RFID News Roundup

By Admin

SmarTrac begins volume production of RFID inlays in the United States.; Omni-ID secures $15 million in funding; RuBee becomes IEEE international RFID standard; Ubisense, S3-ID partner on RTLS for oil and gas industry; Feig Electronics delivers RFID-enabled parking system; Thailand bank, merchants to trial contactless payments with mobile phones.

The following are news announcements made during the past week.

SmarTrac Begins Volume Production of RFID Inlays in the United States

SmarTrac, an RFID inlay supplier headquartered in Amsterdam, the Netherlands, has announced that it has completed revamping its factory in Chanhassen, Minn., and begun volume production of RFID inlays for secure applications, such as e-passports. The facility has already produced 800,000 RFID inlays, SmarTrac reports. Much of the production quantities have been delivered for government applications. The company manufactures inlays for a broad range of applications in all current frequencies, including inlays for contactless banking and credit cards, identity cards, passports, drivers' licenses and health cards. The firm also makes RFID prelams—consisting of a core inlay embedded between two plastic covers—for public transport, access control and other applications. SmarTrac acquired the Minnesota facility in 2007 when it purchased HEI Inc.'s RFID division in the United States for $3 million (see HEI Sells RFID Division to SmarTrac). Since then, the company has been working to convert the production site to meet its specific requirements, and to have the machinery and equipment necessary for mass production of RFID inlays.

Omni-ID Secures $15 Million in Funding

Tag maker Omni-ID has announced its securing of another round of venture capital. The Foster City, Calif., company raised $15 million in a Series C Round, solely funded by U.K.-based CodyGate Ventures. Omni-ID indicates it plans to use the funds to ramp up its sales and marketing efforts, increase its manufacturing capacity and boost its expansion into the Asian market. Moreover, the company says it wants to ensure that it will be able to meet its increasing order volume. "As we move into 2009, we will leverage this round of funding to continue meeting our customers' needs, while expanding our presence into new markets, such as Asia," said Tom Pavela, president and CEO of Omni-ID, in a prepared statement. "We are confident that this year will continue the upward growth of our company."

RuBee Becomes IEEE International RFID Standard

The Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers (IEEE) has approved RuBee, a long-wavelength, peer-to-peer packet-based, magnetic transceiver protocol, as a new international standard, to be known as IEEE 1902.1. RuBee tags can be either active or passive, operating at 132 kHz. Visible Assets and Seiko Epson Corp., which developed the technology on which RuBee is based (see Visible Assets Promotes RuBee Tags for Tough-to-Track Goods), sponsored the creation of the standard and the workgroup that vetted it. The RuBee tag is designed for tracking assets in harsh environments, and can be utilized in the presence of liquids and metals, which can interfere with RF signals. According to Visible Assets, the tag has a read range between 10 to 50 feet, depending on antenna configuration, and can be powered by a single coin-size lithium battery with a lifespan of five to more than 15 years. A license to use IP complying with the IEEE 1902.1 standard is available from Visible Assets, and hardware based on the RuBee standard is available from a variety of sources.

Ubisense, S3-ID Partner on RTLS for Oil and Gas Industry

Real-time location systems (RTLS) provider Ubisense has teamed with S3-ID, a provider of personnel location systems, to produce an integrated Location Awareness and Muster system (mustering is the process of summoning and assembling personnel on ships or offshore oil rigs to prepare for safe evacuation during emergencies) that leverages Ubisense's ultra-wideband (UWB) technology. The system, designed for the oil and gas industry, combines S3-ID's muster, tracking, access control and logistics hardware and software with Ubisense's RTLS, which includes UWB tags that emit a series of short signals (billionths of a second or shorter). The extremely short nature of the pulses makes the tags less vulnerable to RF noise and interference from metal and other nearby objects. Ubisense's RTLS includes interrogators (which the company calls sensors) that receive tag signals by means of phased-array antennas. The interrogators calculate tag location by employing two complementary techniques: time difference of arrival (TDOA) and angle of arrival (AOA). By using both techniques simultaneously, Ubisense reports, the RTLS requires fewer interrogators to cover an area, compared with systems that just use TDOA. S3-ID's current location and muster systems are able to identify personnel only when they enter or exit defined areas, but the combined Ubisense S3-ID product will enable customers to continuously monitor where personnel are at any point in time, the two companies report.

Feig Electronics Delivers RFID-enabled Parking System

Feig Electronics, a German manufacturer of RFID read/write devices, has announced the commercial availability of its new RFID-enabled access system for the parking industry. The Stand Alone Vehicle Admission includes a long-range reader and long-range antenna that supports the EPC Class 1 Gen 2 and ISO 18000-6-B standards. The system provides ranges of up to 5 meters (16.4 feet) to read the unique ID numbers from passive ultrahigh-frequency (UHF) transponders mounted on the inside of a vehicle's windshield. The transponders' ID numbers can be stored in the system's internal transponder database, which can support up to 3,000 transponders. The database can generate a log-file of the most recent 100 transponder reads. According to Feig Electronics, the Stand Alone Vehicle Admission system can work with sliding, sectional and high-speed gates.

Thailand Bank, Merchants to Trial Contactless Payments With Mobile Phones

Venyon, a Finnish provider of Near-Field Communication (NFC) solutions and services, has teamed with Kasikornbank, a bank in Thailand, to evaluate contactless mobile payments in that country for a potential future service launch. The evaluation includes an NFC mobile payment trial in Bangkok that will enable the bank's customers to purchase goods simply by waving an NFC mobile phone over a contactless reader at a store's point-of-sale terminal. Purchases will be charged directly to the customer's Kasikornbank credit card account. Participants in the mobile payment trial will utilize Nokia's NFC-enabled Nokia 6212 mobile devices to make purchases at more than 1,000 existing merchant locations in Thailand.