RFID News Roundup

By Beth Bacheldor

Confidex announces Confidex Links service for NFC tags ••• William Frick & Co. releases RFID-based asset-tracking Android app ••• PANMOBIL intros apps for RFID-enabled logistics, asset-tracking ••• Avery Dennison's RFID sales up more than 35 percent in third quarter ••• Pepperl+Fuchs buys ecom instruments, a provider of RFID devices for hazardous areas ••• TransCore to provide all-electronic tolling for NYC bridges, tunnels.

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The following are news announcements made during the past week by the following organizations: Confidex; William Frick & Co.; PANMOBIL; Avery Dennison; Pepperl+Fuchs, ecom instruments; and TransCore.

Confidex Announces Confidex Links Service for NFC Tags

Confidex has announced Confidex Links, a modular Near Field Communication (NFC) tag portfolio for high-volume applications. The product line’s modularity is based on multiple options related to the tag’s chip memory, label materials and optional Confidex services for printing, encoding and branding the tags.

According to Confidex, the complex manufacturing process of custom-branded NFC labels has been perceived as a major barrier for broader NFC technology adoption, especially relating to high-volume applications such as smart packages or mass event advertising. Confidex Links is a direct response to fulfill these market requirements, the company reports, as the product offers easy access to affordable printed and encoded NFC tags in high volumes.

Confidex Links products include NFC-enabled tags, stickers, printed cards and posters. The tags can be placed practically anywhere, Confidex explains, or be embedded in packages or in a product itself. Confidex Links connects online content—such as such as product manuals, videos, apps, mobile games or websites—to any physical product containing an NFC sticker.

There are three RFID chip options: NXP Semiconductors‘ NTAG210µ (micro), with 48 bytes of memory for encoding just a URL, the NTAG213 with 144 bytes for a broad set of applications or the NTAG216 with 888 bytes for memory-consuming applications. “We use the optimized antenna capacitance/design for supporting all of these chip options,” says Mikko Nikkanen, Confidex’s business development and marketing director. “We do accept orders starting from 50,000-piece volumes up for all of these memory options; thus, customers will get the Confidex Links exactly with matching ICs suitable per their application.”

Confidex Links’ modular service options for NFC labels also include branding (printing custom graphics, such as logos) and personalization (printed Data Matrix, QR codes or bar codes), and static and variable NDEF encoding into chip memory can be performed directly at Confidex’s factory without the need for an external label-converting process. Finally, Confidex offers multiple options related to the label, such as material (paper or synthetic), adhesives (for different application environments), thickness and die-cut size.

“The benefit for the end user is that they can get complete label solution from one source—Confidex channel partners globally—at an affordable level,” Nikkanen says. “This type of modular product, with modular service options for large volumes, has been missing from the market before and seen as a bottleneck for major volume applications, such as smart packages, smart media (magazines, ad campaigns) and some of the industrial consumables applications. Also, with Confidex Links, we want to help big brands to take steps forward by making big, global NFC campaigns in magazines or directly in product packages.”

According to Nikkanen, Confidex Links can also be employed to support brand integrity usage, have product manuals (such as consumer electronics) to always be “online and updated” via Confidex Links RFID labels placed on their products, support consumer applications, and help mobile game and app companies promote their Google Play app download links for the physical world. The modularity is further extended into Confidex’s Ironside Micro NFC, an IP68-level tag, with a hard plastic casing for on-metal applications, the company reports.

The Confidex Links service is available in sampling volumes during the fourth quarter of 2016 and in volumes during the first quarter of next year.

William Frick & Co. Releases RFID-based Asset-Tracking Android App

William Frick & Co. has announced a new Android app that lets users create digitized and automated custom forms, while also providing secure data collection through ultrahigh-frequency (UHF) RFID, Near Field Communication (NFC) RFID and bar codes, for the purpose of managing assets. The app is designed to turn mobile devices into scanners, the company reports, in order to provide digital support to workflows, increase productivity and save time.

The SmartCAT Forms mobile app

The SmartCAT Forms mobile app can collect data using the device’s GPS and camera functions, and features pull-down menus compatible with the device’s touchscreen. All collected data is securely transmitted to a cloud-based storage database, where it can then be downloaded by administrators or accessed by other users with appropriate permissions. The app also works offline, according to William Frick & Co., making it suitable for asset management in remote areas.

The new mobile app is part of William Frick & Co.’s line of SmartCAT products, such as its SmartCAT Asset Tracking System, first unveiled in 2013 (see William Frick Offers Municipalities a Low-Cost Solution for Tracking City Assets), which includes a ruggedized handheld passive UHF RFID reader, software loaded on that device to manage the collected data, and SmartMARK UHF RFID tags.

PANMOBIL Intros Apps RFID-enabled Logistics, Asset-Tracking

German automatic-identification company PANMOBIL has announced a new app that uses RFID and bar-coding to help companies manage logistics and merchandising. The MyPANMOBIL App for iOS and Android devices works with PANMOBIL’s auto-ID tools, including the SCANNDY line of scanners.

PANMOBIl’s SCANNDY scanners are hybrid systems that can read 1D and 2D bar codes, as well as read and write to low-frequency (LF), high-frequency (HF) or ultrahigh-frequency (UHF) RFID tags, or a combination of those technologies. The scanners include common communication interfaces, such as USB, Bluetooth, Wi-Fi or 433 MHz. PANMOBIL says it offers a variety of form factors, including the smartSCANNDY, a hybrid auto-ID device that weighs only 80 grams (0.18 ounce) and is small enough to fit in a shirt pocket.

The MyPANMOBIL’s apps let users automatically send the bar-code and RFID data collected using the scanners to any destination, via the communication capabilities of the mobile device running the app. No installation is required, the company reports.

The MyPANMOBIL apps are now available via the Apple App Store and Google Play websites.

Avery Dennison’s RFID Sales Up More Than 35 Percent in Third Quarter

During a conference call with investors and analysts regarding its corporate earnings for the third quarter ending Oct. 1, 2016, Mitch Butier, Avery Dennison‘s CEO, reported that his company’s sales were up slightly more than 2 percent in the company’s Retail Branding and Information Solutions (RBIS) division. Those sales were “organically driven by radio frequency identification,” Butier said during the call, adding that RFID sales were up by more than 35 percent in the third quarter of this year, and are expected to exceed 30 percent for the full year. “We expect that RFID will continue to be a key growth driver for us,” he stated.

Avery Dennison will continue to invest in RFID, according to Butier, expanding its capacity and improving its manufacturing processes, as well as participating in new ventures such as PragmatIC Printing, a global provider of flexible electronics. Late last month, Avery Dennison made a strategic investment in PragmatIC Printing, joining existing shareholders Cambridge Innovation Capital (CIC) and ARM (see Avery Dennison Invests in Flexible Electronics Company PragmatIC). The $22 million in funding will be used to advance PragmatIC’s growth, including further development and commercialization of its FlexLogIC equipment.

Pepperl+Fuchs Buys ecom instruments, a Provider of RFID Devices for Hazardous Areas

Pepperl+Fuchs, a German manufacturer specializing in process automation and applications, has purchased ecom instruments, a Germany-based maker of handheld RFID readers and other handheld devices designed specifically for hazardous areas. The terms of the acquisition have not been disclosed.

According to Pepperl+Fuchs, the purchase expands its product offerings, enabling the company to accelerate the rate of new developments in technology and products well into the future. Among ecom instruments’ product line are intrinsically safe bar-code scanners and RFID readers designed for highly explosive areas, such as oil wells and chemical refineries, where a very small spark inside electronics could ignite an explosion from fumes or dust. Pepperl+Fuchs also specializes in equipment that is safe to use in these environments, and ecom instruments’ RFID readers will be added to that mix. A Pepperl+Fuchs spokesperson reports that there are plans to continue to develop additional products and technologies from the merger, though he adds that the specific RFID products involved have not yet been determined.

Many of the products from ecom are rated for Zone 1/21, Division 1 hazardous areas or Zone 2/22, Division 2 areas. Additional products include PDAs, cameras and beacons. These are suitable solutions for chemical and petrochemical process automation, the firm reports, as well as the pharmaceutical industry, oil and gas exploration, mining and energy, and environmental technologies.

Ecom instruments has maintained a presence in Germany, the United States, Singapore and the United Arab Emirates. Pepperl+Fuchs’ global headquarters is located in Mannheim, with a North American base in Twinsburg, Ohio. Any potential changes to ecom’s global footprint have yet to be determined.

TransCore to Provide All-Electronic Tolling for NYC Bridges, Tunnels

New York City’s Metropolitan Transportation Authority (MTA) has selected TransCore to convert all nine of its bridges and tunnels to All-Electronic Tolling (AET) that uses RFID, according to TransCore.

New York has been using RFID-enabled tolling for several years (see Efforts to Aid Adoption of ISO 18000-6C RFID for Toll Collection Move Forward). The new contract, TransCore explains, includes the company’s Infinity Digital Lane System on bridges and tunnels, which integrates automatic vehicle identification, vehicle classification, and video capture and recognition systems specifically designed to automatically collect transactions in high-volume traffic across a wide variety of traffic speeds and patterns. The Infinity system automatically reads E-ZPass toll tags, enabling vehicles to cross the facilities without stopping.

The E-ZPass system, used by agencies spread across multiple northeastern states that constitute the E-ZPass Interagency Group (IAG), have adopted 915 MHz active tags employing a proprietary air-interface protocol. For the Infinity system being implemented in New York, TransCore indicates, commuters without an E-ZPass will also be able to drive through unimpeded, as cameras installed on the gantries can automatically read each vehicle’s license plate. Motorists will then receive a toll charge in the mail. For the MTA, TransCore notes, Infinity’s fully integrated digital video audit system provides auditors with a real-time, user-friendly tool to facilitate end-to-end revenue traceability and auditability.

A according to TransCore, New York Governor Andrew M. Cuomo first announced the New York Crossings Project in October 2016, as a broad initiative to reduce traffic congestion and decrease vehicle emissions for the 800,000 commuters who cross these roads and bridges daily. Under an accelerated rollout schedule, the company expects to finish converting the first three facilities by January 2017, with the remaining conversions slated for completion through November 2017.