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RFID News Roundup

Psion and CAEN RFID unveil UHF-RFID snap-on for the Ikon; Rush Tracking Systems releases Orchestrator for RFID-enabled forklifts; Zebra offers RXi4 RFID printer-encoder to EMEA market; ROC IT Solutions delivers RFID-enabled solution to medical device manufacturer; Cedar Rapids library uses RFID to sort items for shelving; RF Code signs ITM Communications as first U.K. partner; TagMaster, SKIDATA partner on long-range UHF.
Mar 17, 2011The following are news announcements made during the past week.

Psion and CAEN RFID Unveil UHF-RFID Snap-on for the Ikôn
Psion, a global provider of mobile computing solutions, and CAEN RFID, a supplier of ultrahigh-frequency (UHF) RFID systems, have unveiled the Snappy, a new UHF RFID reader with an integrated antenna. Developed by CAEN RFID for short-range applications, the device snaps on to the bottom of the Psion Teklogix Ikôn handheld computer, providing it with UHF RFID read and write capabilities from a distance of up to 50 centimeters (19.7 inches). The Ikôn, designed for mobile workforce automation, features a VGA display and the QWERTY keyboard option, color-coded for usability. It supports Wi-Fi for local networks and 3G HSDPA wide area connectivity, as well as Bluetooth and GPS functions. The Snappy is powered and controlled directly by the Ikôn, allowing the device to read EPC Gen 2 UHF RFID tags. The device's core component is CAEN RFID's new Quark reader module, which the company claims is the smallest reader module, and with the lowest power consumption, of any currently available on the market. The module's software interface for operating the reader supports multiple languages, enabling retailers, transport companies, warehouses and other global organizations to use the device in multiple countries and languages, as required. The Snappy is available now through Psion's network of distributors.

Rush Tracking Systems Releases Orchestrator for RFID-enabled Forklifts
Rush Tracking Systems, an RFID systems integrator and solutions provider, has announced its new Orchestrator software module for its VisiblEdge platform, which works in conjunction with RFID-enabled forklifts and is designed to enable companies to manage workflows in manufacturing and warehousing operations. Orchestrator optimizes and helps provide granularity to communication between VisiblEdge and warehouse-management systems (WMS) and enterprise resource planning (ERP) and manufacturing applications. Orchestrator includes software that would run on the RFID-enabled forklift, and within the WMS or other enterprise application, enabling the enterprise application to better understand and leverage the RFID data collected by the forklifts, says Toby Rush, Rush Tracking Systems' president and CEO. For example, if a forklift operator picks up an RFID-enabled pallet to move it out of the way, the VisiblEdge software may receive an error message from the WMS, indicating that pallet wasn't labeled on the pick list. Orchestrator, however, enables more granular feedback that would ultimately clear that error as the operator moves the pallet out of the way, places it in another approved area and then continues on following the pick-list instructions and placing designated pallets in their appointed lanes. Moreover, the Orchestrator module helps document the new spot for the moved pallet, sharing that information with the WMS. If, however, the pallet was moved to a restricted area, such as a staging lane designated only for pallets on the pick list, Orchestrator would be able to identify that error to the operator, via communication with the WMS. "RFID-enabled forklifts generally will tell a WMS everything, and the WMS isn't used to getting all that data," Rush states. "Orchestrator provides the necessary granularity and takes care of all the shuffling so errors aren't generated when they needn't be."

Zebra Offers RXi4 RFID Printer-Encoder to EMEA Market
Last summer, Zebra Technologies announced an RFID printer-encoder, the RXi4, designed to address the RFID market for high-volume item-level tagging, asset tracking, inventory management and other applications across retail, manufacturing, health-care and distribution channels (see RFID News Roundup: Zebra Intros New RFID Printer-Encoder for Advanced Item-Level Tagging). Now, the company is making the device available in Europe, the Middle East and Asia (EMEA). According to Zebra, the RXi4's introduction to the EMEA market is in direct response to a growing demand for this type of reader. The firm cites a recent survey from VDC Research indicating that the EMEA market for RFID printer-encoders is expected to grow this year by nearly 20 percent. The RXi4, which supports a variety of global certifications, is an ultrahigh-frequency (UHF) EPC Gen 2 printer-encoder featuring encoding technology enabling the printer to auto-configure to an inlay, and allowing the variable inlay placement feature. RFID printer-encoders typically have a very stringent specification as to where to place an inlay in a label, to ensure the encoding of only one tag at a time. This placement specification is also very specific to inlays. Once media are converted for particular inlays and printers, Zebra reports, it becomes very difficult to use them on other printers. Zebra's printer-encoders, the company explains, always had the ability to do this through a complex printer-configuration command, but thanks to the variable inlay placement feature, the RXi4 can detect an inlay's location as it is fed through the printer, and then adjust power and encoding position without requiring user intervention. This ability enables the device to accept media that have been converted for another make and model of printer. The RXi4 also features Zebra's on-pitch capability, first introduced with the RZ400 printer-encoder, which enables the printing and encoding of small tags very close together with a distance as narrow as 16 millimeters (0.6 inch). By spacing inlays closer together, Zebra explains, label converters use less material, thereby resulting in a lower cost per label, fewer media roll changes and faster printer-encoder throughput. Printing and encoding inlays with a 16-millimeter pitch is very difficult within a printer, the company notes, which is a very RF-unfriendly environment and can not be accomplished by many printer-encoders presently available. For most other printer-encoders on the market, users need to specify the spacing from inlay to inlay in order to ensure proper encoding within the printer. This spacing, depending on the particular model, could be as great as 50 millimeters (2 inches), resulting in fewer inlays per roll, with increased liner waste. The cost of converting these labels could be up to 10 percent greater than for converting them with inlays on their native pitch.

ROC IT Solutions Delivers RFID-enabled Solution to Medical Device Manufacturer
ROC IT Solutions, a startup provider of serialized and RFID label printing, receiving, shipping, returns, deactivation, aggregation and de-aggregation solutions for manufacturers, wholesalers, distributors and retailers, has announced that it has signed its fifth client—a division of a leading global pharmaceutical company that manufactures medical diagnostic devices and supplies. The year-old ROC IT Solutions, which declines to name its clients, provides software enabling companies to capture and process data for serialized assets at the edge of the supply chain, where materials handling takes place. The software is designed to support enterprise resource planning (ERP), electronic pedigree, track-and-trace, automatic identification or other applications, as well as interoperate with any device for bar-code and RFID data capture, using GS1 standards. The newest client will employ ROC IT's solutions and RFID technology—primarily passive ultrahigh-frequency (UHF) EPC Gen 2—to capture and process serial number data at the edges of the supply chain, thus enabling the creation of serialized advance shipment notices (ASN). Larry Hall, ROC IT's VP of sales and operations, and one of the company's founders, says his firm is helping the supplier with tag encoding, case and pallet aggregation, shipment verification, and integration with SAP AII. This effort will ultimately help improve processes downstream, he says, such as the execution of vendor-managed inventory (VMI), as well as automated receiving and replenishment (ROC IT Solutions does not provide solutions for validation and replenishment, so it is not a part of that portion of the project). The goal is to improve receipt and inventory processes and visibility throughout the supply chain. Several other clients are utilizing RFID in conjunction with ROC IT Solutions' software as well, Hall says, including a large pharmaceutical retailer that is utilizing passive EPC Gen 2 tags for shipment accuracy out of its distribution center (DC). Another client, a large pharmaceutical manufacturer, is using a mix of 1-D and 2-D bar codes for DC receiving, shipping accuracy and aggregation, and label printing that includes integration to a SAP application. That client is currently working on a project for passive high-frequency (HF) RFID tags for shipment verification and accuracy and eventual customer validation and replenishment (again, since ROC IT Solutions does not provide solutions for validation and replenishment, it is not working on that part of the project).

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