RFID News Roundup

By Admin

Army depot deploys RFID to manage its vehicle fleet; Spanish health club fits RFID into operations; Barclays debit cards go contactless; NXP transfers mobile services business to Gemalto; RF Code adds software, new tag to active RFID solution; Identification Systems Group unveils new smart card.

The following are news announcements made during the past week.

Army Depot Deploys RFID to Manage Its Vehicle Fleet

The Sierra Army Depot (SIAD), a Herlong, Calif., installation that's part of the U. S. Army's Tank-automotive and Armaments Command (TACOM), recently demonstrated its implementation of a wireless, active RFID-based industrial Vehicle Management System (VMS) from I.D. Systems. The depot provides worldwide logistics support for the U.S. Army, including the receipt, storage, repair, shipping, maintenance and fabrication of assets. The implementation, which SIAD calls the Centralized Fleet Automated Management System (CFAMS), is part of the depot's efforts to reduce industrial vehicle maintenance costs, improve worker safety and increase material-handling productivity, as well as the speed at which critical supplies are distributed out to the battlefield. I.D. Systems' VMS incorporates active RFID tags, known as Vehicle Asset Communicators (VACs), and GPS units. The GPS locations are communicated via a 900 MHz signal to I.D. Systems' interrogators and antennas, which can be affixed to buildings. The VACs offer a read range of between a half-mile and a mile, according to the company. Sensors track speed, mileage and impacts, and maintenance data can be maintained and updated on the VACs. Additionally, the tags prevent unauthorized personnel from driving the vehicles; drivers must wave their RFID-enabled 13.56 MHz ID badges close to a reader that is also part of the VAC, and if the tag recognizes the unique ID number encoded to a worker's badge, that person will be able to start up the ignition. After testing I.D. Systems' solution, SIAD indicates its fleet maintenance costs could be reduced by at least 22 percent, by automatically tracking vehicle usage and more accurately maintaining its maintenance schedule. What's more, by better understanding how each vehicle was used, the depot was able to reduce its fleet by at least 15 to 20 percent. According to SIAD, by monitoring and recording detailed data regarding vehicle "impact events," and by preventing unauthorized personnel from using the vehicles, costs resulting from damage caused by vehicles could be reduced by up to 25 percent. Overall, I.D. Systems reports, SIAD demonstrated that the CFAMS could pay for itself and begin generating a positive cash flow for the depot within 12 to 16 months of deployment.

Spanish Health Club Fits RFID into Operations

Zest Health & Fitness, an operator of four fitness studios in Madrid, Spain, is employing a 13.56 MHz contactless smart card system from Legic Identsystems, headquartered in Switzerland. The system enables visitors and employees to access the studios, as well as lockers. For example, at Zest Abasota—which first opened its doors in 1989—there are access terminals, or readers, at the gym's reception instead of turnstiles. Upon entering, a member holds his or her smart card near the interrogator to gain access into the studio. As the reader scans the card's unique ID number, it records the member's visit and also activates the card so it can open and lock any locker the member chooses. On a computer screen in the reception area, members can see which lockers are occupied, locked or out of use, so they can choose a locker. Employees also have contactless passes, which serve as mechanisms to record time and attendance. Each staff member has a locker as well, which can be locked with a smart card. "The fact that our facilities are optimally equipped is welcomed by our members, attracts customers and creates long-term loyalty," said Chris Dedicik, Zest's managing director, in a prepared statement. "The investment has been fully justified by the benefits we have gained." The fitness company is currently testing other applications with the smart card system, including electronic payments in the cafeteria, as well as for the vending machines. "We are contemplating a further improvement to the convenience of our visitors," Dedicik said, "and are therefore also interested in the advantages in terms of cashless payment. When members have a fully charged money card, they spend much more freely."

Barclays Debit Cards Go Contactless

Financial services provider Barclays, headquartered in the United Kingdom and operating in more than 50 countries, is issuing Visa debit cards with built-in contactless technology to its customers. The bank indicates it is issuing replacement debit cards with the RFID technology as a standard feature, and that it expects to roll out the cards to as many as 3 million customers by the end of 2009, with the majority of the firm's debit card customers slated to get contactless cards by 2011. The contactless technology will enable customers to make transactions of £10 ($14) or less by holding it up to a contactless reader, without the need to enter a PIN or insert the card into a terminal. According to Barclays, the cards will continue to work as normal for chip-and-PIN transactions, ATM withdrawals and other functions. Customers will receive their new contactless card when their current card needs replacing—when it expires, for instance, or becomes lost or damaged. New customers signing up for a Barclays account will also receive the new type of card. The financial services provider first introduced contactless technology on credit cards, via its Barclaycard division, in September 2007, with the launch of Barclaycard OnePulse. All Barclaycard Platinum credit cards now include contactless technology, and more than 1.5 million Barclaycards currently issued are now contactless-enabled.

NXP Transfers Mobile Services Business to Gemalto

Gemalto, a digital security company based in Amsterdam, has reached a deal with chip maker NXP Semiconductors, in which NXP will transfer its mobile services business to Gemalto. The NXP unit, based in Sophia Antipolis, France, will continue to develop and market software and service solutions compliant with NXP's Mifare4Mobile interface specifications, which manage Mifare-based applications in Near Field Communications (NFC) mobile devices. The agreement, the two companies report, is designed to boost the global adoption of NFC technology in existing contactless infrastructures, and to further promote the deployment of Mifare. The deal will enable Gemalto to integrate the Mifare4Mobile software into its Trusted Service Manager (TSM) platform, designed to let transport operators, banks and mobile phone operators leverage existing payment and contactless ticketing applications on mobile phones. "The agreement demonstrates the importance of the Mifare technology in contactless applications," said Rick Clemmer, NXP's CEO, in a prepared statement, "and is a major step to large-scale deployments of NFC-based services." NXP, he indicated, will continue to invest in the development of industry-leading NFC chips fully compliant with current standards and interoperable with existing contactless infrastructure. The specifications of the Mifare4Mobile interface and the associated intellectual property will remain in NXP's ownership, the two companies explained, and NXP will also have a central role in evolving those specifications said.

RF Code Adds Software, New Tag to Active RFID Solution

RF Code, an active RFID hardware and systems provider based in Austin, Texas, has boosted is portfolio of asset-management solutions designed primarily to track IT assets, with software and a new tag. The company's Asset Manager software complements its IT asset-tracking system announced one year ago (see RF Code Announces Platform for Tracking IT Assets), which consists of 433 MHz RFID active tags, designed specifically for IT assets; a reader and antenna system that fits into a server rack, to read tags attached to any IT assets installed in that rack; and a middleware layer known as Zone Manager, in which duplicate tag reads are filtered and business rules are applied. Before Asset Manager was added, customers had to rely on third-party asset-inventory software to be able to analyze the tag-read data, perform alerts and create reports. Asset Manager provides users with a customizable asset database schema, tools to manage asset lifecycles and the ability to define condition thresholds and alerting, and to create scheduled and ad-hoc reports. Using the software, customers can track asset locations based on zones, racks or rooms. Asset Manager features a Web-based user interface. The company's new tag is the R130 Dry Contact Tag, a 433 MHz RFID active tag that has two twisted wires enabling connection to a dry contact device. Dry contact devices have terminals that are normally either "closed" or "open" to indicate a condition is normal—that an air-conditioning unit used to keep a data center cool has acceptable Freon levels, for instance. To monitor dry contact devices, companies have typically relied on cables and wires to link the monitoring system to a power source—similar to how typical home security systems work, RF Code reports. The battery-powered RF Code R130 Dry Contact tag, however, can transmit the contact status wirelessly, and requires no wires to power it. Once connected, the R130 will monitor and report the device's open and closed states. While the connected device is in unchanged state (either open or closed), the tag will transmit a signal indicating the dry contact status once every 10 seconds. When the dry contact state changes, the tag will immediately broadcast three beacons with the new status at half-second intervals, then return to transmitting once every 10 seconds. The battery life typically exceeds five years with a 10-second beacon rate, and approximately 250 switching cycles per day.

Identification Systems Group Unveils New Smart Card

The Identification Systems Group (ISG), a nationwide network of dealers specializing in identification and card personalization systems for implementation, service and support, have announced a new 13.56 MHz contactless smart card. The Multi-application Open Card Architecture (MOCA) Card was developed in coordination with two ISG partners, XceedID, located in Golden, Colo., and CPI Card Group, in Littleton, Colo. According to ISG, the smart card's architecture can work with multiple applications (including those that leverage NXP Semiconductor's Mifare contactless chip), such as access control, biometric security, tracking applications and security applications. The smart card is available in a variety of memory sizes, including a card with 256 bits of memory, one with 1 kilobyte, and one with 4 kilobytes. MOCA's security features include data encryption, message authentication coding and manual authentication. ISG manages the issuance process, and will provide integration services with a client's software. The MOCA CardTrax program guarantees each card carries a unique access control number, ISG indicates. The cards can be read by XceedID's line of multi-technology access control readers, which operate on both 125 kHz proximity and 13.56 MHz contactless technologies, thereby enabling companies still using traditional proximity cards to migrate, over time, to MOCA cards.