RFID News Roundup

By Beth Bacheldor

SML Group intros smaller, more sensitive inlay ••• CISC Semiconductor unveils UHF RFID real-time sniffer ••• eAgile launches tiny UHF inlay for pharmaceutical, health-care items and more ••• Most retailers ready for Internet of Things, Zebra survey finds ••• JW Marriott Hotel Santo Domingo implements InvoTech uniform and linen system ••• Toshiba launches SDHC memory card with built-in NFC ••• PLS acquires RTI Manager to offer complete RFID-enabled pallet/container tracking solution.

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The following are news announcements made during the past week by the following organizations:
SML Group;
CISC Semiconductor;
eAgile;
Zebra Technologies;
JW Marriott Hotel Santo Domingo, InvoTech;
Toshiba;
PLS, and RTI Manager.

SML Group Intros Smaller, More Sensitive Inlay

SML Group has introduced the GB4, a new inlay featuring a smaller footprint and improved sensitivity, making it suitable ideal for item-level inventory applications in retail and supply chains, such as tracking stacked denim or garments on hangers.

SML’s_GB4 inlay

The GB4 incorporates NXP SemiconductorsUcode7 chip, unveiled in 2013 (see NXP Releases Ucode 7, a Faster and More Sensitive Chip), an ultrahigh-frequency (UHF) RFID integrated circuit that increases read and write sensitivity (meaning the chip requires less power to be read or encoded than previous NXP chips), and greater backscatter strength (to improve read performance).

The GB4 measures 42 millimeters by 16 millimeters (1.65 inches by 0.63 inch), making it suitable for smaller-sized garment labels and care labels with washing instructions, SML Group reports. Its read sensitivity at -21 dBm allows for more secure and accurate reading of tags in noisy environments and over longer distances, according to SML, and its write sensitivity at -16dBm allows for faster chip encoding, as well as for bulk encoding. The inlay’s chip also features a Product Status Flag feature, allowing for electronic article surveillance (EAS) alarm functionality, SML Group indicates. The inlay can be used in a stick-on label, encapsulated inside an apparel hangtag or embedded in a care label. Compliant with the EPC Gen 2 standard, the GB4 operates at a frequency of 860 to 960 MHz across the global UHF RFID frequency band. The inlay has successfully passed the Auburn University‘s ARC testing regimen, sanctioning its use in the retail apparel market.

CISC Semiconductor Unveils UHF RFID Real-Time Sniffer

CISC Semiconductor (CISC), an Austrian design and consulting service firm for industries that develop embedded microelectronic systems, has announced a new software module, known as the CISC RFID Xplorer Sniffer, for its CISC RFID Xplorer, an ultrahigh-frequency (UHF) RFID tag-performance test system for RFID tag sensitivity, communication range and backscatter measurements.

CISC’s Sniffer software user interface

The new CISC RFID Xplorer Sniffer module is a tool to analyze RFID reader and tag signals. The detection and decoding of reader commands and tag responses is accomplished in real time. According to the company, the module lets users trigger reader commands, and then capture the communication between the reader and tags into a TXT file. Complex waveform signals can be recorded and saved on a hard drive in a stream file, in order to make them available for further analysis in both the time and frequency domain. This includes message parsing, waveform analysis, frequency spectrum and link timing analysis. The sniffer module covers the RF band from 50 MHz to 2.2 GHz. It is designed to be easy to use, and can be set up within couple of seconds, CISC Semiconductor reports. It supports multiple standards, including GS1 EPC Gen 2, ISO/IEC 18000-63, RAIN RFID and the upcoming ISO/IEC 29167 crypto suites.

Unveiled in 2012 (see CISC Unveils Portable UHF Tag Test System), the CISC RFID Xplorer now has upgraded features, such as extended read and write memory tests and test support for crypto suites fully supporting GS1 EPCglobal and ISO/IEC test standards. It is also developed to perform all Brazil RFID test standards, such as SINIAV, ARTESP and Brasil ID, and can be used to measure both standalone tags and tags applied to products, as well as perform a complete analysis of multiple tags.

eAgile Launches Tiny UHF Inlay for Pharmaceutical, Health-Care Items and More

eAgile Inc. has released its new ultrahigh-frequency (UHF) EPC Gen 2-compliant MicroWing inlay. The company likens the MicroWing’s size—8 millimeters by 22 millimeters (0.3 inch by 0.9 inch)—to that of a paper clip, and describes it as the smallest RFID inlay available on the market to achieve a greater than 2-meter (6.6-foot) read range.

The MicroWing features an Impinj Monza R6 chip and has 96 bits of Electronic Product Code (EPC) memory (future releases will have larger memory banks of both EPC and user memory). The MicroWing tag’s small footprint allows for conversion into small tags, labels and packaging solutions, eAgile reports, without compromising performance or product design.

“Our health-care clients asked us to develop a small tag with robust performance and our results have been so favorable that the MicroWing appears to be a game changer for the entire RFID marketplace,” stated Gary Burns, eAgile Inc.’s CEO, in a prepared statement. “This tag provides a new option for item-level intelligence, and we look forward to using the MicroWing to overcome many challenging applications worldwide.”

Although the MicroWing was designed for pharmaceutical and health-care products, the company notes, its features and performance characteristics also make it suitable for jewelry, cosmetics, apparel, footwear and many other intelligent packaging applications. The MicroWing is available through eAgile’s service bureau in converted formats, and can also be sequentially printed and encoded to customer specifications.

Most Retailers Ready for Internet of Things, Zebra Survey Finds

Nearly all retailers are ready to make the changes required to adopt the Internet of Things (IoT), according to a report based on survey conducted by Forrester Research on behalf of Zebra Technologies.

Zebra’s IoT survey

The survey of nearly 600 firms also showed that a majority of retailers believe the IoT will be the most important technological initiative of the decade. The Internet of Things leverages machine-to-machine (M2M) technologies, such as sensors, GPS technology, and RFID tags, to link physical assets to analytics and control systems via the Internet. (Specifically, the definition of IoT used for the study is “smart interconnected devices that businesses use to get more visibility into the identification, location, and condition of products, assets, transactions, or people to drive more effective and timely business decisions or to improve customer interactions.”)

“The advent of new technologies has completely changed the way shoppers interact with retailers, but the shopping experience can be the retailer’s strategic differentiator,” said Nick D’Alessio, Zebra Technologies’ global retail practice leader, in a prepared statement. “With the Internet of Things, retailers will be empowered with the intelligence to make strategic, informed business decisions that improve customer loyalty and associate effectiveness while creating exciting experiences for their shoppers.”

The study found that nearly 96 percent of retail decision makers are ready to make the changes required to adopt the IoT. Nearly two-thirds, or 67 percent, of respondents already have implemented the IoT, according to Zebra, while another 26 percent of retailers are planning to deploy within a year.

Their readiness is backed by a belief that the IoT brings real value. More than 80 percent of surveyed firms agreed that IoT solutions will be the most strategic technology initiative for their organization within a decade, and more than half of surveyed retailers expect the IoT to provide operational and actionable data regarding the locations and conditions of tracked objects, which can ultimately improve operations, create new revenue streams and enhance the customer experience.

According to the survey, retail decision makers named real-time locating systems (RTLS), sensors and RFID as the most important technologies for enabling IoT implementations. Specifically, 83 percent of firms identified Wi-Fi infrastructure and real-time location tracking technologies as important or very important components to enable IoT solutions, while 80 percent rated “condition sensors” as important or very important and 75 percent identified passive RFID as important or very important, closely followed by Near Field Communication (NFC) at 73 percent and Bluetooth technology, including beacons, at 70 percent.

There are challenges, the study found. Approximately half, or 56 percent, of the respondents listed integration challenges as the top barrier to IoT implementations, while 47 percent mentioned security and privacy as a chief concern.

JW Marriott Hotel Santo Domingo Implements InvoTech Uniform and Linen Systems

InvoTech Systems has announced that the newly opened JW Marriott Hotel Santo Domingo has implemented InvoTech’s ultrahigh-frequency (UHF) RFID-based uniform- and linen-tracking system. The property’s 15,000 linens and 2,000 staff uniforms are managed by InvoTech software, designed to increase operating efficiency and ensure that all items are accounted for.

The hotelier is employing InvoTech’s RFID laundry-cart reading station to automatically track uniforms and linens going to and from the laundry. Handheld RFID readers with InvoTech Mobile Software are used by personnel to process the physical inventory of all uniforms and linens, and to manage linen storerooms. The hotel also utilizes an integrated Signature Capture Terminal to record employee signatures when initially assigning uniforms to employees. RFID Uniform Pick-Up Stations automatically record when workers take possession of uniforms to assign responsibility. An RFID Linen Inventory Processing Station is also in place to add and delete linen items. The implementation leverages UHF RFID laundry tags made by Fujitsu Frontech North America, as well as Impinj UHF RFID Speedway Revolution readers.

Toshiba Launches SDHC Memory Card With Built-in NFC

Toshiba’s Semiconductor & Storage Products division has launched a new secure digital high-capacity (SDHC) memory card with built-in Near Field Communication (NFC) functions. The card uses NFC RFID technology to allow a user to exchange and view the data stored on it, Toshiba reports, as opposed to having to put the SD card into a PC or digital camera to do so. After installing Toshiba’s Memory Card Preview app on their NFC-enabled Android smartphone, a user can hold the handset over the memory card to preview the available storage space, as well as up to 16 thumbnails of the photos stored on the card.

The NFC built-in SDHC Memory Card will be available in three versions, based on the memory chip (8 GB, 16 GB and 3 GB), though part of the storage capacity is reserved for card functionality. Each version weighs approximately 2 grams (0.07 ounce) and measures 32 millimeters (1.3 inches) long by 24 millimeters (0.9 inch) wide and 2.1 millimeters (0.08 inch) thick. The card’s RFID functionality is compliant with the NFC Forum Type 3 Tag standard, and operates at 13.56 MHz. It works with NFC-enabled Android smartphones running the Android 4.0 to 4.4 operating system. Sales of the 8 GB, 16 GB and 32 GB cards will commence in February, according to Toshiba. The Memory Card Preview smartphone app will be available free of charge from the Google Play website once the sale of the new memory cards have begun.

PLS Acquires RTI Manager to Offer Complete RFID-Enabled Pallet/Container Tracking Solution

British returnable packaging specialist PLS has announced that it has acquired U.S.-based supply chain technology specialist RTI Manager. According to PLS, the acquisition follows a five-year strategic partnership between the two companies, involving the development of technology for returnable transport items (RTIs) and the supply chain in response to growing market needs, and gives PLS full ownership of RTI Manager’s proprietary asset-management and -tracking software products.

RTI Manager’s software provides close to real-time visibility of the returnable packaging asset pool by location, so companies can dynamically reconcile balances. The system can issue alerts if components of the supply chain move out of pre-agreed tolerances. PLS already incorporates passive EPC Gen 2 RFID tags in its plastic pallets and other RTIs (see PLS Uses RFID to Track Pallets, Containers). With its acquisition of RTI Manager, the company says it can now provide a complete returnable packaging supply chain solution designed to help improve efficiency and traceability for customers in such sectors as retail, wholesale, manufacturing, engineering and postal services. PLS reports that it also will benefit from the experience and expertise of RTI Manager’s management team, especially in the application of technology to the supply chain.

Increased visibility and a greater amount of RTI information can be used to improve the efficiency of a customer’s asset pool utilization, PLS reports. Businesses can pinpoint and reduce losses, damage and inefficiency, while removing expensive and inefficient manual management processes from the supply chain.