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Zeroing In on the Closed-Loop

Since 1985, Escort Memory Systems has flourished by providing closed-loop RFID systems for manufacturing plants and industrial operations—a market that remains strong.
By Jonathan Collins
Jun 14, 2004—The promise of a single global RFID standard operating in UHF based on the Electronic Product Code (EPC) standards has created a whirl of excitement about RFID’s potential. But some companies have long been designing, deploying and supporting specialized non-EPC RFID systems for their customers.

One such company is Escort Memory Systems (EMS), in Scotts Valley, Calif. Founded in 1985, EMS has built a business around designing specialized tags and readers and deploying them in manufacturing plants and industrial operations.

“We have customers that we still support that have been running their RFID network from us for more than 10 years,” says Luciano Mattioli, president and CEO of EMS. “We design and support closed-loop systems that are used over and over again.”

The company supports even older systems: those deployed by control and engineered-services company Allen-Bradley, which is now owned by Rockwell Automation. In 1999, Rockwell Automation named Escort Memory Systems as one of its preferred global RFID technology suppliers to Allen-Bradley customers, after the company decided it would no longer manufacture RFID equipment. Mercedes-Benz’s transmission factory in Mettingen, Germany, and MEMC Electronic Materials’ wafer fabrication plant in Sherman, Texas, both use a combination of Allen-Bradley and EMS products.

“EMS is without a doubt the market leader in HF [high-frequency] readers,” says Erik Michielsen, senior analyst at ABI, a technology market research firm based in Oyster Bay, N.Y. “EMS has experience with some of the biggest companies that have deployed RFID.” Its impressive list of customers include Johnson Controls, Seagate Technology, Procter & Gamble and Gillette, as well as such automakers as Ford, Toyota, Mercedes and General Motors.

While RFID readers have been the focus of EMS’s business, the company also offers a range of specialized tags, software and support services. EMS developed tags for the automotive industry that could withstand the heat of paint ovens, where temperatures can exceed 200 degrees C. The company also worked with Swedish pallet manufacturer Arca Systems and the Italian Post to develop the world's first RFID post office application. It involved embedding an RFID tag permanently inside a pallet. And EMS has worked on projects that called for embedding RFID labels inside skiing/snowboarding equipment and even into wooden doors.

EMS has a variety of high-frequency (13.56 MHz) and low-frequency (400 kHz) systems. Its FastTrack line of RFID tags, labels, printed circuit boards and reader-writers includes specialized tags that can endure high temperatures or other harsh environmental conditions. Its HMS-Series third-generation passive read-write system includes tags, handheld reader-writers, antennas and ancillary equipment, including submersible antenna designs developed for the disc drive industry.
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