RFID News Roundup

By Rich Handley

EM Microelectronic announces RFID solution for wireless sensing; Confidex offers on-metal RFID labels; Vizinex RFID intros flexible asset-tracking tags; Pod Group launches self-service IoT connectivity platform; STMicroelectronics adds software pack for industrial condition monitoring; the Industrial Internet Consortium publishes IIoT white paper on distributed ledgers.

Presented here are recent news announcements regarding the following organizations: EM Microelectronic, Confidex, Vizinex RFID, Pod Group, STMicroelectronics, and the Industrial Internet Consortium.

EM Microelectronic Announces RFID Solution for Wireless Sensing
RFID company EM Microelectronic has announced the release of its em|aura-sense system, designed for wireless sensing applications and part of its Augmented RFID product line. According to the company, the solution enables the deployment of batteryless sensors for Internet of Things (IoT) applications.

IoT applications pose complex challenges due to the presence of batteries, EM Microelectronic explains, in terms of sustainability, environmental friendliness, scalability and cost. IoT endpoints, on the other hand, need to capture and communicate data dynamically, as opposed to using static information. "The cloud needs to know from an endpoint what's going on at the time of the enquiry," the company said in a prepared statement, "rather than what data was stored there a while back."

Many existing solutions are based on smart but expensive battery-powered devices, the company indicates, or on passive RFID systems that are cost-effective but only handle static data. The em|aura-sense system can convert a passive RFID chip to a smart sensing device; the addition of a passive sensor, according to EM, transforms an RFID tag from an end-node into a communication pipe, making RFID technology context-aware.

End users can utilize existing RFID infrastructure, enabling ubiquitous, sustainable and ecofriendly sensor deployments. The solution is intended to reduce the complexity involved in operating RFID technology, with no maintenance required. Measurements can be performed remotely and automatically the company reports, without the need for human intervention and in environments for which battery use is not an option.

According to EM, the absence of batteries lowers system cost, fosters RFID adoption and creates opportunities in the automotive, construction, energy and healthcare markets. Due to decoupling between the antenna and capacitive sensor, em|aura-sense sensor tags can be made using traditional RFID label manufacturing processes, making them compatible with one-step inlay manufacturing.

Confidex Offers On-Metal RFID Labels
Confidex has announced its Ferrowave Classic on-metal labels for packaging and component-tracking applications, ranging from tagging automotive components to consumer packages with hard-to-tag metallic foils and liquid containers. According to Confidex, the Ferrowave Classic has been tested and verified to work with the following printers: Zebra Technologies' ZT410 RFID Silverline, Sato's CL4NX and Printronix Auto ID's T6000e.

Device type: UHF RFID, EPCglobal Gen2v2. Operational frequency: 865 to 869 MHz (ETSI) or 902 to 928 MHz (FCC). IC type: Impinj Monza R6-P or Monza 4E. Memory configuration for the Monza R6-P: EPC 96/128 bits, user 32/64 bits and TID 96 bits. Memory configuration for the Monza 4E: EPC 496 bits, user 128 bits and TID 96 bits.

Label surface: printable white PET with resin ribbon recommended. Background adhesive: high-performance acrylic adhesive. Weight: 0.8 gram (0.03 ounce). Pitch on reel: 20.32 millimeters (0.8 inch). Reel core inner diameter: 76 millimeters (3 inches). Tag dimensions: 100 millimeters by 17 millimeters 1.1 millimeters (3.94 inches by 0.67 inch by 0.04 inch).

Confidex has also introduced its ESD on-metal label, designed for use on any surface but optimized for ESD plastic, which is generally a challenge for RFID tags. With an optional protective layer, the ESD is built for durability against chemicals and washing, according to the company. The ESD label has been tested and verified to work with the following printers: Zebra ZT410 Silverline and ZT411 On Metal, Sato CL4NX, and Printronix T6000e, T4000 and T800.

Vizinex RFID Intros Flexible Asset-Tracking Tags
Vizinex RFID, which develops and manufactures RFID tags for specific applications, has introduced two durable, printable on-metal tags: the 6012 Flexible and the 6027 Flexible. Both offer mounting flexibility and are IP67-rated, making them suitable for tracking assets indoors, such as at factories, hospitals, data centers and offices.

With a flat, label-style form factor and a small footprint, the 6012 Flexible (measuring 60 millimeters by 12 millimeters by 0.8 millimeter) is suitable for small metal objects for which the mounting footprint is limited and a low profile is desirable, the company reports. The 6027 Flexible (60 millimeters by 27 millimeters by 1 millimeter) has multi-surface capability and can perform both on and off metal.

According to Vizinex RFID, the tags' flexibility enables users to track critical equipment in challenging indoor environments. Both models are delivered in a roll format and can be printed and encoded on demand using RFID-enabled printers. Customers can elect to have Vizinex print and encode the tags for them if they wish.

"These low-profile, flexible RFID tags are a cost-effective option for asset tracking where rigid tags do not work well," said Ken Horton, Vizinex RFID's cofounder and CEO, in a prepared statement. "While the tags can be preprinted, industries like healthcare, government and IT/networking have the option to print their own barcode or other numbers on the flexible tags."

Pod Group Launches Self-Service IoT Connectivity Platform
Pod Group, a provider of platforms, software and connectivity services for the Internet of Things (IoT), has announced the launch of a self-service connectivity platform called Luner. The platform, according to the company, enables IoT system developers to launch a global IoT connectivity solution using a platform that enables self-onboarding and self-management of SIM cards via a single intuitive interface.

Pod Group, which has provided IoT connectivity since 1999, says Luner was designed to facilitate SIM deployment and connectivity management with a user-friendly interface and application programming interface. Customers can create an account via the Luner portal, giving them immediate access to a range of global IoT SIM cards and transparent PAYG and monthly plans. Payment can be made by credit or debit card, and the SIMs are shipped from one of six local offices worldwide.

The platform allows granular management of IoT connectivity, the company explains, including control of data limits and unlimited access to data-usage records. Luner offers a full API suite, enabling users to integrate the service directly into their existing application layer or software.

"We found that for customers starting out in IoT, there is often a requirement for a simple, self-service connectivity solution which perfectly complements our existing modular platform, Pod IoT Suite, designed for larger IoT deployments," said Sam Colley, Pod Group's CEO, in a prepared statement. "Luner allows users to quickly test and launch applications anywhere in the world. It offers a flexible approach to product creation, allowing users to autonomously order sims and get connected in a few clicks without commitments, contracts or lock-in. A marketplace will soon be added to give builders faster access to the components that power their IoT applications." 

STMicroelectronics Adds Software Pack for Industrial Condition Monitoring
STMicroelectronics has released a free STM32 software function pack that lets users build, train and deploy intelligent edge devices for industrial condition monitoring using a microcontroller discovery kit. Developed in conjunction with machine-learning company Cartesiam, the FP-AI-NANOEDG1 software pack contains the drivers, middleware, documentation and sample code necessary to capture sensor data, as well as integrate and run Cartesiam's NanoEdge libraries.

According to the company, users without specialist AI skills can create and export custom machine-learning libraries for their applications using Cartesiam's NanoEdge AI Studio tool running on a Windows 10 or Ubuntu PC. The function pack simplifies prototyping and validation on STM32 development boards, ST explains, before systems are deployed on customer hardware.

The methodology established with Cartesiam uses industrial-grade sensors onboard a Discovery kit, such as the STM32L562E-DK, to capture vibration data from the monitored equipment, both in normal operating modes and under induced abnormal conditions. Software to configure and acquire sensor data is included in the function pack. NanoEdge AI Studio analyzes the benchmark data and selects precompiled algorithms from more than 500 million possible combinations to create optimized libraries for training and inference.

The function-pack software provides stubs for the libraries that can be replaced for simple embedding in an application. Once deployed, the device can learn the normal pattern of the operating mode locally during the initial installation phase, as well as during the lifetime of the equipment, since the function pack permits switching between learning and monitoring modes. The STM32L562E-DK Discovery kit contains an STM32L562QEI6QU ultra-low-power microcontroller, an iNEMO 3D accelerometer, a 3D gyroscope, two MEMS microphones, a 240 by 240 color TFT-LCD module and an onboard STLINK-V3E debugger-programmer.

Developers can use the kit to acquire and generate data, as well as monitor the solution leveraging free tools and software, and the support of the STM32 ecosystem. They can also create a proof-of-concept model and port the application to other STM32 microcontrollers. The solution, as an intelligent edge device, does not rely on AI in the cloud, the company notes, and it affords equipment owners greater control over potentially sensitive information by processing machine data on the local device.

Industrial Internet Consortium Publishes IIoT White Paper on Distributed Ledgers
The Industrial Internet Consortium (IIC) has announced the publication of a white paper titled "Distributed Ledgers in IIoT," which provides an overview of the use of distributed ledger technologies (DLTs) in the IoT. The report, written to help IIoT decision makers incorporate DLTs into their environments, includes use cases, architectures and building blocks for scalable industrial deployments. The authors are Futurewei's Michael McBride, XMPro's Pieter van Schalkwyk, IGnPower's Bassam Zarkout, iExec's Lei Zhang, IoTeX's Xinxin Fan, PwC's Alex Ferraro and the Trusted IoT Alliance's Anoop Nannra. The white paper can be accessed here.

According to the IIC, a distributed ledger is a consensus of replicated, shared and synchronized data spread across multiple sites, countries or institutions. "DLTs are relevant to Industrial IoT because they provide a safe, immutable distributed ledger that stores sensor data and allows information to be verified without relying on a third-party authority," said Futurewei's Michael McBride, a cochair of the IIC's Distributed Ledger Task Group, in a prepared statement. "This reduces mistakes and fraud, particularly along the IIoT supply chain. Industrial companies are using DLTs successfully for everything from shipping-container tracking to vehicle identity and history to energy trading to farm-to-store tracking."

Types of distributed ledger technologies include blockchain, a historical record of transactions, much like a database, that can contain financial and non-financial transactions distributed across several systems in near-real time over a peer-to-peer network; directed acyclic graphs nodes, which send transaction events to nodes that participate in a transaction; and a smart contract, a computer program that controls the transfer information between parties under certain conditions. While DLTs have great potential for disrupting and improving industry, the white paper indicates, ensuring scalability for industrial applications can prove challenging.

Several technologies are available to address scalability challenges. These include hardware-layer solutions (high-end machines used to accelerate blockchain operations), data-layer solutions (which boost transaction performance by increasing block size and reducing the intervals at which blocks are created), network-layer solutions (which optimize network bandwidth usage and increase connectivity among blockchain nodes to improve the transaction throughput), consensus-layer solutions (which enable greater scalability) and off-chain solutions (which offload transactions from the main blockchain to reduce network traffic).

Vertical industries described in the white paper include pharmaceuticals, transportation, infrastructure, finance and banking, mining and minerals, energy and utilities, logistics, automotive and more. "Distributed ledgers are a nascent technology but they are already being used in IoT environments," said IoTeX's Xinxin Fan, a fellow cochair of the IIC Distributed Ledger Task Group, in the prepared statement. "If companies use due diligence in testing, DLTs can be used for a competitive advantage."