RFID News Roundup

By Bob Violino

IBM opens European test center; Impinj raises $22 million in funding; Tharo adds RFID wizard to software; Lab-ID appoints North American rep; FEIG adds support for ISO 14443-4.

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The following are news announcements made during the week of July 5.

IBM Opens European Test Center

IBM has opened its European RFID Testing & Solution Center in La Gaude, France. The company says the test center is designed to enable European-based companies to test RFID systems in real-world environments. Services offered at the center include the identification, evaluation and integration of end-to-end industry solution prototypes; supporting information technology and business processes; middleware and applications; and antenna and tag properties. IBM says it has also built prototype RFID systems for a number of industries, including pharmaceuticals, retail, logistics, manufacturing, electronics, government and transportation.

Impinj Raises $22 Million in Funding

Impinj, a fabless semiconductor company based in Seattle, Wash., has raised $22 million. The third-round funding was provided by ARCH Venture Partners, Madrona Venture Group and Polaris Venture Partners, which had invested in previous rounds, as well as three new investors: Mobius Venture Capital, Unilever Technology Ventures and the UPS Strategic Enterprise Fund. Impinj also announced that Aaron Cheatham, a principal at Mobius, joined Impinj’s board of directors. The company said the funding would be used to speed up development of RFID products. Impinj plans to produce microchips based on the next-generation EPC standard when that standard is finalized later this year.

Tharo Adds RFID Wizard to Software

Tharo Systems, a Brunswick, Ohio-based bar code and automatic data capture systems provider, has added an “RFID Wizard” to the latest version of its EasyLabel software. The wizard enables users to create an Electronic Product Code, based on the current EPCglobal specification, by prompting them to enter the company prefix and item reference number or serial reference number used on standard bar codes. The software then generates an EPC and instructs the RFID label printer/encoder to write the number to the RFID transponder in the label. The software currently works with RFID-enabled thermal transfer label printers from Zebra and Printronix. Tharo says it will add more printer drivers as other printer manufacturers add RFID capabilities to their printers.

Lab-ID Appoints North American Rep

Lab-ID, an Italian RFID systems provider founded by Mauro Benetton, has appointed Denpa-ID to be its representative in North America. Lab-ID designs and manufactures RFID tags and readers that operate at 13.56 MHz and are ISO 15693-compliant. It has focused on RFID systems designed to be used on apparel, but has also developed systems for using RFID for in contactless tickets (such as for mass transportation systems), tracking goods in manufacturing plants, security and traceability. Based in Chandler, Ariz., Denpa-ID is a privately held manufacturers’ representative company founded in late 2002. Its sole focus is the sale and distribution of RFID products and services in North America. In addition to Lab-ID, it represents AEG ID, a German manufacturer of low-frequency transponders for industrial applications, and Aontec, an Irish manufacturer of prelaminated inlays and blank cards with embedded 13.56 MHz transponders.

FEIG Adds Support for ISO 14443-4

Feig Electronic, a German maker of RFID systems, has upgraded the firmware for its OBID Classic-Pro 13.56 MHz readers to add support for transponders using ISO 14443 Part 4. ISO 14443 is a group of standards that cover contactless smart cards. Part 4 describes protocols and mechanisms for data transfer mainly used in smart cards that have a microprocessor with complex cryptographic features that secure monetary transactions. The OBID readers will automatically recognize when a transponder in the read field uses the ISO 14443-4 protocol for the data transfer and transmit data using this faster, more secure method. The readers can also communicate with 13.56 MHz tags using ISO 14443-3 A and ISO 14443-3 B protocols. The new firmware is available for all products of the OBID Classic-Pro reader family.

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