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With Its New Reader Chip, NXP Hopes to Expand Market for Tagging Consumables

The company says the SLRC900, designed for installation in printers, drink dispensers and other devices, can be used in tandem with tags containing its EPC Gen 2 UHF chips, in order to enhance the consumer experience, as well as combat product counterfeiting.
By Beth Bacheldor
Apr 18, 2012Earlier this month, NXP Semiconductors announced and showcased a new EPC Gen 2 ultrahigh-frequency (UHF) RFID reader chip—the model SLRC900—designed specifically for the appliance and fast-moving consumer goods (FMCG) markets. The SLRC900 chip—a complete system-on-chip solution that includes an EPC Gen 2 UHF RFID transceiver and an integrated microcontroller—was unveiled at the RFID Journal LIVE! 2012 conference and exhibition, held in Orlando, Fla. NXP developed the new IC in partnership with Korean RFID technology firm PHYchips.

According to NXP, a growing number of manufacturers now integrate RFID readers into their products, ranging from printers to beverage-dispensing machines, in order to enhance the consumer experience, as well as thwart the counterfeiting of such consumable products as inkjet cartridges or flavored syrups. The interrogator can identify the serial number encoded to a consumable's RFID tag, thereby helping to ensure that product's quality, improve functionality, and protect a company's brand and intellectual property from the threat of counterfeiters. For example, the reader chip's microcontroller could log an ink cartridge's tag ID number as that cartridge was inserted, and then determine if the cartridge was authorized by the printer's manufacturer. If the cartridge did not contain a tag (perhaps due to it being counterfeit, or made by a competing brand), the printer might not be able to provide the consumer with optimized printer operation. In addition, the printer could be designed to alert the consumer if the cartridge were nearly empty or fake.

Ralf Kodritsch, NXP Semiconductors' head of marketing, text and labels
NXP's SLRC900 chip is optimized for reading tags at close range, according to Ralf Kodritsch, the company's head of marketing, text and labels, and offers low power consumption and a low cost of ownership. While he declines to release pricing details, he reports that the integration of an RF link and a microcontroller onto a single chip makes implementation easier and more cost-effective. "There are what I'd call Rolls-Royce kinds of solutions out there that are very, very expensive," Kodritsch says. "Ours reduces the bill of materials, because if, in the appliance or consumer goods, there is no microcontroller, you can use the one in the reader chip."

Samples of the SLRC900 IC are now available. Next month, Kodritsch says, NXP Semiconductors plans to begin offering demonstrator modules—printed circuit boards (PCBs) that have the reader IC and additional peripherals built in so that customers can begin creating reference designs.

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