RFID News Roundup

By Beth Bacheldor

RF Code launches smallest active asset-management tag; Survitec selects Tego's RFID solution for ATA 2000-compliant life vests; RPH Engineering unveils RFID-enabled gun safe; Dutch mental health-care provider uses Ekahau's RTLS to ensure staff safety; Canada's National Research Council partners with industry to develop printed RFID tags; Cubic Transportation Systems launches NextWave Mobile Business System for transit agencies; PinPoint Commercial and Thrive Senior Living build RFID-enabled assisted-living community.

The following are news announcements made during the past week by the following organizations: RF Code; Survitec, Tego; RPH Engineering; Ekahau; Canada's National Research Council; Cubic Transportation Systems; PinPoint Commercial and Thrive Senior Living.

RF Code Launches Smallest Active Asset-Management Tag

RF Code's M174 tag

RF Code has introduced its smallest RFID-enabled asset-tracking tag to date: the M174. The company says the battery-powered 433 MHz tag offers improved data transmission for higher accuracy, and a selection of installation tabs for flexibility in mounting and reuse throughout its lifespan. Designed for rack-mounted assets, the M174 integrates an infrared (IR) sensor with four receivers for clear signal transmission from any direction; broadcasts its unique ID number and IR location using RF Code's patented communication protocol; and features anti-collision technology for environments containing a high tag density. According to RF Code says, it has replaceable tabs allowing easy installation using flag, loop or thumbscrew tabs on any standard rack-mounted assets that need to be tracked, located and identified, as well as a replaceable tab design enabling reuse throughout the life of the tag. In addition, the tag is approximately 40 percent smaller than the company's current IT asset tag, yet still has a five-year battery life (the tag is powered by a coin cell battery) and the same read range, RF Code reports. The M174 tag will perform reliably in extreme temperature environments, the company indicates, ranging from -20 degrees to +70 degrees Celsius (-4 degrees to +158 degrees Fahrenheit). What's more, it performs well after exposure to humidity and hot-cold cycles. Encased in Lexan polycarbonate, the tag measures 1.56 inches (39.6 millimeters) long by 1.27 inches (32.3 millimeters) wide and 0.35 inch (8.9 millimeters) high, and weighs 0.4 ounce (11 grams). The tag works with RF Code's new Asset Manager Mobile, an asset-management software application for iPads, tablets and smartphones, as well as interactive desktop graphing and charting capabilities (see RFID News Roundup: RF Code Launches New Mobile Management Platform for Data Centers).

Survitec Selects Tego's RFID Solution for ATA 2000-compliant Life Vests
Survitec Group, a manufacturer of safety and survival equipment for the aviation and defense industries, has announced that it has selected Tego as its RFID solution provider for tagging the life vests it supplies to Airbus. Survitec says it is using Tego's RFID tagging solution, which includes Tego's rugged high-memory EPC Gen 2 passive ultrahigh-frequency (UHF) RFID TegoChip, its EPC Gen 2 passive UHF Dual Memory TegoTag inlay, TegoView software for compliance with the ATA Spec 2000 standard for RFID tagging from the Air Transport Association of America (ATA)—now known as Airlines for America. Tego will also provide its RFID expertise. With the addition of Tego's RFID solution, Survitec can now deliver tagged life vests compliant with the latest version of ATA Spec 2000, including the new dual-record data format now required by aviation companies. Survitec has already began delivering tagged life vests to other key customers, the company reports.

RPH Engineering Unveils RFID-Enabled Gun Safe

The GunBox

Engineering firm RPH Engineering is developing an RFID-enabled safe designed to keep firearms protected and out of the wrong hands, but also convenient to access when needed. The GunBox features an aircraft-strength aluminum alloy shell, and uses RFID and a biometric fingerprint scanner to keep handguns securely locked. It can be opened via an RFID-enabled ring or wristband, which is included with every box, or via a biometric fingerprint reader that can store multiple fingerprints. The box can also be programmed to open using a combination of the RF signature and fingerprint reader. The GunBox has incorporated off-the-shelf parts adhering to existing standards (ISO 15693), and the device's printed circuit boards (PCBs) and firmware were developed in-house, according to Michael Colton, The GunBox's electrical engineer. According to Colton, The GunBox is using Murata's MagicStrap high-frequency (HF) chips for their extremely small size and integrated antenna. For the reader, The GunBox uses an STMicroelectronics CR95HF 13.56 MHz multi-protocol contactless transceiver IC with a PCB loop antenna. Ryan Hyde, The GunBox's inventor and engineer, developed the RFID-enabled gun safe after realizing that gun owners are forced to choose between safety or convenience when storing their firearms. The GunBox addresses both of these needs, the company reports, by enabling rapid access to a firearm via a fingerprint ID, a unique RFID ring or bracelet or a combination of both. In addition to the RFID and biometric fingerprint capabilities, the device features alert notifications when open, moved or tampered with; GPS tracking as it is moved; battery backup that lasts several weeks; several mounting holes for discreet storage in almost any orientation; and a Kensington lock port for additional security. RPH Engineering is using crowdfunding via an Indiegogo campaign to raise $100,000. The company is offering funding options ranging from $10 (for a bumper sticker) to $390 (for the fully capable version that includes RFID, the biometric capability, alerting and GPS tracking). The GunBox is slated for delivery by December 2013.

Dutch Mental Health-care Provider Uses Ekahau's RTLS to Ensure Staff Safety
Ekahau has announced that Bouman Mental Health Care, located in Rotterdam, The Netherlands, is employing Ekahau's RFID-based real-time location system (RTLS) to improve staff safety via location-aware alerting. Ekahau's RTLS solution consists of the company's Wi-Fi-based RFID tags, infrared (IR) beacons to make location data more granular and Ekahau's Vision software (which determines the location of that individual's tag). Hospital employees wear Ekahau's active RFID badges and also use Ascom i62 handsets featuring Ekahau Positioning Clients to request help from nearby caregivers, and to make their real-time location known during emergencies. The handset acts like the Ekahau tags, the company explains, regularly beaconing a unique ID number linked to a particular staff member's identity. Bouman provides care to patients with addictive disorders and other psychiatric illnesses, among other services, and ensuring staff safety is critical, according to Ekahau. Employees who require assistance can pull down on the Ekahau badge's patent-pending safety switch, and their location will appear as a text message displayed on badges worn by other employees and security teams closest to the incident. Ekahau's active RFID badges operate over an existing Aruba Networks wireless local area network (WLAN), and eliminate the need for dialing and map look-ups. In addition, Ekahau notes, when an alarm is triggered on an Ascom handset, or in the event that a fire evacuation is required, mass notifications are instantly sent to Ekahau badges and Ascom handsets. The system also offers alarm escalation to external parties, the company adds, thereby ensuring staff safety during evening shifts. The Ekahau RTLS solution was implemented in eight buildings on campus, by Zetacom, a Dutch systems integrator and Ekahau certified partner. Other organizations that have deployed Ekahau's RTLS with the Ascom handsets include St. Andrew's Healthcare, the United Kingdom's largest nonprofit provider of mental-health services (see St. Andrew's Healthcare Gets Help in Real Time).

Canada's National Research Council Partners With Industry to Develop Printed RFID Tags
The Canada's National Research Council has announced a new program and industrial consortium designed to spur the development of interactive products for consumers, by adding electronic intelligence capabilities to printed materials. Using new functional inks, printing and imprinting processes, and electronic circuits, the printed materials technology could be utilized for drug packaging that can track dosage history, as well as for food labeling that indicates when food has spoiled, among other things, according to the Canadian government and partners. The Printable Electronics program—a $40-million NRC investment over a span of five years—will develop technologies and lightweight electronic devices. The program aims to develop technologies to fabricate fully printed Near Field Communication (NFC) RFID tags, says Charles Drouin, the NRC's chief media-relations officer. This will require new high-performance materials able to operate in the MHz range, the optimization of printing techniques to achieve high relative positioning accuracy between printed layers, and new design rules for circuit layout to account for device variability. In particular, Drouin reports, NRC's material research will focus on high-performance conductive inks (for printed antennas) and semi-conductive inks with high carrier mobility (for high-frequency printed transistors). Various material systems are currently being developed for these applications, ranging from organic chemistries to nano-particle and nano-tube formulations. At present, the program is examining high-frequency (HF) and NFC passive RFID tags. The progression toward fully printed tags will be gradual, Drouin explains, starting with printed antennas, then printed power conditioning and finally printed logic and memory. The Printable Electronics consortium (a joint effort integrating the public and private research and development expertise in the printable electronic industry) is pooling resources from Canadian companies and research centers to provide the program with strategic research and development, technical services, and test design and manufacturing techniques. It will also help industrial clients solve the technical gaps and commercial challenges to developing new products, as well as provide a robust technology platform from which other innovations can be pursued. The program's long-term goal is to position the packaging, commercial and security printing industries to be early adopters of emerging printable solutions, making them global leaders. This will be accomplished through a coordinated approach, by engaging or creating Canadian industry supply chains. According to the council, the program is expected to drive the adoption of previously unavailable information and communication technologies, offering many different benefits. Players in Printable Electronics consortium include Krupack Packaging, a division of Kruger; the Xerox Research Centre of Canada, a division of Xerox Canada Inc.; GGI International; RFID Canada; Jones Packaging Inc.; the Communications Research Centre Canada; MW Canada Ltd.; and Canadian Bank Note Co. Ltd. Among the partners publicly disclosed, Kruger, Xerox, RFID Canada and CRC have mentioned an interest in RFID, Drouin says. Other non-disclosed members are also working on printed RFID technology, he adds.

Cubic Transportation Systems Launches NextWave Mobile Business System for Transit Agencies
Cubic Transportation Systems, part of Cubic Corp., has announced its NextWave Mobile Business System. The company says the system, a platform that enables transit operators to rapidly and securely provide new mobile services to their customers, is in response to the tremendous worldwide growth in smartphone adoption. According to Cubic Transportation Systems, NextWave is designed to make it easier to deploy mobile services, by providing a cloud-based platform that integrates with both closed- and open-loop contactless fare systems, payment processors, mobile networks, Near Field Communication (NFC) platforms, and both iOS and Android smartphones and tablets. With NextWave, the company reports, transit agencies can introduce an agency-branded mobile application backed by cloud-based support services that leverage NFC RFID technology, in order to turn a mobile phone into a contactless fare card; enable mobile fare purchases, by turning NFC-enabled mobile phones into the equivalent of a ticket vending machine that can reload contactless transit cards in real time; offer customer support through mobile self-services, including the management of all fare purchases; review balances and receive notifications regarding account status and usage; help travelers plan journeys and receive alerts about travel conditions; and generate new revenues by leveraging advertising and mobile-marketing opportunities. Cubic Transportation Systems recently conducted a two-month trial to test the platform's ability to decrease deployment timelines, as well as check systems integrity. During the trial, the company explains, participants purchased fare products, checked card balances and found travel and transaction histories directly through interaction with a mobile app running on both Apple and Android devices. The NextWave system provided the app connectivity to the agency's back office, effectively making the mobile phone an integrated terminal on the fare system network equivalent to in-station vending machines and card validators on buses.

PinPoint Commercial and Thrive Senior Living Build RFID-enabled Assisted-Living Community
PinPoint Commercial and Thrive Senior Living have announced that they have commenced construction on their new property, The Legacy at Forest Ridge Assisted Living and Memory Care Facility. The facility will incorporate technologies specifically designed for the residents, including remote RFID resident-location monitoring, wireless RFID door entry for resident security and staff audits and management, LG point-of-care systems for tracking resident quality of life, bed-weight and motion sensors, and other technologies. Located in Schertz, Texas, near downtown San Antonio, the facility will be one story in height, contain as many as 112 assisted-living and memory-care beds and 28 memory-care beds, and serve seniors in the northeast San Antonio metro area. According to Charles Turner, a principal at PinPoint Commercial, his company is currently bidding out contracts for RFID technologies with a handful of vendors, and no technology has yet been selected. The Legacy at Forest Ridge follows a unique "Main Street & Neighborhood" design, the two companies report, in which each wing of the facility will serve as a separate "neighborhood" for the residents living there. The facility will also be engineered around a central "Main Street," showcasing such amenities as a restaurant, a movie theater, a store, a spa, a gymnasium and a sports bar. The PinPoint-Thrive team is currently collaborating on additional assisted-living communities elsewhere throughout Texas, as well as in Florida and Georgia.