RFID News Roundup

By Rich Handley

Alien Technology offers new passive UHF RFID readers ••• Metalcraft intros tiny tag with long read range ••• AsReader device turns smartphones into RFID reader-writers ••• Smartrac releases new RFID and IoT solutions for retail ••• New RFID label from Checkpoint Systems boosts merchandise visibility ••• Swatch Group creates mini Bluetooth chip for Internet of Things ••• STMicroelectronics unveils new NFC RFID tag ICs for long-range contactless communication.


The following are news announcements made during the past week by the following organizations:
Alien Technology; Metalcraft; AsReader; Smartrac; Checkpoint Systems; Swatch Group; and STMicroelectronics.

Alien Technology Offers New Passive UHF RFID Readers

Alien Technology, a provider of ultrahigh-frequency (UHF) RFID products and services, has introduced two new passive UHF RFID reader antennas for use with Alien or non-Alien RFID readers. The new models are the ALR-A1001 and the ALR-A0501.

The ALR-A1001 has an ultra-thin form factor and measures 10 inches by 10 inches by approximately one-half inch thick—half the depth of many traditional antennas. This circular-polarized antenna offers 8.5dBic gain, matching that of traditional form-factor antennas. It is suitable for use in reader cabinets with restricted space, the company reports, in which an antenna shares depth with other technologies. Examples include slim portals, ceiling-mounted antennas and wall-mounted solutions, for scenarios in which it is desirable to reduce the incidence of people or objects hitting protruding antennas. The ALR-A1001 is priced similarly to traditional antennas.

The ALR-A1001

The ALR-A0501 is a traditional antenna measuring 5 inches by 5 inches, with 6dBic gain. This antenna replaces the similarly sized, lower-gain ALR-9608 antenna that was only available as a FCC frequency variant, the company explains.

“These two new antennas continue Alien’s goal of providing customers more system options for their RFID solutions while driving up capabilities and reducing solution costs along the way,” said Neil Mitchell, Alien Technology’s senior director of marketing, in a prepared statement. “Both antenna have an IP rating of 67, making them suitable for use in dusty or damp environments, and both come in FCC and ETSI frequency variants to support our worldwide customer base.”

The ALR-A0501

As a result of both antennas using the SubMiniature version A (SMA) connector, Alien is also introducing a range of supporting cables. These cables use an SMA connector at one end for connection to the antenna and a Reverse Threaded Neill-Concelman (RNTC) connector at the other for connection to Alien readers. These cables are available in three versions: the ALX-421-3 measures 3 meters (9.8 feet) in length, the ALX-421-6 is 6 meters (19.7 feet) in length and the ALX-421-9 is 9 meters (29.5 feet) in length.

According to the company, both the ALR-A1001 and the ALR-A0501 are currently available.

Metalcraft Intros Tiny Tag With Long Read Range

Metalcraft has announced the availability of its Universal Micro RFID Asset Tag for identification projects that require a tiny tag with a long read range regardless of the mounting surface. The tag is the latest product in Metalcraft’s Universal RFID tag line.

The Universal Micro footprint measures 1.875 inches by 0.625 inch and features a low profile, Metalcraft reports. This, the company indicates, means it can easily fit where other tags are too large and obtrusive.

The Universal Micro RFID Asset Tag

Supplying approximately 9 feet of read range on metal and up to 5 feet on plastic, wood and glass, the Universal Micro provides long read ranges compared to other tags in its class, the company reports. It features a non-rigid, durable foam core and polyester construction, allowing for greater flexibility in tag placement than molded RFID tags provide.

Metalcraft’s Universal RFID tag line uses a patented inlay design and passive RFID technology to obtain a long read range on any mounting surface.

AsReader Device Turns Smartphones Into RFID Reader-Writers

AsReader has introduced a device designed to let users utilize their Apple iPhone or iPod touch to read and write to ultrahigh-frequency (UHF) RFID tags. The company’s ASX-301R is a case-type RFID reader-writer for the iPhone 5, iPhone 5s, iPhone SE and iPod touch 5 and 6 gen. The device operates in the 920 MHz UHF band and features FCC certification.

The ASX-301R complies with the ISO 18000-6 Type C and EPC Class 1 Gen 2 standards, and operates at 917.10 to 926.90 MHz. It offers a read distance of up to 1 meter (3.3 feet).

The ASX-301R

The device contains a circularly polarized antenna and can read, write to, lock or kill tags. It comes with a built-in rechargeable lithium-ion battery that can run for seven hours or more.

Additional features include a built-in anti-collision algorithm that allows users to read multiple tags within a given read range at once, as well as an adjustable power rating for more precise reading and writing. It offers high-speed reading of UHF RFID tags, 27,000 reads on a single iPod or iPhone battery charge, 50,000 reads on the AsReader battery (seven or more hours of continuous operation) and fast charging using a Magconn Technology magnetic connector charging station.

Smartrac Releases New RFID and IoT Solutions for Retail

Smartrac is demonstrating its RFID and Internet of Things solution portfolio at this week’s EuroShop 2017 conference, taking place in Duesseldorf, Germany. The company is presenting its products in tandem with such partners as Catalyst, r-pac and Temera.

At the conference, Smartrac is showcasing brand- and retail-specific products and solutions in a real-world scenario, integrated into a live apparel store environment, with a full range of consumer experience use cases provided via 3D perspectives and presentations. Smartrac is also demonstrating its Metrics in-store analytics solution, which the company says can boost sales and increase gross margins through end-to-end supply chain visibility and real-time analytics. This IoT solution can provide comprehensive reports to optimize the in-store and on-shelf availability of merchandise.

The company recently announced its Near Field Communication (NFC)-enabled U.S. Ski Team (USST) outerwear collection, presented by the international ski and performance lifestyle brand Spyder. In collaboration with Catalyst and Blue Bite, Smartrac’s Experiences solution enables Spyder to integrate NFC technology into its USST collection. This allows wearers to engage with real-time and dynamic content, including Spyder’s social-media feeds, featured videos, ski events, and USST members and rosters. The Experiences solution includes contextual and location-based information, such as snow conditions, trail maps and points of interest.

On the product side, Smartrac is presenting its portfolio of RAIN RFID tags and inlays, which have been certified pursuant to the University of Auburn‘s ARC testing system and graded using GS1‘s Tagged Item Performance Protocol (TIPP).

“In a seamless continuation of its impressive display at NRF Retail’s BIG Show 2017 less than two months ago, Smartrac again offers proof of its commitment to the brand and retail market,” said Stefan Rassau, the head of solutions in Smartrac’s Intelligent Things Business division, in a prepared statement. “With strong and retail-savvy partners such as Catalyst, r-pac and Temera supporting us at our booth, we will be showcasing IoT-based solutions that have the potential to literally re-invent brands and retail. Spyder’s USST collection provides a real and up-to-date example of what Smartrac and its partners can do for brands wanting to provide their customers with an outstanding consumer experience, right here and right now.”

New RFID Label from Checkpoint Systems Boosts Merchandise Visibility

Checkpoint Systems, a supplier of electronic article surveillance (EAS) and RFID solutions for the retail industry, has announced its Wind RFID label for cosmetics categories and other merchandise-visibility applications. The new label features Impinj‘s Monza R6-P RAIN RFID tag chip, which is optimized for serializing such items as apparel, electronics, cosmetics, pharmaceuticals and jewelry. The chips support privacy, loss-prevention and brand-protection capabilities for retailers and brand owners.

The Wind label works with a range of common systems, such as handheld and fixed readers, including Checkpoint’s Wirama-based point-of-exit (PoE) pedestals (E10 2.0), ceiling-mounted (OH2) sensors and RFID DC tunnels. It features an inlay size of 50 millimeters by 30 millimeters (2 inches by 1.2 inches), complies with the ISO 18000-6C standard, and can be encoded and printed to carry Electronic Product Code (EPC) data in several formats—RFID, bar codes and human-readable text.

The Wind RFID label

“We are thrilled to see Checkpoint driving always-on inventory management solutions using its Wind label with our Monza R6-P chip featuring AutoTune,” said Craig Cotton, Impinj’s VP of marketing and product management, in a prepared statement. “Our strong, ongoing partnership with Checkpoint enables new solutions and tagging of new categories of items. The Monza R6-P chip includes Integra technology that enables RAIN RFID labels to deliver higher data reliability and accuracy, which is a must for retail deployments.”

“Several large retailers have expressed a strong interest in expanding RAIN RFID categories to include health/beauty/cosmetics categories,” said Umesh Cooduvalli, Checkpoint Systems’ senior director, in the prepared statement. “The new Wind RFID tags designed for these products will help them achieve their goals of auto replenishment and inventory management.”

According to the company, the Wind RFID label is available immediately.

Swatch Group Creates Mini Bluetooth Chip for Internet of Things

Swatch Group has introduced a new Bluetooth chip. The new integrated circuit is designed by Swatch Group, EM Microelectronic and the Swiss Center for Electronics and Microtechnology (CSEM).

The ultra-miniaturization of electronic components, the company reports, is crucial for the densification of functions in portable electronic devices, as well as for the Internet of Things. It offers low energy consumption for various use cases, thus increasing the autonomy of connected objects. Its high-speed startup capability makes it possible to improve the reactivity and the lifetime of, for example, electronic beacons.

The chip is qualified to meet the latest Bluetooth standard, version 5.0. It consists of more than 5 million transistors on a surface measuring approximately 5 square millimeters (0.008 square inch). Designed for increased flexibility, it can work alone or in conjunction with various sensors. According to the company, systems integrators can take advantage of a microcontroller with very low power consumption, or use the chip to add a Bluetooth communication function to any portable electronic device.

Swatch Group and the CSEM, both based in the Swiss Silicon Valley, collaborate in a wide range of fields. The two long-standing partners are working to develop an ecosystem specially designed to meet the needs of small connected objects (the Internet of Things) and watches. This platform will be built around a new, bespoke operating system, the company indicates.

STMicroelectronics Unveils New NFC RFID Tag ICs for Long-Range Contactless Communication

STMicroelectronics‘ new ST25DV dynamic tag ICs are the latest addition to the company’s ST25 Near Field Communication (NFC) RFID product family that come with a contactless RF interface and an I2C bus. The dual-interface enables untethered interaction between an NFC-capable smartphone or an RFID reader and the host microcontroller located inside nearby equipment, such as smart meters, Internet of Things devices, and professional or consumer products.

The ST25DV ICs support data exchange with an extended communication range, enabling in-the-box programming of electronic equipment at the point of production, as well as Fast Transfer Mode operation for software updates in the field with the help of any NFC-enabled mobile device. The ST25DV dynamic tags are compatible with any existing ISO 15693 RFID infrastructure, with no additional investment required.

The ST25DV series supports the NFC Type 5 and ISO 15693 RFID specifications. It includes native NFC NDEF message support, ISO 15693 long-range RF connectivity with Fast Transfer mode enabled by a 256-byte buffer, and EEPROM density of 64 Kbits, with multiple 64-bit passwords to offer enhanced data-protection capabilities.

The devices are tailored for industrial applications, with high write-cycle endurance of one million cycles at 25 degrees Celsius and 40 years of data retention. They operate over a supply-voltage range of 1.8 to 5.5 volts and consume minimal energy in all modes, the company reports, including the sub-1µA standby mode, allowing use in power-conscious or battery-operated devices. They can also offer energy-harvesting capabilities that, according to STMicroelectronics, make them suitable for zero-power applications.

Samples of the ST25DV tags are available now, with volume production scheduled for May 2017. Pricing is expected to start at $0.38 apiece (for ST25DV04K in SO8 or TSSOP8 packages) for orders of 1,000 or more tags.