RFID News Roundup

By Rich Handley

XO2Tech unveils RFID tag for FMCG; SODAQ adds Nordic SiP to its solar-powered cellular IoT asset tracker; LoRa Alliance announces LoRaWAN webcast, releases white paper with Wireless Broadband Alliance; Litmus, Industrial-IoT Solutions distribute edge-computing platform in Brazil; Kerlink, Richardson RFPD sign distribution agreement for IoT network solutions; Avnet offers LTE-M development for IoT solution developers; Industrial Internet Consortium publishes COVID-19 edition of Journal of Innovation; ARMOR Solar Power Films launches IoT innovation competition; CEVA BLE 5.2 platform receives Bluetooth SIG qualification.

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Presented here are recent news announcements regarding the following organizations: XO2Tech, SODAQ, Nordic Semiconductor, the LoRa Alliance, the Wireless Broadband Alliance, Litmus, Industrial-IoT Solutions, Kerlink, Richardson RFPD, Avnet, the Industrial Internet Consortium, ARMOR Solar Power Films, CEVA and the Bluetooth SIG.

XO2Tech Unveils RFID Tag for FMCG
XO2Tech has announced its RF-IOT Tag for fast-moving consumer products. This follows the company’s recent release of a product line leveraging RFID, Near Field Communication (NFC) and Bluetooth Low Energy (BLE) technologies to detect sensor information, such as when an elderly person takes his or her medication and what the next task should be, or when food in a refrigerator begins to spoil (see  Tech Startup Develops RFID with Sensor Intelligence for Elder Care, Homes).

“The RF-IOT Tag is a potent combination of RFID, gas sensing and RF sensing technologies,” says entrepreneur Edward Espinosa, the company’s founder. “This technology is a real breakthrough for IoT and FMCG supply chain and inventory management, brand and retail purchasing loyalty, and retail and home solutions, because it’s a smart, transformational sensing technology creating a single platform from manufacturer to retail to home. The question no longer is whether you can justify the cost of using RFID but rather ‘Can you justify the loss in not using RF-IOT?'”

According to Espinosa, the RF-IOT Tag accommodates a complete FMCG life cycle, including supply chain, traceability, automatic digital ordering, targeted brand messaging, fraud detection, and intelligent RF sensing capabilities for food freshness, composition and user interaction detection. “This technology is pretty radical,” he explains, “because it allows users, brands and retailers to communicate and process real-time transactions, provide intelligent sensing, and home and retail user interaction solutions on a level never imagined, using an inexpensive tag that any FMCG brand can deploy to access new markets and to create or reinforce brand exposure, loyalty and sales while providing invaluable supply chain and end user solutions.”

The RF-IOT Tag comprises several components. Its automatic product-ordering and targeted brand-messaging solutions incorporate gas-sensing technology. A user can activate the gas sensor on an FMCG product tag by removing the sensor cover. This allows the sensor to activate, and an RFID reader will automatically capture data and, via an app, then place an order for the product brand, send the order to a specific retailer, or provide targeted brand or retail marketing to the user.

The tag’s intelligent sensing applications are designed to detect product freshness or spoilage, composition and fraudulent products, and user vital signs or movements. This enables it to allow the monitoring of user interactions with FMCG products or items in home or retail spaces. These applications employ passive backscatter tag technologies, leveraging near-field coupling or near-field coherent sensing between a tag’s antenna and a container holding a food or other product or a user, to non-invasively sense a container’s contents or a user’s presence. The tag is designed to incorporate existing RFID applications with its gas and sensing technologies that can be read via smartphones, smart refrigerators and pantries, or intelligent voice assistants with RFID capability.

Such sensing applications, in addition to identifying product freshness or fraudulent products, allow retailers, brands or caregivers to monitor consumer interactions with products in a retail setting, and to track product usage and routine adherence of seniors or individuals in home environments. For example, if a toothbrush or food products are not interacted with by a certain time, a text or voice notice can be provided to a caregiver or a user. And once a product has been interacted with 10 to 15 times, a replacement order can automatically be placed. The automatic product-ordering solution allows for quick and easy reordering, Espinosa says, especially for seniors or less tech-savvy individuals.

Brand or retail managers can analyze user interaction with products to optimize product placement, marketing and message effectiveness. The RF-IOT Tag contains an AI module that provides next-step data actions to provide user suggestions and recommendations, or to predict user actions based on the collected data. According to Espinosa, the tag can accomplish many of the goals proposed by the FDA’s “New Era of Smarter Food Safety” guidelines, by enabling efficient identification of spoiled food items, traceability throughout the supply chain, the locating of recalled products, a reduction in food waste and transparency with end users.

SODAQ Adds Nordic SiP to Its Solar-Powered Cellular IoT Asset Tracker
Nordic Semiconductor has announced that Dutch engineering and design specialist  SODAQ is using a Nordic multi-mode NB-IoT/LTE-M nRF9160 system-in-package (SiP) in its solar-powered, perpetual-operation cellular IoT asset trackers. The 80-millimeter by 80-millimeter by 11.5-millimeter (3.1-inch by 3.1-inch by 0.4-inch) SODAQ Track Solar device forms parts of the SODAQ Track asset-tracking range, which includes two battery-powered variants targeting theft detection and parcel tracking and monitoring. The device weighs 100 grams (3.5 ounces).

In low-duty cycle applications comprising up to eight pings a day, SODAQ reports, the asset tracker will operate perpetually on harvested solar energy alone. This, it explains, makes the device suitable for logistics, offshore, site-management and general asset-tracking applications. The tracker integrates a light sensor, an accelerometer, a temperature sensor and status LEDs, and is powered by a 0.5-watt solar panel. It offers a positional accuracy of 5 to 20 meters (16.4 to 65.6 feet) for GPS, 10 to 50 meters (32.8 to 164 feet) for Wi-Fi and more than 100 meters (328 feet) for cellular.

“As the IoT moves into having hundreds of billions of devices installed worldwide, batteries suddenly become an important issue,” said Jan Willem Smeenk, SODAQ’s CEO, in a prepared statement. “First, there is the cost issue of having to check and replace batteries, which in large IoT installations quickly become the single biggest cost factor over an IoT product or sensor’s lifetime. This cost factor will become even more significant as the data subscription costs for cellular continue to fall to what I predict will be around $1 a year before long. Second, there is the environmental impact of having billions of battery waste a year. To me, the future of IoT really does need to be batteryless and, therefore, self-powered wherever possible. And so the SODAQ Track Solar is a firm a step in that direction for cellular IoT.”

The device can operate without a battery, Smeenk explained. “This includes the low-power characteristics of the Nordic nRF9160 SiP itself, and obeying the three golden rules of low-power IoT design: sleep as often as you can, work or go active for as short a period as possible, and communicate as briefly as possible when on-air.”

LoRa Alliance Announces LoRaWAN Webcast, Releases White Paper with Wireless Broadband Alliance
The LoRa Alliance, an association of companies backing the open LoRaWAN standard for Internet of Things (IoT) low-power wide-area networks (LPWANs), has announced  Destination LoRaWAN, a webcast series that will launch on Dec. 16, 2020, and run throughout 2021. Through Destination LoRaWAN, experts from inside and outside of the LoRa Alliance ecosystem will demonstrate how LoRaWAN technology can affect changes throughout the world.

“Destination LoRaWAN will share the latest global and regional developments with LoRaWAN technology, products and services through a series of localized virtual events,” said Donna Moore, the LoRa Alliance’s CEO and chairwoman, in a prepared statement. “Our goal is to provide the latest information on key LoRaWAN topics, showcase the value of digitizing your business, and share technical content specifically geared for developers and implementors. We are very excited to have  MachineQ, a Comcast company, leading the way as the gold sponsor of Destination LoRaWAN, along with  Birdz and  Charter Communications as our silver sponsors.”

The series will bring information and updates about LoRaWAN and the LoRa Alliance to regions around the world, with webcasts in local languages and region-specific market and technology experts. The topics are intended to engage all audiences, the organization reports, from developers to end users that want to learn more about LoRaWAN technology and how an Alliance membership drives business value.

The kickoff event will take place on Dec. 16 at 10:00 AM local time in China, Europe and the United States. Amazon Web Services representatives Michael MacKenzie and Karthik Ranjan will keynote, and panelists from CareBand, Kerlink, MultiTech and Xiamen Ursalink Technology will showcase LoRaWAN for Good projects that support the United Nations’ 17 Sustainable Development Goals.

In addition, the LoRa Alliance has released a white paper in cooperation with the  Wireless Broadband Alliance (WBA). Titled “Wi-Fi & LoRaWAN Trials—An Overview of Use Cases Across Regions Combining Two Technologies,” the paper provides details about practical trials and proof-of-concept (POC) deployments representing a variety of uses cases implemented across different geographies and vertical markets. It builds on the organizations’ earlier white paper, “Wi-Fi & LoRaWAN Deployment Synergies: Expanding Addressable Use Cases for the Internet of Things,” which compared the technologies theoretically and sought to demonstrate how they could be utilized to effectively support a vast array of use cases.  Download the new white paper.

The POCs explored in this new document conclude that hybrid Wi-Fi and LoRaWAN connectivity increases market opportunity, provides a strong ROI, and offers enhanced network solutions. Adding LoRaWAN to Wi-Fi using network mutualization facilitates deployment using an existing base of Wi-Fi access points, the organizations explain, offering an opportunity for Wi-Fi providers to expand their addressable businesses on complementary use cases that cover both broadband applications and massive IoT leveraging the license-exempt spectrum.

This work is the result of a collaboration between members of the WBA and the LoRa Alliance. Wi-Fi and LoRaWAN are two of the most widely adopted unlicensed technologies, and together they address a large proportion of current IoT use cases. Both technologies are disrupting private-public business models and enable participation in the 5G ecosystem and developing capabilities for IoT roaming, using OpenRoaming models. Companies representing both Alliances from all global regions contributed to this work, including Actility, Abeeway, Boingo Wireless, Charter Communications, Cisco, Kerlink, Lacuna Space, Nesten, Simplycity, Skyhook and Semtech.

“2020 has been a turning point for IoT adoption, and unlicensed wireless technologies are a key driver supporting the rapidly accelerating digital transformation,” Moore said in a separate prepared statement. “This latest collaboration between our Alliances clearly shows that Wi-Fi and LoRaWAN can deliver real business advantages and improved ROI.”

Tiago Rodrigues, the WBA’s CEO, added, “Homes, cities, transport systems and retailers all stand to benefit from these findings. In proving this large variety of use cases, we are able to demonstrate how Wi-Fi and LoRaWAN can work together to augment capacity, coverage and increase ROI, and we start to see real commercial drivers for the two technologies working side by side and resolving interoperability through OpenRoaming.”

Litmus, Industrial-IoT Solutions Distribute Edge-Computing Platform in Brazil
Intelligent edge-computing company  Litmus has announced a partnership with  Industrial IoT Solutions to distribute Litmus Edge and Litmus Edge Manager in Brazil with local language technical support. Litmus Edge is a flexible and scalable industrial edge-computing platform that collects, analyzes, manages and integrates data from industrial assets. Built for Industry 4.0, the platform provides edge connectivity and intelligence to enable such use cases as predictive maintenance, asset condition monitoring, machine learning and Industrial IoT. Litmus Edge Manager is a centralized edge device, data and application management platform for Litmus Edge deployments.

“Brazil has been pushing to become a leader in IIoT, with a national initiative to drive digital transformation across the Brazilian economy,” said John Younes, Litmus’s co-founder and COO, in a prepared statement. “We are pleased to partner with I-IoT Solutions to expand our footprint there as companies embrace Industry 4.0. Litmus Edge is ideal for a growing market since we can connect to any industrial asset—both legacy and modern—and derive value from the edge immediately.”

Companies in Brazil are working toward digital transformation and Industry 4.0, starting with integrating sensors, PLCs and machine data on the shop floor, with the goal of implementing machine learning and artificial intelligence. Litmus entered the partnership with I-IoT solutions to bridge the gap between OT and IT, the company reports, and to help Brazilian and Latin American companies improve their performance, productivity and quality. Litmus Edge comes with support for any PLC, CNC, sensor or robotic system, the firm adds, enabling industrial customers to collect and analyze edge data within minutes.

“We are very excited about this partnership because companies in Brazil are working hard to adopt Industrial IoT solutions and we can help them become more effective and competitive,” said Hélio Samora, Industrial IoT Solutions’ CEO, in the prepared statement. “With over 30 years of experience in selling technology solutions in Latin America, we have contributed significantly to the implementation of a successful IoT strategy for our customers. We have a strong network of partners and offer state-of-the-art solutions from a select list of suppliers, now including Litmus and the Litmus Edge platform.”

Kerlink, Richardson RFPD Sign Distribution Agreement for IoT Network Solutions
Kerlink and  Richardson RFPD, an  Arrow Electronics company, have announced that they have forged a distribution agreement. Kerlink, which offers solutions for designing, launching and operating LoRaWAN IoT networks, provides a product portfolio of industrial-grade network equipment, as well as network-core, operations and management software. The company was founded in 2004.

Kerlink is a global and publicly traded provider of Internet of Things solutions serving telecom operators, public authorities and private businesses, helping them to design, launch and operate public and private IoT networks. Richardson RFPD offers RF and wireless communications for the IoT and power markets. Under the terms of the agreement, Richardson RFPD will represent Kerlink’s IoT network solutions, including LoRa gateways, sensors and devices.

“We are excited to align with Kerlink to promote IoT-connected network solutions,” said Rafael R. Salmi, Richardson RFPD’s president, in a prepared statement. “Kerlink’s network-management center enhances our IoT product offering by removing the complex back-end connectivity integration required by customers to deploy their private IoT networks.”

“Kerlink partners with experts in IoT, RF and wireless technologies to support our continuing global expansion, and Richardson RFPD is a well-established, global distributor and specialist in these telecommunication solutions,” added Yannick Delibie, Kerlink’s CTIO, in the prepared statement. “As an expert in connection systems, it will help us execute our strategy to provide turnkey IoT services and extend our footprint in major markets.”

Avnet Offers LTE-M Development for IoT Solution Developers
Avnet has announced its Monarch LTE-M Development Kit for IoT device makers. The kit provides developers with components, software and services provided by  NXP Semiconductors, Sequans, Microsoft, Verizon and Avnet, thereby speeding up time to market for the development of IoT solutions using LTE-M connectivity. The system is powered by Sequans’ Monarch LTE-M modem, NXP’s LPC55S69 MCU microcontroller, Verizon’s SIM and ThingSpace IoT platform, Microsoft’s Azure cloud platform and Avnet’s engineering services.

LTE-M connectivity is crucial for IoT devices, Avnet explains, since its wide availability, bandwidth and speed enable the always-on, reliable data connectivity required for such IoT-based applications as remote monitoring, asset tracking, and smart-city and smart-home applications. The development kit has been designed to meet the needs of developers looking to incorporate LTE-M connectivity into their IoT devices, allowing them to utilize Avnet’s ecosystem to bring projects from idea to design and design to production.

“Connecting to the IoT requires more than a cellular signal,” said Jim Beneke, Avnet’s VP of products and emerging technologies, in a prepared statement. “Developers need the components, software and support to maximize reliability, simplify development and reduce overall time to market. Having a solution that provides all this ensures they have more resources to focus on the applications themselves and create IoT solutions that deliver real business value. Our new development kit combines everything today’s developer needs to do just that.”

Connectivity is provided by Sequans’ Monarch Go LTE-M modem, which is certified for end use on the Verizon network, eliminating the need for certification testing and decreasing time to market. Verizon’s ThingSpace IoT platform is incorporated in the kit as well, to facilitate device deployment on the Verizon LTE-M network, ensure data integrity and provide reliable network connectivity.

“There is no doubt this LTE-M development kit includes the best-in-class technologies of recognized industry leaders,” said Georges Karam, Sequans’ CEO, in the prepared statement. “Combining our Monarch Go platform that is already certified by Verizon with the MCU power of NXP and cloud services of Microsoft and Avnet results in an offering that enables IoT developers to prototype and deploy their devices faster than ever before possible.”

The Monarch LTE-M Development Kit bundles the Monarch Go Arduino Shield with an NXP LPC55S69-EVK board and includes example coding. The kit’s evaluation board features an NXP LPC55S69 MCU, which incorporates TrustZone-M for enhanced security. Avnet also offers the Monarch Go Arduino Shield as an accessory item for developers looking to enable other Arduino-compatible MCU boards with LTE Cat-M1 connectivity.

“Cellular connectivity is, of course, just one part of an overall IoT design and only one of the considerations for developing a secure, battery-operated device,” said Tom Pannell, NXP’s senior director of wireless marketing for edge processing, in the prepared statement. “As part of this new collaborative LTE-M solution, our LPC55S69 plays a key role in optimizing overall performance, giving developers options for fine-tuning power consumption and adding the security algorithms needed to protect data and the network. This new collaboration with Sequans and Avnet further extends NXP’s growing portfolio of edge-connected solutions and exemplifies our broader goal of making it easier for developers to design and deploy wireless solutions.”

Industrial Internet Consortium Publishes COVID-19 Edition of Journal of Innovation
The  Industrial Internet Consortium (IIC) has announced the 15th edition of the Journal of Innovation (JoI), titled “IoT Enabling Fast Response to COVID and Other Pandemics.” There have been almost 65 million worldwide cases of COVID-19 so far and around 1.5 million deaths. This edition of the Journal of Innovation shows how the IoT will play a crucial role in helping IT organizations adjust to the new normal, from working at home to social distancing. The journal highlights innovative ideas, approaches, products and services emerging within the Industrial Internet in such areas as digital twins, the IoT, digital transformation, artificial intelligence, smart cities and factories, and edge computing.

“The impact on global business has been unprecedented as millions of workers have moved their offices to their homes,” said Edy Liongosari, a co-chair of the IIC Thought Leadership Task Group and  Accenture Labs‘ chief research scientist, in a prepared statement. “In this edition of the JoI, IIC members discuss how the IoT can help companies protect themselves and others now and [in the] aftermath of the pandemic.” This edition of the JoI offers expert guidance contributed by industry leaders from IIC member organizations, including the following articles:

  • “Physical Distancing and Crowd Density Monitoring Using Computer Vision,” by the SAS Institute’s Saurabh Mishra, Hamza Ghadyali, Kedar Prabhud, Varunraj Valsaraj, Hardi Desai and Ravi Shankar Subramanian. This article provides an analysis of physical distance compliance in everyday spaces using video, deep learning and streaming analytics.
  • “Safety Back to Work—How IoT Is Enabling Redesign of Spaces in Response to COVID,” by several authors from PwC Advisory, including Vijay Ujjain, Sanika Natu, Abhipsa Panigrahi and Ayush Mishra. This article looks at how the IoT and AI are helping to define safe workplaces for the new normal.
  • “IoT-Enabled Global Process Validation System with Advanced Process Control (APC) Capabilities for Global Production Rollout of COVID-19 Vaccines,” by the SAS Institute’s Ramya Mopidevi. This article describes IoT processes for ensuring high manufacturing quality and accelerating production at the same time.
  • “Advances in Connected Worker Technology in the Aftermath of the Pandemic,” by PwC Advisory’s Vijay Ujjain and Paul-Marc Schweitzer. This article highlights IoT technologies and use cases that reimagine the future of work.
  • “COVID-19 Can Create Opportunity for IoT in the Caribbean: A Necessary Digital Transformation,” by Jason Robert Rameshwar from the University of the West Indies. This article presents the results of a recent survey exploring the potential of smart devices during the pandemic.

ARMOR Solar Power Films Launches IoT Innovation Competition
ARMOR Solar Power Films has announced that it will launch its ASCA Challenge 2020—Internet of Things on Nov. 19, 2020. The objective of this open innovation competition will be to identify contestants that can find an innovative solution to replace batteries in IoT devices with ASCA organic photovoltaic (OPV) film, an energy-harvesting technology. Among a variety of prizes, the winner will be awarded business strategy coaching and marketing advice, along with guidance and supervision from the company’s experts on the development and implementation of a finalized prototype.

With 30 billion connected objects being used worldwide, the IoT market is experiencing an annual growth estimated between 15 and 25 percent. Powering these devices with batteries raises two major issues, ARMOR reports: the impact they have on the environment and the logistical cost of replacing them. Lightweight, semi-transparent and flexible, ARMOR’s ASCA OPV film can resolve these issues, the company notes, since it can make IoT solutions energy-independent. The film is sensitive to light, making it effective in low-light environments, specifically indoors, and it can be adapted to connected objects regardless of their shape, size or material.

ARMOR Solar Power Films collaborates with its partners to provide custom-designed OPV solutions and electric energy-management systems. Since the IoT ecosystem is developing in a large number of sectors (construction, transportation, industry, agriculture, home automation, wearables and more), the international challenge will be open to all competitors (engineers, designers, startups, students, etc.), regardless of their specialty. There will be three winners, each of which will be selected based on their ability to propose a uniquely innovative solution.

Each contestant’s solution will be judged based on its beneficial impact on the environment, as well as on the economic opportunities it offers and the applicant’s presentation of a solid business model. The jury will be made up of seven international experts (business leaders and investors from the chemistry and IoT sectors, as well as journalists and academics), and four members of the ARMOR Solar Power Films team.

“The ASCA Challenge 2020—Internet of Things is a great opportunity for candidates to highlight their innovative projects and benefit from our teams’ support,” said Moïra Asses, ARMOR’s marketing and business development director, in a prepared statement. “This competition can also lead to a potential commercial collaboration with some of the candidates.” Applicants will have until Dec. 31 to submit their applications (in English only) via  challenge.asca.com, and the awards will be presented next month.

CEVA BLE 5.2 Platform Receives Bluetooth SIG Qualification
CEVA, a licensor of wireless connectivity and smart-sensing technologies, has announced that its RivieraWaves Bluetooth Low Energy (BLE) 5.2 platform has achieved  Bluetooth Special Interest Group qualification. As the first IP company to receive BLE 5.2 qualification, CEVA says it enables its licensees to reduce their product-development risk and thus benefit from expedited time-to-market and end-product qualification.

“We are proud to yet again be the first IP provider in the world to achieve qualification from the Bluetooth SIG for our RivieraWaves Bluetooth LE 5.2 platform,” said Ange Aznar, the VP and general manager of CEVA’s Wireless IoT Business Unit, in a prepared statement. “Version 5.2 of the standard introduces Isochronous Channels that address the growing demand for higher performance and lower power wireless earbuds and other audio peripherals including headsets, smart speakers and sound bars. We’re excited to work with our licensees to bring more CEVA-powered Bluetooth devices to the market.”

According to CEVA, isochronous channels (ISO) over BLE are the foundation for LE audio. ISO is supported in BLE 5.2, and several low-latency and synchronized channels can be set up to stream audio via BLE to several sinks, such as wireless earbuds. The audio experience is extended thanks to reduced power consumption compared to classic audio, and improved audio quality thanks to the LC3 CODEC, which is complemented by the ability to stream audio to an unlimited number of devices. Known as audio sharing, this allows those in public areas to grab audio streams from nearby TVs or monitors.

The RivieraWaves Bluetooth IP platforms provide solutions for both BLE and Bluetooth dual-mode connectivity, the company reports. Each platform consists of a hardware baseband controller and a software protocol stack. A flexible radio interface allows the platforms to be deployed with either RivieraWaves RF or various partners’ RF IP, enabling the selection of foundry and process nodes. All features of Bluetooth are supported, including ISO for LE audio, direction finding (AoA or AoD), randomized advertising channel indexing, periodic advertising synch transfer, GATT caching and more.