RFID News Roundup

By Admin

Great Wolf Lodge debuts RFID-enabled social-media app; Ekahau, Nordic ID team up on Wi-Fi and passive RFID asset-tracking solution; Positek adopts Tagsys' new UHF tag for the textile market; IT Asset Management Solutions adds RF Code's Physical IT asset-tracking solution to its portfolio; Russian high-tech firms, retailer partner on RFID project, Store of the Future; ABI Research estimates RFID software market to reach $500 million by 2016.

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The following are news announcements made during the past week.

Great Wolf Lodge Debuts RFID-enabled Social-Media App


Great Wolf Resorts, which operates numerous indoor waterpark resorts throughout North America, is debuting a new high-tech feature at its parks that combines radio frequency identification and social media. The application, dubbed Great Wolf Connect, will initially be launched at Great Wolf Lodge—Grand Mound, in Washington State, located halfway between Seattle and Portland, Ore., and will enable guests to link the RFID technology in their waterpark wristbands with their Facebook accounts, to automatically share photographs from photo-friendly Paw Posts throughout the resort. In 2005, Great Wolf first introduced RFID wristbands from Precision Dynamics Corp. (PDC) at its resort in the Pocono Mountains, Pa., after which it added the technology at new constructions in Mason, Ohio, and Niagara Falls, Canada (see RFID Serves Up Benefits for Guests and Hosts). PDC’s RFID technology leverage 13.56 MHz tags embedded in the wristbands, and can be used for keyless room entry; food purchases, game tokens and other items; and entering the resort’s water park. The wristbands also act as a means of identifying the patrons as guests. Built by Fish Technologies, Great Wolf Connect enables a guest to have photos taken by the various digital cameras located throughout the park, which are then automatically posted to that person’s Facebook page throughout his or her visit. After check-in, a guest can register his or her wristband at a Great Wolf Connect kiosk, and link it directly to that individual’s Facebook account. Then, at any of five Paw Posts located throughout the resort, the visitor can simply scan the wristband and smile for the digital camera at each spot. That photograph—or a general photo of each attraction—and a caption will then be automatically posted on that person’s Facebook wall. The Paw Post locations include popular photo opportunities throughout the resort, including its signature Tipping Bucket, as well as a full view of the waterpark from an elevated balcony inside the park, the lobby’s Great Clock Tower and other locations. “Family vacations are what memories are made of, with photos lining the fronts of refrigerators and pages of albums for years,” said Steve Shattuck, Great Wolf Resorts’ corporate director of communications, in a prepared statement. “Today, our guests use Facebook as both a virtual postcard and a photo album. With technology we already had in place, we were able to make sharing one step easier.”

Ekahau, Nordic ID Team Up on Wi-Fi and Passive RFID Asset-Tracking Solution


Ekahau a provider of Wi-Fi-based real-time location system (RTLS) solutions, has announced that in conjunction with Nordic ID, a Finnish manufacturer of RFID handheld readers and other devices, it has developed a solution for adding location information to passive RFID and bar-code labels. The solution, according to Ekahau, is designed for tracking such low-cost assets as surgical implements, drug supplies and other inventory. Ekahau’s RTLS technology lets users track any assets in real time throughout a hospital campus, using active Wi-Fi tags. Now, working with Nordic ID, Ekahau’s RTLS is also capable of tracking passive RFID and bar-code labels, as well as managing, storing and viewing assets and their respective location history within the same database. The combined Ekahau-Nordic ID solution consists of Ekahau RTLS software, Nordic ID Merlin handheld RFID interrogators and Nordic ID Morphic bar-code scanners. The Merlin reader is available in an ultrahigh-frequency (UHF) version that supports the EPC Gen 2 and ISO 18000-6C specifications, with a reading distance of up to 1.5 meters (4.9 feet), and a high-frequency (HF) model that supports the ISO 15693 standard, with a reading speed of up to 40 tags per second at a distance of 3 centimeters to 10 centimeters (1.2 inches to 3.9 inches). When used with Ekahau’s solution, the system can determine the interrogators’ and/or scanners’ locations via RTLS, and the associated RFID and bar-code information collected by Nordic ID’s systems can then be viewed and managed with the Ekahau Vision business logic and analytics software, which enables users to view asset locations on a real-time map, generate asset reports and audit trails, and alert users if any items are running low, or are located in the wrong location. “Previously, there were two primary ways to keep track of RFID and bar-code assets: the first was to manually input the location on a piece of paper or database—which is resource-intensive and is prone to human error. The second alternative, only available for RFID, has been to install costly reader gates throughout the facility,” said Arttu Huhtiniemi, Ekahau’s VP of product management, in a prepared statement. “The Ekahau-Nordic ID solution changes the game without installing any additional hardware. All you need is Ekahau software and Nordic ID handheld scanners. With those, you can walk into a room and press a button on the scanner to audit and put your assets in the database and on the map.” The solution is currently available from Ekahau and its distribution partners.

Positek Adopts Tagsys’ New UHF Tag for the Textile Market


Tagsys RFID has announced that Positek RFID, a provider of RFID-based garment-tracking systems for the hospitality and garment-rental industries, will use Tagsys’ new LinTrak ultrahigh-frequency (UHF) RFID tag for laundry and textile services applications. The LinTrak tag, introduced earlier this month, is specially designed to withstand harsh industrial laundry processes, supports the EPC Gen 2 standard and has a read range of 10 feet (see RFID News Roundup: Tagsys Intros UHF Tags for Textile Tracking). Positek RFID will combine the LinTrak tags with its suite of textile-, garment- and linen-tracking software, to provide a complete, end-to-end RFID UHF solution for the laundry industry. Many of Positek RFID’s customers have used high-frequency (HF) RFID tags, operating at 13.56 MHz and complying with the ISO 15693 standard, to track linens, uniforms and rental equipment, such as mats. But in April 2010, the firm added UHF RFID to its portfolio, via a partnership with Fujitsu Frontech North America (see Positek RFID Offering UHF System for Tracking Linens, Textiles). “The LinTrak UHF tag will help us further expand the use of UHF in the textile maintenance industry and bring cutting-edge new capabilities to our portfolio of textile maintenance solutions,” said Jeff Markman, Positek RFID’s president, in a prepared statement. “The Tagsys UHF LinTrak tag shows Tagsys’ commitment to the industry and will enable new applications and opportunities for our clients.”

IT Asset Management Solutions Adds RF Code’s IT Asset-Tracking Solution to Its Portfolio


RF Code, an RFID firm and IT asset-management solutions provider, has announced a partnership with IT Asset Management Solutions (ITAMS), a consulting and technology provider in the IT and software asset and service management industry. According to the two companies, the alliance aims to provide joint customers with solutions for real-time tracking of high-value IT assets, such as laptops and servers. RF Code offers a portfolio of active RFID-enabled infrastructure, including tags and readers, for both real-time asset management and environmental monitoring across an entire enterprise, as well as software to support that infrastructure. In March 2011, for example, RF Code added the R160 Air Pressure Sensor—a wireless sensor designed to measure differential air pressure and enable data-center operators to monitor changes in air pressure, in order to determine optimal cooling strategies—to its lineup (see RFID News Roundup: RF Code Announces Wireless Air-Pressure Sensor). The sensor’s built-in 433 MHz active RFID tag periodically reports its unique ID number, along with the air-pressure data, and is designed for use in conjunction with an RF Code fixed reader infrastructure. “Clients tell us that IT asset management has been a good investment for them because it helps to meet critical corporate governance and compliance requirements, as well as provide core asset control,” said Stephane Jansem, ITAMS’s managing partner, in a prepared statement. “Clients are looking at ways to benefit more from the IT asset management platforms that are already in place. For organizations that have already made an investment in IT asset management, the addition of RF Code’s active RFID-based solutions provides real-time asset visibility with a minimal additional investment. For instance, using RF Code’s active RFID technology, the systems can feed asset movement data into a barrier control system to alert operators if a tracked device is leaving a site without authorization. RF Code offers the most flexible, open and cost-effective active RFID platform to complement our solutions.”

Russian High-Tech Firms, Retailer Partner on RFID Project, Store of the Future


Rusnano, the Russian government’s investment fund for nanotechnologies—in conjunction with Sitronics, a high-tech company in Eastern Europe operating in the field of telecommunications solutions, information technologies, system integration, consulting, and the development and manufacture of microelectronics products, and the X5 Retail Group, one of Russia’s largest retail companies—has announced plans to launch the Store of the Future, a research and development (R&D) project aimed at creating nano-enabled solutions for introducing and exploiting RFID technology in Russia’s retail industry. If successful in its development work, the project will establish a company-integrator to introduce RFID technology to the domestic retail trade. The project has a starting budget totaling 350 million rubles ($12.6 million), with investment divided equally among the three participants over a span of two years. In 2013, assuming the technology has been developed successfully, the project will open Russia’s first model grocery store for the future. X5 Retail Group will provide the platform for the project, which will also develop sector standards—prerequisites for changing the regulatory and legal framework for retail production and trade. According to Karina Abagyan, the marketing director of Sitronics’ Microelectronics group, RFID technology is not yet widely used in the Russian retail sector. The project will provide an R&D mechanism for testing and introducing radio frequency identification, and various RFID technologies will be considered. According to Abagyan, Microelectronics has a complete production chain, from IC design and production (180/90 nm technology on 8-foot wafers) to the assembling and personalization of cards and tags, as well as a laboratory for antenna development and testing. “We’re going to test several standards and interfaces to work out the optimal solution for retail,” she states. “Maybe some new interfaces and forms will be developed. We are to solve well-known problems with reading tags from metalized surfaces and liquid capacities, with simultaneous reading of products in trolleys, the high cost of tags, etc. If we develop such reliable and cost-effective integrated solutions, then its mass application in the retail segment will be possible.” In a prepared statement, Andrey Malyshev, Rusnano’s deputy CEO, indicated that the cost of RFID tags is the greatest barrier to their broad use in Russia. “Once RFID in retail trade begins on a large scale, the cost of the tags will decline and RFID will be extended to other economic sectors. With project success, Russia will become another large market for RFID tags, and that will give Russian microelectronics producers the opportunity to enter an arena where sales are forecast at up to 50 billion tags per year,” Malyshev added in the statement.

ABI Research Estimates RFID Software Market to Reach $500 Million by 2016


RFID software continues to grow in uptake, according to the latest forecasts from ABI Research, a market research firm focused on wireless technologies. RFID software revenues are set to increase at a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of more than 20 percent through 2016, the firm reports, and are expected to reach $500 million by that time. “RFID is proving its value across a wide range of verticals, from automotive to retail to health care,” said Bill Arnold, ABI Research’s principal analyst, in a prepared statement. “RFID tags and readers may capture real-time data, but it takes software packages to make that data useful to the organization. RFID-focused software revenue should approach $500 million in 2016.” ABI Research identifies two key classes for RFID software: platform and line-of-business (LOB). Platform software handles the raw information, ABI Research explains, and hands it off to other relevant software systems, such as accounting, reporting or resource-management systems, whereas LOB software enables specific activities, such as warehouse operations, inventory management, or other daily operational tasks—generally at a departmental level, as opposed to across an entire organization. The LOB software category is growing more rapidly overall, the firm reports, and is becoming much easier to configure. ABI Research notes that if it were matched with an appropriate RFID platform, many costly integration discussions of the past would no longer apply. “The software has to be both hardware- and technology-agnostic,” Arnold added in the statement. “Getting it to this level of application specificity has been challenging and has required intense, constant investment in enhancing the software’s capabilities; all while average prices continue to decline.” The analysis is part of ABI Research’s “RFID System Software for Business Optimization” study that tracks the evolution of RFID software over the past five years, and offers revenue forecasts for the next five. It defines and explores the concept of platforms, and explains how potential customers evaluate RFID software packages and vendors. The report includes international survey results, and is part of the firm’s RFID Research Service. In the “RFID System Software for Business Optimization” study, ABI Research identifies several RFID software providers, including Xterprise, Checkpoint Systems, InSync Software, S3Edge and more.