RFID News Roundup

By Beth Bacheldor

Impinj enhances ItemSense software, unveils Monza 4i tag chip ••• NXP intros Icode DNA chip for secure vicinity applications ••• Trimble unveils ThingMagic Sargas RFID reader ••• TrackX, Quest Solution partner to accelerate asset-tracking implementations ••• CYBRA announces RFID Lock & EnCode SmartSeal ••• RR Donnelley, Smartrac collaborate on smart packaging solutions ••• Metalcraft RFID tags perform well in university study.

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The following are news announcements made during the past week by the following organizations: Impinj; NXP Semiconductors; Trimble; TrackX, Quest Solution; CYBRA; RR Donnelley, Smartrac; and Metalcraft.

Impinj Enhances ItemSense Software, Unveils Monza 4i Tag Chip

Impinj has announced enhancements to its ItemSense software to ease the deployment, management and monitoring of EPC Gen 2 RFID solutions. It also unveiled the Monza 4i tag chip, targeted at automotive applications. In addition, the company launched a developer website that features documentation and tools to help users deploy and utilize ItemSense, and to integrate RFID data into solutions.

ItemSense software is designed to aggregate raw RFID data into real-time business-relevant events, as well as to centralize and automate the deployment, management and monitoring of RFID infrastructure, including Impinj readers and gateways. With Impinj’s new ItemSense Management Console (IMC), the company explains, customers can automatically discover RFID gateways and readers on their network and auto-set device configurations and recipes to streamline system setup.

Other specific ItemSense enhancements include a Health Monitoring feature and a Health application programming interface (API), which enable users to view network connectivity, set alerts if gateways or readers disconnect, monitor reader or gateway memory utilization and process or thread operation, and centralize the deployment or management of reader infrastructure and firmware updates. The latest version of ItemSense also features such location enhancements as the ability to partition monitored facilities into geographic regions or “zones” of any size or shape, locate and track items within and across zones, and generate events based on item movement by distance or between zones.

Impinj says it optimized the Monza 4i tag chip for automotive manufacturing control and logistics, providing quality checks for vehicle parts in assembly lines, with data written during every production step, and using logged data to verify car parts like gearboxes, bumpers, airbags and dashboards. The Monza 4i offers 256 bits of Electronic Product Code (EPC) memory and 480 bits of user memory for applications that require extended serial numbers, such as vehicle identification numbers (VINs), the company reports, coupled with a large user memory supporting data logging to monitor, time-stamp and record item maintenance, component status and environmental conditions. Monza 4i’s True3D feature, Impinj says, allows omnidirectional readability, while its interference rejection capability ensures high performance in noisy industrial environments.

NXP Intros Icode DNA Chip for Secure Vicinity Applications

NXP Semiconductors has added the Icode DNA chip to its Icode family of high-frequency 13.56 MHz RFID tag ICs compliant with the ISO 15693 standard.

Similar to the Ucode DNA UHF chip that NXP introduced a year ago (see NXP Releases IC for Secure Encrypted UHF Reads), the Icode DNA supports advanced encryption standard (AES) cryptographic authentication—a feature that the company says enhances privacy protection and security for vicinity applications. Icode DNA provides medical equipment and high-value brand manufacturers and suppliers with convenient document tracking and authentication from source to sale along the supply chain, the firm reports.

The new Icode DNA chip combines traditional AES cryptographic authentication, Near Field Communication (NFC) readability and cloud connectivity, according to NXP. It provides cryptographic authentication to enable privacy protection through ISO/IEC 29167-10 standardized tag authentication. The device’s cryptographic security uses three 128-bit keys based on AES algorithms. The high data integrity of 16-bit CRC framing and a data transfer of 53 kilobits per second enables fast anti-collision read, NXP reports, while the persistent quiet mode feature allows for faster inventory speed than before. Additionally, systems integration can be made easy via a broad range of supporting tools.

According to NXP, research and development team leaders at Techsun Group say Icode DNA represents a fundamental approach to ensuring the authenticity of its clients’ products, such as liquors, in order to target counterfeiters and illicit trade. RFID tags made with NXP’s Icode chips will enable luxury brand owners to track and authenticate their products from source to sale along the supply chain, NXP explains.

“With Icode DNA, our customers can be confident they are providing their clients industry leading standards of protection,” said Ralf Kodritsch, the segment manager of RFID solutions for NXP’s secure identification business line, in a prepared statement. “Our customers rely on us to deliver technology and security solutions that are easy to integrate. The customer programmable originality signature is an additional feature that, in connection with the NFC phone readability, will open a range of possibilities for our customers’ clients.”

Trimble Unveils ThingMagic Sargas RFID Reader

Trimble has unveiled the ThingMagic Sargas, a new reader designed to enable systems integrators and original equipment manufacturers (OEMs) to speed up the development of RFID solutions in order to reduce time-to-market with less overhead than typical projects. The announcement was made at last week’s RFID Journal LIVE! conference and exhibition, held in Orlando, Fla.

According to Trimble, the ThingMagic Sargas is a finished, networked reader with its own processor that can also have applications added to run on that processor. The onboard processor is a 1 GHz ARM 8 Cortex processor containing 512 megabytes of DDR memory and 4 gigabytes of flash memory. Featuring the ThingMagic Mercury Micro reader module incorporated into a low-profile enclosure measuring 87 millimeters by 80 millimeters by 23.8 millimeters (3.4 inches by 3.15 inches by 0.94 inch), the device reads more than 750 tags per second at distances of more than 9 meters (30 feet) when configured with appropriate antennas. The Sargas reader supports the EPC Gen2v2, ISO 18000-63 and LLRP standards. With an onboard processor, memory and removable flash storage, the company says, the reader has features designed for a wide range of enterprise applications, from retail and warehouse inventory to cold chain food management and health care.

ThingMagic Sargas

“We make it easy for integrators and OEMs to bring their RFID applications to market by providing hardware, software and on-board processing for integration,” said Brett Humphrys, the general manager of Trimble’s ThingMagic Division, in a prepared statement. “The enterprise features in the new Sargas UHF reader are an ideal illustration. For example, the built-in HDMI interface allows an integrator to add a display directly to the reader without external hardware, reducing cost and time-to-market. This capability is equally useful to an integrator using display peripherals for Human Machine Interface (HMI) in industrial applications, point of checkout for retail and warehouse applications or supervisory functions for parking applications.”

In addition to having the HDMI port, the ThingMagic Sargas also has an Ethernet port, as well as four general-purpose input/output (GPIO) ports that can be controlled by the application on the processor, making it suitable for systems integration and able to turn things on and off, such as gates, alerts, diverters in conveyor systems, alarms and more, depending on what it reads. The reader also has a USB ports and two antenna ports.

The Sargas supports the ThingMagic Mercury API, which is common to all other ThingMagic readers and reader modules, reducing the amount of repetitive code required across a range of applications. A full software development kit (SDK) is available that supports Java, Dot-Net and C environments, together with test tools such as the Universal Reader Assistant. The onboard processor runs a version of Linux so the reader can support additional application code with onboard memory and removable storage on a micro SD card.

TrackX, Quest Solution Partner to Accelerate Asset-Tracking Implementations

Quest Solution, a specialty systems integrator focused on field and supply chain mobility, has announced its partnership with TrackX, a provider of RFID-enabled asset-tracking and supply chain management solutions.

Quest focuses on the design, deployment and support of fully integrated enterprise mobile solutions. The core markets serviced by Quest include retail, distribution, manufacturing, health care and logistics, for a customer base that includes Apple, Bridgestone/Firestone, Safeway, Sherwin Williams, Ingersoll Rand, Cardinal Health, Penske Logistics, Delta Faucets, Tractor Supply, McKesson and AmerisourceBergen.

“The demand for cloud-based, enterprise scalable asset tracking and inventory management solutions is increasing at a rapid rate. Through our TrackX partnership, Quest is able to expand its offering with solutions to address this demand and deliver significant value to our customers,” said George Zicman, Quest Solution’s senior VP of sales, in a prepared statement. “TrackX will expand upon its implementation capacity and be in a position to accelerate deployments across a growing number of Fortune 500 customers by tapping into the resources and capability provided by Quest Solution.”

Tim Harvie, TrackX’s president and CEO, added in the statement that “with thousands of customers and more than 20 years of experience in the delivery of auto-id and mobility solutions, Quest has the expertise and geographical coverage to support the delivery of TrackX solutions across a growing customer base in Canada and the US. This mutually beneficial partnership provides a strong catalyst for TrackX revenue growth moving forward.”

TrackX’s AssetTrack platform incorporates workflow processing, event management and powerful analytics to deliver solutions across a growing number of industries. Currently, those solutions include yard and distribution center management, mobile inventory management, returnable asset management, high-value asset tracking and manufacturing work-in-process tracking. While the Internet of Things is reshaping the ways in which humans interact with devices, Quest Solution and TrackX report, the partnership between the companies represents the next wave of solutions within the Industrial Internet of Things in which man-to machine and machine-to-machine interaction is occurring on a significantly larger global scale.

At last week’s RFID Journal LIVE! conference and exhibition, held in Orlando, Fla., the two companies co-presented TrackX’s entire suite of supply chain management solutions, including Returnable/Reusable Assets, Yard Management, High Value Asset Tracking, Inventory Management and Manufacturing Process Tracking.

“This year’s event was the most well attended I’ve ever seen and the participation at the Quest-TrackX booth was unprecedented,” Harvie said in a statement. “It was a validation that the industry is truly demanding scalable, enterprise solutions for integrated asset tracking and inventory management within the cloud.”

CYBRA Announces RFID Lock & EnCode SmartSeal

CYBRA Corp. has announced a new addition to its Lock & EnCode line of RFID seals. The new Lock & EnCode RFID SmartSeal combines battery assisted passive (BAP) RFID tags with sensors for tracking temperature, cable insertion and cable cuts.

According to CYBRA, the new electronic tamper-sensing seals are designed to meet demanding logistics and cold chain applications that require enhanced security, such as securing shipping containers, bulk carriers and trailers. They are also suitable for tracking other high-value assets, the company indicates, such as IT and laboratory equipment.

CYBRA’s Lock & EnCode RFID SmartSeal

The CYBRA Lock & EnCode RFID SmartSeal, made with EM Microelectronic‘s ICs, has a five-year battery life and is designed for global operation in the 860 to 960 MHz frequency range. The seal is compliant with the ISO 18000-63, ISO 18000-64, and EPC Gen 2 standards.

The seal can be read from a distance of up to 18 feet with a circular-polarized antenna. When the seal is attached, a galvanized steel cable is used to lock it, after which the seal cannot be pulled back out. Once the seal is attached, explains Sheldon Reich, CYBRA’s chief solution architect, it is initialized using the reader, which sets an internal clock within the seal, as well as the ideal temperature range, and activates the monitoring. If the seal is tampered with, or if its cable is cut or pulled out and then put back in, the seal’s sensors record the date and time of that activity. In addition, its temperature sensor monitors whether, at any time, the temperature drops below or goes above the prescribed range. All of that information is displayed whenever the seal is interrogated (including the temperature at the time of the reading), Reich says. In addition, the galvanized steel cable unravels if cut, thereby preventing reuse.

Lock & EnCode SmartSeals are delivered with programmed RFID user data encoded, and are permalocked to match serial numbers supplied by a customer at the time of order. The SmartSeals are laser-printed with a customer’s logo or name, serial number, and Code 128 bar code. Pricing starts at $5.85 per seal in volume orders.

CYBRA announced the seals at last week’s RFID Journal LIVE! conference and exhibition, held in Orlando, Fla.

RR Donnelley, Smartrac Collaborate on Smart Packaging Solutions

R. R. Donnelley & Sons Co., a provider of
communication services and printed electronics, and RFID company Smartrac have announced a partnership to jointly market a new process for RFID implementation that, according to the two companies, will enable growth in the number of products connected to the Internet of Things (IoT) via smart packaging and related solutions.

The two companies say they will each bring specific strengths to the collaboration. RR Donnelley will leverage its printed electronics capabilities, including customized antenna design and printing, and its capabilities in the labeling and packaging markets. Smartrac will contribute its chip attachment capacity, along with the data-collection and -processing capabilities of Smart Cosmos, the company’s IoT services and solutions platform.

By leveraging each other’s fields of expertise, the companies explain, they have developed a unique method for manufacturing RAIN inlays using two distinct components that need not be adhered together. This method expands upon current use cases and creates new opportunities for value-added products and services, according to the companies. For example, they report, it provides brand owners with a means to simplify their RFID compliance needs, by making all product tags, labels and packaging RFID-ready, and then enabling them on an as-needed basis. Additional use cases include inventory management, asset tracking, authentication, retail theft prevention and consumer engagement.

“We are excited to enter into this agreement with Smartrac, one of the world’s leading RFID providers. This agreement leverages the scale and expertise that our respective companies possess, allowing us to bring innovative RFID solutions to customers across many market segments, in whatever form they require,” said Dan Knotts, RR Donnelly’s COO, in a prepared statement. “Our joint developments with Smartrac will also enable a wider variety of RFID-based value-added services, helping to broaden adoption of RAIN UHF RFID technology.”

Christian Uhl, Smartrac Technology Group’s CEO and chairman of the management board, said in the statement that the collaboration will strengthen Smartrac’s product portfolio, boost its development abilities and support its transition into a provider of solutions based on RFID and IoT technologies. “In particular,” he said, “we will take advantage of our joint strengths to drive IoT innovations in smart labeling and packaging.”

Both companies demonstrated use cases enabled by this collaboration at last week’s RFID Journal LIVE! conference and exhibition, held in Orlando, Fla.

Metalcraft RFID Tags Perform Well in University Study

A new research study has found that Metalcraft, a manufacturer of customized asset tags, has one of the most precise and reliable lines of radio frequency identification tags. The independent study, conducted by the University of Texas at Arlington and commissioned by Metalcraft, tested three of the company’s Universal RFID tags against the top traditional RFID tags on the market.

The study examined 10 different RFID tags from top manufacturers and measured their performance regarding parameters that included distance, orientation and material. Three Metalcraft tags were involved in the study: the Universal, the Universal Mini, and the Universal Hard. All three tags consistently ranked among the top five, with the Universal Hard Tag consistently ranked in the top two. Overall, the study found, Metalcraft’s Universal tags performed as well as or better than the traditional RFID tags tested.

Additional details, including the full study results and methodologies, are available at Metalcraft’s website. The company displayed its entire line of Universal RFID tags at last week’s RFID Journal LIVE! conference and exhibition, held in Orlando, Fla.