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ADT Will Monitor Your RFID Readers

The security company wants to leverage the engineering and services units of parent Tyco Fire & Security to create an organization that can install and service large-scale RFID deployments.
By Mark Roberti
Jul 05, 2004—Most companies are trying to get small pilots up and running or figure out how they will meet RFID tagging requirements set by their customers. Few are thinking about what it will take to manage an RFID infrastructure that could one day consist of thousands of RFID readers. But ADT Securities Services, the Boca Raton, Fla.-based company that installs and monitors commercial and residential security systems, is thinking ahead. The company believes it can provide not just the hardware that large users will need but also the services necessary to keep critical RFID infrastructures up and running.

Tyco engineers test the ability to read RFID tags on cases in its integration lab

ADT was founded back in 1874 (the letters once stood for American District Telegraph). It now provides services such as fire protection, access control, alarm monitoring, medical alert system monitoring, video surveillance, and intrusion detection through more than 220 offices nationwide. In 1998, the company, which had sales of $158 million in 2003, was purchased by Tyco International, a $37 billion industrial conglomerate based in Portsmouth, N.H. ADT's opportunity in the RFID industry lies in combining its own sales force and 24/7 monitoring capabilities with Tyco's other strengths.

Those other strengths are the ability to mass-produce RFID readers, develop software, and install and maintain them for large customers. The manufacturing know-how and software develop skills are found in Tyco Fire and Security, an $11 billion unit of Tyco International that includes ADT and SimplexGrinnell. The RF service and support capabilities come from and Sensormatic, the world's largest provider of electronic article surveillance (EAS) tags, which Tyco bought in 2001 for $2.2 billion.

EAS tags are used by many retailers to reduce shoplifting. They are essentially 1-bit RFID tags (some EAS tags are acousto-magnetic or electromagnetic and don't use RF) that retailers can turn off when an item is purchased. (When someone walks past a gate at the exit, an alarm sounds if the tag hasn't been turned off.) Sensormatic's sales force was combined with ADT's, and Sensormatic's team of RF service engineers, which install and service EAS systems in thousands of retail locations around the world, was brought under the engineering group of Tyco Fire & Security.

In February 2003, Tyco Fire & Security announced that it was licensing the design for an "agile" reader—one that can read tags that operate at different frequencies and use different protocols—from ThingMagic and manufacture EPC readers for the mass market (see Tyco to Mass-Produce RFID Readers). It markets the reader as the Sensormatic SensorID Agile 1. But ADT wants to do more than just sell the Tyco readers. It wants to install the readers, monitor them and repair them when there is a problem—essentially removing a potential headache for large end users.

"In the long term, we're building a services business," says Randy Dunn, ADT's director of national sales and marketing for RFID. "ADT has demonstrated that we understand what it takes to be a market leader. And we're part of Tyco Fire & Security, which is an $11 billion organization, so we have the financial resources to go after and accomplish our objectives."
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