RFID News Roundup

By Admin

McCarran International Airport updates RFID-enabled baggage-handling system; Avery Dennison, Signbox partner on smart-poster system; IDTronic announces NFC mobile-phone sticker; Terso Solutions teams up with Hubspan on cloud-based RFID; Nedap intros dual UHF RFID and NFC handheld device; Enso SmartPack acquires RF-iT Solutions; University of Minnesota adopts RFID to promote biking.

The following are news announcements made during the past week.

McCarran International Airport Updates RFID-enabled Baggage-Handling System

McCarran International Airport, an early adopter of RFID for tracking baggage, located in Las Vegas, has awarded a three-year contract to Avery Dennison and label manufacturer Print-O-Tape to continue supplying RFID-based tags for its baggage-handling system. The contract, signed earlier this year and now being formally announced, extends and expands Avery Dennison's and Print-O-Tape's longstanding relationship with the airport. In 2005, McCarran was the first airport within the United States to deploy RFID, the companies report, using the technology's capabilities to manage luggage more quickly and accurately for its nearly 57,000 departing passengers and nearly 500 outbound flights per day. The airport is now upgrading its system to comply with EPCglobal's Class 1 Gen 2 RFID specification, and is using Avery Dennison's AD-833 ultrahigh-frequency (UHF) RFID inlays, specifically designed for aviation needs. The renewed contract includes Print-O-Tape's consulting and expertise in converting baggage tags, the partners report. While the Class 1 Gen 2 specification was ratified by EPCglobal in 2004 (see EPCglobal Ratifies Gen 2 Standard) and approved by the International Organization for Standardization (ISO) in 2006 (see Gen 2 EPC Protocol Approved as ISO 18000-6C), and is already used by many organizations, McCarran International Airport only recently migrated to the specification, during the second quarter of this year. According to Avery Dennison, the airport's technical teams were working through the necessary upgrades to hardware, software, and middleware for the transition from EPC Class 0 passive tags to EPC Gen 2. In 2009, when the original contract expired with Avery Dennison and Print-O-Tape, not all of those necessary components were production-ready. To allow more time, Avery Dennison indicates, the airport chose to extend the Class 0 contract for an additional year while the EPC Gen 2 system was being refined.

Avery Dennison, Signbox Partner on Smart-Poster System

Avery Dennison and Signbox, a U.K.-based provider of internal and external signage solutions, have announced a partnership to create a backlit poster system known as Enlighten, leveraging Near Field Communication (NFC) RFID technology. The new smart-poster product line features Avery Dennison's RFID N-Zone NFC inlays, which the company launched in June 2011 (see RFID News Roundup: Avery Dennison Intros New Line of NFC Inlays), and are designed to provide interactive capabilities via proximity marketing. For customers who have NFC-enabled smartphones or handheld devices, the solution can deliver a range of custom-tailored messages, such as promotional offers and location-based information. The effort has involved Avery Dennison's RFID and Graphics and Reflective Solutions divisions, working in cooperation with Signbox's technical and business teams. The Enlighten smart-poster system consists of a translucent, film-based graphic within a sustainable composite frame, as well as a covered edge-to-edge acrylic face that, according to the company, looks and feels like glass. An RFID N-Zone NFC tag is embedded within the Enlighten smart-poster system. When an NFC-enabled mobile phone is positioned near the Enlighten poster, the poster's passive 13.56 MHz tag emits a low-powered radio signal encoded with data, such as a Web site's URL or small amounts of text. Sample use cases include utilizing the poster system to promote an event. For example, when the phone is swiped in front of the poster, a customer can obtain additional information, as well as order and pay for tickets, and download them to the phone. The system could also be used to promote a product, so that when the phone is passed in front of the poster, a customer can gain immediate access to coupons, additional product information and contextual content, such as product advice, recipes or use instructions. Avery Dennison's N-Zone NFC product line consists of 13.56 MHz RFID inlays supporting the ISO-14443 Type A NFC protocol. The AD-714mC (measuring 1.77 inches by 3 inches) is made with NXP Semiconductors's Mifare Classic chip, while the AD-714mU (1.77 inches by 3 inches), AD-730mC (1.22 inches by 0.55 inch) and the AD-730mU (1.22 inches by 0.55 inch) include NXP's Mifare Ultralight chip. Avery Dennison reports that new N-Zone NFC inlay designs utilizing NXP's NTAG chip family are also in production. "In developing the Enlighten smart poster system, Avery Dennison has proved an invaluable partner to us," said Mark Bartlett, Signbox's managing director, in a prepared statement. "Together, in a relatively short time span, we have created not just a sophisticated smart poster system, but one that in the coming years should completely transform the way brand owners and campaign managers communicate with their target audiences."

IDTronic Announces NFC Mobile-Phone Sticker

IDTronic, an RFID manufacturer headquartered in Ludwigshafen, Germany, has announced the availability of its NFC Mobile Phone Sticker, which the company says is specially designed to work on any mobile phones. The sticker supports the ISO 14443 and ISO 18092 NFC standards, and can attach to all models of mobile phones with a plastic or metal housing, via residue-free glue tape. The sticker is available with a variety of NXP Semiconductors Mifare chips, as well as DESFire EV1. Stickers made with NXP's Mifare Ultralight or Ultralight C chip contain 64 bytes of memory and comply with the ISO 14443 A specification. Those manufactured with NXP's Mifare MF1S20, MF1S50 or MF1S70 chip have 256 bytes, 1024 bytes or 4096 bytes of memory, respectively, and comply with the ISO 14443 A (1-3) specification. Stickers produced with the DESFire EV1 chip—which complies with the ISO 14443 A specification—are available with 2 kilobytes, 4 kilobytes or 8 kilobytes of memory. IDTronic will personalize the stickers, per customer specifications, to support a variety of applications, including electronic payments, e-ticketing, loyalty programs and access control. According to IDTronic, personalization includes four-color printing, numbering—serial number or unique identification number (UID)—and chip encoding. The new NFC Mobile Phone Sticker is available now worldwide; prices vary, depending on volumes and the particular chip used, and range from $1 to $1.30 per sticker.

Terso Solutions Teams Up With Hubspan on Cloud-based RFID

Business-to-business (B2B) cloud provider Hubspan and Terso Solutions, a provider of RFID-enabled inventory-management solutions for the life-sciences and health-care markets, have announced the integration of their solutions to provide customers with a cloud-based system that automates the item-level tracking of inventory within an organization's back-end system. The integrated, packaged solution, known as RFID Inventory Link, leverages the RFID-enabled enclosures that Terso manufactures, as well as Hubspan's integration software, connectors and interfaces that work with numerous systems in the life-sciences and health-care markets. Among the products and services that Terso offers are cabinets and refrigerators designed to store high-value products, such as reagents, cardiovascular products, tissue samples and orthopedic supplies. The storage units contain RFID readers that take inventory of stored items, which are fitted with passive EPC Gen 2 RFID tags. Whenever items are removed, those events are captured, as are temperature readings and expiration dates. Terso's RFID storage solutions offer cabinet rental, hosted data services and 24-7 support for one monthly fee, and customers can access a Web-enabled system to view inventory and related information. The newly announced integration with Hubspan means that, for example, as heart valves or other items are depleted from a hospital's stock, that information can be automatically recorded and tracked within the facility's inventory-management and procurement systems, as well as in the back-end systems of the hospital's supplier, explains Joe Pleshek, Terso's president and CEO. RFID Inventory Link, available from Terso, does not require any additional hardware or software, and is delivered through the cloud via Terso's hosted solution. The system features connectivity, on-boarding, protocol management, scheduling and queuing of messages, message transport and service delivery. It supports a variety of protocols and Internet standards, including SFTP, AS2 and EDI VAN, as well as numerous messaging formats, security functions and standards (EDI and XML, for example). The solution supports applications from Microsoft, Lawson, Oracle and SAP. "Terso is a great addition to our partner community, as they provide an innovative solution for health-care organizations, allowing them to automate key procurement processes," said Trisha Gross, Hubspan's president and CEO, in a prepared statement. "Hubspan has hundreds of biotech and healthcare organizations connected to our cloud platform today, and we look forward to growing this community with Terso." The new RFID integration solution is already being used by one of the largest biotech firms in North America, Pleshek says, for product tracking and integration between its Terso system and dozens of hospitals and laboratories.

Nedap Intros Dual UHF RFID and NFC Handheld Device

Nedap Retail, a manufacturer of security and management solutions for retailers, has announced the ID Hand, a handheld RFID device capable of reading both passive ultrahigh-frequency (UHF) EPCglobal Gen 2 tags and Near Field Communication (NFC) tags. Designed for retail stores, ID Hand is a lightweight mobile scanner—weighing 250 grams (8.8 ounces), and measuring 35 centimeters by 10 centimeters by 4 centimeters (13.8 inches by 3.9 inches by 1.6 inches)—designed to enable staff members to manage store inventory. The device features one-button operation; to activate the reader, a user can press the button or simply shake the device, and a vibration motor and beeper will confirm every performed scan. The NFC functionality is used to authenticate users who simply swipe an NFC-enabled card (or, Nedap reports, it could theoretically be used for NFC-enabled mobile payments). ID Hand can be utilized in combination with mobile-computing devices and smartphones, including Microsoft Windows CE devices and Apple iPods, iPhones and iPads (via Bluetooth connectivity). For all platforms, an open application-programming interface (API) enables retailers and third-party integrators to make their own applications, based on the handheld reader. ID Hand is also available with an optional, integrated bar-code scanner. The device's standard color is white, though it can also be ordered in any color requested by a customer. The ID Hand is priced at approximately $1,780 without a bar-code scanner, and about $2,055 with such a scanner. It is currently available throughout Europe, the company reports, and will be marketed in other regions beginning in 2012. Nedap has also announced that it has signed a deal with Desigual, a Spanish fashion brand and retailer. Under the terms of the deal, Nedap will equip all of Desigual's branded stores with its electronic RF/RFID technology designed to prevent theft. The agreement covers equipping all future Desigual stores, as well as removing all currently installed electronic article surveillance (EAS) systems, which will be replaced by Nedap security gates supporting both RF EAS and RFID functionality.

Enso SmartPack Acquires RF-iT Solutions

Startup Enso SmartPack, a smart-packaging solutions provider headquartered in Austria, has announced that it has acquired RFID vendor RF-iT Solutions, also based in that country. According to Enso SmartPack, the acquisition is regarded as an important step toward accelerating the company's development. RF-iT Solutions provides RFID hardware and software, such as middleware that connects RFID devices to systems, as part of its detego suite. RF-iT also offers technology consulting, sales support, software development activities and services to its business partners. Kevin Lewis, Enso SmartPack's director, says his company is still developing and beta-testing its solutions that leverage RFID. "We started over a year ago," he states. "We prefer to keep low-key until we finish our field trials. It is going well, and we are accelerating. We approached RF-iT to discuss a potential project. During our initial meeting, it was clear that RF-IT was a perfect fit." In the near term, he notes, there will be little change to RF-iT's operations. Alexander Gauby, RF-iT Solutions' founder and CEO, will continue to run RF-iT. "We like RF-iT's team, technology and the region of Austria where the office is located," Lewis says. "Basically, what they do, they do very well. We plan to leverage their strengths to accelerate our ongoing initiatives."

University of Minnesota Adopts RFID to Promote Biking

The University of Minnesota has begun installing the RFID-enabled Dero Zap system in order to reward the approximately 6,500 students and employees who currently bicycle to and across campus, and to encourage others to do the same. The solution, manufactured by Dero Bike Racks, a Minneapolis, Minn., manufacturer of racks and other bike-storage systems, is designed to encourage commuters to decrease driving and take up alternative transportation, by providing organizations with a way to track, encourage and reward commuting by bicycle (see RFID System Tracks Trips, Fringe Benefits, for Bike Commuters). With Dero Zap, the company reports, organizations can employ a Web-based interface to enroll participants and register a unique RFID tag to each rider. The tamper-proof passive ultrahigh-frequency (UHF) tags, compliant with the EPC Gen 2/ISO 18000-6c standard, are attached to the spokes of a bike's front wheels, while solar-powered Zap stations, mounted on steel poles, contain RFID readers that identify registered bicycles from up to 30 feet away. When an enrolled cyclist rides into a Zap station's zone, the unit acknowledges that person's arrival with an audible beep and a flashing light. The Zap unit records the arrival and transmits that data wirelessly to a central Web server. Administrators can then access the information online, the company explains, in order to tally bicycle commuter arrivals, determine eligibility for bike commuting incentives, and calculate rewards. The data also supports analysis of bicyclists' transportation patterns. The University of Minnesota is installing 20 RFID-enabled Dero Zap units at its Minneapolis and St. Paul campuses, with one unit centrally located at the school's new Campus Bike Center. "Until now, everything has been based on the honor system, and organizations don't typically offer incentives for results based on the honor system," said Steve Sanders, the bike coordinator for the university's parking and transportation services, in a prepared statement. "Implementing this technology solution is our way to confirm that people are actually using their bikes and then reward them."