RFID News Roundup

By Rich Handley

RFID Consortium, Convergence Systems Ltd. enter patent portfolio license ••• Thinfilm, Beneli AB partner to offer NFC label conversion services in Europe ••• River Island awards Byways Group exclusive RFID label supply contract ••• CISC Semiconductor releases compact test equipment for RFID ••• NXT-ID chooses Nordic Semiconductor's wireless BLE and NFC module for smart cards, wearables ••• Silicon Labs acquires Wi-Fi company Zentri ••• Terso Solutions to lead panel on health care, inventory automation using RAIN RFID technology.


The following are news announcements made during the past week by the following organizations: RFID Consortium, Convergence Systems Ltd.; Thin Film Electronics ASA, Beneli AB; River Island, Byways Group; CISC Semiconductor; NXT-ID, Nordic Semiconductor; Silicon Labs, Zentri; and Terso Solutions.

RFID Consortium, Convergence Systems Ltd. Enter Patent Portfolio License

The RFID Consortium has announced that it has entered into a patent portfolio license with Convergence Systems Ltd. (CSL). The license will afford CSL access to the consortium’s international portfolio of ultrahigh-frequency (UHF) RFID patents for its tags, readers, antennas, modules and other hardware.

“By licensing the patent portfolio from the RFID Consortium, CSL is taking advantage of a centralized and cost-effective method for obtaining rights under multiple patents held by all of our Members,” said Alan Melling, an RFID Consortium spokesperson, in a prepared statement. “CSL joins other major licensees, including 3M and Zebra Technologies, in accessing a portfolio of patents to allow it to build leading-edge RFID products and solutions. In addition, CSL is now permitted to use the consortium logo on its RFID products. The consortium logo on a product assures customers that the product is properly licensed through the consortium.”

Jerry Garrett, CSL’s managing director, added in the prepared statement, “The RFID Consortium license offers a streamlined method for CSL to access UHF RFID technologies critical to the development of our RFID solutions portfolio. This license provides peace of mind to our customers in all vertical markets we serve, including logistics, supply chain, manufacturing, pharmaceutical, access control, transportation, retail and military.”

The RFID Consortium promotes the adoption of UHF RFID technologies by offering vendors access to patents essential to meeting the UHF RFID standards announced by EPCglobal and the International Organization for Standardization (ISO). This licensing program, the consortium notes, is intended to provide predictability and stability, as well as facilitate the widespread adoption of UHF RFID technology in order to improve efficiency in shipping, inventory management and other applications.

Thinfilm, Beneli AB Partner to Offer NFC Label Conversion Services in Europe

Thin Film Electronics ASA (“Thinfilm”), a provider of Near Field Communication (NFC)-based smart-packaging solutions using printed electronics, has announced a partnership with Sweden-based Beneli AB, a provider of self-adhesive labels and related solutions. The partnership strengthens Thinfilm’s converter program, the company reports, by providing strategic coverage in Scandinavia and the broader European region. In addition, the relationship extends Beneli’s wireless product offering beyond RFID asset tracking, to now include NFC solutions for consumer engagement and authentication applications.

Thinfilm and Beneli will collaborate to provide Thinfilm’s NFC solutions—featuring both SpeedTap and OpenSense tags supported by a cloud-based software platform—to existing Beneli clients and other consumer brands across a range of markets. Beneli maintains a presence in the spirits, medical, cosmetics and tobacco industries, and also serves the food, pharmaceuticals and logistics sectors. Initial market trials are expected to begin during the second quarter of this year.

Thinfilm’s OpenSense

Each SpeedTap and OpenSense tag is uniquely identifiable and virtually impossible to clone, the company explains, and can be read via the tap of an NFC-enabled smartphone or device. Once tapped, tags wirelessly communicate with the cloud, creating a one-to-one mobile marketing platform from which brands can then connect directly with consumers. This allows marketers to instantly deliver authentication messages, promotional offers, product news and other relevant content. OpenSense technology also offers additional protection against package tampering and refill fraud.

“I’m very excited about our partnership with Thinfilm and the ability it gives us to deliver more value to our customers,” said Jimmy Sterner, Beneli’s CEO, in a prepared statement. “With Thinfilm’s NFC technology, we can now offer a powerful solutions platform that significantly enhances the ability of brand owners to connect and communicate with consumers.”

Thinfilm’s SpeedTap

Thinfilm says it views label and packaging integration services as a critical component of its NFC solutions offering. These conversion capabilities, delivered through qualified partners—in addition to the hardware and software provided by Thinfilm—create a one-stop shop for brands seeking smart packaging solutions, the company explains. Thinfilm is currently expanding its converter program globally, and expects to have approximately 30 vertically specialized partners in place by the end of 2017.

“Our partnership with a European leader such as Beneli fills a key geographic need for us and, as a result, significantly extends our conversion services in Scandinavia and throughout Europe,” said Davor Sutija, Thinfilm’s CEO, in the prepared statement. “The enhanced capabilities Thinfilm gains through this partnership will be critical as we look to meet the growing demands of leading consumer brands, mobile marketers and digital agencies.”

River Island Awards Byways Group Exclusive RFID Label Supply Contract

Byways Group has announced the awarding of an exclusive contract by River Island to supply RFID-enabled apparel and accessories labels to River Island’s supply manufacturing partners and U.K. distribution center.

Byways is a long-standing supplier of labelling solutions to River Island. The firm has worked closely on the development of the RFID project for more than three years, during which time adhesive label designs and specifications were agreed to for the various products that will carry RFID-enabled labels. River Island has also selected Nedap as its RFID hardware and software partner.

During the development project, River Island conducted a multi-phase pilot at seven stores. According to the company, the pilot demonstrated that using RFID technology led to significant increases in sales across all pilot stores, due to improved product availability.

“In a world of omnichannel, product availability is king—accurate stock data is vital for us to successfully offer omnichannel services to our customers,” said Jon Wright, River Island’s head of global loss prevention and safety, in a prepared statement. “We are delighted at the success of the RFID pilot project, which saw stock accuracy rise to 97%; this has given us greater control of our inventory through item-level visibility and we are now rolling out hardware and software to our 280 U.K. stores. Byways has been a key partner throughout the project, supporting us at every stage, and I’m pleased that the relationship will be ongoing.”

Byways is supplying River Island and its supply chain with self-adhesive inlays printed with variable data, each encoded with a unique Electronic Product Code (EPC). “Across the business, we have committed significant resources to assist River Island during the RFID development project and we’re delighted that it has proven successful,” said Mark Cohen, Byways Group’s chairman, in the prepared statement. “We’re looking forward to continuing the journey with River Island as their RFID strategy develops further.”

CISC Semiconductor Releases Compact Test Equipment for RFID

CISC Semiconductor has announced the release of its RFID Xplorer. The compact, high-precision RFID test instrument is used to measure the performance of RFID devices and application setups, the company reports. The device can also verify conformance and support the development of readers, tags and ICs.

According to the company, the RFID Xplorer was developed to be easily applied for tag frequency sensitivity, communication range and backscatter measurements, with a receiver sensitivity of -90 dBm. The device operates with at least 2 W e.r.p. in the basic frequency range from 800 MHz to 1 GHz. The extended frequency range is from 600 MHz to 1.3 GHz. The measurement speed achieved can be as low as 1 second per frequency.

CISC’s RFID Xplorer

Also known as Xplorer 200, the RFID Xplorer features extended read and write memory tests, as well as test support for crypto suites fully supporting the EPCglobal and ISO/IEC test standards. Xplorer 200 can also meet all Brazil RFID test standards, such as SINIAV, ARTESP and Brasil ID, and can be used to measure both standalone tags and those applied to products. In addition, it can perform a complete analysis of multiple tags.

Measuring 160 millimeters by 205 millimeters by 50 millimeters (6.3 inches by 8 inches by 2 inches), the RFID Xplorer allows flexibility and easy transport, the company indicates, and dismantling and setup can be accomplished within minutes. The device is designed for open-area tests and as a high-precision solution for measurements in an RF-controlled environment using portable or fixed RF test chambers.

The system comes with software and a reference tag for self-calibration. The test equipment can be controlled via a graphical user interface. An additional application programming interface allows for the development of user-defined test sequences within standard development environments.

NXT-ID Chooses Nordic Semiconductor’s Wireless BLE and NFC Module for Smart Cards, Wearables

Nordic Semiconductor has announced that security technology company NXT-ID has selected Nordic’s nRF52832 Bluetooth Low Energy (BLE) system-on-chip (SoC) to provide BLE and Near Field Communication (NFC) wireless connectivity for its IoT Stamp module. The module is designed for integration into wearables, portable devices and Internet of Things applications.

The IoT Stamp is intended to help manufacturers with little or no RF engineering expertise reduce development time and speed time-to-market for connected products. The module supports a range of personalized services, including identity management, multifactor biometric authentication and payment methods, such as BLE, NFC and dynamic magnetic stripe.

Nordic Semiconductor’s nRF52832 BLE system-on-chip

The IoT Stamp can be used with a range of batteries, from 10mAh to 480mAh or more. With a 10mAh battery, the company reports, it can last for several months prior to recharge, due to the ultra-low-power operating characteristics of the nRF52832 SoC, as well as motion activation, a low-power touch control user interface and buttonless wake-up technology.

The nRF52832 SoC is built to minimize power consumption, according to the company, with an automatic power-management system that reduces power consumption by up to 80 percent compared with Nordic’s nRF51 Series SoCs. The system-on-chip combines a 64 MHz, 32-bit ARM Cortex M4F processor with a 2.4 GHz multiprotocol radio (fully compatible with Bluetooth 4.2, ANT and proprietary 2.4GHz RF software) featuring -96dB RX sensitivity, 512 kB of Flash memory, 64 kB of random-access memory (RAM) and an NFC-A tag for touch-to-pair operations.

“We selected Nordic’s nRF52832 SoC because it provided us with both a Bluetooth Low Energy and NFC solution on a single chip, giving us a smaller footprint as well as the low power consumption we required,” said David Tunnell, NXT-ID’s CTO and executive VP, in a prepared statement. “Moreover, Nordic’s technical support proved outstanding and the company’s engineers were always very responsive.”

NXT-ID has already partnered with travel and lifestyle community membership vendor WorldVentures to develop the flye smart card, which will be one of the first applications of the nRF52832-powered IoT Stamp. WorldVentures’ 500,000 worldwide members can use the flye smart card for electronic payment, rewards and other purposes. Users can load up to 10 records—such as credit, debit, ID and loyalty cards—on the card.

Silicon Labs Acquires Wi-Fi Company Zentri

Silicon Labs has announced the acquisition of Zentri, a provider of low-power, cloud-connected Wi-Fi technologies for the Internet of Things. Zentri helps customers securely connect and manage products across a range of industrial, commercial and consumer applications.

Zentri’s combination of modules, embedded and cloud software, application programming interfaces and tools are designed to enable the rapid development of secure IoT end node products within a matter of weeks. By eliminating the need for wireless design expertise and providing a library of cloud-connected applications, Zentri allows IoT device makers to focus on differentiating their products and speeding time to market.

“Silicon Labs is proud to join forces with Zentri,” said Tyson Tuttle, Silicon Labs’s CEO, in a prepared statement. “This acquisition builds upon our strategy to deliver comprehensive, multiprotocol silicon and software solutions to securely connect IoT products to the cloud. Zentri’s Wi-Fi expertise, software and tools will extend our multiprotocol connectivity portfolio to a wider range of power-sensitive IoT end node applications.”

Terso Solutions to Lead Panel on Health Care, Inventory Automation Using RAIN RFID Technology

Terso Solutions has announced that it will exhibit its products at the HIMSS 2017 conference and exhibition, to be held on Feb. 19-23 at Florida’s Orange County Convention Center. Terso will host an interactive panel session on Feb. 21, and will be joined by experts in health care and technology for a forum focused on the state of health care and the movement to a real-time health-delivery model using RFID solutions. The panel will take place in the Intelligent Health Pavilion Innovation Theater, located in Hall E, room #8361.

The panel will feature discussions regarding RAIN RFID technology and how to identify opportunities for improving care management and supply chain workflow. The panelists will discuss how automated inventory management is transforming the way in which health care is delivered. Topics covered will include how the Triple Aim concept—improving the experience of care, improving the health of populations and reducing the per capita costs of health care—as well as financial and societal factors are driving the industry to look for improved inventory management and workflow models.

Attendees will learn about a U.S.-based hospital that is using RFID technology and inventory-management software to connect all of their assets and improve supply chain workflows and patient outcomes. The panel will feature Joe Pleshek, Terso Solutions’ president and CEO; Wendy Werblin, Impinj‘s health-care product lead; Mark Van Sumeren, Health Industry Advisor‘s managing director; and Vicky Lyle, Owens & Minor‘s director of inventory and supply chain solutions. Those interested in registering to attend HIMSS can do so here.