RFID News Roundup

GS1 US publishes RFID tag-serialization guidelines; Saident announces RFID-enabled tube for product packaging and promotion; RFcamp launches small, thin metal-mount RFID tags; Blue Spark Technologies, IDS Microchip codevelop EPC Gen 2 BAP RFID sensors; RF Technologies releases software update for wandering-management solution; OnChip Devices unveils thin silicon-based dual-capacitor for RFID applications.
Published: June 7, 2012

The following are news announcements made during the past week.

GS1 US Publishes RFID Tag-Serialization Guidelines

Nonprofit standards organization GS1 US has announced the release of new technical guidelines describing best practices, as well as various methodologies for assigning globally unique identification to individual trade items, using a Serial Global Trade Item Number (SGTIN). The guidelines, titled “EPC-enabled RFID Serialization Management for SGTIN-96,” are available as a free download here. Assigning a SGTIN to each individual item means that two otherwise identical units of the same product are uniquely identifiable, making it possible to fully use RFID for simultaneous inventory counts, and to ensure that the correct product is in the proper place at the right time, according to GS1 US. The guidelines are “another example of how industry is driving the responsible use of RFID technology in order to achieve interoperability and inventory visibility like never before—all the way from the manufacturing source to the store shelf,” said GS1 US’ Gena Morgan, who chaired the cross-industry user group that authored the guidelines, in a prepared statement. Several U.S. retailers and brands were part of the group that had a hand in creating the document, including Jockey International, Lord & Taylor, Macy’s, Maidenform and PVH Corp. (the owner of Calvin Klein, Tommy Hilfiger and other leading brands), along with several technology providers. “This should be part of every company’s EPC item-level RFID implementation toolbox,” added Pam Sweeney, the senior VP of logistics systems at Macy’s, in the prepared statement. “It helps companies understand the importance of serialization, its relationship to the technology and why standards are so important when managing serialization.” The methods described in the guidelines include so-called IT-based serialization methods, because they rely upon a tagging party’s IT systems to manage the allocation of serial numbers, and are used to track which serial numbers have or have not been allocated. An alternative is chip-based serialization, which makes use of an RFID tag hardware feature known as a Tag Identifier (see Three RFID Chip Makers Agree on Serialization Approach).

Saident Announces RFID-Enabled Tube for Product Packaging and Promotion

Saident, a provider of RFID-enabled solutions for the consumer goods, health, fashion and jewelry markets, and Industrial Sagarra have introduced an RFID-enabled version of Industrial Sagarra’s Packintube line of cardboard packaging for the food, beverage and perfumery industries. The new Smart Packintube product will provide detailed product information, such as ingredients, photographs and videos, when a consumer places the packaged goods on an interactive table equipped with an RFID reader. Each tube will have an RFID tag integrated within it during the manufacturing process, the company reports, adding that since the tube has metal covers, on both the top and bottom, the tag must be located between the cardboard sheets used to make the sides of the tube. Any type of RFID tag can be employed, based on the final product that the tubes will contain (such as liquids, metals and so forth). Each tag will be encoded with a unique identifier. When a tag is scanned by the RFID reader that is part of the interactive table, its unique ID number is utilized to access product information in associated software, and that information is then displayed. The table is designed to be placed at point-of-sale areas. Saident recently demonstrated the Smart Packintube in Barcelona, Spain, where the tube had an integrated ultrahigh-frequency (UHF) EPC Gen 2 tag, supplied by Smartrac. Industrial Sagarra specializes in the manufacturing and marketing of cardboard tubes, and its Packintube line includes several models: Senso (packaging for goods with odors or textures), Liquid (special containers for liquid products), Eco (ecological and sustainable packaging), Protect (shipping containers for delicate products) and Design (packaging designs as works of art, drawings, posters and so on). The Smart Packintube solution is available now from Industrial Sagarra.

RFcamp Launches Small, Thin Metal-Mount RFID Tags

South Korean RFID specialty tag manufacturer RFcamp has announced a new small, thin EPC Gen 2 ultrahigh-frequency (UHF) passive tag, known as the Titan Thin-Inch, designed to be mounted on both metal and non-metal items, especially tools. The tag, measuring 1 inch by 0.4 inch by 0.08 inch, has an on-metal read range of up to 1.5 feet by a handheld reader, and up to 2.5 feet by a fixed interrogator. The read range for off-metal applications is up to 1.5 feet with a fixed reader. Available in two frequency bands—866 to 868 MHz in Europe and 902 to 928 MHz in the United States—the tag employs Alien Technology‘s Higgs 3 chips containing 96 or 128 bits of EPC chip memory, plus 512 bits of user memory, according to Jerry Ryu, RFcamp’s CEO and founder. The Titan Thin-Inch tag is designed to withstand any harsh treatment that tools undergo during their life cycles: temperatures of 300 degree Fahrenheit (149 degrees Celsius), pressures of 50 bars, ultrasonic washings and various cleansing materials. RFcamp developed its own three-layer antenna on a printed circuit that is laminated under high pressure, and at a temperature of 392 degrees Fahrenheit (200 degrees Celsius), Ryu reports. Since 2003, RFcamp has developed more than 20 types of tags, he says, and has supplied tens of millions of specialty tags to more than 40 countries. The tags, available in samples at no cost, are currently undergoing testing. RFcamp can also laser-mark 1-D or 2-D bar codes, as well as serial numbers, on the tag’s surface.
Blue Spark Technologies, IDS Microchip Codevelop EPC Gen 2 BAP RFID Sensors

Blue Spark Technologies, a manufacturer of thin printed batteries, and Swiss semiconductor firm IDS Microchip, have announced a technology partnership to jointly promote new battery-assisted passive (BAP) RFID sensor tags for use in a variety of industries and applications. BAP tags, also known as semi-passive tags, are designed to provide greater read range and reliability than purely passive tags. The sensor solution leverages RFID inlays compliant with the EPC Gen 2 RFID standard. One application that the two companies have developed is a BAP RFID tag reference design using IDS’ SL900A sensory tag chip and Blue Spark Technologies’ printed battery, thereby enabling real-time monitoring of time and temperatures, as well as the data logging of consumables and other temperature-sensitive products moving through the supply chain. According to the battery maker, the BAP RFID sensor tags can be used on cases, pallets, containers and individual packages of perishable foods, such as meat, fish, and frozen and dairy products. They can also be used with beverages, such as fruit juices and wine, as well as with temperature-sensitive chemicals and pharmaceuticals, such as vaccines and biologicals. As a first step in their partnership, the two companies have jointly funded the creation of a thin, flexible RFID temperature data-logger tag reference design that will be available to RFID and sensor designers to aid in development of their own products. Fully functional sensor tags will be available in both inlay and label form factors, and will be included in IDS’ SL900A developer’s kits. The SL900A tag chip is designed to automatically measure, time-stamp and record sensory information, which typically includes temperature, pressure, humidity and vibration levels (see RFID News Roundup: IDS Microchip Releases New EPC-based Sensory Tag Chip).

RF Technologies Releases Software Update for Wandering-Management Solution

RF Technologies, a provider of RFID-enabled health-care safety and security solutions, has announced a software update that provides a door-loitering alarm and wander-event reporting to its Code Alert Wandering Management Solution. Code Alert is one of three solutions offered by the company. All three leverage active RFID tags operating at dual frequencies of 262 kHz and 318 MHz, in order to monitor and track the movements of patients and staff members, as well as medical devices and other assets. Code Alert is designed for residents of senior living communities. Those at risk of elopement wear small, lightweight RFID transmitters, and if a resident wearing a transmitter comes within range of a monitored door, the system will issue an optional near-door alarm. Caregivers are notified via computer control stations, as well as by optional pagers, LED displays and mobile devices. The new software updates for Code Alert are designed to help reduce the risk and liabilities associated with a resident elopement, RF Technologies reports, by proactively warning caregivers when residents remain near a monitored exit for a prolonged span of time. Caregivers can quickly react to the wandering resident, thereby improving safety and providing peace of mind to that resident’s family. Near-door events are also captured in software, so caregivers can generate a wander-event report to help identify behavior that may lead to an elopement. RF Technologies also offers the Safe Place system, for patient security, and Sensatec, which leverages RFID-enabled sensor pads for patients to lie on, in order to monitor seniors and patients for falls (see RFID System Helps Houston VA Hospital Maintain Patient Safety).

OnChip Devices Unveils Thin Silicon-Based Dual-Capacitor for RFID Applications

OnChip Devices, a Santa Clara, Calif., provider of thin-film and complementary metal–oxide–semiconductor (CMOS) components, has introduced a dual thin-film capacitor (DTCA) that it says is designed for RFID applications requiring both a tuning and a detuning capacitance on a single chip. The chip enables RFID tag manufacturers to develop tags with multiple capacitors that store electric charges and provide power whenever a circuit needs it, according to Ashok Chalaka, OnChip Devices’ president and CEO. The new DTCA chip features topside wire-bonding pads to support either Chip-on-Board (COB) or Direct Chip Attachment (DCA) manufacturing flows, and uses Low-Pressure Chemical Vapor Deposition (LPCVD) Silicon Nitride as the capacitor dielectric. This dielectric material, OnChip Devices explains, offers high stability and Q values, exhibits low temperature and voltage coefficients, and achieves capacitance values in the range of 45 picofarads to 165 picofarads. Connecting the internal capacitors either individually, in series or in parallel ensures that the LC antenna circuit’s resonant frequency may easily be varied. The company reports that its DTCA chip is particularly suited for 13.56 MHz ISO 15693 smart cards, ISO 18000-3 RFID item-management tags and other applications requiring precision and an ultra-thin profile. The DTCA chip measures 0.95 millimeter by 0.95 millimeter (0.04 inch by 0.4 inch) in length and width, and is available as thin as 0.1 millimeter (0.004 inch). The wire-bondable top pad typically consists of aluminum, while the optional back metal is made of gold. “Compared to conventional RF capacitors, OnChip’s DTCA capacitor offers extremely stable capacitance over a wide range of frequencies, from 1 MHz to several GHz,” Chalaka said in a prepared statement. “Additionally, their semiconductor construction provides an ultra-high self-resonant frequency (SRF) and exceptionally low equivalent series resistance (ESR). Unlike multi-layer ceramic capacitors (MLCC), DTCA offers an extremely repeatable frequency response, due to the fact that the devices use a single-layer dielectric.” The DTCA chip is available worldwide immediately, at a price range of $0.07 to $0.15 (depending on capacitance value/tolerance and the chip thickness) in quantities of 10,000 units. Products are shipped in wafer-form (diced or undiced), as well as in waffle packs.