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RFID News Roundup

ThingMagic unveils components for Mercury5e reader module; Arygon introduces multi-protocol HF RFID reader; Kovio lands additional funding to print silicon tags; RFID keeps time with Seattle marathon runners; RFID hardware market slows, but will pick up within two years; AEM Technologies merges with CardFactory.
Jul 16, 2009The following are news announcements made during the last week.

ThingMagic Unveils Components for Mercury5e Reader Module
RFID reader supplier ThingMagic has announced a new set of modular hardware and software components designed to let customers develop customized, embedded RFID solutions using ThingMagic's Mercury5e (M5e) ultrahigh-frequency (UHF) RFID family of reader modules. The components include a four-port, stackable multiplexer, enabling an M5e reader to support up to eight antennas; a low-profile heat sink to accommodate high-temperature environments; and a power/interface board with a USB port and support for a wide range of AC and DC power supplies. ThingMagic has also announced a completely redesigned Mercury application-programming interface (API) for its full range of fixed and M5e embedded reader product lines. First introduced in March 2008, the Mercury M5e is optimized for EPC Gen 2 tags and employs the RFID Transceiver R1000 chip developed by Intel and now produced by Impinj. The new components can be ordered now for shipping by mid-third quarter 2009. Prices are $100 for the M5e Multiplexer, $40 for the heat sink and $100 for the power/interface board. The Mercury API will be available to existing clients via the support section of ThingMagic's Web site.

Arygon Introduces Multi-protocol HF RFID Reader
Arygon Technologies, a German manufacturer of RFID and Near Field Communications (NFC) reader modules, has launched a new high-frequency (HF) interrogator that supports the ISO 14443 A/B, ISO 15693 and ISO 180000-3 Mode 1 standards. The Multi-ISO HF reader is available as a desktop or OEM version, and supports DES and AES encryption and USB or RS-232 serial connectivity. According to Arygon, the reader is designed for a variety of applications, including payment, point-of-sale, vending machine, kiosk, physical access, time and attendance, library and industrial applications. The company reports that the Multi-ISO HF reader can interrogate tags with chips from various transponder manufacturers, including Atmel, Electronic Marin, Infineon, NXP Semiconductors, ST Microelectronics and Texas Instruments. The device is expected to be available for volume deliveries by the end of August 2009.

Kovio Lands Additional Funding to Print Silicon RFID Tags
Kovio, a Silicon Valley startup company focused on developing low-cost RFID tags using printable silicon electronics and thin-film technology, has raised $20 million in Series E financing. This financing, the company reports, will enable it to begin manufacturing its tags in high volumes, though it declines to say when. By using printing technology and large bond pads for the chip attachment process, Kovio indicates it can drastically reduce manufacturing costs—down to 2 to 5 cents per tag (see Kovio Unveils Printed-Silicon HF RFID, Chip Tag). Due to this low cost, compared to conventional RFID tags, Kovio believes its tags will be utilized for item-level applications in the supply chain, where it could replace bar codes, or for high-volume applications such as fare ticketing for public transit systems. The $20 million—contributed entirely by the firm's existing investors—brings the total Kovio has raised thus far to $80 million. In late 2008, Kovio unveiled its tag, which it refers to as an RF bar code. The tag contains a printed chip that complies with the ISO 14443A air-interface standard. It can contain 128 bits of data, printed directly on the chip (rather than encoded later via RF), and can transmit that information at a rate of 106 kilobits per second. Bessemer Venture Partners, Duff Ackerman & Goodrich Ventures, Flagship Ventures, Harris & Harris Group, Jerusalem Venture Partners, Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers, Mitsui Ventures, Northgate Capital, Panasonic Venture Group, Pangaea Ventures, Pinnacle Ventures and Yasuda Enterprise Development all contributed to this latest round of funding.

RFID Keeps Time With Seattle Marathon Runners
A race-timing system from ChronoTrack Systems kept track of more 25,000 runners at last month's Seattle Rock & Roll Marathon. At 18 points throughout the course, each runner's time was captured by Impinj Speedway interrogators and antennas. All runners wore ChronoTrack's D-tags with embedded Impinj Monza EPC Gen 2 chips and UPM Raflatac's DogBone tag antennas. The D-tag allows race organizers to use a Lexmark RFID laser printer-encoder to print an integrated bib and tag for each participant, encoding that individual's bib number onto the tag's RFID chip at the time of printing. The disposable tag peels off the bib and attaches to a runner's shoe. The EPC Gen 2 race-timing system was first unveiled in May 2008; ChronoTrack worked with partner SAI Timing and Tracking (see Gen 2 Tags Track Runner, Motorcycle Speeds). To date, ChronoTrack Systems reports, its RFID-based solution has timed more than 2 million race finishers, and the company expects as many as 1,200 North American events will utilize the race timing technology in 2009.

RFID Hardware Market Slows, But Will Pick Up Within Two Years
The global RFID hardware market topped $2.1 billion in 2008, but year-over-year growth is slowing compared with that of previous years, according to new data from VDC Research Group, an RFID research firm based in Natick, Mass. The firm estimates that the RFID hardware market, which includes transponders, readers and printer/encoders, will grow 7 percent annually, year-over-year, through 2010. VDC Research sizes the global market this year to reach $2.23 billion, and in 2010 to reach $2.43 billion. Historically, the global RFID hardware market has averaged a 30 percent growth rate year-over-year, says Andrew Nathanson, VDC Research Group's director of research operations. "In 2007 to 2008, there was very good growth," he notes. "But in 2008 to 2009, there was almost one-third reduction of that growth." While the firm predicts things will be slow for the next one to two years, it does estimate more RFID pilots will convert to full-scale deployments within the next five years, driven primarily by smart-card, supply chain, ticketing and asset-tracking applications. That, in turn, should gradually return the RFID hardware market to growth rates of approximately 30 percent, VDC Research reports. The Asia-Pacific region, according to the firm, is expecting healthier growth—by 2013, the firm estimates, it will account for the largest share of the total global RFID transponder market, caused by a continued shift in tagging to the point of manufacture, a proliferation of supply chain applications in high-volume markets in 2011 and 2012, and facilitated adoption of smart-card applications due to government programs and increased end-user comfort levels.

AEM Technologies Merges With CardFactory
CardFactory, an Oldenburg, Germany, RFID card manufacturer focused on security applications, has merged with AEM Technologies Holding, a St. Gallen, Switzerland, provider of end-to-end microelectronics solutions. Financial details of the deal have not been disclosed; the merger was conducted by private equity firm Ventizz Capital Partners, which held both companies in its private equity fund, Ventizz Capital Fund III LLC. According to the two companies, the merger will enable new products to be developed and marketed, and will also extend geographic reach—the newly formed company will now have offices in Germany, Austria, Switzerland and the Netherlands. Annual revenues of the new firm are expected to exceed €100 million ($141 million).
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