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Alien Technology Releases Pre-encoded Higgs-4 Chip

The new IC, which comes pre-encoded with a 38-bit EPC serial number, offers a variety of new features, including the ability to be written to at high speed.
By Claire Swedberg
The California RFID chip and tag manufacturer first announced the development of the Higgs-4 IC in April 2011, with plans to make the new chip commercially available in September of last year (see Alien Technology Announces New IC, Handheld Readers and Inlays). However, says Neil Mitchell, Alien's VP of business development, the chip is being released six months later than initially planned, because the company wished to add greater functionality in order to speed up the chip's writing rate and provide pre-serialization.

For businesses that apply tags to their products and then write to those tags, Mitchell says, "one of the biggest headaches is serialization." Retailers with a wide range of tag suppliers are concerned with ensuring that there is no duplication in RFID tag numbers, and typically leave that responsibility in the hands of the product manufacturers. In addition, he says, goods manufacturers would benefit from being able to encode tags much more quickly than they are currently able to do. Alien chose to add the rapid-encoding features, Mitchell notes, in order to meet the needs of brand manufacturers tagging their products but hoping to do so without adding complexity to their existing manufacturing processes.

Although Alien was one of three companies developing the MCS system, it claims to be the first to release a chip incorporating the pre-serialization feature. Though the Higgs-4 chip comes pre-encoded with a 38-bit EPC serial number, brand owners are not required to use this serialization number. "If they prefer to use their own scheme and manage their own serialization scheme, they can... They simply over-write the pre-encoded 38-bit serial number with whatever 38-bit sequence they want," Mitchell says. But by doing so, he notes, a company would need "to ensure there are no duplicates and track these serialization across their web of suppliers and multiple sites generating serialized tags."

Additionally, the chip is designed with greater write sensitivity, enabling the encoding of each tag (with the remaining serial number unique to that tag) with about half the power required for writing to other tags currently available on the market.

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