RFID News Roundup

By Rich Handley

SML RFID intros new inlay for inventory management, loss prevention ••• Nedap launches RFID software platform for omnichannel retail ••• STMicroelectronics unveils dual-radio Bluetooth/LPWAN IoT development kit ••• Bsquare, Amazon Web Services collaborate to accelerate IoT adoption ••• PREMO offers magnetic emitter antennas for automotive applications ••• Altizon, AXISCADES partner to deliver offerings for Factory of the Future ••• IoT company Taoglas acquires vehicle antenna provider ThinkWireless ••• Bluetooth Special Interest Group forms new Smart Home Subgroup.

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Presented here are news announcements made during the past week by the following organizations:
SML RFID;
Nedap;
STMicroelectronics;
Bsquare, Amazon Web Services;
PREMO;
Altizon, AXISCADES;
Taoglas, ThinkWireless; and
the Bluetooth Special Interest Group.

SML RFID Intros New Inlay for Inventory Management, Loss Prevention

SML RFID, a provider of RFID solutions for the retail sector, has announced the GB5U8, the latest addition to its range of RFID inlays. Measuring 42 millimeters by 24 millimeters, the GB5U8 is designed to help improve inventory management for omnichannel retailers. The tag supports item-level inventory management and loss prevention, and can be used for such retail market segments as apparel, accessories, cosmetics, eyewear, homeware and sporting goods.

The GB5U8 inlay meets a number of active ARC categories, including A, B, C, D, F, G, M, Q, I and K. Established by Auburn University, the ARC categories are a set of industry-wide performance requirements intended to ensure that RFID technology meets or exceeds a level of performance that benefits retailers and suppliers. According to SML, its new inlay is the smallest of its kind that has passed categories F and I within the marketplace, in addition to utilizing NXP’s UCODE8 RFID chip.

“Retailers want smaller price tickets/labels/sew-ins and want to use these carriers to simultaneously support both item-level RFID inventory management and loss prevention,” said Dean Frew, SML Group’s CTO and senior VP of RFID solutions, in a prepared statement. “We already have a number of customers that are asking for both RFID only and the RFID+RF EAS inlays and see this need for flexibility and configurability as an accelerating trend in the future.”

The GB5U8 inlay can be used for inventory management or, when combined with an RFID electronic article surveillance (EAS) tag, as an inventory-management and RFID EAS solution, the company reports, enabling it to be utilized with existing RF EAS pedestals in stores, and thereby eliminating the need for hard tags. SML RFID has also developed the in-store technology that supports this functionality at the point of sale and at store exits.

“The new GB5U8 inlay has been developed to provide a full set of capabilities that modern retailers need from an RFID tag—a compact antenna design, global frequency coverage and improved sensitivity,” said Jeremy Liu, SML’s VP of RFID technology, in the prepared statement. “A compact design combined with UCODE8’s best-in-class performance means the GB5U8 is one of the best inlays suited for retail inventory management and loss prevention applications.”

Nedap Launches RFID Software Platform for Omnichannel Retail

Nedap has launched its !D Cloud software platform in the United States. !D Cloud enables retailers to boost inventory visibility in retail organizations, ensuring on-shelf product availability and true omnichannel retailing.

“!D Cloud is the fastest-growing RFID platform in the market with major rollouts in Europe and South Africa over the past years,” said Rob Schuurman, Nedap Retail’s managing director, in a prepared statement. “We also already deployed several stores in the US for our global customers, but now the time is here that we are ready to deploy major projects in the US with a dedicated local team.”

The !D Cloud software suite is a software-as-a-service solution specifically developed for retail applications, allowing retailers to implement RFID and improve in-store stock accuracy to more than 98 percent. The software offers detailed insights into stock accuracy and the exact locations of items, for such omnichannel concepts as click-and-collect, ship-from-store and buy-online-return-offline, without adding complexity or a separate supply chain.

“We continuously strive to lower the barriers for RFID. The latest feature we have developed is ‘virtual shielding’, which provides reliable sub-location data and eliminates the need for ‘physical shielding’,” Schuurman said in the prepared statement. “In our view, this is another breakthrough to make it easier and more cost-effective for retailers to deploy RFID.”

STMicroelectronics Unveils Dual-Radio Bluetooth/LPWAN IoT Development Kit

STMicroelectronics has announced that by supporting concurrent communication via Bluetooth Low Energy (BLE) and Sub-1GHz wireless, its STEVAL-FKI001V1 dual-radio development kit provides the flexibility required to envision, build and connect Internet of Things (IoT) devices. Smart sensors, finders and trackers can be configured, updated, remotely monitored and tracked, the company reports, using various network topologies, protocols and services.

Built for smart-home and smart-building scenarios, as well as asset tracking, energy management, smart farming, and industrial monitoring and control, the STEVAL-FKI001V1 combines ST’s BlueNRG-1 Bluetooth system-on-chip and S2-LP Sub-1GHz transceiver. The dual-radio architecture enables simultaneous operations on a variety of radio frequency bands and protocols, such as BLE or proprietary 2.4GHz, Sub-1GHz, and Sigfox.

According to the company, users can create smart objects that connect to each other locally via mesh or point-to-point connections and support flexible ways of connecting to the cloud. For instance, a convenient sensor ecosystem for smart homes could be forged with local sensor networking, leveraging either BLE or a Sub-1GHz wireless link. The whole system can be connected to the cloud through a local gateway, or directly via a seamless Sigfox ubiquitous link, for surveillance or remote monitoring purposes—all based on same STEVAL-FKI001V1 kit.

The BlueNRG-1 Bluetooth 5.0-certified solution ensures convenient setup, configuration or modification of device settings during installation or maintenance, the company reports, and permits the monitoring of networked node sensors through an app running on any Android- or iOS-based device. The Sub-1GHz S2-LP transceiver allows local networking and LPWAN installations, including global Sigfox connectivity, which allows capabilities such as real-time notification of events. Moreover, users can leverage out-of-the-box Sigfox-ready networking to track and remotely localize devices or assets.

The kit can readily be expanded through its Arduino Uno V3 connectors with ST’s X-NUCLEO offering, including expansion boards with MEMS sensors, motor control, GNSS receivers or industrial input-output and power drivers. The STEVAL-FKI001V1 development kit is fully interoperable with the BlueNRG-Tile board, helping developers to build end-to-end smart-sensor solutions, including the sensor node, local gateways and global cloud connectivity.

Leveraging the BlueNRG-1 SoC’s interfaces and an Arm Cortex-M0 core with 256 kilobytes of embedded program memory, the system enables users to connect external sensors and process the data acquired locally in real time. The STEVAL-FKI001V1 comes with an SDK to simplify development and compress time-to-market. Over-the-air firmware updates are possible via the BLE connection.

Based on a WS2118 RF dual-radio module from Jorjin, the STEVAL-FKI001V1 provides a pre-certified solution for developers to quickly move from early concept feasibility to prototyping, field trials and volume production. The programmable ultra-low-power radio module has power management and wake-on-event capability, allowing a multi-year lifetime from a small primary battery. The STEVAL-FKI001V1 development kit is available from ST distributors, or directly at st.com.

Bsquare, Amazon Web Services Collaborate to Accelerate IoT Adoption

Bsquare, a provider of Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT) software and services, has announced that it is collaborating with Amazon Web Services (AWS) to meet the increasing demand for IIoT solutions. Bsquare has selected AWS as its preferred cloud services provider and is leveraging AWS to expand new offerings around DataV, a suite of edge-to-cloud IoT apps designed to improve the uptime, manageability and performance of enterprise assets.

“Bsquare has a long track record of success developing solutions running on AWS that help industrial businesses reach their IoT goals,” said Kevin Walsh, Bsquare’s acting CEO, in a prepared statement. “We also share the same commitment to constant innovation that is necessary to drive digital transformation across a variety of enterprise and industrial markets. As a result, we are pleased to be able to collaborate with AWS as we work together to develop more advanced solutions for our customers.”

Since being named an AWS IoT Competency Partner in the AWS Partner Network (APN) in 2016, Bsquare has increasingly leveraged AWS IoT service offerings, including AWS Greengrass, AWS IoT Device Management and AWS IoT Analytics, for customer deployments. For example, the company reports, a Fortune 100 global brand is leveraging DataV on the AWS infrastructure to enable IoT device and content management to tens of thousands of IoT devices across North America and Europe, in order to simplify and automate content updates and ensure device compliance.

“By leveraging AWS IoT services, Bsquare’s DataV suite can help customers accelerate time-to-value versus customizing solutions in-house,” said Joshua Hofmann, the director of the AWS Partner Ecosystem, in the prepared statement. “We look forward to working with Bsquare to help our customers achieve additional IoT success at a faster pace.”

PREMO Offers Magnetic Emitter Antennas for Automotive Applications

PREMO, a manufacturer of inductive components, has announced its KGEA-AF-Series of long-range and ultra-long-range flexible antennas. The company claims that the antennas provide up to five time more H-field than standard antennas, and up to 2.5 times mid-range models. Most LF antennas on the market have a length 70 to 80 millimeters for standard range, 150 to 170 millimeters for mid-range, 250 to 350 millimeters for long-range and 500 to 700 millimeters for ultra-long-range (Alma core).

Alma Core technology for car keyless entry systems saves installation and cabling costs, the company reports, and reduces component counts with savings per vehicle of more than $100. The product is designed to be flexible and unbreakable, thanks to a combination of solid echelons, polymer-bonded magnetics and high-magnetic permeability nanowires.

These flexible core antennas typically meet the AEC-Q200 automotive quality standard, as well as waterproof specifications ranging from IP54 to IP69K. Samples are available at the company’s website, and are expected to be delivered later this year.

Altizon, AXISCADES Partner to Deliver Offerings for Factory of the Future

Altizon, a global industrial IIoT platform company serving the manufacturing industry, has announced a partnership with AXISCADES, a provider of product-engineering and high-technology solutions, to help aerospace, automotive and heavy-engineering customers build a “factory of the future” through combined smart-manufacturing and digital-transformation offerings.

AXISCADES will work with Altizon’s Datonis platform and products R&D group to design and build manufacturing applications that can help manufacturers move to Industry 4.0, including modernizing asset performance management services and launching new business models for service delivery. The companies plan to conduct joint sales and marketing campaigns in the North America region.

“At Altizon, we are scaling our capabilities to help drive digital transformations globally,” said Vinay Nathan, Altizon’s CEO, in a prepared statement. “By partnering with AXISCADES, we are helping manufacturers realize the ‘factory of the future’ today by offering our Industrial IoT technology suite complimented by AXISCADES deep manufacturing technology domain expertise—to gain deeper insights, make better decisions and to unlock new business value. Our joint offering will help ensure our clients’ Industry 4.0 journey is on a pathway to achieving measurable success.”

“We continue to expand and augment our engineering and manufacturing services with technology,” added Abhijit Chattopadhyay, AXISCADES’ VP of sales and global head alliances, in the prepared statement. “Industry 4.0 is about new business models that could change the way any company designs, builds, manufactures & services its products. Given our deep understanding of product development and shop floor manufacturing, and Altizon’s capabilities, we are confident in leveraging these technologies to help our customers mature on their own industry 4.0 journey.”

IoT Company Taoglas Acquires Vehicle Antenna Provider ThinkWireless

Taoglas, a provider of Internet of Things (IoT) and automotive antennas and RF solutions, has announced the completion of its acquisition of ThinkWireless, an antenna provider that specializes in the design, development and production of combination antenna systems for the commercial vehicle market. The ThinkWireless brand will now be called “ThinkWireless, a Taoglas company.” Argy Petros, ThinkWireless’ founder and CEO, and Pierre Wassom, its director of RF technology, will both remain with the company.

“ThinkWireless has made a name for itself as a designer and developer of high-quality combination antenna systems with deep roots in the commercial trucking industry, where infotainment services, including good quality of service from satellite and AM/FM radio, weather band and GNSS are crucial,” said Ronan Quinlan, Taoglas’ co-CEO, in a prepared statement. “As we continue to explore potential acquisitions to strengthen the Taoglas brand, we were struck by how similar ThinkWireless’ approach to antenna design and manufacturing is to our own commitment to excellence. This is a great acquisition for the Taoglas Group as we look to further expand into new, synergistic markets such as the commercial vehicle industry.”

Headquartered in Coconut Creek, Fla., ThinkWireless specializes in the design, development and production of combination antenna systems that incorporate two or more frequency bands, including those for SiriusXM satellite radio, GPS, AM/FM, weather band, DAB, HDTV, Wi-Fi, Bluetooth and LTE. The firm’s facilities will become Taoglas’ ninth design and development center globally, and the third in the United States, alongside centers in San Diego and Minneapolis.

“Taoglas is well-known as a global brand that delivers the highest-quality antennas and RF solutions to the automotive, IoT and other markets,” Petros said in the prepared statement. “Taoglas’ global scale and sales channels are unparalleled and will help grow the reach of ThinkWireless’ solutions in the trucking and commercial vehicle industry around the world.” The antennas will be available for purchase on Taoglas’ website, through key distribution partners and via Taoglas’ Antenna Builder ecommerce marketplace for custom antennas and cable assemblies.

Bluetooth Special Interest Group Forms New Smart Home Subgroup

In response to the increased adoption of Bluetooth mesh networking in smart-home solutions, the Bluetooth Special Interest Group (SIG) has announced the formation of a new Smart Home Subgroup. The announcement follows the decision from a growing number of firms to adopt Bluetooth mesh networking as a strategic communications protocol for smart-home solutions.

The Smart Home Subgroup has been established to create additional Bluetooth mesh model specifications for smart-home and related applications. Mesh models constitute the application layer of Bluetooth mesh networking and define the behavior of devices connected to a Bluetooth mesh network. For example, mesh models define how a Bluetooth mesh light is controlled by a Bluetooth mesh switch. Like all Bluetooth technology specifications, the mesh models developed by this subgroup will be available to all member companies for use in conjunction with the Bluetooth mesh-networking specifications, thereby enabling multi-vendor interoperability in the smart home.

“Bluetooth mesh models play a very important role in strengthening the connectivity and interoperability among smart home devices,” said Dapeng Liu, the chair of the Bluetooth SIG Smart Home Subgroup and Alibaba’s senior standardization expert, in a prepared statement. “The Smart Home Subgroup provides a forum for the community to standardize the mesh model solutions, and Alibaba is happy to be working with other member companies on mesh model development.”

More than 60 member companies are participating in the new Smart Home Subgroup, including Alibaba, GCT Semiconductor, Lierda, MediaTek, Midea Group IoT Co., Nordic Semiconductor, Novel Bits, S-Labs, Telink Semiconductor, Synopsys, UL Verification Services and Xiaomi.

“In developing our IoT solutions for smart home, we need the reliable, high performing, and scalable connectivity that the Bluetooth mesh wireless standard supports,” said Miffy Chen, the VP of Alibaba Group and GM of Tmall Genie, in the prepared statement. “Those elements, combined with the existing trust and wide application of Bluetooth across the globe, has given it a unique advantage in support of our smart home strategy.”

“For the smart home market to grow, it needs true global wireless mesh networking standards that can meet the reliability, security, and performance needs of the market,” added Dian Fan, the general manager of Xiaomi IoT Platform, in the statement. “We’re confident that Bluetooth mesh is one of those standards and will enable tremendous growth and innovation in home automation for years to come.”

“Bluetooth mesh is one of most suitable IoT protocols for smart home and building. It facilitates flexible deployment of smart device networks with elastic extension and lower latency, and thus brings better user experiences with rich smart life scenes,” said Zhiguo Bi, the deputy general manager of Midea Group IoT Co., in the statement. “Midea Group is promoting vigorously the Bluetooth mesh based total solution for the smart home.”

“Going from traditional one-to-one into many-to-many device communications, Bluetooth mesh brings in a revolutionary change,” added Alan Hsu, the general manager of MediaTek’s Intelligent Connectivity business unit, in the statement. “From smart lighting, smart home, smart building to smart city, the possibility for Bluetooth mesh is limitless. With the proliferation of voice assistant devices and AIoT everywhere, we’re continuing to invest in Bluetooth mesh technology development to meet the rapidly growing demand for advanced connectivity and truly intelligent smart home experiences.”

Launched in July 2017, Bluetooth mesh was created to enable the deployment of large-scale device-networking solutions, such as those used in control, monitoring and automation systems. Bluetooth mesh technology was developed from the beginning to meet the strict reliability, security and performance needs of industrial and commercial markets. Since its launch, more than 105 products with Bluetooth mesh networking capability have been qualified from silicon, stack, component and end-product vendors, the organization reports.

“The release of Bluetooth mesh networking and the recent formation of the Smart Home Subgroup are important milestones in the development of the smart home market,” said Mark Powell, Bluetooth SIG’s executive director, in the prepared statement. “For over a decade, Bluetooth has been the global wireless standard for the connected home, connecting everything from appliances and entertainment systems to tools, toys, and even toothbrushes. Now with mesh networking support, Bluetooth is in a position to help the home automation market reach mass scale.”