RFID News Roundup

By Admin

Austriamicrosystems, Nordic ID team up on new reader modules, readers; Retailers Advantage intros new RFID and EAS combo tag; Confidex opens office in Brazil; Swedish Transport Administration puts TagMaster RFID on rails, TagMaster unveils security enhancements; HID Global launches pilot of NFC smartphones carrying digital keys for access control, announces BlackBerry credentials; Puerto Rico converting to all-electronic, RFID-enabled toll collection.

The following are news announcements made during the past week.

Austriamicrosystems, Nordic ID Team Up on New Reader Modules, Readers

Chip manufacturer Austriamicrosystems and Nordic ID have announced the availability of Nordic ID's new NUR-05W ultrahigh-frequency (UHF) RFID reader module. In addition, Nordic ID has also announced three new RFID readers, especially suited for the retail and apparel industries, that leverage the new reader module. The module is powered by Austriamicrosystems' AS3992 chip, an integrated analog front end that provides protocol handling for 900 MHz RFID reader systems complying with the ISO18000-6b/c standards (see RFID News Roundup: Austriamicrosystems' IC Featured in Thinkify's RFID Reader-Writer). According to Nordic ID, the NUR-05W module is the smallest 500-millwatt RFID module in the industry. The device is used in the newly announced Nordic ID's Morphic, Merlin and Sampo mobile computers and ID readers. The new products, which Nordic ID says represent the biggest launch in the company's history, leverage the latest in RFID technology. The Morphic UHF RFID Cross Dipole, which is no larger than an average cell phone, is a Windows CE-based RFID reader that includes a laser scanner or a 2-D imager and features a foldaway cross dipole antenna. It communicates via WLAN, Bluetooth, USB and Ethernet, so it can integrate with existing retail and other systems. In addition, Nordic ID reports, it can read tags from up to 2 meters (6.6 feet) away, from any angle, and features a 2260 mAh lithium polymer battery enabling up to nine hours of continuous RFID use. The company's flagship mobile computer, the Merlin UHF RFID Cross Dipole, can read RFID tags from any angle at a distance of 7 meters to 8 meters (23 feet to 26 feet), for up to 28 hours on a single charge. According to the company, the device is capable of reading hundreds of tags in one or more boxes on a pallet during a single pass, thanks to the innovative, energy-efficient cross-dipole antenna. Windows CE-based, it features an illuminated color display that can be controlled via a touch pen or a user's finger. The Sampo S1 is a USB reader that can be mounted on top of, under, or to the side of a counter for instantaneous tag reading of loose or boxed goods. The reader has many ease-of-use features, such as light and tapping sensors, to initiate reading processes, and provides an adjustable reading range of up to 4 meters (13 feet), the company reports.

Retailers Advantage Intros New RFID and EAS Combo Tag

Retailers Advantage, a provider of retailer security solutions headquartered in Ontario, Canada, has announced the new A3tag (available in six models) —an electronic article surveillance (EAS) hard tag equipped with an EPC Gen 2 RFID tag operating at 915 MHz. The tag combines traditional EAS technologies with EPC Gen 2 RFID, the company reports, in order to provide unique features and advantages on a single tag. The tag features a unique dual locking mechanism. Each tag can be individually written to, has the capacity to hold up to 132 bits of information, is smaller than the previously available A3tag products (see Apparel Retailers Test RFID-enhanced EAS Hard Tags) and is well suited for apparel, shoes and many other articles. A3tag models ASU200, ASU258 and ASU282 use Alien Technology's Squiglette inlay (ALN-9630), while A3tag models ASA400, ASA458 and ASA482 feature UPM RFID DogBone inlays with Impinj's Monza 4D chip. Support for other RFID inlays will be available soon, the company notes. All A3tag models are available now—with RFID inlay only, or with RFID and EAS functionality—and are compatible with Sensormatic's 58 kHz acoustic EAS technology, or Checkpoint Systems' 8.2 MHz RF EAS technology.

Confidex Opens Office in Brazil

Finnish tag manufacturer Confidex has announced that it has established an office in São Paulo, Brazil, to better serve its growing customer and partner base in Latin America. The new office will be led by Alexander Dannias, Confidex's new general manager for Latin America. According to Confidex, Dannias has vast experience in business development, management and operations in that region, with a particular focus on technology in both software and hardware. He also has a background in leading the expansion of multinational companies across Latin America. "I believe Confidex is uniquely positioned through its combination of technology, product offering and operational model to reap the benefits of the rapid adoption of RFID and contactless ticketing in this market," Dannias said in a prepared statement. "I am very excited to join the team and to be able to contribute to Confidex's ambitious plans for the continent." Headquartered in Finland, Confidex already has offices across Western Europe, as well as in the United States, India and China. Interest in RFID is growing rapidly in the region, the company reports. In June 2011, RFID Journal created a Portuguese-language version of its Web site for the Brazilian market (see RFID Journal Launches Brazilian Web Site). The new site, RFID Journal Brasil, is supported by Hewlett-Packard's RFID Center of Excellence, the only research center in that company accredited by EPCglobal.

Swedish Transport Administration Puts TagMaster RFID on Rails, TagMaster Unveils Security Enhancements

TagMaster, a Stockholm-based RFID firm specializing in the railways sector—along with partner Swarco Sverige, a provider of intelligent traffic systems and parking solutions—has announced that it has been awarded a supply contract to deliver its new ultrahigh-frequency (UHF) track-side readers to Trafikverket, the Swedish Transport Administration. The readers will be used to automatically identify both Swedish and international goods wagons as they pass detection sites on the Swedish mainline rail network. TagMaster will supply its new XT-3HD long-range RFID reader, a rugged outdoor interrogator designed to comply with railway standards, built for reading passive EPC Gen 2 ultrahigh-frequency (UHF) tags mounted on passing trains or wagons, up to 5 meters (16.4 feet) away. The XT-3 reader is primarily intended for individual and vehicle access-control applications, such as parking-garage access, for which long-range identification, combined with high-speed RFID tag reading, may be required. The XT-3HD, based on TagMaster's existing fourth–generation (Gen 4) reader technology, includes a Linux operating platform. To enable the detection of untagged wagons, axle counters have also been interfaced directly with the reader. As part of the contract, TagMaster will supply the readers with communication software according to GS1's Electronic Product Code (EPCIS) data standards. This communication software has been developed by TagMaster's technology partner, 7iD. Trafikverket, along with several other infrastructure owners in Europe, are implementing wagon-tracking systems conforming to the EPC Gen 2 standard, thereby paving the way for the introduction of a European system in which interoperability is a the primary requirement, according to TagMaster. Meanwhile, TagMaster has announced enhancements to its TagMaster Security Concept, used in its RFID readers. The enhancements include secure encrypted TCP/IP communication over Ethernet using the HTTPS protocol. The new security functionality relates to the data communication between an RFID reader and external systems, the company explains. Ethernet is more frequently being used for communication between readers and host-control systems. The existing TCP/IP-based Ethernet communication ability is available in all of TagMaster's long-range Gen 4 RFID readers. To enable a higher level of security, the company has now introduced the HTTPS protocol as a selectable configuration option in all Gen 4 RFID readers. HTTPS provides proven encrypted TCP/IP communication that has been recognized in the market as both secure and robust. This new security functionality adds to the existing security already incorporated into TagMaster's product range, which includes multilevel password protection, ensuring controlled access to the reader's configuration menus, as well as protection against tag ID duplication.

HID Global Launches Pilot of NFC Smartphones Carrying Digital Keys for Access Control, Announces BlackBerry Credentials

HID Global has announced a pilot project designed to showcase the benefits of using Near Field Communication (NFC)-enabled smartphones for opening doors at universities and other campus environments. The trial, which began on Aug. 10, 2011, is slated to end in late October at Arizona State University (ASU), where 32 students and staff members are accessing a campus residence hall and selected resident rooms using HID Global's new iClass SE credentials embedded into a variety of popular smartphones, connected to all major mobile networks. The pilot involves RIM's BlackBerry Bold 9650, Samsung's Android (multiple models) and Apple's iPhone, as well as three separate carriers—AT&T, Verizon Wireless and T-Mobile—are providing mobile services. All of the devices use NFC-compatible microSD cards from Device Fidelity. ASU manages on-campus housing for approximately 13,000 students living in 34 residence halls. To implement the pilot, HID Global deployed iClass SE readers on secured doors to ASU's Palo Verde Main hall, and HID technology-enabled Sargent Profile Series electromechanical locks, provided by ASSA Abloy, on selected resident room doors. Participants were given NFC smartphones carrying next-generation iClass SE technology that enables new levels of security, convenience, portability and performance. To open a door lock, a participant can present his or her phone to a door reader, just as with existing Sun Cards, which are iClass-based campus credentials. All participants utilize their phones for residence hall access, while some also use them with a unique additional digital key and PIN to open individual room doors. In addition, the technology supports over-the-air provisioning and management of digital keys, simplifying the administration of the access-control system. ASU has been a longtime user of HID Global's iClass access-control technologies, and Laura Ploughe, ASU's director of business applications and fiscal control, had seen NFC technology in other applications. Therefore, says Jeremy Hyatt, HID Global's director of global public relations and corporate communications, the concept of moving iClass credentials to NFC was attractive and easy to understand. The pilot's goal, Hyatt says, is "to validate how bringing mobility to access control improves security while enhancing the user experience by making it easier to deploy and manage keys and more convenient to carry them." During initial feedback, approximately 80 percent of the ASU participants reported that employing a smartphone to unlock a door is just as convenient as using a campus ID card—and nearly 90 percent said they would like to use their smartphone to open all doors on campus. While the pilot is focused on physical access to dorms, nearly all participants also expressed an interest in using their smartphone for other campus applications, including access to the student recreation center, as well as transit-fare payment and meal, ticket and merchandise purchases. In other news, HID Global has announced plans to support the company's iClass digital keys and mobile secure identity on NFC-enabled BlackBerry smartphones. The new BlackBerry Bold 9900/9930 and BlackBerry Curve 9350/9360 smartphones, activated with iClass digital credentials, will be compatible with the large installed base of iClass readers used for applications ranging from physical access systems in buildings to student IDs, to applications that can track time and attendance. Instead of using keys or smart cards, a BlackBerry smartphone user will be able to utilize iClass digital credentials that can be presented for authentication, by simply holding his or her NFC-enabled BlackBerry smartphone in front of a reader, as he or she would currently do with a physical iClass smart card. The company reports that pilots using BlackBerry smartphones activated with iClass digital credentials will be conducted this year. HID Global expects that its embedded iClass technology will become generally available for the BlackBerry Bold 9900/9930 and BlackBerry Curve 9350/9360 smartphones sometime in early 2012.

Puerto Rico Converting to All Electronic, RFID-enabled Toll Collection

The Puerto Rico Highway and Transportation Authority (PRHTA) has announced that it is working with TransCore to convert two of its busiest and most essential roadways to all-electronic, RFID-enabled toll collection. The PR-52 north-to-south arterial highway linking San Juan with Ponce (which includes five toll plazas) and PR-53, linking the south and east coasts of the island (with three toll plazas) were part of phase I of the project, and were the first to transition. Before the conversion, rush-hour wait times at high-traffic toll plazas ranged from 15 to 20 minutes or more, according to TransCore. Now, motorists can pass through those same toll plazas at highway speeds, thereby reducing some commute times by up to 45 minutes. Phase I included 54 lanes that are a combination of new ETC lanes and the conversion of the remaining cash toll-collection lanes on four of the island's six toll highways. Puerto Rico began working with TransCore seven years ago, when it launched the AutoExpreso system that leverages TransCore's active RFID tags operating in the 902 to 928 MHz frequency range, and running on a non-replaceable internal battery, estimated to last for 10 years of typical usage. Puerto Rico's tolled expressways cover nearly 200 miles, with 22 toll plazas and 175 lanes. After the original launch in 2004, Puerto Rico's AutoExpreso system exceeded expectations at a rapid pace, and in less than three years, PRHTA surpassed its long-range, five-year usage goal. Now, the $26 million conversion project to all-electronic is expected to be completed across all roadways by next summer. With the initial transition of PR-52 and PR-53, TransCore reports, electronic toll transactions—which were 42 percent of all transactions prior to the beginning of the project—have already jumped to more than 70 percent. PRHTA's goal to increase the throughput of existing roadways, while also increasing motorist convenience (by removing choke points), improving air quality (by reducing carbon emissions from backed up idling cars) and eliminating costly cash leakage associated with cash-collection systems, would not be possible unless PRHTA could convert all patrons to electronic payment, TransCore indicates. In addition, the company notes, it is expected that the move will also reduce operational costs by $2 to $3 million annually, and that the firm will recover another estimated $10 million to $20 million in toll-revenue "leakage," TransCore says.