RFID News Roundup

Confidex demos new sensor RFID label and NFC tags; Austriamicrosystems unveils new reader chips for embedded and consumer applications; HID Global's long-range LF glass tags for animal identification; Vanguard ID Systems announces new on-metal RFID tag; Primera unveils color RFID printer; Alien Technology, Digital China partner for RFID sales, product offerings and solution delivery to Chinese customers; VICS Board publishes new RFID guidelines for retailers and suppliers.
Published: April 5, 2012

The following are news announcements made during the past week.

Confidex Demos New Sensor RFID Label and NFC Tags

Confidex showcased its new battery-assisted passive (BAP) ultrahigh-frequency (UHF) Temperature Sensor Label, as well as its Near Field Communication (NFC) passive high-frequency (HF) tag suite, at the RFID Journal LIVE! 2012 conference and exhibition, held this week in Orlando, Fla. Designed for cold chain management applications, the Temperature Sensor Label combines tracking and measurement functionalities. Temperatures can be read live, and also be supervised by alarm-based logging; the label has an adjustable read range, and can also operate as a regular, fully passive tag compliant with the UHF EPC Gen 2 and ISO 18000-6C standards. It is also compliant with the ISO 24753 standard, and can be used with standard reader equipment. According to Confidex, the Temperature Sensor Label is expected to be made available in volume later this year. In addition, the company demonstrated its new NFC tag suite designed for industrial use, as well as for brand and asset authentication. The dual-frequency UHF/HF hybrid tag, Confidex reports, enhances the benefits of a rugged EPC Gen 2 UHF tag, by adding support for NFC connectivity. The shock-resistant tag has an additional NFC-compliant chip, enabling it to be connected to NFC-enabled phones or other devices. Confidex’s NFC tag suite also includes HF tags for on-metal and general-purpose use. At LIVE! 2012, Confidex, along with its partner, Atmio, a Santa Clara, Calif.-based provider of solutions for mobile phone-based applications, demonstrated its tags and labels in a variety of workflows that support the use of roll cages, gas cylinders or refrigerators.

Austriamicrosystems Unveils New Reader Chips for Embedded and Consumer Applications

Austriamicrosystems has announced two new RFID reader chips designed for implementation in embedded, portable and consumer devices. The reader operate at lower power, the company reports, typically drawing just 75mA on a supply voltage of 3.3 volts, which the firm says makes it suitable for use in portable and battery-powered equipment, such as mobile phones. In addition, the chips feature a small size, packaged in a 7-millimeter-by7-millimeter (0.3-inch-by-0.3-inch) quad-flat no-leads (QFN) outline, and provide a very high sensitivity of -90dBm, while offering high immunity to the effects of antenna reflections and self-jamming. According to Austriamicrosystems, this is critical in mobile and embedded applications, in which antenna design is often compromised by cost or size constraints. In addition, the company notes, high sensitivity enables end-product designs to achieve their required range while using a simpler and cheaper antenna, thus reducing system bill-of-materials cost. Austriamicrosystems’ AS3993 chip is an EPC Gen 2 RFID reader IC that implements all relevant protocols, including the ISO 18000-6C standard, the ISO 18000-6A/B standard (for operation in direct mode) and the ISO 29143 air-interface protocol (for mobile RFID interrogators). The ISO 29143 protocol applies to mobile RFID interrogator devices used to inventory passive or semi-passive backscatter tags at 860 MHz to 960 MHz, and covers mobile consumer applications, rather than enterprise mobile applications operating within a closed environment. The chip includes an on-chip voltage-controlled oscillator (VCO) and power amplifier, and offers a variety of RFID features, including dense-reader mode functionality and support for frequency-hopping, low-level transmission coding, low-level decoding, data framing and cyclic redundancy check (CRC) checking. The AS3980 chip—a sister device to the AS3993 model—is also an EPC Gen 2 RFID reader IC that offers a high level of integration and RF performance. But in this IC, Austriamicrosystems reports that it removed some functions, such as support for dense-reader mode and direct mode, in order to offer an IC suited to cost-constrained consumer applications, such as the authentication of branded consumables. When used in a standalone end product, the AS3993 or AS3980 chip requires only the addition of a simple 8-bit microcontroller to create a complete RFID reader system, the company reports. Because they are highly integrated and implement the required RFID functions on-chip, these ICs can also be used alongside an embedded processor; the low processing overhead renders an RFID co-processor unnecessary. Austriamicrosystems’ AS3993 and AS3980 RFID reader ICs are available for sampling now, and were both demonstrated in implementations at Austriamicrosystems’ booth, 718, at the RFID Journal LIVE! 2012 conference and exhibition, held this week in Orlando, Fla.

HID Global Announces Two LF Glass Tags for Animal Identification

HID Global has added two Glass Tag Ultra 134.2 kHz RFID transponders to its family of animal-identification glass tags. The new design featured in the Glass Tag Ultra transponders utilizes patented direct bonding technology and optimized chip placement that, according to the company, boosts performance, improving read ranges by up to 35 percent compared with low-frequency (LF) glass tags of the same size. The smallest Glass Tag Ultra tag, which to 0.5 inch (12.7 millimeters) in length, offers a maximum read range of 18 inches. Other Glass Tag Ultra tubes are available in lengths of up to 0.35 inch (8.9 millimeters), HID Global indicates, enabling subcutaneous tag placement on animals of any size, as well as special industrial applications requiring high read ranges. The transponders are complaint with the ISO 11784 and 11785 standards, offer 512 bits of read-write memory, and provide unlimited resistance to water and chemical exposure. The new tags are available now, and HID Global exhibited them, along with many other tag designs, at its booth, 818, at the RFID Journal LIVE! 2012 conference and exhibition, held this week in Orlando, Fla. The firm’s other key demonstrations included the InLine Tag Ultra, a general-purpose ultrahigh-frequency (UHF) rugged, broadband tag that employs a patented HID Global 3-D antenna enabling read ranges of up to a 26 feet (7.9 meters) on any material; the SlimFlex UHF tag, with a flexible thermoplastic elastomer (TPE) housing for secure mounting; the IronTag, a UHF tag—originally developed for tracking aircraft parts—that works well on metal objects and can withstand temperatures of up to 356 degrees Fahrenheit (180 degrees Celsius).

Vanguard ID Systems Announces New On-Metal RFID Tag

Vanguard ID Systems, a manufacturer of custom-printed bar-coded, magnetic-stripe and RFID cards and key tags, labels and bands, has announced its new on-metal TowerTag, an ultrahigh-frequency (UHF) tag compliant with the EPC Gen 2 and ISO 18000-6C standards. The patent-pending TowerTag is manufactured using a special fluted relief (air-core) stand-off made of plastic (polycarbonate or polypropylene or polyethylene). The stand-off isolates the RFID transponder from any metal, the company reports, and the tags cost $1 apiece when purchased in volume—which the company estimates to be one quarter of the price charged by competing companies for a similar product. The TowerTag is fully customizable, and can be printed with bar codes, human-readable text, logos and personalized artwork. To produce the TowerTag, Vanguard ID sandwiches an EPC Gen 2 inlay (any make and model can be used, depending on a user’s particular needs) between layers of Teslin plastic film (a synthetic printing medium manufactured by PPG Industries), laminates the inlay and then glues it to the stand-off. The firm currently holds three patents related to use of Teslin to make RFID tags. The tag was unveiled at Vanguard ID Systems’ booth, 1115, at the RFID Journal LIVE! 2012 conference and exhibition, held this week in Orlando, Fla.Primera Unveils Color RFID Printer

Plymouth, Minn.-based Primera Technology, a manufacturer of CD and DVD duplication and printing equipment, has announced an on-demand RFID printer for printing and encoding onto foam-backed RFID tags. The RX900f printer utilizes high-resolution color inkjet technology to print onto and encode foam-backed RFID tags up to 0.125 inch (3.175 millimeters) thick, all in a single pass. The device has a print speed of up to 4.5 inches (114.3 millimeters) per second, and provides color printing at a resolution of 4,800 dpi. Printed labels are highly scratch-, water-, smudge- and tear-resistant, the company reports, with black-pigment ink available for high ultraviolent (UV) resistance. The integrated ultrahigh-frequency (UHF) reader-encoder is supplied by Intermec, and supports the EPC Gen 2 and ISO 18000-6B and 18000-6C standards. “Inkjet technology is ideal for printing onto foam-backed RFID tags,” said Mark D. Strobel, Primera’s VP of sales and marketing, in a prepared statement. “Before RX900f, tags had to be preprinted, which isn’t ideal for a host of applications. Now, you can print one to thousands of foam-backed RFID tags at a time, and each one can be unique.” Printer drivers are included for Microsoft Windows XP/Vista/7 or higher. Also included is Primera’s label design software, PTPrint 8.0 for Windows. The RX900f printer is priced at $4,995, and is slated to ship during the second quarter of this year.

Alien Technology, Digital China Partner for RFID Sales, Product Offerings and Solution Delivery to Chinese Customers

Alien Technology and IT services provider Digital China have announced a strategic relationship for RFID sales, product offerings and solution delivery to customers within China. Digital China provides application-based IT solutions and has a local infrastructure comprising 50 offices, 16,000 employees and an organization serving 860 cities throughout that nation. The company focuses on significant market players within their respective industries, including China Development Bank, China Mobile Ltd., Sinopec and others. The partnership provides authorization to resell Alien’s EPC Gen 2 ultrahigh-frequency (UHF) RFID chips, inlays, readers, services and training to Digital China’s new and existing customers and resellers. Alien Technology will become Digital China’s preferred RFID partner, and will be the first-choice recommendation to Digital China’s customers for all UHF RFID solutions. “Digital China’s extensive reach into the local market provides Alien unprecedented access into one of the world’s most rapidly growing regions for RFID,” said Mike Frieswyk, Alien Technology’s VP of sales and marketing, in a prepared statement. “This strategic relationship is also expected to allow Digital China to deliver on their vision to digitize China, including the realization of the Internet of Things.”

VICS Board Unveils New RFID Guidelines for Retailers and Suppliers

The board of directors of the Voluntary Interindustry Commerce Solutions (VICS) Association has announced that the VICS Item Level RFID Initiative (VILRI) has developed new guidelines regarding RFID tag placement and performance, and covering how the industry should cooperate to ensure reliable tag performance and data-capture deployment. The guideline for tag placement utilizes the Universal Product Code (UPC) tag-placement guideline as a starting point, and requires two-way communication between a supplier and a retailer during Electronic Product Code (EPC) implementation, in order to determine optimal EPC type and placement. The goal, the organization reports, is to minimize work effort and keep implementation costs low. The guidelines for tag performance inform the business-user community regarding the factors influencing the use-case fitness of RFID tags, and how the industry can and should cooperate, now and in the future, to ensure reliable deployments from both a tag-performance and data-capture perspective. VICS’ Board of Directors has also endorsed GS1 US‘ Serialization Management Working Group approach to re-enforce the GS1 General Specification, in which brand owners are the sole owners of the serial numbers for their products (see Chipmakers Seek Industry-wide Serialization Schema and Three RFID Chip Makers Agree on Serialization Approach). The new guidelines are specific to replenishable merchandise in apparel and footwear, and VILRI anticipates that they will include other consumer goods in the future, as determined by the Advisory Board and approved by VICS’ Board of Directors.