RFID News Roundup

By Andrew Price

DOD depots hit Gen 2 deadline;Infineon releases two new HF chips; Hitachi announces Wi-Fi tracking tag; GAO, LAT to codevelop RFID library system; Sandestin putting RFID on tap; SAP, Cisco back Reva in series-B funding; NFC Forum releases smart-poster protocol.

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The following are news announcements made during the week of Oct. 2.

DOD Depots Hit Gen 2 Deadline

The 19 Defense Distribution Centers (DDCs) that will need to receive RFID-tagged shipments from U.S. Department of Defense suppliers are now ready to process those shipments. In May, RFID systems integrator ODIN Technologies was charged with installing an EPC Gen 2 tag reading and data-collection infrastructure at each facility by Sept. 29 (see DOD Getting Gen 2-Ready). This enabled the DOD to prepare for its Oct. 1 sunset date. After that date, the department has said, it would no longer accept shipments tagged with Gen 1 tags, though the readers are backward-compatible and will still be able to read Gen 1 tags. More than 200 Gen 2 RFID reading portals have been installed at the centers. In addition, Psion Teklogix has installed GlobeRanger's iMotion Edgeware software at the centers for use in extracting, interpreting and transmiting data gathered by the portals.

Infineon Releases Two New HF Chips

German chipmaker Infineon Technologies says it has developed two new RFID transponder chips, each designed for high-frequency item-tracking applications in logistics and manufacturing environments: the my-d light and the my-d vicinity HC RFID chips. The my-d light chip includes an anticollision feature designed to prevent tags in close proximity from interfering with one another. Infineon says the anticollision protocol enables up to 50 tags using the my-d chip in close proximity to be read or written to in about one second, regardless of each tag's orientation. The my-d light chip stores 416 bits of non-volatile user memory (equal to 52 text characters). Tags containing the my-d light RFID chip can be used for brand protection and supply-chain item tracking, as well as asset and inventory control, such as library and media-management applications. The new my-d vicinity HC chip is designed for use with antennas as small as 8 millimeters, reducing the overall size of the tags. Such tags can be as small as 10 millimeters (0.4 inch). Infineon says both chips are compliant with ISO's 15693 and 18000-3 mode 1 standards.

Hitachi Announces Wi-Fi Tracking Tag

Japanese chipmaker Hitachi has announced a new active RFID tag designed for locating people while being served by a wireless local area network. The tag, known as the AirLocation II Tag-w, communicates to a wireless LAN using the IEEE 802.11 Wi-Fi protocol. Building managers can use tag-read events to know when the individuals to whom the tags are issued enter or leave defined zones, depending on the location of the Wi-Fi receivers that pick up the tags' IDs. The AirLocation II Tag-w also includes an emergency button employees can press if they need assistance. Once pressed, the button sends an emergency message to a designated call center, which automatically forwards the employee's location to emergency-response agencies. The Air Location II Tag-w is now available at a price of 21,000 yen (US$179), according to a statement issued by the company.

GAO, LAT to Codevelop RFID Library System

RFID hardware supplier GAO RFID and Library Automation Technologies (LAT), an automation solutions provider for libraries, have announced plans to codevelop and comarket RFID solutions for the library market. The companies say they will integrate LAT's Flashscan self-checkout system for libraries with GAO's RFID tag, label and reader products so library patrons can check out tagged materials via RFID. The integrated solutions will be targeted at the global library market. GAO RFID was spun out from GAO Tek in July 2006 as a result of its fast-growing RFID business. GAO RFID now offers about approximately 100 RFID products, which it claims is the world's widest choice of RFID products from a single vendor.

Sandestin Putting RFID on Tap

Florida golf and beach resort Sandestin will deploy an RFID-enabled beverage management system provided by Capton, a San Francisco-based provider of liquor-monitoring technology. Sandestin, owned by luxury property firm Intrawest, will use Capton's Beverage Tracker system to monitor liquor usage at multiple food and beverage locations throughout the 2,400-acre resort. According to Bill Merlyn, the resort's food and beverage training manager, Sandestin chose the Capton system after a test installment led to a reduction in liquor costs and increased revenue. The system provides managers improved visibility into the total amount of liquor poured daily, allowing them to react to shortages and replenish low stocks. The Beverage Tracker consists of RFID-enabled liquor spouts, an RFID interrogator and software. The spouts contain a battery-powered 418 MHz RFID tag and a measuring device. Whenever a bartender pours a drink, the tipping of the bottle activates both the tag and the measuring device, allowing the spout to measure the volume of liquor poured (in ounces) before the employee tips the bottle back up.

SAP, Cisco Back Reva in Series-B Funding

Reva Systems, a provider of networked RFID interrogator-management systems, says it has closed its second round of investment funding. The company says it has received $13.5 million, with contributions from Cisco Systems and SAP Ventures, the Palo Alto, Calif., venture capital division of enterprise software provider SAP AG. This brings its total funding to $20 million. Reva's original venture backers and individual investors, including North Bridge Venture Partners and Charles River Ventures, also contributed to the round. Reva Systems will use the funding to market its Tag Acquisition Processor (TAP) platform (see Reva Taps Into Reader Networks), which can be deployed on top of the SAP NetWeaver integration and application platform, as well as its mySAP enterprise resource-planning platform.

NFC Forum Releases Smart-Poster Protocol

In June, the NFC Forum, a nonprofit industry association advancing the use of near-field communication (NFC) technology, said it would begin publishing specifications for how NFC devices will communicate in their three main modes of operation: peer-to-peer, read-write and card-emulation (see NFC Forum Announces Technology Architecture). Each mode requires that NFC devices use a common data format for communications, and the forum this week announced its specification for one such format—the record-type definition (RTD) for smart posters. The new specification provides the technical details for creating records for data stored on RFID tags embedded in posters, allowing cell-phones and other NFC-enabled devices to read the data. The specification is available to the public for a free download at the NFC Forum Web site.