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RFID News Roundup

Omni-ID unveils Prox GS on-metal tag for IT asset tracking; Ottawa Mental Health Center adopts Ekahau RTLS to improve safety; Libelium intros wireless sensor board for agriculture; Taiwan extends EPC Gen 2 e-seals to ports around the country; TagMaster ships new UHF readers and tags, announces deal in the Netherlands.
Jun 17, 2010The following are news announcements made during the past week.

Omni-ID Unveils Prox GS On-Metal Tag for IT Asset Tracking
Omni-ID has announced the availability of its Prox GS on-metal tag, which the company says is especially well-suited for businesses with data centers spread around the world. According to Omni-ID, on-metal ultrahigh-frequency (UHF) tags have traditionally been tuned to operate at only one of three UHF bands, making them best suited for regional applications. The Prox GS functions across the entire 860 to 960 MHz UHF range, the firm reports, now making it possible for companies to use a single tag on all IT assets, regardless of their location. The tag complies with the EPC Gen 2 standard, as well as RFID specifications adopted by the Financial Services Technology Consortium (FSTC), a New York-based organization comprising North American financial institutions, technology vendors, research groups and government agencies (see Financial Consortium Publishes RFID Standards for IT Assets). This week, Omni-ID joined the FSTC, Bank of America and RFID Global Solution in RFID Journal "virtual event" discussing IT asset-tracking applications at financial institutions. Recordings of the sessions will available for viewing at the Virtual Events Presentations section of RFID Journal's Web site.

Ottawa Mental Health Center Adopts Ekahau RTLS to Improve Safety
The Royal Ottawa Mental Health Centre (ROMHC), a provider of specialized mental-health services in eastern Ontario, Canada, has announced that it is utilizing Ekahau's real-time location system (RTLS) to improve patient and employee safety. The Ekahau RTLS solution will enable faster response times when patients or staff members require assistance. Ekahau's RTLS leverages Wi-Fi-based technology, including battery-powered Wi-Fi RFID tags and software. The Royal Ottawa Mental Health Centre has deployed Ekahau RTLS over its existing, facility-wide Wi-Fi network. Ekahau's T301BD Wi-Fi pager tags, which are worn by the hospital's workers, include a dedicated button than can be pressed in the event of an emergency, to alert the staff to the situation and where it is happening. The medical center currently has more than 300 tags in use by its staff. "At the Royal Ottawa Mental Health Centre, we use cutting-edge technologies to help us improve patient care, increase efficiency and ensure the safety of everyone at our facilities, and we continually seek innovations to support these goals," said Cal Crocker, Royal Ottawa Health Care Group's VP of corporate services and CFO, in a prepared statement. "Ekahau RTLS and its badge tags are an ideal fit for this strategy, allowing us to leverage our existing Wi-Fi network for advanced location-tracking applications."

Libelium Intros Wireless Sensor Board for Agriculture
Spanish wireless sensor provider Libelium has introduced a new agriculture sensor board for its Waspmote platform. The new board, according to the company, enables up to 14 environmental parameters to be monitored in a wireless sensor network, and is designed to support crop growing in vineyards and greenhouses by enabling irrigation and climate control to be matched to local conditions. It can support the measurement of air temperature, air humidity, soil temperature, soil moisture, leaf wetness, atmospheric pressure, solar radiation, trunk/stem/fruit diameter, wind speed, wind direction and rainfall. The board allows more than 10 sensors to be connected at one time, the company notes, and extends the capabilities of the Waspmote platform, which comprises a board with a microcontroller, memory, a battery, an accelerometer and sockets for add-on modules; an open-source API and compiler; a range of ZigBee wireless communication modules that offer a choice of protocol versions, radio frequency and range; wireless modules supporting Bluetooth, GPRS and GPS; a gas sensor board to detect gases arising from industrial pollution, fires, farms, and chemical and industrial processes; a physical event detector board for security, flood detection, and vibration and impact monitoring; and power-management tools. "A Waspmote sensor network using the new board can measure irrigation effectiveness, crop growth and micro-climatic conditions, as well as detect adverse weather events," said David Gascón, Libelium's CTO, in a prepared statement. According to the company, the new board helps growers monitor local variations in soil, drainage and evaporation, in order to ensure uniform irrigation. For example, accurate dendrometers, capable of measuring changes in a plant's diameter of only a few micrometers, enable the measurement of water intake of individual vines from irrigation. And using a photosynthetically active radiation (PAR) sensor checks the conditions for photosynthesis. The Agricultural Sensor Board is also highly applicable to greenhouses, the company reports, in which the creation and control of microclimates is important to the growth of exotic fruit and other delicate crops. For mushroom farming, Waspmote's Agricultural Sensor and Gas Sensor boards can be utilized together to measure and control soil moisture and temperature, carbon dioxide level and air temperature. The board also supports meteorological sensors, such as an air thermometer, a hygrometer, an anemometer, a wind vane and rain gauges (pluviometer). If the temperature falls below a specified threshold, heating can be automatically started by the wireless sensor network. Meteorological sensors can trigger warnings in the event of adverse weather, such as high wind or torrential rain. Waspmote need not monitor values continuously, and can spend long periods in a power-saving mode. If wind exceeds a specific threshold, however, the anemometer will issue a signal to activate the Waspmote board. In hibernate mode, the company notes, the board consumes just 0.7 microamperes of current, resulting in high battery performance. Should continuous measurement be required, a socket enables the board to be powered by a solar panel, also available from Libelium. Agricultural sensor networks using Waspmote transmit data utilizing ZigBee (at 2.4 GHz, 868 MHz or 900 MHz). The radio range depends on undergrowth, but can be up to 12 kilometers (7.5 miles) for line-of-sight links, or up to 6 kilometers (3.7 miles) without line-of-sight. Alarms can also be sent to the mobile phone network using Waspmote's GSM/GPRS board.

Taiwan Extends EPC Gen 2 E-seals to Ports Around the Country
With the successful implementation of an EPC RFID solution to improve efficiency and reduce escort cost at Taiwan's Port of Kaohsiung, the country's Directorate General of Customs, R.O.C., has decided to duplicate the system at four other Taiwanese ports as well. The government amended its Customs Act to enforce this policy change, and expects the expansion to improve container safety and keep in line with the World Customs Organization's Framework of Standards to Secure and Facilitate the Global Trade. In February 2009, the Taiwanese Government officially rolled out an RFID-based system designed to eliminate the need for manual escorts—necessary to prevent theft and smuggling—of thousands of unloaded containers each year from the Kaohsiung Harbor carrier yard, through downtown, to one of the port's five container terminals (see Taiwan Customs Officials Adopt RFID-enabled Container Seals). In early 2008, it had begun testing technology from Yeon Technologies, a local hardware supplier that provides RFID readers along with its own specially designed tamper-proof Yeon YTE-100 e-seal. The e-seal has a bolt containing a passive ultrahigh-frequency (UHF) chip encoded with a unique ID number. Every entrance into the container centers was equipped with EPC readers, and as each unloaded container passed, a reader would capture its e-seal's number, and the information would then be verified. For the Port of Kaohsiung deployment, readers from Impinj and Alien Technology were chosen. By reducing the need for manual inspection and escort, the EPC RFID system has lowered operating costs for shippers, accelerated customs clearance of containers, and enhanced the international competitiveness of Kaohsiung Harbor, according to GS1 Taiwan, which has assisted the government with the initiative. For example, the use of EPC Gen 2-compliant e-seals reduced escort time by at least 6,000 hours per year. In April 2010, the Chung-Shan Institute of Science & Technology (CSIST) was authorized by the Directorate General of Customs of Taiwan, R.O.C., to be placed in charge of adoption at the remainder of Taiwan's main ports. The deployment of RFID system is scheduled to be completed at the Port of Taichung by December 2010. There is an open tender for hardware equipment. The Port of Taipei and the Port of Keelung will be deployed next, though dates have not yet been released. Taiwan Customs will implement its own EPC Information Services (EPCIS) system for monitoring container safety, GS1 Taiwan reports, and is expected to integrate customs information among different countries. Export and import container information will be generated and exchanged in multiple EPCIS systems, providing the possibility to share data with different nations, as well as encouraging EPC RFID adoption in container transport among Asian countries. According to GS1 Taiwan, Malaysian representatives have visited and witnessed the EPC RFID adoption at the Port of Kaohsiung; during the meeting, they discussed the possibility of the two countries conducting a joint pilot test.

TagMaster Ships New UHF Readers, Tags; Announces Deal in the Netherlands
TagMaster, a Swedish manufacturer of RFID solutions for rail and transportation applications, has announced it is now shipping its new XT series of ultrahigh-frequency (UHF) readers and associated tags. The new UHF products are compliant with the latest EPC Gen 2 and ISO 18000-6C standard specifications. The XT reader family and windshield-mounted ID-tags are designed for typical installations in such application areas as parking, gated communities and condominiums, the company reports. The readers provide automatic identification at up to 5 meters (16.4 feet) and work with standard EPC Gen 2 tags, as well as TagMaster's SecureMarkID solution, which ensures that each ID-tag mark is unique and prevents the duplication of a tag's identity. The XT reader family is equipped with the same Linux operating system as TagMaster's 2.45 GHz LR series readers, thus supporting the same software applications and software development kit available for the LR series. These software applications will now be available in the XT series, the company reports, thereby providing an extensive set of functionality and interfaces designed to make integration with management systems and other equipment easier and quicker. In other news, TagMaster has reported that it has again been selected by Lloyds Register Rail, a transportation consultancy within the Lloyd's Register Group, to provide RFID systems for the Gotcha Monitoring Systems (Gotcha) platform supplied to ProRail, in the Netherlands. ProRail takes care of maintenance and extensions of the Netherlands' national railway network infrastructure. The total value for the TagMaster equipment is approximately 1.5 million SEK ($193,000). The equipment is expected to be installed this year, and includes TagMaster's LR 6-HD Track Side Readers—2.45 GHz long-range readers with ranges of up to 6 meters (about 20 feet). Gotcha, a wayside monitoring platform for measuring various aspects of passing trains, will provide real-time information regarding axle loads, load imbalances, wheel quality and train speed—ultimately resulting, TagMaster indicates, in significant savings in both infrastructure and rolling stock maintenance costs. The integrated TagMaster RFID system is used to ensure that the actual measurements are matched with the correct train and wheel pairs as a train passes at full line speeds. TagMaster first delivered equipment for Gotcha in 2004, when the technology was installed in its first version across the Netherlands' rail network. The RFID system has since remained in reliable operation, the company reports, and has provided customers with the necessary reliability track record and confidence to again select a TagMaster solution for the new upgrade of Gotcha at 41 locations.
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