RFID News Roundup

The following are news announcements made during the past week by the following organizations:
William Frick & Co.;
Farsens;
IDTronic;
One Stop, IPC Media;
Orderella, TAMOCO; and
steute Schaltgeräte and Identytec.

William Frick & Co. Intros RFID Label for Tracking High-Voltage Insulators

Frick’s SmartMark WF-SM-SI01 insulator tag

William Frick & Co. has announced that it has expanded its SmartMark product line with the new WF-SM-SI01, an RFID label designed for electric power insulators. Electric utilities, including transmission and distribution companies, can use the tags to bring greater accuracy and efficiency to the process of managing, deploying and replacing insulators.

The WF-SM-SI01 contains a passive ultrahigh-frequency (UHF) EPC Gen 2 RFID tag compliant with the ISO 18000-6C standard, with a read range of up to 35 feet and 128 bits of Electronic Product Code (EPC) memory. According to William Frick, polymer (also known as composite or nonceramic) electric insulators are typically difficult to attach an RFID label to, but the WF-SM-Sl01 features a special peel-and-stick adhesive that bonds securely to insulator surfaces, such as glass, porcelain or silicone. Composed of ultraviolet (UV)-resistant and outdoor-tested materials, it is designed for use in severe industrial environments and to withstand outdoor exposure. Utilities can employ a standard RFID reader to track tagged insulators and other assets as they enter and exit storage facilities and yards. When attached to insulators deployed out in the field, William Frick reports, the label offers a long read range, so workers can track overhead and long-distance assets. Custom configurations are available for porcelain or glass insulators, and labels can also be sized to conform to almost any silicone insulator.

Farsens Announces Passive UHF Tag With Switch-Monitoring Sensor

Farsens’ X32 switch-monitoring tag

Farsens, a Spanish developer of passive RFID sensor tags, has unveiled a battery-free ultrahigh-frequency (UHF) EPC Gen 2 RFID tag that can be used to determine whether as many as 32 switches are open or closed. The X32 is capable of transmitting a unique identifier, as well as each switch’s status, to a commercial EPC Gen 2 reader, without the need for a battery on the sensor tag. Built in a compact PCB format, the tag is designed for monitoring switch status in applications for which accessibility is restricted, or for which the use of batteries is not recommended. The tag lets users leverage existing UHF readers to automate regular product checks, such as the status of their connections. Such checks typically require a complicated manual inspection process or expensive automation tools, according to the company. Any mechanical contact that is electrically conductive can act as a switch, Farsens notes; for example, each switch monitor could be connected to a safety belt, so that the belts’ status could be read wirelessly using an RFID reader.

The X32 consists of Farsens’ proprietary RFID integrated circuit—the ANDY100—for energy harvesting and wireless communication, start-up circuitry based on a voltage monitor, a microcontroller and a connector with multiple general-purpose input/output (GPIO) pins (one for each switch) and signal-conditioning circuitry for monitoring up to 32 switches. The tag contains a 96-bit Electronic Product Code (EPC) number, a 32-bit tag identifier (TID) and a password-protected kill command, and its reading distance is more than 1.5 meters (5 feet). The X32 tag is available in a variety of antenna designs and sizes, depending on the specific application, according to Farsens. It can be embedded in a wide variety of materials, such as plastics or concrete, and can be encapsulated in an IP67 or IP68 casing for use within harsh environments. Evaluation kits are available.

IDTronic Unveils New Flexible, Lightweight UHF Tag

iDtronic’s Flex Tag UHF

IDTronic has announced a new flexible, lightweight passive ultrahigh-frequency (UHF) tag made of PVC and polyethylene terephthalate (PET). Suitable for tracking moving objects, such as automobiles and parts, the Flex Tag UHF (model ST-FT-115-UHF-HG3) features Alien Technologies‘ Squiggle inlay, made with a Higgs-3 chip compliant with the EPC Gen 2 and ISO 18000-6C standards. The tag can be operated worldwide, in the global UHF band of 840 to 960 MHz. It can accommodate an Electronic Product Code (EPC) of 96 to 480 bits, and has 512 bits of user memory and a 64-bit unique tag identifier (TID). The tag measures 115 millimeters by 20 millimeters by 2 millimeters (4.5 inches by 0.8 inch by 0.08 inch), and has standard mounting holes that make it easy to affix to a variety of materials. It is rated IP54, signifying that it is protected against particles and liquids. IDTronic offers full, individual, four-color offset printing for the Flex Tag UHF.

IPC Media Delivers Magazine Discounts via Beacons at One Stop Stores
U.K. convenience store operator One Stop, a subsidiary of Tesco, which operates more than 740 neighborhood stores across England and Wales, has partnered with IPC Media, a U.K. publisher of print and digital magazine content, and Time Inc. to deliver Bluetooth-enabled digital promotions to consumers’ smartphones when they enter One Stop stores. The promotion will be for discounted copies of IPC Media magazines—Chat, Pick Me Up, Woman and TV & Satellite Week—and will be available at all One Stop stores throughout the month of September.

The campaign is being delivered via Appflare‘s Bluetooth beacon network, in partnership with prepaid payments processor epay. Appflare recently announced that it is making its beacon hardware, install and maintenance solution free to retailers that carry fast-moving consumer goods, alcohol or publishing brands. Qualifying retailers will have the service free of charge for three years; Appflare typically charges £35 ($58) per beacon to supply and install the hardware, but has been offering the beacons at no cost to qualifying U.K. retailers during July and August, and will continue to do so through September.

The solution includes a campaign platform, as well as an app for retailers that do not yet have their own. While Appflare’s solution is agnostic to beacon hardware (and can work with any existing installed base beacon hardware), it has partnered with StickNFind Technologies, which offers Bluetooth beacons that are about the size and thickness of a U.S. quarter, have a range of approximately 100 feet, and come with standard watch batteries that can be replaced, so the beacons are reusable. According to Appflare, the beacons are fully weather-sealed, have a minimum battery life of two years, and—using advanced battery-management techniques—can last for up to nine years. The beacons can adjust their power and range in accordance with the use case and location type. According to Appflare, they are secure, easy to install and tamper-proof.

Beacons have been installed at every One Stop store, including franchise stores, according to Appflare, and will communicate with One Stop’s app or Appflare’s Redeem app. To receive the offers, customers will need to download one of these apps, turn their notifications on and enable their Bluetooth connection upon entering the store. The beacons will send push-notifications to enabled apps as soon as a customer walks into the store (shoppers who have these apps installed but do not want to receive offers can opt out). The offers consist of discount codes that the consumer can redeem at the register, or share with friends via Facebook.

Orderella, TAMOCO Team Up on Beacon- and NFC-enabled Apps for Pubs and Bars
Orderella, a U.K. startup that has created an app enabling customers to order and pay for food and drinks via their smartphone, has teamed up with TAMOCO, another U.K. startup, to bolster its capabilities via Near Field Communication (NFC), Bluetooth beacon, QR and Wi-Fi technologies. TAMOCO provides NFC RFID solutions that feature business analytics software to help its clients (retailers and product marketers) learn more about the behavior of consumers who read NFC RFID tags deployed by those clients. Data could include trends regarding users’ interest in a particular product, based on which tags were read, as well as when and where this occurred (see TAMOCO Provides Analytics About NFC Use). Orderella’s app is designed to make it easier for patrons of bars and pubs to order and pay for drinks using their smartphones. The customers can either have their beverages delivered to their table, or receive a message on their phone once the drinks are ready to collect from the bar.

The partnership will let customers quickly download and/or launch the app by tapping their NFC phone on marketing materials and at point-of-sale (POS) systems containing RFID tags made with NXP SemiconductorsNTAG213 chips. In addition, customers will be able to receive special offers and promotions via Radius Networks‘ RadBeacon USB Bluetooth beacons, which can be powered by any available USB power source, and Kontakt.io‘s battery-powered beacons.

Identytec Offers E-Kanban System Made With steute Schaltgeräte Wireless Sensors

Steute Schaltgeräte’s RF 96 TK wireless switch

Identytec, a German automatic identification and mobile technologies company, has developed a wireless kanban solution that features wireless, RF-enabled components—such as optical sensors and position switches—provided by steute Schaltgeräte. By eliminating the cables, steute Schaltgeräte explains, the wireless kanban system simplifies and optimizes a production system’s operation.

The solution includes steute Schaltgeräte’s ID Tag, a mobile call button that lets assembly personnel automatically request goods or parts at the push of a button. This process, according to steute Schaltgeräte, replaces manual kanban systems requiring staff members to remove cardboard cards and place them into a kanban box as soon as containers became empty (a method dating back to the 1970s, and designed to provide the factory’s planning staff with constant feedback in order to reduce warehouse stock to a minimum, but not put the company in danger of running out). The ID Tag button automatically signals an enterprise resource planning (ERP) system to resupply the assembly point in question with the correct part or product, steute Schaltgeräte adds.

In addition, Identytec developed the ID Shelf, an automatic shelf system that does not require the pushing of a button. A roller conveyor shelf is fitted with an optical sensor that can detect whether the shelf is full or empty. As soon as production or assembly personnel remove a container, the sensor communicates with the position switch, which automatically transmits a signal to a Wi-Fi communication unit—which, in turn, triggers an order in the ERP system. Identytec’s solution also includes the ID Connector software that links terminal devices, such as the roller conveyor shelf, to a control station, and thus to the ERP system as well. Other devices, such as label printers or mobile control terminals on forklifts, can also be integrated in the IT structure in the same way, according to steute Schaltgeräte.

Steute Schaltgeräte reports that it has provided all of the wireless switching devices used in Identytec’s e-Kanban system, including RF 96 TK wireless switches, RF 96 LT wireless optical sensors and wireless receivers. The devices are battery-powered, and because transmission is accomplished via radio signals requiring only small amounts of energy, the batteries can last for more than four years, the company claims. The devices operate at 868.3 MHz and employ the Enocean wireless transmission protocol.

According to steute Schaltgeräte, users of Identytec’s e-Kanban system include car manufacturers that have equipped numerous assembly points with the wireless solution. The method facilitates the simultaneous management of more than 1,000 articles along a production line or in a production hall, the firm reports. What’s more, the company says its wireless switchgear is utilized in other industrial wireless applications, including for the automated opening of warehouse gates, which can be triggered from forklift seats.