RFID News Roundup

Sagem Wireless' new Cosyphone incorporates Inside Contactless NFC technologies; Visa, DeviceFidelity partner on mobile payment solution; ASK, Ideco team up on contactless fare system for South African rail project; NFC mobile phone trial gets underway in Slovenia; Salto Systems unveils new RFID-enabled hotel locking system; PCTS opens U.K. subsidiary to serve European market.
Published: February 18, 2010

The following are news announcements made during the past week.

Sagem Wireless’ New Cosyphone Incorporates NFC Technologies

Inside Contactless has announced the first deployment of its portfolio of Near Field Communication (NFC) technologies in a commercially available NFC handset. All three of the company’s core NFC offerings—the MicroRead NFC controller chip, the Open NFC protocol stack and the Wave-Me handset client software—are integrated in the Cosyphone, a new NFC mobile phone from French firm Sagem Wireless. The Cosyphone leverages Inside Contactless’ NFC technologies to simplify access to the phone’s features, and enables users to make calls, send text messages or access data services such as weather or traffic information, simply by waving the phone near an NFC tag or smart poster. “The Cosyphone is the embodiment of our vision of enhanced NFC services,” said Andre Ponton, Inside Contactless’ VP of key accounts, in a prepared statement, “going beyond traditional payment and transit fare transactions to actually making the phone easier to use by simplifying access to functions and services.” According to Ponton, the MicroRead chip’s self-powered battery-off mode and low-power NFC tag-detection features will help improve the user experience of the Cosyphone, by enabling payment or other transactions to take place successfully even when the handset is turned off, or when the battery is completely drained. With Inside Contactless’ Wave-Me technology in the Cosyphone, users can access relevant, profile-based services with a simple waving gesture near an NFC tag or smart poster, and that can automatically simulate a series of keystrokes. NFC tags and smart posters may contain relevant phone numbers or complex URLs to send SMS text messages or instruct the phone to send and retrieve information from Web sites. The Cosyphone will be available early in the third quarter of 2010, the company reports, and will be sold through mobile network operators.

Visa, DeviceFidelity Partner on Mobile Payment Solution

Credit card company Visa has teamed up with DeviceFidelity, a Dallas, Texas, contactless payment firm. The duo indicate they will market a solution that can enable a mobile phone with a memory card slot to be used as a Visa mobile-payment device. The solution combines Visa’s contactless payment technology, Visa payWave, and DeviceFidelity’s In2Pay technology to transform a mobile phone with a microSD memory slot into a mobile contactless payment device. According to the two companies, this can enable consumers to make mobile Visa payWave transactions at any retail location that accepts contactless payments. DeviceFidelity’s microSD RFID module can function as both an NFC passive tag and a reader, and is compatible with existing NFC-enabled point-of-sale (POS) terminals already in use around the United States, using the encryption protocol accepted by major credit and debit card providers, such as Visa (see MicroSD Card Brings NFC to Phones for Credit Card Companies, Banks). In2Pay utilizes an onboard software-controlled antenna and an industry-standard dual interface contactless smart card chip. Visa and DeviceFidelity expect to begin trials of their solution in the second quarter of this year. “Through our collaboration with DeviceFidelity, Visa is helping to accelerate the adoption of mobile contactless payments and pave the way for the global deployment of NFC-enabled devices,” said Dave Wentker, Visa’s head of mobile contactless payments, in a prepared statement. In addition to DeviceFidelity, the credit card company is also working with several key technology providers and strategic alliance partners to test and deploy the solution, including CPI Card Group, Inside Contactless, Monitise and NXP Semiconductors.

ASK, Ideco Team Up on Contactless Fare System for South African Rail Project

ASK, a French manufacturer of contactless microprocessor smart cards, contactless cards, paper tickets and RFID labels, and Ideco Technologies, the company’s South African partner and a provider of identity-management solutions, have announced that they have been selected by the Bombela Operating Co. as one of the suppliers to the Gautrain rapid-rail system being constructed in South Africa’s Gauteng province. ASK will provide the contactless smart cards, which will employ NXP Semiconductors‘ Mifare RFID chips, as part of the automatic fare-collection (AFC) system, while Ideco will contribute project support, as well as personalization and customization services. The Gautrain system will use the contactless ticketing system for all travelers between Johannesburg, Tshwane and/or O.R. Tambo International Airport, with various stops along each route. The system is slated to begin operation at the end of May 2010, according to Ideco spokeswoman Lynne Larsen, who notes that the number of contactless tickets is estimated to be approximately 3 million over a three-year period. “Ideco’s expertise in security and their local sales force along with ASK’s experience in mass-transit ticketing and contactless technology will no doubt contribute to ‘the Dream on Wheels’ in South Africa and benefit all the commuters,” said Christophe Peix, ASK’s EMEA sales manager, in a prepared statement.

NFC Mobile Phone Trial Gets Underway in Slovenia

Several more companies have stepped up to participate in the GSM Association‘s Pay-Buy-Mobile Near Field Communication (NFC) mobile phone initiative, this time in Slovenia. The GSM Association comprises more than 700 GSM mobile phone operators around the world. The organization first launched its series of NFC-enabled mobile phone trials about two years ago, starting in France, Taiwan and Turkey (see Cell Phone Service Providers Start Global NFC Initiative). The newest field trial is being conducted by Banka Koper, part of Italian financial group Intesa Sanpaolo, along with Cassis International, Inside Contactless, Sagem Orga and Sagem Wireless, in cooperation with Mobitel, a mobile service provider in Slovenia. The trial includes a payment infrastructure, applications and handsets, and is scheduled to run through June 2010. Using their Mobitel handsets, participants in the trial will be able to make purchases at any merchant locations in Slovenia that accept MasterCard and Maestro PayPass contactless payment cards. Participants will also be able to utilize a set of interactive mobile services based on smart posters, including contextual information, advertisements and coupons. Banka Koper’s payment service will be provisioned over the air onto a single-wire protocol SIM card. Both the MasterCard M/Chip application and Mobitel’s single-wire protocol NFC SIM card have been developed by Sagem Orga. The NFC-compliant Mobitel handset, manufactured by Sagem Wireless, incorporates Inside Contactless’ MicroRead NFC solution, which handles communication with NFC terminals, tags and other NFC handsets, and also includes the company’s Wave-Me applet for interaction with smart posters. Application and SIM card life-cycle management will be performed over-the-air by Cassis MobileMatrix, a telco and commercial-grade trusted service management (TSM) solution. Additionally, Cassis is providing the certified payment user interface and smart poster management, based on the PosterMatrix software platform.

Salto Systems Unveils New RFID-enabled Hotel Locking System

Salto Systems, a manufacturer of access-control products, has introduced a new RFID-enabled lock system designed to let hoteliers integrate physical security needs into a single wire-free system. The AElement can be used to control the security of an entire building, grant access privileges to individual rooms and gather audit trail data from every door, all from a single system at the front desk. According to Salto Systems, the AElement system operates on a 2.4 GHz wireless network over an 802.15.4 protocol, and works with mainstream RFID technology such as Mifare and DESfire—the latest versions of Mifare Plus and DESfire EV1—as well as with standard low-cost hotel guest cards. AElement locks are designed to be wireless, but hotels can select whether the functionality is activated or not. If a hotel chooses “wireless online,” locks are online and communicate in real time with the server. If a customer chooses “wireless-ready,” locks communicate with the server daily on differed-time communication mode. Wireless-ready locks can be switched to “wireless online mode” at any time, the company reports, simply by plugging in the USB-sized RF communication antennas. The backbone of the AElement system is a series of gateways and repeaters that act as antennas, collecting and sending information from the computer server directly to the wireless locks. One gateway can manage several electronic locks as well as repeaters, thereby minimizing infrastructure costs and maximizing flexibility. AElement also features a range of management functions, including instant room move and instant extended stay abilities, as well as lost card cancellation, intrusion alarm, door-ajar alarm, remote opening, real-time audit trail, passage mode activation for meeting rooms and automated low-battery reporting. For staff management, it can provide online employee tracking, real-time monitoring, dynamic master-key functionality and instant master-card cancellation. All master cards are uniquely assigned to specific individuals; staff cards can be programmed not to work at night (outside their individual time shift), and can be centrally cancelled at a moment’s notice. What’s more, changes to the locking schedule can be made on the fly, with no need to manually reprogram locks or reissue cards. According to Salto Systems, its electronic-locking and access-control systems are utilized by 4,000 customers, including colleges such as the University of Oxford, corporations such as T-Mobile, hotels and health-care providers.

PCTS Opens U.K. Subsidiary to Serve European Market

Patient Care Technology Systems (PCTS), a provider of real-time workflow automation and tracking software based in Mission Viejo, Calif., has established a subsidiary in London. The new company, known as Patient Care Technology Systems Ltd., will market RTLS-enabled automatic-tracking and workflow-automation solutions for health care throughout the European Union. PCTS’ Amelior 360° Enterprise Visibility Platform, when combined with real-time location systems (RTLS), can be used to track patients, employees and assets in health-care facilities, and consists of products for hospital emergency, perioperative, interventional cardiology and diagnostic imaging departments, as well as facility-wide asset and patient tracking. Amelior works with RTLS systems leveraging RFID, ultrasound, Wi-Fi access points and infrared sensors. Through the new subsidiary, the company hopes to add the British National Health Service (NHS) to its customer list. Patient Care Technology Systems Ltd. will focus primarily on market education and development, as well as sales and marketing support for European reseller partners. PCTS has also announced it has signed a reseller agreement with Acumentive Ltd. (formerly RadiantWave Ltd.) of Richmond, Surrey. Acumentive will focus its health-care solutions on the delivery of PCTS applications and associated auto-ID technologies to NHS. The companies will align auto-ID partnerships and innovation activities, and will also collaborate on sales, marketing, solutions delivery and support.