RFID News Roundup

By Beth Bacheldor

HID Global expands IronTag line, unveils wafer-thin high-temp UHF label ••• CISC intros tests for GS1 US Tagged Item Performance Protocol Guideline ••• Smartrac launches new RFID inlays for retail based on Impinj Monza R6 ••• Lockheed Martin announces RuBee weapons tracker was successfully tested ••• Google strikes deal with carriers, acquires Softcard's NFC-enabled payments technology ••• SandlerResearch.org reports smart waste-collection technologies gaining ground.

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The following are news announcements made during the past week by the following organizations:
HID Global;
CISC Semiconductor;
Smartrac;
Lockheed Martin, Visible Assets;
Google, Softcard; and
SandlerResearch.org.

HID Global Expands IronTag Line, Unveils Wafer-Thin High-Temp UHF Label

HID Global has announced two new rugged ultrahigh-frequency (UHF) passive RFID transponders: the IronTag 206 and the High Temperature Label. Both are compliant with the EPC Gen 2 and ISO 18000-6C standards, the company reports, and offer the highest flame-resistance available in a UHF tag, featuring a UL 94 V-0 rating. UL 94 V0 signifies that the tag will immediately self-extinguish if an ignition source is removed, and will not drip particles that might cause flames to spread, HID explains.

The IronTag 206

Encased in polyphthalamide thermoplastic, the IronTag 206 is IP67-rated (signifying it as waterproof) and resistant to shock, vibration and chemical exposure, according to HID Global. Originally designed for tracking aircraft parts during assembly and maintenance, all IronTag transponders tolerate harsh conditions and are engineered for optimal performance when mounted on metal surfaces. The IronTag 206 can withstand temperature extremes, from -40 degrees to +428 degrees Fahrenheit (-40 degrees to +220 degrees Celsius).

Made with an Impinj Monza X chip, the IronTag 206 is available in four versions: the 6D2903 and 6D3903, optimized for E.U. standards (869 MHz), and the 6D2904 and 6D3904, optimized for U.S. standards (915 MHz). The 6D2903 and 6D2904 offer 2176 bits of memory, while the 6D3903 and 6D3904 feature 8192 bits. All four versions measure 1.3 inches by 1.2 inches by 0.23 inch (34 millimeters by 31 millimeters by 6 millimeters) in size and can deliver a read range of up to 8.2 feet (2.5 meters) on metal. The tag can be affixed with screws, clamps or high-temperature stickers.

HID’s High Temperature Label

The High Temperature Label (Model 6A7902) is a wafer-thin UHF RFID tag designed for use in harsh industrial environments. According to HID Global, the label was originally designed for the automotive industry, to identify and track every vehicle, both during assembly and throughout its life on the road. Lifetime traceability of parts and components yields more accurate and efficient records, the company notes, which can help automakers expedite service in the event of a recall.

Encased in aramid polymer, the label is designed to deliver consistent, reliable readability during the rigors of automotive manufacturing, the company reports, including welding operations, autoclaves, immersion in anti-corrosive electrolyte baths, cycles of paint layer application, and drying ovens. It leverages the Impinj’s Monza 4QT chip, supports broadband worldwide operating frequencies of 865 to 956 MHz, features 512 bits of user memory and can operate in temperatures ranging from -40 degrees to +446 degrees Fahrenheit (-40 degrees to +230 degrees Celsius). According to HID Global, it measures 3.1 inches by 2 inches by 0.02 inch (80 millimeters by 50 millimeters by 0.5 millimeter) and is highly resistant to water (IP68-rated), oils, petroleum, salt mist and flames. The tag may be laser-engraved with additional visual information, such as logos, bar codes or text.

CISC Intros Tests to Meet GS1 US Tagged Item Performance Protocol Guideline

CISC Semiconductor has announced that its RFID test and measurement product, known as RFID Xplorer, can now be used to perform measurement tests based on GS1 US‘s Tagged-Item Performance Protocol (TIPP). The TIPP guideline—a set of four documents developed by GS1 US’s Item Level RFID workgroup—includes a scale for grading the performance of EPC ultrahigh-frequency (UHF) RFID tags when used on particular products and in specific environments, as well standardizing the testing conducted to identify that grade case (see GS1 Expects Tagged-Item Performance Protocol Guideline to Boost RFID Adoption). The guideline is intended to make it easier for both retailers and suppliers to test and identify the best tag for use with each product and use.

First unveiled in April 2012 (see RFID News Roundup: CISC Unveils Portable UHF Tag Test System), the RFID Xplorer is a portable, compact solution specifically designed as a cost-effective, small and powerful measurement system for RFID tag sensitivity, communication range and backscatter measurements, according to the company. Now, the RFID Xplorer can be configured as a TIPP tester—and in this mode, it provides a fast switch to four linear antennas specified by the guideline. Along with CISC’s rotatable test platform, the read and backscatter sensitivity of tagged items are tested at different angles in 3D. The result accuracy, CISC says, is maintained due to RFID Xplorer’s self-calibration and optional traceable calibration, according the ISO/IEC 17025 standard, which is performed at a certified independent test lab.

The RFID Xplorer provides high transmit power of 4 watts of effective isotropic radiated power (EIRP) and receive sensitivity of -90 dBm, which the company says makes it suitable for testing tagged items that are difficult to read (such as those containing liquids or metals). By supporting extended memory tests and providing cryptographic functionality, CISC explains, RFID Xplorer already meets the test requirements for privacy and secure data transfer between readers and tags.

Smartrac Launches New RFID Inlays for Retail Based on Impinj Monza R6

Smartrac has launched two new RFID inlays for the retail industry, both based on Impinj‘s Monza R6 chip. The Monza R6, unveiled last April (see New Impinj Chip Promises Higher Sensitivity, Read Range and Flexibility), is designed to make tags more sensitive than those employing other chips, with a longer read range and new features aimed at increasing the yield of properly functioning tags during manufacturing and encoding processes.

The Belt Monza R6 inlay

The new designs from Smartrac offer faster writing speed, greater backscatter strength, parallel encoding capabilities and increased read- and write-sensitivity, the company reports. The Belt Monza R6 inlay features a compact form factor with a smaller antenna compared to its predecessor—the antenna size is 70 millimeters by 10 millimeters (2.8 inches by 0.4 inch), while the die-cut size is 73 millimeters by 13 millimeters (2.9 inches by 0.5 inch). It has a read range of more than 10 meters (32.8 feet) and a write range of more than 5 meters (16.4 feet) in free air, in both the ETSI and FCC bands.

The Belt Monza R6 is available in model numbers 3004228 as a dry (naked) inlay, 3004229 as a wet (adhesive-backed) inlay and 3004230 as a paper label. According to Smartrac, the Belt Monza R6 has passed all of the most significant ARC tests at Auburn University‘s RFID Research Center.

The MiniWeb Monza R6 inlay

The MiniWeb Monza R6 inlay, a regional product designed for Europe’s UHF band, comes with an antenna design size of 42 millimeters by 16 millimeters (1.7 inches by 0.6 inch) and a die-cut size of 45 millimeters by 18 millimeters (1.8 inches by 0.7 inch). It has a read range of more than 6 meters (19.7 feet) in cardboard or free air, and a range of 8 meters (26.2 feet) in plastic. The company says it expects the write range to be more than 3 meters (9.8 feet), though this has yet to be measured. The MiniWeb inlay model numbers are 3003194 as a dry inlay, 3003295 as a wet inlay and 3003296 as a paper label. The MiniWeb has passed ARC category K requirements for ETSI retail performance, as defined by the Auburn RFID Research Center.

Both new Smartrac inlays are available now.

Lockheed Martin Announces RuBee Weapons Tracker Was Successfully Tested

Lockheed Martin and Visible Assets Inc. (VAI) have announced the completion of a pilot leveraging a new, advanced weapons-maintenance system using RuBee tags and developed by the two companies. During the multi-phased pilot program, RuBee tags were embedded in select Naval assets to track weapon performance and diagnostic data. The system operated as designed for the duration of the pilot. RuBee successfully provided maintenance and diagnostic data, such as the number of rounds fired, the rate of fire and the calculated barrel temperature. The tags also detected performance anomalies, such as gas port erosion and cracked bolts, before they led to potential weapon failure.

The pilot launched in early 2014 (see Lockheed Martin Offers RuBee Solution for Monitoring Munitions).

The system, known as the RuBee Weapon Shot Counter, addresses the challenge of tracking sensitive munitions remotely via battery-powered tags compliant with the RuBee standard (IEEE 1902.1). Traditional RFID tags cannot always be read or accessed through metals, liquids and other materials; they’re also subject to eavesdropping by those intent on gaining access to information about munitions supplies. In contrast, the companies note, RuBee uses magnetic coupling, rather than RF backscatter, and is not subject to these deficiencies.

Since RuBee technology employs magnetic coupling, it works on and in steel items, according to John Stevens, VAI’s CEO and chairman. Based in Stratham, N.H., the privately held company designs, manufactures and sells RuBee wireless real-time asset security and visibility networks. “RuBee is explosive-safe, safe near fused ordinance, safe on nuclear weapons, and has no Tempest Target or eavesdropping security risks,” he says. “It is ideally suited for many defense/military applications other than small firearms.”

According to Lockheed Martin, the assets tested during the pilot were weapons. While the firm indicates that it could not cite specific numbers, the amount of weapons tested was large enough to illustrate the system’s accuracy, as well as the potential benefits it could provide, to the Navy, by automating the time-consuming and manually intensive process of tracking ammunition and scheduling weapons maintenance. The tags were either incorporated into a standard grip or attached on a barrel, and the data was read by either a handheld or fixed reader.

Lockheed Martin is now working to expand this effort from a pilot to a full program that generates cost savings and increases confidence in weapon safety, and is currently in the process of evaluating the next iteration of the program. According to Lockheed Martin, that iteration could range from including just the Weapon Shot counter and associated software, to perhaps incorporating the ability to also track weapons as they enter or exit a defined perimeter or armory, thereby eliminating the need for hands-on inventory scans and allowing the armory to remotely audit weapons.

Google Strikes Deal With Carriers, Acquires Softcard’s NFC-enabled Payment Technology

Google has announced that it has acquired technology and intellectual property from mobile payments company Softcard, and that it has partnered with AT&T Mobility, T-Mobile USA and Verizon Wireless, in an effort to help more Android users get the benefits of using a smartphone’s built-in Near Field Communication (NFC) technology to pay for purchases in stores. Ariel Bardin, Google’s VP of payments, wrote in a blog post this week that the relationship means that the Google Wallet app, including the tap-and-pay functionality, will come pre-installed on Android phones (running KitKat or higher) sold by these carriers in the United States later this year. Google Wallet’s tap-and-pay feature debuted in 2011, Bardin wrote, and can be used on Android devices, on any carrier network, to tap and pay anywhere that NFC payment technology is supported.

Softcard was founded in 2010 by AT&T Mobility, T-Mobile USA and Verizon Wireless (see Mobile Carriers Launch Venture to Aid Adoption of NFC in Phones). In a blog post on its site, the company said the deal with Google will not impact current Softcard customers for now.

“Users can continue to tap to pay, redeem offers and apply loyalty at more than 275,000 locations across the U.S.,” the company indicated in an FAQ on its site. “Google has acquired some technology and intellectual property from Softcard and we encourage our Android users to download Google Wallet. In the near future, the Softcard app will shut down and all wallets will be terminated. A specific termination date will be provided soon.”

Softcard also stated in the FAQ that in order to use Google Wallet, current Softcard customers will need to separately sign up for a Google Wallet account and enter details about their payment and loyalty card accounts. Any information that customers have already shared with Softcard will not be shared as part of this deal, and once the Softcard wallet is terminated (which the company says will happen automatically in the near future), Softcard wallet payment credentials and loyalty cards will no longer be usable. In addition, the Softcard for Windows Phone app will also be terminated, and the company says it will provide a specific termination date soon.

SandlerResearch.org Reports Smart Waste-Collection Technologies Gaining Ground

An effort to cut costs in municipal waste collection is driving growth in the worldwide smart waste industry, according to a new research report, titled Global Smart Waste Market 2015–2019, from SandlerResearch.org, a database of selected syndicated market reports for global and regional industries.

The use of smart waste technologies minimizes the overall cost involved in solid municipal waste collection, according to SandlerResearch.org, and these technologies employ RFID- and sensor-based containers that facilitate real-time, easy-to-use Web portal services for fill-level measurement. The global smart waste market is forecast to grow at 16.82 percent year over year between 2014 and 2019, according to the report. The new report also emphasizes key advances in technology in the waste-management process.

Smart waste management refers to the management of solid municipal waste from residential societies, streets, public places, commercial buildings, hospitals and other institutions. It uses smart technologies, such as RFID disposal tags and sensor containers that provide real-time fill measurement of solid municipal waste. A sensor-based container, for example, can help reduce the overall collection and logistics cost of waste collection by approximately 50 percent, SandlerResearch.org reports, by helping authorities to more efficiently manage solid waste collecting routes, which ultimately reduces fuel and service costs. What’s more, the proper and efficient management of solid municipal waste can mitigate many problems related to pollution, climatic changes and public health.

The Global Smart Waste Market 2015–2019 research report has been prepared based on in-depth market analysis, with inputs from industry experts. The report covers the Americas, as well as the Asia-Pacific (APAC) and Europe, the Middle East and Africa (EMEA) regions, and also covers the Global Smart Waste market landscape and its growth prospects during the coming years. The report includes a discussion of the key vendors operating in this market.