RFID News Roundup

By Beth Bacheldor

NXP offers larger silicon wafers to boost RFID chip production capacity, sustainability ••• NFC RFID technology from Smartrac and FinnCode adds music to kids' book ••• CYBRA intros RFID-enabled safety solution for real-time tracking of people, assets ••• RAIN Alliance publishes new document on RFID reader sensitivity testing ••• Extronics launches iRFID500 handheld UHF RFID reader for hazardous areas ••• Avery Dennison invests in flexible electronics company PragmatIC ••• Italian bus company uses beacon-based gamification to boost ridership, protect environment ••• Janam's XT2 rugged, RFID-enabled mobile computer certified for IntelliTrack's Android app ••• RFID tags give researchers new insight into hummingbird migration behaviors.

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The following are news announcements made during the past week by the following organizations: NXP Semiconductors; Smartrac, FinnCode; CYBRA Corp.; the RAIN RFID Alliance; Extronics; Avery Dennison, PragmatIC; Onyx Beacon, SASA; Janam Technologies, IntelliTrack; and the University of Toronto Scarborough.

NXP Offers Larger Silicon Wafers to Boost RFID Chip Production Capacity, Sustainability

NXP Semiconductors is offering new 12-inch silicon wafers for long-range semiconductor devices, as an alternative to the current industry-standard 8-inch wafers, in order to enable a significant increase in production capacity, improved assembly quality and efficiency, and, most importantly, a reduction in manufacturing waste and electricity. Avery Dennison is the first to provide RFID inlays with NXP’s new 12-inch offering.

A larger wafer diameter allows more RFID chips to be produced from a single wafer, Avery Dennison and NXP report, thereby doubling the number of dies per wafer compared with existing 8-inch wafer formats. This increased use of existing materials can simultaneously reduce both chemical and packaging waste and energy consumption.

Avery Dennison says it plans to utilize the chips with its SmartFace Technology, which removes the plastic material in RFID products and replaces it with a paper substrate to reduce environmental impact. SmartFace Technology has already been used to make a number of Avery Dennison RFID inlays, the firm notes, and the introduction of the new wafer will reduce the environmental impact of RFID solutions further.

Both Avery Dennison and NXP say they are committed to the development of sustainable products, materials and manufacturing processes for semiconductor technologies.

“Bringing together both parties’ expertise, Avery Dennison and NXP introduce this innovation for more sustainability in semiconductor industry,” said Ralf Kodritsch, NXP’s segment manager for RFID solutions, in a prepared statement. “Our collective responsibility drives us to work collaboratively to address the environmental and social impacts of our solution proactively, while the 12-inch wafers significantly increases NXP’s supply capacity.”

NFC RFID Technology from Smartrac and FinnCode Adds Music to Kids’ Book

Otava Publishing Company Ltd., a Finnish publishing house, has published a children’s book that employs embedded Near Field Communication (NFC) RFID tags to add another layer of entertainment. Readers can listen to songs by tapping their Android mobile devices to the book.

The book, titled Reuhurinne: Eläinlauluja, features 30 well-known animal-themed Finnish songs. Readers can listen to 15 of these tunes on their mobile devices using the Reuhurinne Ekstra (Extra) application in conjunction with NFC FID tags.

Finnish technology company FinnCode Ltd. is responsible for the development of the Reuhurinne Ekstra app and the implementation of NFC technology. The NFC tags are installed inside the book cover, between the plastic and the cardboard, according to FinnCode, and there is a specific NFC symbol to indicate where to put the mobile phone. The tags use NXP Semiconductors‘ NTAG213 chips and are produced by Smartrac.

The application, which uses FinnCode’s scalable Internet of Things platform, can be downloaded from the Google Play website, FinnCode reports.

CYBRA Intros RFID-enabled Safety Solution for Real-Time Tracking of People, Assets

CYBRA Corp. has announced the introduction of Edgefinity IoT, a new software solution designed to meet complex requirements for safety and security in a range of industries.

Edgefinity IoT can be used at any site or location to address the complex safety and security needs of water-treatment plants and other utilities, as well as airports, mining facilities, office buildings and other sites. The solution combines active RFID hardware with real-time location system (RTLS) software and multi-sensor capabilities to securely monitor the health and safety of personnel and assets. It can issue alerts to ensure that safety incidents and hazards detected by the system are dealt with immediately and effectively. All alerts are logged, along with a full record of how they were handled, for later analysis.

“The world has gotten a lot more complex in just the past few years,” said Harold Brand, CYBRA’s CEO, in a prepared statement. “As an outgrowth of the proliferation of smartphones and the Internet of Things (IoT), there is a need and desire to stay connected no matter where you are. If you employ several lone workers, for example, being able to know they’re ok at all times is a huge relief. And that, ultimately, is what Edgefinity IoT provides – complete peace of mind. In addition – it ensures compliance with legal mandates for worker safety.”

RAIN RFID Alliance Publishes New Document on RFID Reader Sensitivity Testing

The RAIN RFID Alliance, an industry alliance for ultrahigh-frequency (UHF) radio frequency identification technology complying with the EPC Gen 2 and ISO 18000-63 standards, has released a new document focused on the issue of reader sensitivity. The document, titled “RAIN RFID Reader Sensitivity Testing,” outlines a proposal for testing RAIN RFID readers and a means of reporting reader sensitivity in a consistent and replicable manner, with a goal of providing more information to systems integrators.

The document was written by members of the RAIN RFID Alliance Solutions Workgroup, the mission of which is to identify, develop and publish materials leveraging the collective experience of workgroup members to the advantage of existing and new RAIN technology users.

In the document, the RAIN RFID Alliance encourages reader manufacturers that leverage the testing proposal to provide data regarding the reader’s receiver sensitivity so that it can be shared with the RAIN community. “This data should consist of at least one measurement of reader sensitivity, where the measurement is provided under documented conditions so that it can be replicated,” the document’s authors wrote. “Optionally, the reader manufacturer may provide further details, additional background information, or any other relevant data.”

Depending on feedback from the community, some refinements and/or narrowing of the specification of the testing procedure may be introduced in future versions, according to the RAIN RFID Alliance Solutions Workgroup. In addition, the organization might move toward the idea of grading or classifying readers so that end users will have some insight into which models are best suited for which roles. RAIN Alliance member companies that either played a major role in shaping the final document or provided feedback to earlier versions included CISC Semiconductor, Embisphere, Impinj, Lyngsoe Systems, NXP Semiconductors, RR Donnelley, Voyantic and Zebra Technologies.

A copy of the document can be downloaded here.

Extronics Launches iRFID500 Handheld UHF RFID Reader for Hazardous Areas

Extronics, a maker of explosion-proof wireless technology for the mining, oil and gas, chemical, pharmaceutical, petrochemical and other industrial markets, has launched its iRFID500 handheld Bluetooth passive ultrahigh-frequency (UHF) RFID reader. The device is intended for streamlining business processes such as tracking assets (drill pipes or tools, for instance), monitoring maintenance tasks and planning, and demonstrating regulatory compliance for companies operating within hazardous areas or harsh environments.

Using technology provided by CAEN RFID, the iRFID500 is designed to be integrated with existing business processes and Industrial Internet of Things (IoT) networks to improve efficiency, increase productivity and reduce downtime, Extronics reports. According to the company, the device is suitable for industrial companies looking to equip operators with smart devices such as smartphones and tablets, replacing traditional bulky, heavy PDAs. Smart devices paired with Bluetooth accessories that can work both in connection with smart devices and as standalone units such as the iRFID500 can maximize operational efficiency and flexibility, Extronics reports.

Extronics’ iRFID500 handheld UHF RFID reader

The iRFID500 device complies with the ISO 18000-6C and EPC Gen 2 specifications, has an IP64 rating, and features a battery life of more than 12 hours, making it suitable for shift work, according to the company. Measuring 128 millimeters by 59 millimeters by 22 millimeters (5.04 inches by 2.32 inches by 0.87 inch) and weighing just 150 grams (5.3 ounces), the device is small and light enough to carry around. Its stylus nib allows users to operate a tablet or smartphone without having to remove protective gloves—for example, to record maintenance tasks or pull up an asset inspection checklist on a tablet. The iRFID500 is available as fully certified for safe hazardous area use in accordance with ATEX, IECEx and North American regulations for explosive atmospheres. It also holds radio approvals for both the ETSI and FCC UHF frequency bands, Extronics indicates, making it suitable for applications around the world.

“Creating the iRFID500 was driven by input from our customers and their challenges,” said John Hartley, Extronics’ managing director, in a prepared statement. “We wanted to build a practical Bluetooth accessory that could be used with the increasing number of smart devices being released for the hazardous and industrial markets. Our existing expertise with passive RFID, gained whilst developing the intrinsically safe iTAG500 UHF tag range, gave us a great understanding of the applications for passive RFID in the process industries.”

Avery Dennison Invests in Flexible Electronics Company PragmatIC

PragmatIC Printing Ltd., a global provider of flexible electronics, has secured £18 million ($22 million) of funding that includes a strategic investment from Avery Dennison. Avery Dennison joins existing shareholders Cambridge Innovation Capital (CIC) and ARM, which also participated in the round. The funding will be used to advance PragmatIC’s growth, including further development and commercialization of its FlexLogIC equipment. The FlexLogIC “fab in-a-box” equipment is a modular system that, according to Avery Dennison, facilitates automated, high-throughput production of flexible integrated circuits that can be used for a variety of intelligent packaging solutions.

The new investments are expected to accelerate the mass deployment of intelligent packaging, Avery Dennison reports, with the company leveraging the potential of PragmatIC’s flexible integrated circuits in its inlays portfolio.

“Avery Dennison works with more than 10,000 converters, brand owners and retailers worldwide,” said Scott White, PragmatIC’s CEO, in a prepared statement, “making them an ideal supply chain partner to deliver solutions based on our unique technology.”

“We’re excited about this collaboration with PragmatIC, which presents a promising opportunity to build on our high volume RFID inlay manufacturing capabilities,” added Francisco Melo, Avery Dennison’s VP and general manager of global RFID, in the statement. “With PragmatIC’s technology, there is the potential to extend the use of unique item-level digital identities to improve consumer experiences in a number of new segments, such as fast-moving consumer goods.”

Italian Bus Company Uses Beacon-Based Gamification to Boost Ridership, Protect Environment

Onyx Beacon has announced that Italian transportation company SASA has expanded its use of Onyx Beacon’s Bluetooth-enabled Smart Public Transport Solution to include the system’s gamification techniques. SASA’s goal, according to Onyx Beacon, is to educate and motivate its customers to use public transportation, in order to reduce fossil fuels consumption, avoid pollution and protect the natural environment. The system consists of beacon hardware and a cloud-based content-management system (CMS) platform to communicate with mobile devices via an app that runs on iOS and Android systems.

SASA, which services customers in the Bolzano region of northern Italy, has been employing Onyx Beacon’s solution to guide bus riders who use its SASAbus app (see Bluetooth Beacons Delivers Alerts to Bus Riders, Drivers) since 2015. Onyx Beacon’s enterprise beacons are mounted on buses that travel throughout the city, which work in conjunction with an app developed by Onyx Beacon. SASA currently provides 22 million travels every year in South Tirol, and has already installed 1,000 Onyx Bluetooth beacons within all of its 160 vehicles and at all of its bus stops.

The new version of the SASAbus app incorporates gamification techniques, developed by Raiffeisen Online (a division of Raiffeisen Bank), an Onyx Beacon partner that also has provided integration and installation for Onyx Beacon products in Northern Italy and Austria. The new version of mobile application SASAbus, the company reports, transforms all kilometers traveled by a bus into points that can be used in online challenges and are added to an aggregate personal score that is publicly visible.

The beacons on the vehicles provide an accurate measurement of on-bus dwell times and the number of kilometers traveled for each mobile user utilizing the app. The boarding and drop-off points for each ride are determined as well, and it all is turned into points and accumulated in a general score. Passengers are awarded points for every kilometer of bus travel, but they can gain supplementary rewards when responding to various challenges launched by the transportation company. For example, they are invited to follow and go onboard the ecologic fuel cell buses (powered by hydrogen engines), to accumulate a given mileage within a month or to participate in “Giornate per la mobilità” (“The Mobility Days”). For each level passed in the game, passengers receive other rewards that can be shared via social networks, and all of their results are publicly presented in a ranking, so they feel like being in a continuous competition with other users.

The passengers in Bolzano can download the SASAbus app via the Google Play website.

Janam’s XT2 Rugged, RFID-enabled Touch Computer Certified for IntelliTrack’s Android App

Janam Technologies, a provider of rugged mobile computers, and IntelliTrack, a cloud-based inventory software provider, have announced that Janam’s XT2 RFID-enabled rugged touch computer is certified to run IntelliTrack’s Stratus Mobile for Android application.

Stratus Mobile for Android is an app that can be integrated with QuickBooks, and is designed to help companies eliminate the costly challenges associated with inventory control, including shortages and overstocks, by providing inventory-management insight for small- to mid-sized businesses. When used with Janam’s XT2 rugged touch computer, and when combined with the Stratus cloud-based desktop application, the app provides companies with an easy-to-use, intuitive inventory-management solution, according to the two companies. The application enables customers to capture operational data in real time, and to improve inventory reporting accuracy via the XT2’s bar-code and RFID reading capabilities.

The XT2 is a small, rugged mobile computer that weighs just 10 ounces, with a 5-inch color display; 4G LTE wireless connectivity; dual-band Wi-Fi, GPS, 1D and 2D bar-code scanning; and RFID and Near Field Communication (NFC) reading capabilities. It is available in both Android 5 Lollipop and Microsoft Windows 10 IoT Mobile Enterprise versions.

“Inventory is one of the largest expenses for many of our customers,” said Doug Lloyd, Janam Technologies’ VP of global sales operations, in a prepared statement. “We are thrilled that our partnership with IntelliTrack will enable our customers to significantly reduce these costs with a robust and affordable solution that provides real-time visibility to inventory levels and enables organizations to make smarter decisions about their business.”

“IntelliTrack and Janam have a long-running strategic partnership that now further evolves with support for Janam’s XT2 series of rugged touch computers,” added Ronald Pawlowski, IntelliTrack’s COO, in the statement. “We have optimized our Stratus Mobile app to run flawlessly on the XT2 and believe our customers will achieve multiple benefits by leveraging our Stratus software and this device. The XT2’s competitive price point, rugged durability and user-friendly form factor make this a win/win for both companies.”

RFID Tags Give Researchers New Insight into Hummingbird Migration Behaviors

Researchers at the University of Toronto Scarborough tagged ruby-throated hummingbirds with embedded RFID-enabled passive integrated transponders in order to study their migration behaviors, including some birds’ appetites for fattening up before they fly south.

To conduct their study, the scientists trapped ruby-throated hummingbirds between May and September of 2013 and 2014, implanting them with glass-encased 144 kHz RFID tags compliant with the ISO 11784 and 11785 standards. The researchers created artificial feeding stations that had digital scales and RFID antennas and readers affixed to them; the stations were placed in open meadows surrounded by mixed forests. When the birds stopped to feed, the station captured the ID number transmitted by their microchips, and also weighed them. That data was then used to better understand the hummingbirds’ eating habits as they migrate.

The scientists used readers that included a Destron Fearing FS2001F-ISO reader supplied by Biomark, a low-power, low-cost RFID antenna and reader designed by University of Oklahoma biology professor Eli Bridge, and 7-millimeter-long PICO-ID ISO transponders supplied by UNO.

The study found that the hummingbirds that fatten up early on spent more time at feeders in order to gain weight rapidly, in some cases putting on as much as 35 to 40 percent of their body mass during the four days leading up to migration. However, the researchers discovered that no juvenile birds were fattening up, which suggests that the fattening could be a learned behavior based on migration experience.

The researchers, who included University of Toronto Associate Professor Ken Welch, received funding from the National Geographic Society and the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council (NSERC) to carry out their project. The group described their findings in a scientific paper, titled Premigratory ruby-throated hummingbirds, Archilochus colubris, exhibit multiple strategies for fuelling migration, published online by the scientific journal Animal Behaviour.