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TI-RFid Broadens its Spectrum

Texas Instruments has been a major player in the RFID market for more than a decade, but it watched competitors selling UHF systems steal the limelight. This Vendor Profile explains TI's new market strategy.
By Bob Violino
Oct 25, 2003—By Jonathan Collins

Oct. 27, 2003 – Texas Instruments has been a leading provider of RFID tags and readers for more than a decade. The company, headquartered in Dallas,focused on low-frequency (125 KHz) and high-frequency (13.56 MHz) systems. Even as competitors such as EM Microelectronic and Philips Semiconductors moved to UHF (850-915 MHz), and the Electronic Product Code (EPC) technology (which is primarily focused on UHF) developed by the Auto-ID Center gained ground, TI stuck to its roots.
TI is moving into the supply chain

Then in September, TI dropped a bomb on the RFID market. The company, which markets RFID products through its TI-RFid unit, revealed that it was moving into the UHF market, had joined EPCglobal, the organization charged with commercializing EPC technology, and would produce EPC-compliant RFID tags when the specifications were finalized.

The move was a key vote of confidence for the fledgling organization, a joint venture between EAN International and the Uniform Code Council. An EPC is a unique number, stored on an RFID tag, that identifies a specific item in the supply chain. Combined with related auto-ID technologies, the EPC promises to enable immediate, automatic identification of—and sharing of information on—goods in the supply chain.

Companies that join EPCglobal can participate in standards meetings, and TI-RFid is expected to play a big role in shaping the development of the technology. The company is one of the world's largest manufacturers of RFID transponders and has long been a key figure in the development of RFID. Because of the sheer scale of its design and manufacturing operations, market presence and technical abilities, TI’s endorsement of the EPC should significantly boost the potential of the standard being adopted by other companies in the supply chain. “Our joining the EPC is certainly a bigger step for EPCglobal than it is for TI,” says Anthony Sabetti, global business unit manager for TI-RFid.

One reason that TI-RFid holds such industry clout is that it is one of the few transponder makers that fabricates its own silicon chips. Most transponder makers buy silicon chips from semiconductor companies and then attach those chips to antennas to create finished RFID transponders. And few chip makers, including key rival Philips Semiconductors, produce transponders.

Texas Instruments is also the second largest producer of integrated circuit chips in the world. TI-RFid’s high- and low-frequency RIFD tags combined account for around 22 percent of the RFID chip global market, according to analysts at Venture Development Corp.

TI's support of the EPC standard not only gives EPCglobal a lot of credibility, say analysts, but also will likely spur the supply chain's adoption of the technology. “TI is truly a pioneer and a longtime believer in the RFID industry. Their decision to back EPC is a big seal of approval. They were one of the last major manufacturers to join the group,” says Deepak Shetty, research analyst at Frost & Sullivan.
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