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RFID News Roundup

Dash7 Alliance backs Texas Instruments' new ISO 18000-7 system-on-chip; RTLS vendor Ekahau updates network survey and design software; Smartrac broadens product portfolio with new industrial SmartTopTag; Radianse intros small, inexpensive active-RFID multi-use health-care tag; ENC Inc. announces SAP certification for Raftar RFID-enabled suite; consortium aims to foster standards for satellite personal tracking and messaging devices.
Dec 10, 2009The following are news announcements made during the last week.

Dash7 Alliance Backs Texas Instruments' New ISO 18000-7 System-on-Chip
The Dash7 Alliance, an industry group working to expand the use of active RFID technology based on the ISO 18000-7 standard (also known as Dash7), has announced support for Texas Instruments' (TI) CC430 line of RF-enabled microcontrollers (MCUs). The two organizations report that the CC430—the first RF system-on-chip (SoC) to comply with the ISO 18000-7 standard—is designed to provide developers with a platform for building Dash7 wireless networking devices and applications. The CC430 is a monolithic sub-1 GHz RF SoC, and can be designed into devices of smaller size and cost, including flexible assemblies. The CC430 MCU has a high-performance, ultralow-power MSP430 MCU core with up to 32 kilobytes of flash memory and a CC1101 RF transceiver. It is supported by TI's MSP430 MCU tool kit, as well as RF design tools. To enable Dash7 support, the CC430 employs OpenTag, an open-source firmware available here at no cost to Dash7 developers. OpenTag provides developers with a set of C libraries optimized for the CC430, and is designed to enable rapid development of new Dash7-based devices. "TI just took a lot of the pain out of the development process," said Patrick Burns, the alliance's president and the senior director of licensing at Savi Technology (a holder of multiple patents related to Dash7 tags and readers), in a prepared statement. "The introduction of a standards-based platform will allow developers to do what they do best—innovate and build creative applications." The Dash7 Alliance was founded in May 2009, and TI is one of its members (see Dash7 Alliance Seeks to Promote RFID Hardware Based on ISO 18000-7 Standard). In a separate effort to foster the adoption of ISO 18000-7 RFID technology, Savi recently launched a new licensing program for its related patents (see Savi's New Licensing Program Slashes Costs for ISO 18000-7).

RTLS Vendor Ekahau Updates Network Survey and Design Software
Ekahau, a provider of Wi-Fi-based real-time location systems (RTLS), has introduced a new version of its Ekahau Site Survey (ESS), a Wi-Fi planning, verification and troubleshooting tool businesses can use to identify, map and manage their wireless local area networks. ESS 4.6 now works with 802.11n networks, as well as legacy 802.11a/b/g networks. It also includes the ability to combine passive surveying and active end-to-end Wi-Fi network testing—a feature called Hybrid Survey. This tool is able to provide information on the wireless signals, and actively measure end-to-end connectivity status, packet loss, delay times and roaming history. According to Ekahau, the Hybrid Survey feature is designed to locate network design errors that are difficult to detect and may not seen by traditional site survey tools or Wi-Fi management software. Such errors may be caused by misconfigured security settings, Ethernet cabling and routing issues, the company reports, as well as by access point hardware failures, such as bridging or radio malfunctions. The packet loss and delay time measurements of the Hybrid Survey feature are increasingly important with 802.11n networks running voice-over-IP (VoIP) applications, for example. In addition to Hybrid Survey, Ekahau has expanded the capabilities of the traditional passive measurements. A new noise display, the company says, allows instant detection of areas with high levels of RF noise. In the event of excessive RF noise, Ekahau Site Survey users also have the option to use the recently announced Spectrum Analyzer to further analyze and eliminate sources of noise. Spectrum Analyzer is a USB device designed to detect interference from cordless phones, microwave ovens, wireless motion detectors and video cameras that typically operate at the same frequency space as Wi-Fi devices. ESS 4.6 also brings improvements for 802.11n capabilities, the company indicates, as well as various usability improvements. The new version is available now.

Smartrac Broadens Product Portfolio With New Industrial SmartTopTag
Smartrac, an RFID inlay supplier headquartered in Amsterdam, the Netherlands, has added a new version of the SmartTopTag to its family of passive RFID transponders for industrial applications. The Tough Operation Performance (T.O.P.) disc transponder is now available in a 13.56 MHz version compliant with the ISO 15693 standard. According to Smartrac, the SmartTopTag measures 34 millimeters (1.3 inches) in diameter and 6 millimeters (0.2 inch) in thickness, and is designed especially for industrial applications (such as logistics and warehouse management applications) for which resistance to chemicals, shock and temperature change is crucial. The tag has a data storage capacity of 1024 bits, and also has a universal hole in the design that the company says can be used with countersunk and pan-head screws for affixing to metal, making it suitable for tracking pallets, kegs, containers and vehicles for tool identification, process control, waste management and other applications.

Radianse Intros Small, Inexpensive Active-RFID Multi-Use Health-Care Tag
Real-time location systems (RTLS) provider Radianse has unveiled a new tag for tracking patients and assets that it claims is smaller and less expensive than other tags—costing between 10 and 40 cents per use. The battery-powered 433 MHz tag, which communicates via a proprietary air-interface protocol, weighs 0.5 ounce and is about the size of quarter. Its batteries have a one-year life, and are sealed so they can resist penetration from liquids, such as that resulting from patient washing, spills or tag cleaning (the tag is cleanable to health-care standards). The tag can be affixed to patient-ID bands or onto assets, including small equipment such as sensors, thermometers and telemetry transmitters. The Radianse multi-use tag has a list price of $14.95. The estimate of 10 to 40 cents per use for patient tracking is based on cleaning and reusing the tag on multiple patients over the course of a year, the company notes. Shipment to existing Radianse RTLS customers, and for any new installations, is slated to begin at the end of January 2010. In addition to the tags, Radianse's RTLS employs RFID interrogators that receive tag data from up to 50 or 60 feet away. According to the company, its software determines tag location with an accuracy of up to 3 feet, based on the strength of the signal picked up by three or more interrogators.

ENC Inc. Announces SAP Certification for Raftar RFID-enabled Suite
ENC Inc., a systems integrator and software services provider based in Chantilly, Va., has announced that Rafter—its RFID-enabled automated distribution management suite—has been certified to work with SAP's Auto-ID Infrastructure. Rafter is a software application suite with built-in RFID middleware that processes RFID data culled from tagged goods in a warehouse or supply chain. The software, according to ENC, is designed to offer warehouse workers and operators the ability to process and ship orders more quickly and accurately. The SAP Auto-ID Infrastructure is middleware designed to provide business context to the collected RFID data—by enabling SAP applications to leverage that information, and turning it into meaningful business events. ENC has developed an SAP-certified interface designed to make it easier for companies to integrate their Rafter software with Auto-ID Infrastructure. The company reports that it has implemented serialization solutions using RFID for organizations and SAP solutions in the consumer packaged goods, government and health and life sciences industries. Now, SAP adds, it is focusing on developing a targeted solution for companies in the medical device and orthopedic manufacturing industry.

Consortium Aims to Foster Standards for Satellite Personal Tracking and Messaging Devices
The ProTECTS Alliance, a newly formed group working to foster the adoption of portable two-way satellite location and messaging technologies, is set to hold its first organizational meeting on Jan. 22, 2010, in Phoenix, Ariz. ProTECTS (which stands for the Promotion of Two-way Emergency Communication and Tracking Systems) was formed in September 2009 by Iridium Communications, a mobile satellite service provider that leverages a constellation of low-earth orbiting (LEO) satellites, and includes more than 20 members. The alliance provides a forum for developing solutions to various issues affecting suppliers and users of two-way personal location, messaging and emergency communication devices, Iridium reports, and also seeks to create and sustain awareness of the need for the highest possible standards for satellite-based public-safety communication tools. The January organizational meeting will coincide with the annual Iridium Partners Conference. "There is a rapidly emerging market for satellite personal tracking and distress alerting devices," said Patrick Shay, VP and GM of Iridium's data division, in a prepared statement. "A major goal of the ProTECTS Alliance is to work in a collaborative atmosphere to develop broad-based industry standards that will ensure interoperability with global search-and-rescue (SAR) organizations, with systems and response procedures. We believe there is strong need for a standard based on two-way (duplex) data as opposed to one-way (simplex) data links." There have been reports of simplex data devices having triggered unnecessary and potentially dangerous rescue missions, Shay says, in response to what turned out to be accidental activations or user errors. According to Iridium, membership to the ProTECTS Alliance is open to mobile satellite companies, service providers, product developers, manufacturers, systems integrators, network operators, resellers, distributors, retailers, users, consultants, SAR organizations, first responders, trade associations, national and international regulatory bodies and non-governmental organizations (NGO). Charter members are Active Web Solutions (AWS), Argon ST, Backcountry Access, Blackbird Technologies, Blue Sky Network, Cobham ACR Products, DMC Worldwide, EMS Global Tracking, IonEarth, KANNAD, L-3 Communications, McMurdo, NAL Research, Paradigm Secure Communications, Premier GPS, Roadpost, Solara Remote Data Delivery, Spidertracks, TracPlus Global and the Travel Safety Group.
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