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Impinj Releases Embedded RFID Chips for Consumer Electronics, E-Labels

The company's Monza X Dura passive ICs can be used to configure, authenticate, activate and exchange data with tablet computers and other devices, by means of an EPC Gen 2 RFID reader.
By Claire Swedberg
May 23, 2012Seattle-based RFID hardware provider Impinj has announced an EPC Gen 2 passive ultrahigh-frequency (UHF) tag chip developed for embedded applications, such as programming consumer electronics or updating electronic price-label data. The Monza X Dura integrated circuit (IC) comes in two versions, based on memory capacity. The X-2K Dura model, available now, comes with 2 kilobits of memory, while the X-8K Dura version, slated for release in August 2012, will feature 8 kilobits. When a Monza X chip is installed in a laptop PC, printer or other electronic device, an RFID reader can be used to upload data to that device (such as programming instructions) by encoding that information to chip.

An RFID interrogator can be used to write data to the Monza X chip's memory, whether an electronic device is powered on or off. In this way, someone could read and configure information on the chip through a box when it is switched off. When the device is powered up, its processor can draw the data from the RFID chip, using a standard I²C bus-wired connection, and then adjust its settings according to the instructions encoded to that IC.

The Monza X chip

During the past seven years, Impinj has worked with electronic device processor manufacturer Intel to develop the Monza X chips, for use with Microsoft Windows 8-based processors for tablet computers to be released later this year, explains Kerry Krause, Impinj's VP of marketing. As part of that development, Intel demonstrated the Monza X chips in thousands of tablets as a proof-of-concept to customers, retailers and other end users and attendees of the RFID Journal LIVE! 2012 conference and exhibition, where the design was given the RFID Journal Award for Best Use of RFID in a Product or Service (see RFID Journal Announces Winners of Its Sixth Annual Awards). The ICs were also tested by Windows and Android software developers to incorporate the technology into their applications. Impinj is now making the chips commercially available to other customers.

Kerry Krause, Impinj's VP of marketing
Impinj is marketing the chips to provide several use cases, Krause says. In one scenario, the chips could be built into electronic devices, such as those using Intel processors. This would enable the programming of such a device at the point of sale, without it being unpacked from its box. In another use case, the chips could be embedded in electronic shelf labels or signs. In that way, a retailer could update the price displayed by an electronic shelf label, by issuing instructions to the Monza X chip, which would forward those instructions to the e-label's processor to change a price displayed on the unit's LCD or LED screen. At least one major retailer is considering the technology for price displays within its stores, Krause says, though that company cannot yet be named.

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