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RFID News Roundup

Boeing, Alaska Airlines partner on RFID initiative; Checkpoint Systems completes acquisition of Shore to Shore; TagMaster acquires Free2move's RFID operation, TagMaster NA intros RFID handheld; Sky-Trax partners with AiDC Solutions in VAR agreement; TransCore unveils next-gen RFID rail products.
May 19, 2011The following are news announcements made during the past week.

Boeing, Alaska Airlines Partner on RFID Initiative
Boeing and Alaska Airlines have announced a joint effort to develop a Component Management Optimization (CMO) program that utilizes radio frequency identification and is aimed at increasing the efficiency of airline fleets. The CMO program, scheduled to launch in the fourth quarter of 2011, will be available for Boeing and non-Boeing fleets, and will be rapidly adaptable to any customer. Alaska Airlines has agreed to use its fleet and Seattle-based maintenance organization to develop, test and validate RFID and Contact Memory Button (CMB) technology. According to the two companies, part information—such as part and serial numbers, as well as manufacturing date and maintenance history, contained on RFID tags and buttons—significantly reduces an airline's operating costs by eliminating untimely, labor-intensive maintenance. The program will leverage an exclusive partnership that Boeing has with Fujitsu, in which Fujitsu will provide automated identification technology devices, device readers, software applications and systems integration service (see Boeing, Fujitsu to Offer Airlines a Holistic RFID Solution). Specifically, that solution includes Fujitsu's EPC Gen 2 RFID tags, designed for aerospace applications, as well as RFID readers from Fujitsu, Motorola Solutions or Intermec; middleware; a software solution to manage the data on a company's own back-end system, or on a server hosted by Boeing; and integration and maintenance services from Fujitsu and Boeing.

Checkpoint Systems Completes Acquisition of Shore to Shore
Checkpoint Systems, a provider of RF- and RFID-based solutions for merchandise identification, tracking and security, has announced that it has completed the acquisition of Shore to Shore Inc., including the Adapt Group and related assets. Shore to Shore, headquartered in Centerville, Ohio, is a global product-identification provider for the apparel and footwear sector, with production locations in 13 countries. The company designs, manufactures and sells a full line of merchandise-identification products, including RFID labels and hangtags, price tickets, printed paper tags, pressure-sensitive products, woven labels, leather and leather-like labels, heat-transfer labels, and brand-protection and electronic article surveillance (EAS) solutions and labels. Under the terms of the agreement, the initial purchase price for the all-cash acquisition is $63 million, less any debt. Bob Powers, Checkpoint's VP of investor relations, says the acquisition will enable his firm to expand its apparel-labeling business, providing it with a broader reach so it can better address retailers' RFID needs. More specifically, he adds, the acquisition broadens Checkpoint's global presence, product capability and customer reach so that it can support the integration of RFID tags into labels at the point of manufacture. "That's a benefit for retailers that want to take advantage of RFID tracking from source to store," Powers states. The Shore to Shore acquisition is a key piece of Checkpoint Systems' strategy, announced more than two years ago, to expand its then $130 million apparel retailing business to $400 million within five years. In August 2009, Checkpoint Systems acquired Brilliant Label; the Shore to Shore acquisition is the second such acquisition to support that strategy. According to Powers, Checkpoint Systems expects Shore to Shore's business to generate an annual revenue of more than $90 million.

TagMaster Acquires Free2move's RFID Operation, TagMaster NA Intros RFID Handheld
TagMaster, a Swedish manufacturer of RFID solutions for rail and transportation applications, has announced that it has acquired the RFID business of Free2move RFID. The acquisition includes all of Free2move's current RFID products, as well as its research and development (R&D) operation in Malaysia. Free2move designs, produces and markets RFID and wireless sensor products for asset tracking, security and monitoring. The acquisition is aimed at expanding TagMaster's breadth and scope to include RFID technologies and sensor-based monitoring designed for asset management and asset tracking in security and safety applications. Free2move's product portfolio includes active tags and readers operating in the 2.4 GHz band, in addition to interrogators operating in the ultrahigh-frequency (UHF) range that work with passive tags complying with the EPC Gen 2 and ISO 18000-6c standards. According to TagMaster, the UHF readers support Psion's Ikon and Opticon PHL8112 PDAs, which connect via Bluetooth, have a built-in antenna and offer a range of up to 2 feet. Free2move has implemented a number of deployments, including one at Bangkok's Suvarnabhumi International Airport. That deployment—which involves more than 9,000 active RFID tags, more than 150 active RFID readers and a tracking application—is designed to monitor trolley movements in order to thwart theft, prevent trolleys from entering no-go zones, and detect faulty trolleys. Meanwhile, TagMaster North America has launched a new HR-2 handheld reader for vehicle-identity, security, access-management and parking applications. The HR-2 is a portable handheld RFID reader providing read/write capability for TagMaster's range of 2.45 GHz ID tags. According to TagMaster, the device includes an Ethernet interface, a touch-screen user interface and a Linux operating system designed to provide systems integrators with the flexibility to customize or enhance the HR-2's functionality.

Sky-Trax Partners With AiDC Solutions in VAR Agreement
Sky-Trax, a provider of real-time location systems (RTLS) that leverage optical technology for tracking vehicles and assets within warehouses, has teamed up with AiDC Solutions a provider of automatic-identification technologies and supply chain solutions across Europe, to bring Sky-Trax's optical solutions to new territories and industries throughout the United Kingdom and Europe. Under the terms of the value-added reseller (VAR) agreement, AiDC Solutions has become a premier partner of Sky-Trax as part of its VAR program, and is an official distributor and carrier of Sky-Trax solutions and services. "Because of AiDC's large customer network and reach," said Larry Mahan, Sky-Trax's president, in a prepared statement, "our partnership will allow for growth opportunities within the materials-handling industry in the U.K., as well as other parts of Europe."

TransCore Unveils Next-Gen RFID Rail Products
TransCore has introduced a new RFID rail reader and a field processor unit—the Train Recording Unit (TRU)—that the company says is the result of a multimillion-dollar investment in research and development (R&D). Both the interrogator and the TRU, TransCore reports, are designed to support the rail market's transition to updated automatic equipment identification (AEI) technology, used throughout the industry to monitor railcars . The Multiprotocol Rail Reader (MPRR) is a self-contained 902 to 928 MHz wireless RFID reader specifically designed for rail applications. The MPRR, a replacement for TransCore's AI1200 Reader and AR2200 RF module systems, can read the current AAR format and the new SeGo protocol tags, the company reports. The device offers a real-time clock, expanded tag-read buffering, programmable RF output power, a programmable frequency range from 860 to 930 MHz in 250-kHz programmable frequency steps, and system integrity checking. It employs advanced multiplexing techniques that improve reader performance at higher train speeds; this unique multiplexing mode, the company explains, provides the capability for one reader to manage up to four antennas. The MPRR interfaces directly to TransCore's TRU, which records detailed information regarding trains, uses that data to create "clean consists"—a train listing in standing order, in which the orientation of tagged equipment and the location of untagged equipment are provided, and in which car count is accurate—and then transmits consist reports to one or more host computer systems. The TRU accommodates and accurately filters data from such normal operating procedures as changes in speed and direction, TransCore reports, as well as the necessary intelligence to handle both single- and multi-track locations.
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