RFID News Roundup

By Beth Bacheldor

Siemens Introduces Handheld 13.56 MHz RFID Reader ••• Voyantic Launches All-In-One NFC and UHF RFID Test Device ••• Time Domain’s PulsON 330 RTLS Module Uses DecaWave’s DW1000 UWB chip ••• RFID Market in China to Reach $2.8 billion in 2020, IDTechEx Research Says ••• Hacking Competition Aims to Spur Development of RFID, Bluetooth and NFC Apps ••• PCTEL Tests Airport Networks for Compatibility With RFID-based Luggage Tracking Systems

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The following are news announcements made during the past week by the following organizations:
Siemens ;
Voyantic;
Time Domain, DecaWave;
IDTechEx Research; AccelerateNFC, Flomio; and
PCTEL.

Siemens Introduces Handheld 13.56 MHz RFID Reader

The Simatic RF201M

Siemens has announced the Simatic RF201M, a handheld write-read device within the Simatic RF200 high-frequency (HF) suite. The new device is designed to be used in manual and reworking stations for order picking and track-and-trace tasks, as well as tool identification. The reader also can be connected to an RFID communication module using a standard M12 connector for integration into an automation system, the company says.

The Simatic RF201M can easily be integrated into a workstation setup and features a retaining bracket for a simple hanging fixture and a cable length of up to 3.5 meters, according to Siemens. It measures 195 millimeters by 26 millimeters by 140 millimeters and weighs 460 grams, which allows for fatigue-free use over long periods, the company says. Simatic RF210M works with 13.56 MHz RFID transponders compliant with the ISO 15693 standard, and has an IP 54 protection rating so it is dust- and water-resistant, and has a maximum read-write distance of 20 millimeters. It can operate in temperatures ranging from -20 to +50 degrees Celsius, has a three-color LED and an RS422 interface.

Voyantic Launches All-In-One NFC and UHF RFID Test Device

Voyantic, a provider of RFID measurement solutions based in Finland, has launched the Tagformance Pro measurement device that combines ultra-high frequency (UHF) RFID and Near Field Communication (NFC) high-frequency (HF) RFID into one compact test device. Designed to work equally well in testing labels, cards, tagged items and sensor tags, as well as entire RFID systems, the Tagformance Pro is a turnkey system that includes software, accessories and anechoic measurement spaces, Voyantic says.

The measurement device supports all widely used RFID protocols and is designed to verify tuning and sensitivity of UHF and HF tags, study the effects of materials, orientation and distance, benchmark different tags, and analyze performance of tagged items, according to the company.

The effect of a new tag antenna geometry or material can be tested in a few seconds, allowing rapid prototyping, and the device can provide instant feedback from new tag designs, Voyantic says. The device’s graphical user interface and all measurement data formats are fully compatible within the Tagformance product family, the company says.

The Tagformance Pro will be available for customer deliveries at the end of September.

Time Domain’s PulsON 330 RTLS Module Uses DecaWave’s DW1000 UWB chip

Time Domain has announced the release of its new PulsON 330 (P330) original equipment manufacturer (OEM) module, targeted at firms developing industrial, navigation and tracking applications. The P330 incorporates the DW1000 chip from Irish UWB chipmaker DecaWave.

The DW1000 chip is designed to be built into an active RFID tag, transceiver, machine or electronic shelf for low-cost real-time location system (RTLS) applications. DecaWave released the DW1000 chip in 2013 after spending nearly a decade developing it (see DecaWave Intros Ultra-wideband Active RFID Module.

The P330 module is a flexible development platform designed to quickly familiarize users with the capabilities of UWB ranging and communications and enable rapid prototyping of systems for validation in unique operating environments, according to Time Domain. Each P330 module supports two-way ranging and communications with an accuracy of 10 centimeters in high multipath, GPS-denied environments and data rates of up to 6.8 Mbps, the company says. The P330 bears the same form factor as the company’s P440 UWB industrial modules (to allow drop-in replacement for the latter), use industrial temperature-rated components, and offer a variety of interface options (USB, Ethernet, SPI, serial, and CAN). Using the DecaWave chip as the underlying UWB technology, the P330 meets the specifications of the IEEE 802.15.4, a standard for ranging and communications, and supports multi-band operation.

Developers begin with a kit that supplements the P330 hardware with evaluation software, sample C and MATLAB code, and engineering support hours. The development kit also includes software that enables users to configure and implement their own navigation and tracking networks based on either ALOHA or TDMA protocols, according to Time Domain. The software and applications programming interfaces (APIs) are identical across the entire Time Domain product portfolio.

The P330 Ranging and Localization Development Kit is now available for pre-order, with shipments slated to begin in late third quarter.

RFID Market in China to Reach $2.8 billion in 2020, IDTechEx Research Says

A study by IDTechEx Research finds that the total RFID market in China, covering chips, tags (including cards, fobs, labels and all other form factors), readers, software, services and system integration, will rise from was $1.7 billion in 2014 (with tags accounting for $430 million and readers, $549 million) to $2.8 billion in 2020 to $4.3 billion by 2025.

The new report, RFID in China 2015-2025, assesses the prospects of the RFID market in China. There are more than 150 RFID technology providers in China, according to IDTechEx, and the country is rapidly becoming a large exporter of the technology.

RFID is increasingly being deployed around the world, and IDTechEx expects that more than 8.5 billion tags will be sold globally in 2015 versus 7 billion in 2014. But China has lagged in adoption of UHF RFID compared to other territories such as the United States and Europe, the study says. The report notes that in 2015, 80 percent of the RFID systems deployed in China will be based on high-frequency (HF) RFID operating at 13.56 MHz. Until now the use of RFID in China has mainly been driven by government mandates and projects—from one billion contactless identity cards issued to complete rail car management systems—and these have typically been highly profitable for the involved suppliers, and some of which are state-owned.

But UHF RFID adoption in China is growing quickly. As a result, UHF chip design/manufacturing development has been listed as one of the priorities in China’s Internet of Things (IoT) development, culminating in several government-funded programs to develop UHF RFID readers, for example, according to the research firm.

According to IDTechEx, China already accounts for 85 percent of the world’s RFID manufacturing capacity, being a major exporter of tags. The country’s global market supply share in ultra-high frequency (UHF) RFID inlays has grown from less than 10 percent in 2012 to 30 percent in 2015, with the UHF tags mainly used for tracking apparel by clothing retailers around the world.

The IDTechEx study categorizes more than 150 Chinese RFID companies by position and specialized frequencies and provides detailed analyses on the RFID value chain in China across all the main frequency types as well as ten-year forecasts for the use of RFID in China by 13 application categories (in addition to the Chinese government programs). The research was based on face-to-face or telephone interviews, secondary research on online resources, company annual reports, IDTechEx’s database and other resources.

Earlier this month, Impinj China, the Shanghai-based division of RFID technology provider Impinj, reported that during the past five years, it has seen rapidly rising demand for passive UHF RFID technology across Asia (see Chinese RFID Adoption Takes Many Forms). Leading that momentum are consumer goods manufacturers in China, with factories employing RFID technology for work-in-progress (WIP) and logistics-visibility applications, according to Impinj. China’s banking and transportation sectors are also contributing to the region’s demand for RFID technology, as is its retail industry, with anti-counterfeiting solutions.

Hacking Competition Aims to Spur Development of RFID, Bluetooth and NFC Apps

Technology incubator AccelerateNFC and Flomio, a provider of proximity ID solutions and services, have announced an app-developing competition, TrackHack, designed to spur development of proximity identification solutions employing ultra-high frequency (UHF) RFID, Bluetooth Low Energy (BLE) beacons or Near Field Communication (NFC) RFID for the Internet of Things (IoT).

TrackHack is designed to demystify enterprise-grade asset tracking hardware for mobile and web developers, according to the two companies. Registration is now open the first hackathon, scheduled for Nov. 13-15, 2015, in London. The second is scheduled for March 11-12, 2016, in Austin, Texas.

For the inaugural TrackHack events, developers can choose between different categories, including security, marketing and advertising, social, gaming, payments and track and trace. For example, in marketing and advertising, hackers might work on developing new ways for brands to engage with their customers, while those building for track and trace might focus on asset tracking, enterprise visibility or supply chain management. The top three apps (as selected by the judges) in each category will win cash (first place gets $5,000, second place gets $3,400 and third gets $1,500). Other prizes will also be awarded.

Sponsors include Interactive Ventures, NFC Bootcamp, Blue Bite, Omni-ID, HID Global and Rain RFID.

PCTEL Tests Airport Networks for Compatibility With RFID-based Luggage Tracking Systems

PCTEL has announced that it has tested the cellular communications networks at more than 300 domestic and international airports in support of a major airline’s RFID-based baggage-tracking initiative. The initiative uses RFID scanners that require a reliable connection to a wireless network.

To help the airline choose the best networks for their tracking system, PCTEL compared multiple tier 1 cellular carriers at each airport, according to PCTEL. Its test engineers followed a bag’s journey through the system from check-in, through various holding rooms, to the tarmac, and along the way, they collected RF measurements on both 3G and 4G technologies for each carrier’s network. PCTEL engineers analyzed the data and filed concise reports for the airline. The results determined the best carrier and technology to program the RFID scanners at each airport.

“PCTEL’s combination of specialized test equipment and experienced engineers gives our customers the most accurate possible information on network quality, coverage, and reliability,” Bob Joslin, VP and general manager of PCTEL’s network engineering services, said in a prepared statement. “In the past, when we have conducted network testing at airports, the goal has been to improve service for travelers in terminals, restaurants and other public spaces. But network reliability is even more important for an RFID-based luggage tracking system. Our data gave the airline critical information to make its system as reliable and efficient as possible.”

PCTEL also says it has offered its reports to the wireless carriers at each site. When carriers receive specific testing data for their network, they can identify problem areas and allocate resources to optimize their networks to further increase the connection reliability of the airline’s RFID readers, the company says.