their phones at the end of their stay, to check out directly through an NFC-enabled TV in the room, or via an NFC-enabled hotel kiosk. In related news, in-room safe provider Elsafe, also part of the Assa Abloy Group, has announced the Infinity II, a new NFC-compatible safe. The Infinity II works with VingCard's Signature NFC contactless electronic lock by which the in-room safe can only be opened with the designated RFID guest device (such as a keycard, wristband or key fob) or an NFC-equipped cell phone.
Alien Technology Intros RFID Custom Application Kit
Alien Technology has introduced the Alien RFID Custom Application (ARCA) kit, designed to let developers and others implement custom EPC Gen 2 RFID applications on Alien interrogators. The kit leverages Ruby object-oriented programming language. Coupled with the Alien Reader Protocol, Ruby provides a feature-rich, highly adaptable platform for implementing RFID solutions, the company reports. Functions that partners can implement through Ruby include RFID data preprocessing, application-specific triggering modes and custom communication channels with server-side applications. The Alien Ruby Programming Kit will be available on May 30 for a one-time cost of $299. Users who purchase the kit will be able to develop custom applications for Alien's ALR-9900, ALR-9650, ALR-9800 and ALR-8800 RFID readers.
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