RFID News Roundup

By Beth Bacheldor

Kontakt.io unveils Cloud Beacon to manage Bluetooth beacons ••• HID Global adds HF tags to SlimFlex portfolio ••• Radius Networks to provide beacons for ATIV's EventPilot conference app ••• NFC tags give voice to London's Talking Statues ••• SeManTiK initiative studies physical endurance of contactless smart cards.

The following are news announcements made during the past week by the following organizations:
HID Global;
ATIV Software, Radius Networks;
Talking Statues; and

Kontakt.io Unveils Cloud Beacon to Manage Bluetooth Beacons

Kontact.io's Cloud Beacon

Kontakt.io, a startup provider of beacon hardware, back-end and software-development services, has announced its Cloud Beacon, which features a Wi-Fi radio to transmit and receive ID numbers, as well as time and distance data used to determine locations culled from signals transmitted by a store's Bluetooth beacons. Cloud Beacons can share the data with Kontakt.io servers via the Internet, and are designed to augment Kontakt.io's regular Bluetooth beacons used by businesses to track and engage with customers in stores.

The Cloud Beacon supports both Bluetooth Low Energy (BLE) and Apple's iBeacon, so it works with both iBeacon- and Android-based mobile platforms. It has a range of up to 200 meters (650 feet) using Wi-Fi to communicate with the Internet and up to 70 meters (230 feet) using the BLE protocol to communicate with the Bluetooth beacons. The Cloud Beacon uses a rechargeable battery with a connection to a standard electricity outlet. The battery has up to six years of battery life, according to Jack Hassan, Kontakt.io's chief brand officer, and the Cloud Beacon can run a complete profile of the iBeacon operating system on the same battery for four years; typically, running a complete iBeacon OS consumes a lot of power. "A four-year battery life is impressive," Hassan says. "Most beacons last a few months with these settings." The Cloud Beacon also includes a built-in memory module that can store the data culled from the various beacons if, for example, the Wi-Fi or the Internet connection goes down.

Headquartered in Kraków, Poland, with offices in New York City, Kontact.io says it designed its Cloud Beacon to act as the "manager" for the Bluetooth beacons. For example, all of the ID, distance and time data collected from regular beacons located throughout a store can be sent via the Wi-Fi connection and over the Internet to Kontakt.io's servers, and Cloud Beacon users can access that information through the company's Web Panel application. According to the company, it is currently developing analytics for use with the Web Panel, to provide stores with greater insights into a beacon's ID and location.

The Kontakt.io Web Panel also lets businesses remotely configure and manage the Bluetooth beacons, such as assigning actions based on a predefined trigger (proximity range, for instance). According to Hassan, the Cloud Beacon can set the beacons' configurations, such as each Bluetooth beacon's transmission power—for example, -12dBm gives Kontakt.io Bluetooth beacons a range of about 4 meters (13 feet)—and how frequently a Bluetooth beacon transmits its unique ID number. Reducing power has the advantage of extending a Bluetooth beacon's battery life. With the Cloud Beacon, an entire fleet of Bluetooth beacons—as long as they are in range of one Cloud Beacon—can be configured from anywhere. Before the Cloud Beacon was developed, administrators had to be physically next to the beacons in order to update them, using an iPhone or iPad running a Kontakt.io Administrator Mobile App. The app lets businesses test and manage Bluetooth beacons, as well as push updates whenever a configuration change is made or a new Kontakt.io firmware version is released. An Android-based version of this app is under development, according to the company.

Cloud Beacons can also collect anonymous MAC addresses from shoppers' mobile devices that have Wi-Fi turned on, whether or not a device's Bluetooth radio is activated. Privacy is protected, the company says, because identities are not collected; instead, the Cloud Beacon collects such data as where a MAC address moves or how long it remains in one location, in order to provide even more data and insight regarding customers within a store or venue.

The Cloud Beacon is available now for pre-order at a cost of $79 per device, or $225 for three ($75 each). The first units are scheduled to ship in October 2014, though Kontakt.io notes that only 10,000 will be available before January 2015.

HID Global Adds HF Tags to SlimFlex Portfolio

HID's SlimFlex Seal HF tag

HID Global has announced that its Identification Technologies division has added two high-frequency (HF) 13.56 MHz passive RFID tags to its existing SlimFlex Tag portfolio. The two new models—the SlimFlex Tag 200 HF and SlimFlex Seal Tag HF—feature flexible yet robust thermoplastic elastomer (TPE) housings and can withstand repeated bending, torsion and harsh elements, according to HID Global.

The new HF tags join the ultrahigh-frequency (UHF) models in the SlimFlex product line launched by HID in December 2011 (see RFID News Roundup: HID Global Adds Flexible Broadband UHF Tag to Portfolio). All SlimFlex Tags, including the new HF tags, are food-compatible, HID Global reports, and have an IP 68 rating, meaning they are waterproof. The tags are designed to withstand rugged use, providing high resistance to aggressive liquids and ultraviolet (UV) rays, as well as stability at high and sub-freezing temperatures.

The HF SlimFlex tags feature NXP Semiconductors' I-Code SLIx chip with 1024 bits of memory and comply with the ISO 15693 standard. Both models measure 3.3 inches by 1.0 inch by 0.1 inch (83 millimeters by 25 millimeters by 3 millimeters) and come in a high-visibility yellow color. The SlimFlex Tag 200 HF mounts flush to an object, even to irregular or cylindrical surfaces, by means of industrial glues, screws or standard cable ties. The SlimFlex Seal Tag HF has a similar, high-visibility rectangular housing, with an integrated nylon plastic cable tie that measures 15.0 inch by 0.3 inch by 0.1 inch (380 millimeters by 6 millimeters by 2 millimeters). The SlimFlex Seal Tag HF is designed for sealing industrial containers, bags, bins and boxes, to prevent unauthorized access to contents while in storage or during distribution.

Radius Networks to Provide Beacons for ATIV's EventPilot Conference App

EventPilot conference app

ATIV Software, a provider of event apps for medical and scientific meetings, has announced a partnership with Radius Networks. Under the terms of the deal, Radius Network will provide its RadBeacon Bluetooth beacons for meeting professionals using ATIV's EventPilot conference app who wish to send targeted messages to event attendees based on their indoor location. EventPilot displays specific messages depending on a participant's position at the venue, according to ATIV Software. Event planners can easily alert participants regarding attendee services, special events and conference sponsors, the company reports, or integrate with event gamification, such as scavenger hunts.

Announced in February 2014 (see RFID News Roundup: Radius Networks Announces USB-powered Bluetooth Beacon), Radius Networks' beacons use Bluetooth Low Energy (BLE) technology to transmit a unique ID number to notify cell phones and other mobile devices when they come within 100 feet. Unlike beacon devices that require batteries, the RadBeacon comes in the form of a USB dongle that can be powered by any available USB power source.

The EventPilot app lets meeting planners control which message is shown when and where, and to schedule push notifications triggered by RadBeacons. All notifications in EventPilot include the option of directing users either to a specific view within the conference app, such as a particular session or sponsor details, or to a website via a URL, according to the company. EventPilot is available as a native event app for iOS and Android, and can be downloaded from Google Play or Apple iTunes. A Web-enabled app is available for BlackBerry and Microsoft Windows Phone 7 devices.

NFC Tags Give Voice to London's Talking Statues
A collaborative project between Antenna Lab, not-for-profit arts organization Sing London and the Research Center for Museums and Galleries (RCMG) at the University of Leicester, is leveraging Near Field Communication (NFC) and mobile technologies to enable nearly 40 statues in London to speak to visitors. Talking Statues is a research and development (R&D) project that uses NFC tags affixed to the underside of plaques that are then sealed into position on the statue or the ground, according to Sam Billington, the global interactive design manager with Antenna Lab's parent organization, Antenna International. The project is utilizing RapidNFC's 50x50mm Square Reverse Ultralight tags, Billington says. The tags, made with NXP Semiconductors' Mifare Ultralight chip, are on-metal NFC tags designed specifically for use with smart posters or similar applications. "The tag is designed to be stuck to the back of the poster with the on-metal facing backwards," Billington explains.

The NFC tags work with Android devices; the plaques also feature QR codes for use with iOS phones, and a tiny URL is available that visitors can type directly into their phones. In each case, a sound file is downloaded onto the device that features a phone ring and a monologue. The monologues, written by playwrights, correspond with the statues and were recorded by various actors. For example, when a visitor engages with the plaque at the Sherlock Holmes statue on Baker Street in London, actor Ed Stoppard recites a monologue written by Anthony Horowitz.

The R&D project is designed not only to provide visitors with novel and animated history experiences, but also to examine how well NFC technology works in engaging with people. The RCMG will collect data indicating how users engage with the statues, as well as what they want when they do so—if they seek "a snippet of information, a culture bite, or something deeper and more involved"—according to a blog post on Antenna Lab's website. RCMG will harvest the data generated by the app, talk to users and report back on the level of uptake, and on how people found the experience.

The project began last month and aims to reach at least 100,000 users. According to Billington, the project is off to "a very strong and encouraging start," but it is still "too early to share" any of the data collected.

SeManTiK Initiative Studies Physical Endurance of Contactless Smart Cards
Contactless electronic identity documents (eIDs) in the form of smart cards are expected to be used for a variety of applications, including as identity cards, public transportation tickets, library cards and more. But with this broader use comes greater physical stresses and risks to the cards, according to a group consisting of Bundesdruckerei, Infineon Technologies and the Fraunhofer Institute for Reliability and Microintegration. The trio conducted a two-year research initiative, known as SeManTik, that studied the use of eIDs and developed realistic test methods and simulation models, while also exploring new methods of integrating the chip into the card body.

"If contactless eIDs are to be used several times a day in the future, they must withstand significantly greater stress than before," said Peter Stampka, an initiator and project manager at Infineon Technologies, in a prepared statement. "The results from SeManTiK will help to improve the mechanical strength of contactless eIDs and are therefore also an important step towards achieving parity between the optical and electronic security of ID documents."

More than 35,000 cards were packaged, tested, analyzed and evaluated in 20 different test combinations, according to the partnership. The new test sequences developed during the project made it possible to obtain high reliability and precise confirmation of failure rates and patterns—results that were observed in international smart card projects with more than 50 million cards in day-to-day use, the partnership said. According to a spokesperson for Bundesdruckerei, the test sequences developed as part of SeManTiK consist of a specific roller bending test, followed by a test as described in ISO/IEC 10373-1, and another roller bending test. The sequence enabled researchers to derive an indication of the expected (constant) field failure rate per year in the event of severe mechanical impact during the use of the smart card (failures, for example, while being used with public transport applications).

According to the spokesperson, the results of the tests are being shared with the international standardization community, in particular ISO/IEC JTC1/SC17/WG1, with the aim of further advancing standardized test methods for smart cards. A detailed project report is expected to soon be made available from the TIB Hannover, German National Library of Science and Technology.

The SeManTiK project was sponsored by the German Federal Ministry of Education and Research (BMBF), with €1.8 million ($2.4 million) over a span of 2.5 years. Experts with Germany's Federal Criminal Police Office for forensic and methodological analyses, as well as those working in the field of substrate materials for Specialty Films of Bayer MaterialScience AG, also contributed to the research work.