RFID News Roundup

By Admin

Swiss Post begins tracking trays of letters via RFID; automotive plants in Germany and North America adopt Ubisense's RTLS; Xerafy introduces specialty RFID tags designed for the construction and gas-distribution industries; EMVCo and NFC Forum collaborate to optimize NFC development and testing processes; Getac UK intros rugged tablet with glove-friendly touchscreen and optional RFID reader.


The following are news announcements made during the past week.

Swiss Post Begins Tracking Trays of Letters Via RFID

Swiss Post has extended its use of radio frequency identification to other parts of its operations, adding ultrahigh-frequency (UHF) EPC Gen 2 technology to its letters line of business, which handles more than 2.33 billion letters annually. The postal service has implemented an RFID solution provided by Lyngsoe Systems to track 70,000 containers carrying trays of mail at its facilities in Switzerland. According to Bo Helmer Larsen, Lyngsoe Systems’ director of sales, the solution is integrated and turnkey, and consists of hard-case EPC Gen 2 RFID tags affixed to each container, RFID portals mounted over gates at around 50 sites throughout the country, materials-management software for tracking containers and their mail contents for production and transportation execution, and support of bar codes and interfaces to existing Swiss Post systems, in order to provide end-to-end tracking and tracing of containers, as well as on-board mail trays nested in the containers. The bar-code ID numbers printed on the trays are registered and consigned to the individual, RFID-tagged containers and their destinations in an automated nesting solution that leverages robotics. According to Lyngsoe Systems, the solution is designed to eliminate manual track-and-trace activities, and to leverage directional real-time data to ensure complete visibility in the workflow of containers carrying mail in a logistics system. In 2008, Swiss Post integrated RFID into its parcels line of business—which, Larsen explains, is separate from the letters line of business—to track 45,000 rolling container cages (see Swiss Post Delivers RFID to Its Parcel Centers, Transportation Hubs). The agency has been utilizing RFID in various operations since 1999.

Automotive Plants in Germany and North America Adopt Ubisense’s RTLS

Ubisense Group, a provider of location-based smart technology, has announced that it has been awarded two contracts for real-time location system (RTLS) projects, by two large automotive manufacturers, which it declines to name. The first new contract, involving a pilot installation of Ubisense’s and Atlas Copco‘s Tool Location System (TLS) on a large-scale assembly line in Germany, represents the first time that Ubisense has been contracted to supply this particular major German automotive manufacturer with its location solutions. A few years ago, Ubisense and Atlas Copco, an industrial tool firm, partnered on the development of location-sensitive tools for use on production lines and in other industrial environments (see Ubisense Raises Nearly $8 Million in Fund-Raising Round). Atlas Copco leveraged a Ubisense tag module, announced in July 2010 and designed for direct integration into third-party devices (see RFID News Roundup: Ubisense Intros UWB Tag Module for Third-Party Development). The tools from the Atlas Copco-branded TLS are equipped with Ubisense’s ultra-wideband (UWB) location RFID tags that transmit signals to nearby receivers, with location-tracking information analyzed and visualized using Ubisense’s software. The TLS solution, according to Ubisense, is designed to help customers improve efficiencies and reduce error rates caused by the incorrect usage of tools. For example, the company reports, BMW employs Ubisense tags to identify each vehicle on its assembly line, and power tools are programmed automatically to the correct parameters when a specific vehicle enters a work zone (see BMW Finds the Right Tool). BMW is using the TLS technology to provide analytical data that helps improve the efficiency of the overall production process itself, according to Ubisense. For the second new project, Ubisense has been awarded a contract with another automaker, to support the continuous improvement (or kaizen) of its manufacturing processes through the adoption of Ubisense’s e-Kaizen solution at a North American plant. The e-Kaizen solution, the company reports, is used to enable the manufacturer to continuously monitor and provide visibility of workers carrying out complex assembly tasks on the assembly line. By tracking, in real time, how employees interact with their torque tools on the cars at individual workstations, the company can compare actual performance, model by model, to the planned activity. Previously, this comparison was only possible using video techniques—but now, Ubisense indicates, it can be completely automated over any particular period of time, thereby allowing data collection to be analyzed over a variety of vehicle models.

Xerafy Introduces Specialty RFID Tags Designed for the Construction and Gas-Distribution Industries

Xerafy Ltd., a global supplier of RFID metal tags, has introduced its Xylinder and Bric RFID tags as part of its specialty tag line, designed to address the attachment and unique needs of specific applications. Both the Xylinder and Bric models are passive ultrahigh-frequency (UHF) tags compliant with the EPC Gen 2 (ISO 18000-6C) standard. The Xylinder tag is designed to fit the neck of gas cylinders and bottles, and to perform well under extreme use, so that gas bottles and cylinders can be tracked in the field. It is ATEX-certified for safe use within hazardous areas (ATEX is part of a European Union directive describing the equipment and work environment allowed in a setting containing an explosive atmosphere). The Bric tag can be securely mounted on or embedded in concrete, according to Xerafy, making it suitable for RFID construction and building materials. During the construction process, the Bric model can be attached by cable ties to metal support rods before cement is poured. Its specialized encapsulation allows it to withstand the heat and pressures of the curing process. The tag is rated IP 68, making it dustproof and waterproof, and will perform even after a building’s construction is completed, Xerafy reports. Several customers are already using the tags, the firm adds. In fact, Tecton Ltd., a worldwide building information management company, has been using a custom version of the Bric tag to track and guide the design, construction, operations and inspection processes for one of its clients: Gammon Steel. Another Xerafy customer—a large gas cylinder provider, which Xerafy is not yet at liberty to name—is also using the Xylinder tag. The Xylinder and Bric tags are the first two in a family of specialty products that Xerafy plans to introduce during the coming months.

EMVCo and NFC Forum Collaborate to Optimize NFC Development and Testing Processes

EMVCo—an organization owned by American Express, JCB, MasterCard and Visa that manages the EMV global standard for credit and debit payment cards based on chip-card technology—has announced that it is working with the NFC Forum to optimize the development and testing processes of Near Field Communication (NFC)-enabled mobile devices for vendors. The goal of the collaboration is to establish a framework for synchronizing NFC RFID and EMVCo specifications, test plans, test tools, laboratory accreditations and the management of contactless product certification. According to the two groups, the framework will streamline the development and testing process of contactless technology for vendors. The alliance, the partners claim, will benefit stakeholders and solutions providers involved in EMV-related NFC use cases and products in the contactless payments industry, by reducing product time-to-market and decreasing certification costs. “To enable contactless to reach its full potential and facilitate the delivery of secure payment solutions, we need to create an efficient testing and certification framework that allows products to be swiftly brought to market,” said Joe Cunningham, the current chair of the EMVCo Executive Committee, in a prepared statement. “Alignment between industry bodies is therefore essential to ensure we apply specialist knowledge and a cohesive approach to the creation of this very innovative ecosystem.” Koichi Tagawa, the NFC Forum’s chairman, added in the statement, “At the NFC Forum, we want to make it fast and affordable for organizations to build and deploy EMV-based NFC solutions. By working closely with EMVCo, we’re able to better support vendors while furthering our commitment to global interoperability.” Initial collaborative work will focus on Level 1 functionality, which covers the contactless communication protocol. According to the groups, efforts will center on outlining the scope of work and the specifications to be covered, which will be followed by a gap analysis to identify and examine specification differences, agree on specification updates when necessary, and determine how agreed amendments will be collectively managed.

Getac UK Intros Rugged Tablet With Glove-Friendly Touchscreen and Optional RFID Reader

Getac UK, a wholly owned subsidiary of Taiwanese firm Getac Technology Corp., has unveiled its 7-inch Getac Z710 rugged tablet, built on the Android 2.3 platform, that features a touchscreen leveraging Getac’s proprietary LumiBond technology. LumiBond integrates Corning Gorilla Glass (a sheet glass engineered for a combination of thinness, lightness and damage resistance), a capacitive touch sensor and an LED panel. According to Getac, LumiBond offers high-performance touch sensitivity, even when a person is wearing gloves, and also provides the Z710 rugged tablet with a better viewing angle and sunlight readability than existing models currently on the market. The device also features new communication and connectivity support, including Bluetooth, Wi-Fi and 3G, as well as voice capture, and features CSR‘s SiRFstarIV navigation processor for GPS functionality. Options include a 13.56 MHz RFID and contactless smart-card reader compliant with the ISO 15693 and ISO 14443 A/B standards, as well as a 1D/2D imager bar-code scanner. The Getac Z710 tablet weighs 800 grams (22.2 ounces), has a 10-hour battery life, is IP 65-rated (meaning that testing has confirmed it to be dustproof and waterproof) and is MIL-STD-810G-certified (MIL-STD 810G is a U.S. military standard for testing equipment under simulated environmental conditions). What’s more, Getac reports, it can withstand 6-foot drops and operate in temperatures ranging from -20 Celsius to +50 Celsius (-4 degrees Fahrenheit to +122 degrees Fahrenheit).