RFID News Roundup

SAS Airlines begins distributing NFC stickers for frequent flyers' mobile phones; Help Alert solution supports mobile-phone app for student and staff safety; Sony Ericsson selects NXP's NFC solution for its Android-based smartphones; Isle of Wight Festival guests sport contactless wristbands; U.K. mental-health facility deploys AeroScout's patient- and staff-safety solution; Secura Key offers updated card-ordering guide, intros Web training; Libelium adds new sensor board to Smart Cities solution.
Published: June 23, 2011

The following are news announcements made during the past week.

SAS Airlines Begins Distributing NFC Stickers for Frequent Flyers’ Mobile Phones

Scandinavian Airlines has announced plans to roll out its SAS Smart Pass, a Near Field Communication (NFC) solution aimed at making customer check-in and operations smoother and more time-efficient, across Scandinavia this fall. The SAS Smart Pass was trialed successfully earlier this year among approximately 100 selected Gold members of EuroBonus, the airline’s frequent-flyer program, in three Scandinavian cities. The initial trial was conducted from mid-February through mid-April at airports in Malmö, Sweden; Aalborg, Denmark; and Ålesund, Norway. Now, the airline is extending the SAS Smart Pass to all EuroBonus Gold members, and is sending NFC-enabled stickers to their home addresses so that the customers can then affix them to their mobile phones. Each sticker contains a passive 13.56 MHz RFID tag. Some smartphones have built-in NFC capability, but Kristine Mayer, SAS’ strategic project manager of product strategy and development, says that “at the moment, the availability of mobile phones equipped with NFC is low in Scandinavia. Therefore, we will offer our most frequent travelers SAS Smart Pass, an NFC-sticker with the same functionality that the customer easily can attach on a mobile phone.” The airline will install NFC readers at SAS stations in airports throughout Scandinavia. The interrogators, Mayer says, will be placed at all customer touch points, including self-service kiosks, security points, lounges, tax-free shopping areas and gates.

Help Alert Solution Supports Mobile-Phone App for Student and Staff Safety

PinPoint Technologies, a sister company of RF Technologies, has introduced a mobile application designed to deliver its Help Alert wireless emergency call solution over mobile devices, including iPhones, iPods and iPads. Help Alert is a Wi-Fi-based wireless real-time location system (RTLS) technology (the firm also manufactures a ZigBee-compliant version, though it is mainly marketing its Wi-Fi model). The solution includes a pendant that schoolteachers and staff members can wear so that if a problem arises or tensions escalate, the nearest employee can simply press the button on his or her pendant. A discreet alert will then be instantly transmitted to the appropriate team members, so that they will know who called in the alert, as well as that individual’s precise location at the moment that the alert was issued. Each pendant contains a battery-powered Wi-Fi-based RFID tag that transmits a unique ID number associated with an individual user. The tag’s 2.4 GHz signal is received by Wi-Fi access points, and that data is forwarded to PinPoint software that calculates the location of the pendant’s wearer. With the Help Alert Mobile App, mobile-phone users can add Help Alert functionality to their mobile devices via a free download. The mobile application, according to Bryan Tracey, PinPoint Technologies’ VP, provides incident responders (such as administrators or teachers) with the name and a photo of the person who triggered the alarm; real-time visibility on a map in that person’s mobile app, indicating the alarming pendant’s location; and the ability to acknowledge the alarm from within the application. “That acknowledgement is shared with others who may be viewing the incident on computers or their mobile devices, and is also communicated to the person with the alarming pendant showing them with an LED that help is on the way,” he states. The app also includes the ability to ultimately clear an alarm, and to record an explanation of the incident for reporting purposes. In addition, Tracey reports, PinPoint Technologies is providing customers with a similar mobile application for asset tracking and visibility, and Help Alert is being provided to health-care facilities, hotels and public venues. In 2008, Shorewood High School, located near Milwaukee, became one of the first schools to install the Help Alert system (see Wisconsin High School Gets ‘Help Alert’).

Sony Ericsson Selects NXP’s NFC Solution for Its Android-based Smartphones

NXP Semiconductors has announced that its Near Field Communication (NFC) technology has been selected by Sony Ericsson for inclusion in its Android-based smartphones. According to NXP, Sony Ericsson—a mobile handset manufacturer focused on communications and entertainment—will use NFC to further enhance its consumers’ mobile experiences, thereby creating a portfolio of smartphones that enable mobile transactions. Using simple touch gestures, consumers will be able to make purchases or connect to a point-of-sale (POS) terminal, ticketing terminal or location-based promotional tag simply and securely, using their NFC-enabled smartphones. NXP, which provides complete embedded, secure NFC solutions, recently announced that its NFC software is open-source on the Android platform, and that it enables the Google Wallet application (see RFID News Roundup: Google Unveils NFC-based Mobile-Payments Service), which is NFC technology that will allow consumers to pay for goods and redeem coupons simply by touching or waving their NFC-enabled phones near a receiver. In its Android-based smartphones, Sony Ericsson intends to utilize NXP’s PN65 NFC solution, which integrates an NFC radio controller, the embedded secure element and NFC software in a single device. The embedded secure element employs advanced cryptography to offer a high level of security for mobile transactions, NXP reports, and is compliant with the ISO 14443 or ISO 18092 standards. “Building on Sony Ericsson’s leadership in Android and mobile gaming, the integration of Near Field Communication into our Android-based Xperia portfolio is another step in delivering the most entertaining smartphones,” said Jan Uddenfeldt, Sony Ericsson’s CTO, in a prepared statement. “NFC offers our consumers the ability to broaden their communication experience beyond the phone, and we are poised to drive the development of new, exciting and creative entertainment experiences.”

Isle of Wight Festival Guests Sport Contactless Wristbands

ID&C, a U.K.-based provider of security, promotional and contactless payment wristbands, has announced that its prepaid contactless payment wristband was used successfully at the recent Isle of Wight Festival, an event that dates back to the late 1960s. This year, the festival featured such musicians as Paul McCartney, Jay Z and the Strokes. The festival was held on June 10-12, and attendees in the VIP arena were provided with the wristbands, preloaded with £30 ($48). The wristbands could be used to purchase food and beverages with a simple tap of the wrist, according to ID&C. The project, led by MasterCard, included a research element in which the credit-card company queried VIP attendees about their use of the wristbands. The research found that the wristbands were the festivalgoers’ preferred payment method, ID&C reports, with 100 percent of users stating that they’d use the wristbands again at other festivals, concerts and sporting events. “Festivals are all about a great shared experience—the music, bands, food and drink all add to the atmosphere, ” said John Giddings, an Isle of Wight festival promoter, in a prepared statement. “New innovations such as this really add to the experience. I’m proud to have pioneered the wristbands at the Isle of Wight Festival and hope to see them developed further for future events.” ID&C’s contactless wristband projects have grown rapidly in 2011 with the Coachella Valley Music and Arts Festival, held in Indio, Calif., in April 2011. The company has also secured two further contracts for RFID access-control wristbands, for events to be held later this year in the United States: Chicago’s Lollapalooza, and Austin City Limits, in Texas. The firm’s RFID access-control wristbands are available in a variety of versions, including high-frequency (HF), low-frequency (LF) and ultrahigh-frequency (UHF) RFID technologies; the company can also provide readers and back-end systems and databases, as required to support the solution.U.K. Mental-Health Facility Deploys AeroScout’s Patient- and Staff-Safety Solution

The Avon and Wiltshire Mental Health Partnership NHS Trust (AWP), a mental-health service provider in the United Kingdom, has implemented AeroScout‘s Wi-Fi-based real-time location system (RLTS) to monitor the location, safety and efficiency of staff members, AeroScout reports. AWP has a Secure Forensic Mental Health Service building, which means it supports those who, as a consequence of their mental-health needs, have had contact with the legal system and require a safe and secure environment enabling them to receive a wide range of treatments, therapies and care to assist in their recovery. The firm provides dedicated mental-health services to adults in Bath, North East Somerset, Bristol, North Somerset, South Gloucestershire, Wiltshire and Swindon. AeroScout’s partner, IT wireless and consulting firm Stoneleigh Consultancy, deployed the solution, including Wi-Fi tags and AeroScout’s MobileView real-time location software, which aggregates data regarding employees’ locations, based on reads of each tag. The solution enables AWP to effectively monitor the locations of staff members. Through AeroScout’s health-care RTLS solutions, AWP is streamlining the process for checking into and out of its facility. Upon arrival, each worker checks in and receives a Wi-Fi RFID tag that can be attached to a set of physical keys. The tag is read as it passes through different hospital zones, and that information is forwarded to AeroScout’s MobileView software, which then displays each person’s location in real time. “As a provider of specialized mental-health services, we are focused on giving the highest quality of care while at the same time ensuring a safe environment for both our staff and patients,” said Steve Batson, an AWP service manager for the West of England Forensic Mental Health Service, in a prepared statement. “Prior to using AeroScout, we relied on a whiteboard to manually track the whereabouts of our staff members, and we had little insight into their location. Since we started using AeroScout, we have improved the safety and confidence of our staff through the ability to identify exactly where they are at any one time.”

Secura Key Offers Updated Card-Ordering Guide, Intros Web Training

Secura Key, a California-based provider of electronic access-control and RFID products for security, asset management and automatic data collection (ADC) applications, has announced that it has updated its Customer Card Ordering Guide for its various access-control and security key cards, including RFID and HID– compatible proximity cards and key tags. The guide is designed to provide resellers and customers with a reference tool for all aspects of the card-ordering process, and includes available card types, as well as instructions in regard to choosing formats and various printing options, for all technologies in the Secura Key Catalog. The detailed 12-page guide, which includes diagrams of each card for easy ordering, is available at the Ordering Guides section of Secura Key’s Web site. Printed copies are also available. Secura Key’s RFID products include the e*Tag series of 13.56 MHz readers, which meet the ISO 15693 standard. Available in RS-232, RS-485, TTL and USB communications formats, Secura Key’s readers can be ordered as complete units in weather-resistant housings, or as original equipment manufacturer (OEM) modules. Form factors include wall-surface mount readers, a desktop interrogator and a miniature reader that plugs directly into a USB connector on a PC or laptop. Secura Key can package RFID transponders of any frequency in a variety of form factors, including cards, key tags, pallet tags and labels. Four-color custom graphics, printing of variable data and data encryption standard (DES) encryption are available. The company has also announced the continuation of its product-training program, with monthly scheduled webinars. Every month, various webinars are available at no cost to anyone in the security industry, or to users of access-control products. Secura Key offers a “Product Overview” webinar, as well as a session about its SK-NET software and its RK65K standalone proximity reader. The webinars are designed to explain how to install and operate Secura Key’s standalone access-control systems and readers, and to provide customers with the necessary installation education, without requiring them to travel to Secura Key’s factory in California. Using Web-based training tools, such as Citrix‘s GoToWebinar, Secura Key offers its customers live interactive training at their own facilities, or at any site with an Internet connection. Other courses will be added in the future, the company reports. Secura Key is also able to offer one-on-one training sessions for individuals or small groups, by special request. Those interested in participating in one of the scheduled public webinars should visit Secura Key’s Web site to register for the training, by accessing the site’s Webinars and On-Line Training section.

Libelium Adds New Sensor Board to Smart Cities Solution

Spanish wireless communications hardware firm Libelium has announced the completion of its Smart Cities platform, with the introduction of a new sensor board designed to measure noise pollution, dust quantities, structural health and garbage levels. The platform, based on the company’s modular Waspmote wireless sensing technology, is aimed at systems integrators that can leverage the platform to deploy a heterogeneous wireless sensor network with a combination of sensor boards. According to Libelium, systems integrators can exploit the Waspmote’s modularity and open-source software to create custom solutions for a particular city. The Waspmotes, which consist of a magnetic sensor, a battery, a ZigBee 2.4 GHz 802.15.4 radio transmitter and an antenna, are enclosed in a PVC container. Motes or nodes in the network communicate with their gateway via ZigBee radio links. The new sensor board includes four new sensors: a sensor that can measure the detected sound pressure level (dBSPL) from noise generated by traffic and individuals, suitable for creating a real-time noise map of a city; a particulate matter (dust) sensor, for measuring the amount of particles of 10 micrometers (0.0004 inch) or less in size, in concentrations down to 0.1 micrograms (3.5 ounces) per cubic meter; a sensor for measuring cracks in public structures, such as buildings and bridges, that is applicable to monitoring structural health; and an ultrasound sensor capable of measuring garbage levels in bins, designed to help waste-management services empty rubbish only from bins that are sufficiently full, thus saving time and fuel. The new board also includes temperature, light and humidity sensors. The board may be combined in a network with previously available sensor boards—for gas-monitoring, radiation-detection and smart-parking applications—thereby offering a comprehensive range of sensors for urban use. Earlier this month, Libelium announced that its Waspmotes are being tested in a smart-parking system capable of detecting a vehicle’s presence or absence. The test is part of a €1 million ($1.5 million) wireless technology project being conducted in the Spanish city of Santander (see ZigBee System Makes Parking Smarter in Spain). The motes, which can either be buried in a parking space or mounted on poles or lampposts, awaken at regular intervals (typically, every few seconds). If a car has parked over a mote, its magnetic sensor detects a large quantity of metal, thereby indicating the presence of a motor vehicle. The mote then transmits its own unique ID number, as well as the new status—in this case, the vehicle’s presence. The transmission can be received by repeaters installed on poles or at other aboveground locations, or by other buried Waspmotes, via the ZigBee connection. A router then transmits the parking data over a GPRS connection to a server, which can be hosted by a city, a parking authority or a third party. In addition, the routers can send data to a back-end server via Wi-Fi.