RFID News Roundup

By Admin

ARC Advisory Group finds more companies plan on RFID to manage assets; Atmel rolls out ZigBee-based suite for smart energy, building and home automation; Oklahoma state representative continues push to ban RFID-enabled driver's licenses; local Swedish government to use RFID-enabled access system; SyChip intros low-power wireless sensor node; Ekahau unveils upgraded version of Wi-Fi RTLS planning tool.

The following are news announcements made during the past week.

ARC Advisory Group Finds More Companies Plan on RFID to Manage Assets

A growing number of companies are leaving bar codes behind and leveraging radio frequency identification to help manage their corporate assets, according to a new report from research and advisory services firm ARC Advisory Group. The report, entitled "RFID Enables Improvement for Mobility and Enterprise Asset Management," is based on a survey of 65 companies and accompanying research that examines the current status of and future plans for enterprise asset management (EAM) systems. Of those surveyed, 12 percent indicated they were already using RFID, but another 20 percent said they have budgeted to add the technology in their EAM systems this year. Most participants have multiple sites, and their responses represent input from more than 1,300 facilities. One item that stood out was the use of RFID for inventory management or tool tracking. According to the report, the uptick can be attributed, in part, to RFID's strengths: Tags are more durable than bar-coded labels, and thus a better fit for industrial environments.

Atmel Rolls Out ZigBee-based Suite for Smart Energy, Building and Home Automation

Atmel, a provider of microcontroller and touch solutions, has introduced its Atmel BitCloud Profile Suite, which the company says is a framework for developing ZigBee-certified applications for use in the smart energy, home-automation and building-automation markets. The suite, which is available for free, includes a complete set of functional reference implementations of the company's ZigBee Application Profiles for ZigBee Smart Energy (ZSE), ZigBee Building Automation (ZBA) and ZigBee Home Automation (ZHA) software. Atmel is also introducing its RZ600 evaluation kit, a tool accompanying the BitCloud Profile Suite that guides the prototyping, design and deployment of ZigBee 2.4 GHz, IEEE 802.15.4-compliant products. The Atmel RZ600 development kit enables designers to combine any Atmel RF transceiver with an Atmel microcontroller. The RZ600 kit includes radio extender boards, USB-to-10-pin-wireless dongles, and IEEE-802.15.4-compliant RF transceivers, to support the worldwide 2.4 GHz and regional 700/800/900 MHz frequency bands. The Atmel BitCloud Profile Suite enables engineers to develop, debug and connect to wireless networks with radio extender boards that can be connected to Atmel evaluation boards, such as the Atmel STK600 and the EVK1105 for wireless applications.

Oklahoma State Representative Continues Push to Ban RFID-enabled Driver's Licenses

A battle between Oklahoma Governor Brad Henry and Republicans in the state's House of Representatives is brewing over the use of RFID chips on Oklahoma state driver's licenses. Early this year, state Rep. Paul Wesselhöft (R-Moore) introduced House Bill 2569, which would ban Oklahoma from utilizing RFID in state-issued driver's licenses. The bill is designed to preempt a federal law that the U.S. Congress is considering—the PASS ID Act (S. 1261)—which would turn state driver's licenses into national ID cards, and which includes a provision for enhanced driver's licenses. The Pass ID Act also contains a provision for enhanced driver's licenses, as designated by the 9/11 Commission Implementation Act of 2004 (which, in that act, is referred to as Real ID). While neither the Real ID in the 9/11 Commission Implementation Act of 2004, nor the enhanced driver's license referenced in the Pass ID Act, specifically mention RFID, Wesselhöft claimed, when introducing HB 2569, that an enhanced driver's license is an RFID-enabled driver's license. Earlier this week, Governor Henry vetoed HB 2569, saying, in a prepared statement, "In a time of constantly evolving and improving technology, it is not in the best interest of the state or its citizens to prospectively ban the use of a specific technology that could provide benefits in the future." According to media reports, Wesselhöft has indicated he will fight to overturn the veto, adding that the policy of using RFID on driver's licenses would violate the Fourth Amendment of the U.S. Constitution. "Through technology, governments, corporate and private entities can track a person's location and personal information if one's driver's license is embedded with a radio frequency identification (RFID) chip or special ink," he said in a media statement. "They can be tracked through doors in buildings as one walks through them." Currently, four U.S. states offer RFID-enabled enhanced driver's licenses: Michigan, New York, Vermont and Washington.

Local Swedish Government to Use RFID-enabled Access System

The municipality of Vellinge, in southern Sweden, is implementing an RFID-enabled security access system to control access to its IT systems and buildings. The RFID YubiKey system, from Yubico, leverages NXP Semiconductors' Mifare Classic technology, based upon the ISO 14443 Type A 13.56 MHz RFID standard. The YubiKey, a hardware authentication token in the form of a small USB memory stick, generates a one-time-use pass code for accessing PCs or other systems with USB ports. By integrating an RFID chip in the YubiKey, the same device can also be employed for access control with regard to buildings, printers, photocopiers and other assets or sites equipped with RFID interrogators. The Vellinge government is deploying RFID YubiKeys for its 1,600 employees. The system will be integrated with the government's back-end authentication software, provided by MobilityGuard. "MobilityGuard and RFID YubiKey meets our requirements for easy, secure and robust access solutions," said Gert Åberg, Vellinge's IT manager, in a prepared statement.

SyChip Intros Low-Power Wireless Sensor Node

SyChip a developer of chip scale modules, semiconductors and software for the wireless mobile market, has announced its SyNode wireless sensor node (SN3010), a low-power ZigBee 2.4 GHz, IEEE 802.15.4-compliant sensor node. The SN3010, according to SyChip, is an endpoint sensor node with integrated temperature, humidity and light sensors, and is designed to facilitate reliable, energy-saving wireless networking. The sensor node includes the complete ZigBee Pro protocol stack, which supports the ZigBee Smart Energy and Home Automation profiles. The SN3010 features SyChip's power-management protocol that limits one transmission per minute, so that the sensor nodes can last for up to 15 years using two AA batteries. It measures 729 square millimeters (1.13 square inches), and offers a ZigBee RF receiver sensitivity at -99 dBm. The sensor node can be used as a standalone sensor node, or integrated with original equipment manufacturer (OEM) products. The SN3010 is priced between $16 and $32 apiece in low volumes.

Ekahau Unveils Upgraded Version of Wi-Fi RTLS Planning Tool

Wi-Fi-based real-time location systems (RTLS) provider Ekahau has announced it has upgraded its Ekahau Site Survey (ESS), a Wi-Fi planning, verification and troubleshooting tool that businesses can utilize to identify, map and manage their wireless local area networks. Ekahau Site Survey 5.0, according to the company, introduces Auto-Planner, which assists users in designing a corporate Wi-Fi network by suggesting optimal access point locations and channel assignments. The Auto-Planner in Ekahau Site Survey 5.0 provides a 3-D network plan so users can more easily visualize the optimal placement of wireless access points in multi-floor environments. In addition, Ekahau reports, the Auto-Planner will optimize networks design for different applications, such as voice over Wi-Fi, location tracking or high-speed data. "With Auto-Planner, we're able to reduce off-site network design time to one-tenth of the time it typically would take," said Jussi Kiviniemi, Ekahau's senior product manager, in a prepared statement. Ekahau Site Survey 5.0 enables users to indicate where Wi-Fi coverage is needed, select the application—such as voice over Wi-Fi—that will be running over the network, and let the Auto-Planner optimize network configuration." The upgraded Ekahau Site Survey 5.0 now also supports computer-aided design (CAD) and vector-based floor plans, and includes performance enhancements, as well as support for additional antennas and access points from various Wi-Fi manufacturers. Ekahau Site Survey 5.0 is slated to become available in June 2010.