RFID News Roundup

By Beth Bacheldor

Thinfilm, Sarine partner to create NFC-enabled digital identities for diamonds ••• Invengo Technologies opens new facility in France ••• Global Tag intros Raptory RFID on-metal tag ••• Estimote launches 'video beacon' ••• Aspire fertility clinics adopt RFID ••• U.S. Army solicits information for parachute-tracking system.

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The following are news announcements made during the past week by the following organizations: Thinfilm, Sarine Technologies Ltd.; Invengo; Global Tag; Estimote; Aspire Fertility; and the U.S. Army.

Thinfilm, Sarine Partner to Create NFC-enabled Digital Identities for Diamonds

Thinfilm, a provider of printed Near Field Communication (NFC) tags and smart systems, has announced that it is working with Sarine Technologies, which specializes in the advancement of technology for the manufacture and marketing of diamonds and other precious gemstones, to integrate Thinfilm’s NFC SpeedTap tags in the Sarine Profile sales and consumer support system.

Sarine Profile is a collection of modules designed to deliver tools and information to retailers and consumers, including images and details about each diamond’s measurements and grading. For jewelers, Thinfilm explains, the system provides an interactive digital sales tool that helps eliminate stumbling blocks in the sales process and improve conversion rates. For consumers, the company adds, it can be used to tell each diamond’s story in real time, support buying decisions with scientific accuracy, and provide digital proof of lineage and ownership.

SpeedTap tags are part of Thinfilm’s OpenSense product line—thin, flexible labels that can both detect a product’s “factory sealed” and “opened” states and wirelessly communicate contextual content with the tap of an NFC-enabled smartphone. The NFC chip used in the SpeedTap tag is manufactured using a printing process. The tags were initially designed for use in authenticating a bottle’s contents or to indicate (when the tag is read) if its seal has been broken (see Thinfilm Launches OpenSense Printed NFC Sensor Label for Bottles). The SpeedTap tag operates at 13.56 MHz and complies with a subset of the ISO 14443 Type A RFID standard for compatibility with fixed and mobile NFC RFID readers (such as NFC-enabled smartphones to industrial RFID readers). The tag contains 128 bits of read-only memory (roadmap to 256 bits) and supports popular data structures, such as 96-bit GS1 EPC. Measuring less than 300 micrometers (0.01 inch) in thickness, the SpeedTap can be integrated with a product’s packaging or label.

Sarine is demonstrating the SpeedTap tag affixed to a diamond’s paper-based profile so it can automatically be linked to an identical digital version via the tap of a smartphone. The experience is enhanced with Sarine’s custom app, Thinfilm reports, and is supported by a cloud-based platform that enables content management, analytics and reporting. Discussions are also under way to expand the deployment and affix SpeedTap tags to finished rings as a replacement for traditional hangtags. An initial pilot is expected to take place next year.

“In cooperating with Thinfilm, Sarine is leveraging world-leading NFC technology to advance the performance of Sarine Profile in real time, in jewelry retail settings,” said Uzi Levami, Sarine Technologies’ CEO, in a prepared statement. “The implementation of SpeedTap tags with the Sarine Profile system enables retailers and consumers to enjoy the benefits of instant, automatic scanning of the powerful story of the diamond. The NFC tagging capability places Sarine Profile diamond information as close as possible to the customer and the sales presentation.”

Invengo Technologies Opens New Facility in France

Singapore-based Invengo, a developer and manufacturer of RAIN RFID ultrahigh-frequency (UHF), high-frequency (HF) and Near Field Communication (NFC) RFID inlays and tags and connectivity solutions used in the Internet of Things, has announced that it has relocated its French entity, Invengo Technologies, to new offices in order to accommodate the rapid growth and future expansion plans for its Textile Services and Custom Applications business.

Located in La Ciotat, near Marseille, the new site will host the business units that Invengo recently acquired from Tagsys focusing on textile services and custom applications (see Invengo Buys Tagsys’ Textiles, Industrial and Logistics RFID Divisions). The new office space provides capacity for manufacturing, customer support, engineering, sales and services, and leadership functions across the entity, according to Invengo. The facility houses a showroom and experience center that lets Invengo showcase its state-of-the-art solutions and products to potential and existing clients, the company says, and contributes to the general understanding of the added value of using RFID in textile and custom-application services.

Invengo Technologies’ Textile Services business features an integrated and scalable linen inventory visibility and management IoT platform known as Acuity, which consists of UHF tags, RFID reader stations and servers. The platform provides digital analytics and services for industrial laundry groups and their clients.

Global Tag Intros Raptory RFID On-Metal Tag

Global Tag has announced a new RFID on-metal tag designed to meet customer requirements for metal and inhomogeneous surfaces, as well as impermeability and strength.

The new RFID transponder, known as Raptory, incorporates all of the features that make it a suitable hard tag for industrial applications, the company reports. Raptory is available with a variety of RFID chips, including low-frequency (LF); high-frequency (HF) supporting the ISO 14443, ISO 15693 and Near Field Communication (NFC) standard specifications; and ultrahigh-frequency (UHF) supporting the EPC Gen 2 and ISO 18000-63 specifications.

Global Tag’s Raptory tag

Measuring 95 millimeters by 25 millimeters by 13 millimeters (3.7 inches by 1 inch by 0.5 inch), the tag is encased in acrylonitrile butadiene styrene (ABS) plastic and features an IP68 rating for certified protection from dust and water, signifying that it can withstand harsh environments. It comes with holes placed at the side ends of the transponder for attachment via screws or rivets, according to Global Tag, but also features 3M adhesive on the backside, so it can be easily affixed to any surface.

Global Tag offers a variety of customization options for the Raptory tag, such as encoding to the IC’s memory and printing on the tag surface that can include a logo, text, serial numbers, bar codes and QR codes.

Estimote Launches ‘Video Beacon’

Estimote has announced the Estimote Mirror, a beacon that plugs into a video screen, enabling it to display content triggered by nearby consumers’ phones and their corresponding apps, or with merchandise fitted with other Bluetooth beacons.

Like Estimote’s other beacons, Mirror uses Bluetooth Low Energy (BLE)—also known as Bluetooth Smart—technology. The Mirror plugs into the HDMI and USB ports found on standard video screens. When connected to a TV, Mirror reads BLE signals from nearby compatible apps or Estimote Stickers (flexible beacons that are about 3 millimeters [0.1 inch] in thickness and can be affixed to everyday objects) to receive content via its built-in Wi-Fi radio. A programmable rendering engine then decides what to display, while USB is used as an endless supply of power. Compatible with Estimote Cloud, the Estimote Mirror features a full operating system with an embedded system-on-chip with built-in video processing, similar to that of a smartphone, the company notes.

Estimote’s Mirror beacon

The Estimote Mirror, which is slated to be shipped out this winter, is available for pre-order as part of a software development kit (SDK) that costs $99. The SDK contains three Estimote Mirror beacons, documentation, customizable app templates and demonstration apps. Mobile developers will not need to learn any new technology to control the large digital displays with the Mirror, the company explains, and can simply embed Estimote’s SDK into their apps so that users can trigger contextual and personalized content simply by approaching a screen to which an Estimote Mirror was installed.

According to Estimote, suitable applications will be those designed to deliver user experiences and remove friction from daily lives. As an example, Mirror could be used to trigger the mirroring of personalized content from an airline app to an airport flight monitor as a traveler carrying a smartphone walks through that airport and approaches a screen. The Mirror can react not only to users with installed apps, Estimote says, but also by sensing for BLE signals from beacons and other devices around it. Content can be displayed on the screen when nearby BLE signals are detected. For example, the company says, Estimote Stickers attached to objects will send contextual data when picked up or moved; the Mirror will then detect these interactions and display content tied to a particular object or gesture. This allows consumers in a retail store to experience interactive moments, Estimote explains, even if they do not have the retailer’s app installed.

Aspire Fertility Clinics Adopt RFID

Fertility clinic Aspire Fertility is using RFID technology to track, record and create a comprehensive record of each patient’s eggs, sperm and embryos throughout the duration of their fertility treatment. The clinic is using an RFID-enabled solution called RI Witness, provided by Research Instruments (RI), a U.K.-based in vitro fertilization technology firm. RI Witness uses high-frequency (HF) RFID technology to pair specimens with the appropriate patient automatically, thereby ensuring that an alert will be sounded before a mistake can be made. The service helps eliminate the risk of mixed or improperly handled samples, according to Aspire Fertility, by providing an extra layer of security.

Aspire Fertility’s assisted reproductive technology (ART) labs in Houston and Dallas are utilizing RI Witness to automatically track and record every piece of patient data. It creates a record of each patient’s samples and is a component of the ART management system. It uses RFID tags to track the samples, with tag readers integrated into workstations where samples are transferred between containers, thereby providing the controls necessary to ensure eggs, sperm and embryos are correctly matched and treated, the company reports.

The RFID reader’s design ensures that clinicians are working on only one set of samples at a time, that correct samples are being used and that appropriate protocols are being followed. If RFID-tagged samples of incompatible origin come into contact at any stage of the cycle, Aspire Fertility explains, the system activates an alarm and prompts the embryologist to halt the procedure and respond. The readers also ensure that samples are continually maintained at the appropriate temperature.

Other non-manual witnessing systems typically rely on embryologists to request a sample check, Aspire Fertility notes, but these samples give only a tiny snapshot of the sample’s whereabouts when they are out of the incubator. In contrast, RI Witness automatically identifies all samples, so that no tagged container goes unchecked.

The Genera Center for Reproductive Medicine has been using RI Witness since 2012 at its clinic in Rome, and since 2014 at its Naples clinic (see Italian Reproductive Medicine Center Uses RFID to Track In Vitro Fertilization).

U.S. Army Solicits Information for Parachute-Tracking System

The Automated Parachute Management System Working Group, on behalf of the U.S. Army‘s Airborne Board, is conducting a market survey for technical information to enhance the current processes and capabilities for tracking the Army’s fleet of cargo and personnel parachutes.

Specifically, the working group announced that it is seeking an enterprise-wide system that supports 150 worldwide locations, and as many as 750 active users and 100 to 200 other users who need to access system reports, according to the Army’s Request for Information (RFI).

The system would track parachute inventory and collect data regarding workflows, such as parachute packing and inspection, chain of custody and maintenance. The system would also track personnel qualifications, training and jump status, the RFI states, which could refer to live deployments of parachutes in training and in combat. The Army would like the system to receive real-time input from RFID-enabled parachutes and be interoperable with mobile computers and existing government systems. In some ways, the proposed functionality is similar to the inventory tracking used by large package delivery firms.

Vendors that can supply an off-the-shelf capability or a modified version of an existing commercial solution are invited to respond to the RFI. The deadline is Sept. 21.

In 2012, the Army’s Automated Identification and Movement Solutions (AMIS) division, in Alexandria, Va., created an enhanced Parachute Tracking System (ePTS) that employs radio frequency identification to provide end-to-end, verifiable chain-of-custody accountability, traceability and airworthiness of a then-new family of personal parachute systems in support of global military operations (see U.S. Army Uses RFID to Track and Manage Parachutes).