RFID News Roundup

By Admin

Tagsys develops reusable RFID baggage tag for Qantas; NXP launches SmartMX2 family of secure microcontrollers; RFID TagSource announces RFID-enabled AeroTag for aerospace and defense; Soliatis intros robot for testing contactless cards and readers; Inside Contactless unveils SecuRead solution for NFC mobile devices.

The following are news announcements made during the past week.

Tagsys Develops Reusable RFID Baggage Tag for Qantas

Tagsys has announced that Australian airline Qantas has deployed a reusable baggage RFID tag using Tagsys' technology as part of the carrier's Next Generation airport check-in system. The system, which Qantas began rolling out at Perth Airport in July 2010, leverages RFID for customer and luggage check-in (see Qantas Launches Its Next Generation Check-in System). In that first phase of the deployment, approximately 100,000 Qantas platinum, gold, silver and bronze frequent flyers were provided with new loyalty cards with built-in passive high-frequency (HF) RFID inlays that the airline refers to as "intelligent Q chips." According to the airline, customers can use those loyalty cards to check in themselves and their luggage. The cards also act as permanent boarding passes, replacing eligible patrons' existing frequent-flyer cards. The new reusable RFID bag tags can be utilized in conjunction with the HF RFID-enabled loyalty cards, but support the ultrahigh-frequency (UHF) EPC Gen 2 standard. The tags, known as "Q Bag Tags," are being deployed in the domestic terminals of both the Sydney and Perth airports. This will be followed, in 2011, by deployments in Melbourne, Brisbane, Adelaide and Canberra. The Q Bag Tag can be permanently attached to passengers' bags, Tagsys reports, so that they can avoid long queues and quickly drop off their bags at self-check-in stations. The tags will also help improve baggage-handling efficiency, the company adds, and ground crews will be able to employ handheld RFID readers to locate baggage quickly in an airplane's hold if an item needs to be offloaded. The tags can store the details of up to four flights, and can also be reprogrammed for future flights. Tagsys indicates it worked closely with Qantas to develop the UHF EPC Gen 2-compliant "Q Bag Tag," and that it was able to design a medallion-style RFID passive inlay with a small footprint and very high electronic reading and writing performance for all tag orientations. Made with Impinj's Monza 4 RFID chip, the tag is encased in a custom-built plastic housing designed by Australian designer Marc Newson, and is produced by creative product agency Buzz Products. According to Tagsys, the deployment of a permanent, RFID-based baggage tag is unique in the airline industry. Previous RFID-based baggage-tracking solutions have relied on disposable tags.

NXP Launches SmartMX2 Family of Secure Microcontrollers

NXP Semiconductors has launched the SmartMX2 family of secure 13.56 MHz passive RFID chips, designed to provide greater levels of security for multiple applications, such as mobile transactions, public transport, access management, device authentication and banking, provided by a single smart card. According to NXP, a growing number of smart cards and Near Field Communication (NFC)-enabled phones are being designed to support multiple applications. For example, the company notes, Germany's new national ID card—which utilizes a version of the SmartMX chip—can be used in lieu of a passport when traveling within Europe, and also facilitates secure online transactions (see Germany Gets Set to Issue RFID ID Cards and Readers to Its Citizens). SmartMX2 removes much of the complexity associated with designing identification cards supporting multiple applications, NXP indicates, while integrating the highest possible levels of security and performance. "Multi-applications have been around for a few years, but so far the industry has been slow to fully embrace this trend due to the increasing complexity with each new generation of design," said Ruediger Stroh, NXP's executive VP and GM of identification, in a prepared statement. "What the NXP SmartMX2 product brings is the groundbreaking IntegralSecurity architecture, as well as outstanding performance and a smooth path to implementation, to help our customers get to market faster and save both time and cost." The microcontrollers are built on the new IntegralSecurity architecture, which NXP says is designed to protect the integrity and confidentiality of user data and applications that hope to achieve Common Criteria (CC) EAL 6+ security certifications. IntegralSecurity is built with more than 100 dedicated security mechanisms, including a hardened Fame2 crypto coprocessor serving a range of crypto algorithms with a flexible RSA key length of up to 4,096 bits. In addition, the company reports, the SmartMX2 includes the NXP-patented SecureFetch feature, which protects against light and laser attacks, and now covers data other than software code, as well as the NXP-patented GlueLogic feature for advanced protection against reverse-engineering attacks. The SmartMX2 also features a reengineered memory management unit (MMU) with advanced firewalling capabilities. The SmartMX2 is manufactured using 0.09 µm CMOS semiconductor technology with seven metal layers—which, according to NXP, provides further enhanced protection again reverse engineering and probing attacks. The SmartMX2 features a CPU with an 8- to 32-bit application instruction set. The chip is optimized for the ISO 14443-A RFID interface, including support for small antenna dimensions, and supports Mifare DESFire, Mifare Plus and Mifare Classic for applications convergence.

RFID TagSource Announces RFID-enabled AeroTag for Aerospace and Defense

Tag reseller and solutions provider RFID TagSource has announced the development of its AeroTag family of high-memory passive RFID tags designed specifically for the aerospace and defense markets. The new tags feature 4 kilobytes of memory and a lightweight rugged design, and have been developed within the guidelines put forth by the Air Transport Association (ATA). According to the company, the tags will meet the ATA Spec2000 and SAE-AS5678 specifications. The AeroTag, the company says, is particularly suited for manufacturers supporting Airbus' A350 XWB RFID initiative. The AeroTag features Tego's TegoChip, a passive RFID IC compliant with the EPCglobal Gen 2 and ISO 18000-6c standards, that offers up to 32 kilobytes of secure, tamper-proof memory. Similar tags are also available, including MainTag's FLYtag (see Airbus Signs Contract for High-Memory RFID Tags). But Kevin Donahue, RFID TagSource's managing director, says, "We have worked hard to maximize global performance with the TegoChip across the UHF (e.g., FCC/ETSI) band, and feel confident we will be strong in this area. Configuration options are another key differentiator that will be driven by customers, based on environmental durability requirements and attachment preferences." In addition, he says, the AeroTag family of tags will be manufactured in the United States, "which is important to companies that are also suppliers to the U.S. Department of Defense." The AeroTag products will be available in several configurations, depending on specific customer needs. Pre-production tags are available now, with full production quantities expected to be made available in the first quarter of 2011.

Soliatis Intros Robot for Testing Contactless Cards and Readers

Soliatis, a provider of RF test solutions headquartered in Salon de Provence, France, has announced a robotic solution aimed at increasing efficiencies in testing RFID cards and readers. The Soliatis Robot for Contactless Readers automates reader test operations, the company reports, in order to ensure reproducibility and alleviate the cumbersome experience of presenting a contactless card multiple times in front of a reader. The robot is focused on testing products supporting the ISO 14443 and ISO 15693 RFID standards, as well as RF specifications from the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO). The robot is controlled automatically by the SCRIPTIS Framework, a software environment developed by Soliatis. Tests for contactless readers typically require an extensive series of repeated manual procedures. These repeated operations are cumbersome, Soliatis explains, and can be the source of unwanted variations in the way an RFID tag or card interacts with a reader, thereby leading to failures in readers test and validation. With the Soliatis Robot for Contactless Readers, the card or tag is automatically moved in the reader's operating field, in order to ensure test repeatability and reliability. The robot automatically performs all test operations necessary to validate an RFID reader against the ISO and ICAO standards. Programmable with movements along the three axes, the robot is composed of Plexiglas, with no metal used in its construction. As the card can be precisely positioned on every point of the field, the company says the use of the robot allows for the creation of specific test scripts for each point. The robot will be introduced next week in Paris during the CARTES and Identification exhibition, and is expected to be made available at that time. Pricing was not available at press time.

Inside Contactless Unveils SecuRead Solution for NFC Mobile Devices

Semiconductor solutions provider Inside Contactless has unveiled SecuRead, a complete system-in-package (SIP) Near Field Communication (NFC) solution aimed at making it easier for manufacturers of NFC mobile and other devices to integrate all of the contactless, security and application functions required for a broad range of NFC payment, retail, transit, identification and access-control applications. SecuRead integrates Inside Contactless' MicroRead NFC controller with a security controller from Infineon Technologies and a GlobalPlatform-compliant Java Card operating system (OS) from Giesecke & Devrient. SecuRead also integrates Inside Contactless' Open NFC protocol stack to provide a solution that helps mobile-device manufacturers bring NFC capabilities to market more quickly. According to Inside Contactless, SecuRead is compliant with the relevant International Organization for Standardization (ISO) standards, as well as the EMV (Europay, MasterCard and VISA) standard for domestic and international mobile payments, and the Java Card OS supports core AES cryptography for OSPT standards in the transit-fare-collection market. For compatibility with certain transit applications, SecuRead supports emulation compliant with NXP Semiconductors' Mifare specification. It also supports HID's iCLASS virtual credentials, and is HID Trusted Identity Platform (TIP)-enabled for access control and emerging mobile applications. The secure element from Infineon features a secure microcontroller with multitasking capability that stores both code and data in a 144KB non-volatile memory. It has a security rating of Common Criteria EAL5+, and is approved by EMVCo, the group owned by American Express, JCB, MasterCard and Visa, to manage, maintain and enhance the EMV1 Integrated Circuit Card Specifications. "Unlike other NFC solutions, which must be integrated from multiple hardware and software providers and are less technically robust, SecuRead truly breaks new ground in the NFC market, providing a one-stop-shop, turnkey solution that mobile device makers can use to enable a broad range of NFC applications in their products," said Loic Hamon, Inside Contactless' VP of products and marketing for NFC, in a prepared statement. "SecuRead offers a superior NFC controller, one of the largest capacity and most flexible secure elements on the market and the leading Java Card OS in a single package, with superior software and technical support from a single, global supplier." Engineering samples of the SecuRead system-in-package secure NFC solution are expected to be made available this month, with production quantities available in April 2011. In mid-November, U.S. cellular service providers AT&T Mobility, T-Mobile USA and Verizon Wireless launched a joint venture, known as ISIS, to develop a single platform on which their customers could use technology based on the NFC specifications to make mobile payments (see Mobile Carriers Launch Venture to Aid Adoption of NFC in Phones). An ISIS spokesperson says it is too early for his organization to comment on the SecuRead solution, primarily because the venture was just recently formed and the group has yet to disclose any technical specifications. ISIS is developing a software-only platform available to all merchants, banks and mobile carriers, intended to be a virtual-wallet and mobile-payment system. SecuRead, by way of comparison, is a development platform for mobile handset manufacturers, and includes the NFC chip, the hardware and software required to control it, and a security package.