RFID News Roundup

By Rich Handley

Omni-ID adds Quuppa tech to IoT devices, unveils IoT middleware; STMicroelectronics offers new Type-5 NFC tags, joins ZETA Alliance; Semtech releases chipset for LoRaWAN network coverage; Link Labs' IoT evaluation kit available at Amazon; Elatec intros RFID reader for integrated access control, NFC; LoRa Alliance announces LoRaWAN roaming in more than 25 countries.

Presented here are recent news announcements regarding the following organizations: Omni-ID, Quuppa, STMicroelectronics, the ZETA Alliance, Semtech, Link Labs, Elatec, and the LoRa Alliance.

Omni-ID Adds Quuppa Tech to IoT Devices, Unveils IoT Middleware
Omni-ID, a provider of passive industrial RFID tags for monitoring the locations and identities of assets, has extended its Sense range of Internet of Things (IoT) devices with the launch of three new models incorporating  Quuppa's location technology. In addition, the company has launched its OmniSphere middleware IoT platform, designed to facilitate data collection, storage, visualization and interpretation by providing Sense device data to existing corporate systems or to customer applications.

OmniSphere comes with dashboards for displaying sensor data, including motion alarms, range measurement, push-button alerts, temperature levels, GNSS coordinates, and devices' current and previous positions, which can be viewed on a configurable map. The rules engine within OmniSphere enables alerts to be generated based on sensor data, such as sending an email if a device enters or leaves a geofence, as well as notifying a user if a device's temperature goes above or below preconfigured thresholds.

The middleware platform allows rapid technology evaluation and proof-of-concept applications involving Sense devices, Omni-ID reports. The Sense Shield wearable device tracks and records users' movements and can be configured to sound an alarm if it is located 2 meters (6.6 feet) or less from another device. What's more, it enables such public-health applications as infection control at care homes, schools, offices and sports venues, as well as on public transport, and it will soon provide compatibility with Bluetooth Low Energy (BLE).

"We foresee some really exciting applications of our Sense devices within healthcare and cold chain condition monitoring," said Tony Kington, Omni-ID's CEO, in a prepared statement. "We're particularly proud that our addition of Quuppa compatibility has enabled the rapid development of devices that can be applied in the global fight against the COVID-19 pandemic. The Sense Shield has potential applications in healthcare settings, cruise ships, sports venues and wherever an organization needs to help people to maintain social distancing."

The Sense BLE asset-tracking device is now offered as a Quuppa-enabled model. The third addition to the Sense range is a simpler version of the Sense Shield that provides the same Quuppa-enabled location accuracy for tracking assets, without the audible alarm. The Sense LoRa product range, launched in January 2020, can transmit signals up to 15 kilometers (9.3 miles) in flat, open space, or 3 to 4 kilometers (1.9 to 2.5 miles) in an urban setting.

All Sense devices have a compact battery that lasts up to five years within harsh and remote operating environments, the company reports, to reduce the cost and time required to replace devices in the field. With its GPS and accelerometer features, the units provide positional accuracy of 3 to 5 meters (9.8 to 16.4 feet). Sense BLE products offer a communication distance of up to 200 meters (656 feet) and can link to Wi-Fi, LAN or cellular networks, to the cloud, or to a locally hosted client-application server.

"The introduction of our BLE and LoRaWAN devices last year was a game-changer, and I've been delighted with how well our new Sense range has been received by customers and partners," Kington added in the prepared statement. "The addition of the OmniSphere middleware and three new devices with Quuppa compatibility provides our customers with the ability to rapidly review data from proof-of-concept applications, so that they can swiftly test and implement devices wherever precise location tracking is required."

STMicroelectronics Offers New Type-5 NFC Tags, Joins ZETA Alliance
STMicroelectronics has announced that its ST25TV512C and ST25TV02KC tags, which combine Near Field Communication (NFC) Type-5 properties with Augmented NFC Data Exchange Format (NDEF) and tamper detection, allow developers to leverage NFC contactless communication for applications involving consumer engagement, brand recognition, supply chain management and access control. The ISO/IEC 15693-compliant tags respond to smartphones and 13.56 MHz RFID readers, the company reports, and they allow native exchange of NDEF messages without a mobile app.

The Augmented NDEF function allows dynamically updated information, such as tamper status or a personalized URL, to be added to NDEF messages. Up to six different attributes can be configured for a message, including a Unique Tap Code that makes messages unique and dynamic. Tamper detection is added to the ST25TV02KC-T variant. The devices feature protection services that include a 64-bit encrypted password with failed-attempt counter for data safety, TruST25 digital-signature services to verify die authenticity, and untraceable and kill modes to protect user privacy.

The ST25 ecosystem includes software libraries, example applications and reference implementations. According to the company, the tags offer an extended communication range and improved reliability, while retaining the same chip capacitance as the previous product generation in order to simplify antenna design. The tags operate within a temperature range of -40 degrees to +85 degrees Celsius (-40 degrees to +185 degrees Fahrenheit) and integrate a configurable EEPROM with 60-year data retention. Both models are available as sawn and bumped wafer, or packaged in UFDFPN5.

In addition, STMicroelectronics has joined the  ZETA Alliance, which promotes ZETA low-power wide-area network (LPWAN) technology for long-range IoT connectivity. Native support for mesh networking allows peer-to-peer communication among the network nodes, while boosting network coverage and resilience, ST explains. The company has joined the Alliance as a Promoter member and says it expects ZETA technology to accelerate the Internet of Things' spread worldwide.

"ZETA has a strong value proposition and is taking its place among established LPWAN technologies, boosting choice and flexibility for solution developers and enabling the IoT to deliver even greater benefits to more end users," said Hakim Jaafar, ST's STM32 wireless marketing director, in a prepared statement. "ST is actively engaged with the industry bodies for all leading LPWAN standards for IoT connectivity and offers a portfolio of solutions that help developers bring their innovations to market quickly and cost-effectively."

"We believe ST will greatly strengthen the ZETA developer ecosystem chain and promote further evolution and deployment of ZETA technology," added Zhuoqun Li, the CEO of ZETA Alliance founding member  ZiFiSense, in the prepared statement. "We look forward to working with ST to create a broader LPWAN 2.0 global IoT eco-system." ST is working with ZiFiSense to port the technology to its STM32WL wireless system-on-chip devices, which combine ultra-low-power microcontroller functionality with a wireless stage certified to international radio equipment regulations.

Semtech Releases Chipset for LoRaWAN Network Coverage
Semtech, a supplier of analog and mixed-signal semiconductors and algorithms, has announced its LoRa Core portfolio with a new chipset. The portfolio provides global LoRaWAN network coverage, the company explains, and is targeted at such vertical industries as asset tracking, buildings, homes, agriculture, metering and factory automation.

The LoRa Core portfolio consists of sub-GHz transceiver chips, gateway chips and reference designs, including the SX126x series, SX127x series and LLCC68 transceiver chips, as well as the SX130x series gateway chips, legacy gateway reference designs and the LoRa Corecell gateway reference designs. New additions are a gateway baseband processor integrated with LoRa (SX1303) and an associated LoRa Corecell gateway reference design that supports the fine-timestamp feature, which is available in the United States, Europe and China.

"The new LoRa Core gateway IC enables the network-centric geolocation of LoRa devices without requiring the inclusion of GPS hardware at each individual end node," said Pedro Pachuca, the director of wireless products for Semtech's Wireless and Sensing Products Group, in a prepared statement. "Based on a fine-timestamp capability that provides accurate time of arrival information for each demodulated message, the new chipset allows gateways to perform network-centric geolocation based on time difference of arrival (TDOA). This is ideal for several cost-sensitive asset tracking applications. The new LoRa Core IC helps customers accelerate the development of their applications operating the LoRaWAN protocol."

Link Labs' IoT Evaluation Kit Available at Amazon
Link Labs, which offers an IoT platform for locating, managing and monitoring equipment, supplies and assets, has announced the Amazon availability of its AirFinder SuperTag Pro Evaluation Kit. The commercial tracking device, according to the company, combines GPS/GNSS, Wi-Fi location lookup, Cell ID, Polte and Link Labs' AirFinder Indoor Positioning Network to provide continuous visibility of assets in both indoor and outdoor environments. It transitions from one technology to another as needed and allows for flexible configurations based on an application's unique requirements.

"Our new AirFinder SuperTag Pro Evaluation Kit is a low-risk way for businesses to try out the technology, which merges the very best indoor positioning system and outdoor positioning technologies into one, long-lasting device for asset intelligence, and see how it can track and protect the assets that matter most and reduce costs," said Bob Proctor, Link Labs' co-founder and CEO, in a prepared statement. "The kit, now on sale at Amazon, provides everything a business needs to quickly get up and running, whether it's tracking valuable assets from the warehouse to the yard, the hospital to patient homes, the factory floor to the front door, and everywhere in between. It can be deployed in minutes and is uniquely power-optimized to last years in the field without needing to change batteries."

The kit comes with four AirFinder SuperTag Pro tags, four indoor, battery-powered location beacons, one AirFinder SuperTag mounting bracket, batteries and other mounting hardware, along with a free 90-day AirFinder Web-based app trial, including cellular data usage. The AirFinder SuperTag Pro's configurability allows full control of update rates and location technology prioritization, the company reports, thus ensuring proper latency and battery life, and Link Labs will assist companies with monitoring how devices perform in the field to optimize their use over time.

Location data from each device securely flows to the AirFinder app or directly to customer databases via extensible APIs, providing the ability to locate and monitor assets in real time, as well as analyze asset history, add rules and alerts, establish geofences and more. The system supports firmware-over-the-air (FOTA) upgrades to ensure that its capabilities are continuously evolving, and it has received an IP67 rating for outdoor deployment, indicating it is protected from dust, water and other liquids.

Elatec Intros RFID Reader for Integrated Access Control, NFC
Elatec has announced its TWN4 Palon Square M RFID reader. The multi-frequency and multi-standard RFID module measures 73 millimeters by 73 millimeters (2.9 inches by 2.9 inches), making it suitable for integration into access-control and time-and-attendance solutions, as well as for industrial applications. The reader supports more than 60 contactless 125 kHz and 13.56 MHz standards, the company reports, including Near Field Communication (NFC) for mobile devices.

According to Elatec, the product's form factor can accommodate customers that choose a square shape for their housing in the standard dimension for E.U. socket outlets for on-wall installation. The board's single-sided assembly allows the antenna to be positioned closer to the surface of a product housing than with other designs, the company notes, thereby increasing performance in industrial solutions.

The module can be used for a variety of applications since it comes with RS-485, Wiegand and USB interfaces. The device offers a secure access module (SAM) socket and an integrated flash memory for storing user-accessible, non-volatile data. It allows users to choose the transponder standard and comes with a comprehensive software development kit. Firmware updates can be made in the field via configuration cards or from a centralized system via a remote protocol.

LoRa Alliance Announces LoRaWAN Roaming in More Than 25 Countries
The  LoRa Alliance, a global association of companies backing the open LoRaWAN standard for IoT low-power wide-area networks (LPWANs), has announced that network operators in 27 countries have deployed roaming-capable platforms with full LoRaWAN roaming capabilities, as well as via satellite. Multiple customers are leveraging the roaming services provided by public LoRaWAN network operators, and the LoRa Alliance has launched its Connect EU initiative to accelerate roaming across Europe, with participation from other regions as well.

The initiative supports and encourages collaboration among all LoRa Alliance members interested in leveraging LoRaWAN roaming, the organization reports. This effort, along with recent LoRaWAN Backend Specification enhancements, is intended to foster the continuous improvement of this capability, and to ensure active member engagement in roaming networks and hubs.

"The LoRa Alliance continues to drive a strategy of making LoRaWAN widely accessible and easy to use," said Donna Moore, the LoRa Alliance's chairwoman and CEO, in a prepared statement. "As of the end of 2020, we have public and private LoRaWAN networks active in more than 160 countries around the world. We also know that true global coverage is most quickly accomplished by interconnecting networks and allowing devices to seamlessly move between them—especially for logistics and tracking applications. Many of the largest global brands have supported this approach by implementing LoRaWAN roaming across their networks, making LoRaWAN more accessible than ever before."

According to the Alliance, recent updates to the TS002-1.1.0 LoRaWAN Backend Interfaces Technical Specification are intended to enhance ease-of-use for roaming implementations and add support of LoRaWAN geolocation features for roaming devices. LoRaWAN roaming covers both mobile and fixed assets of multi-national customers, whose devices leverage the radio coverage from roaming partners across multiple countries.

Along with public-to-public network peering, LoRaWAN's roaming capabilities support public-to-private and private-to-private network peering. The LoRaWAN protocol also offers a unique feature whereby a given device could be served simultaneously by several gateways that may belong to its home network and one or more visited networks. From a functionality perspective, the organization explains, this allows several networks' gateways to act as one, with unified coverage serving the device.

In addition to being able to access LoRaWAN roaming via agreements with network operators, multiple LoRa Alliance members have launched roaming hubs that can mutualize multi-network interconnections. These hubs are designed to make it easier for network providers to connect to several vendors at once. Roaming is currently accessible via satellite network provider  Lacuna Space, allowing for integrated terrestrial and satellite networks, as well as providing coverage to remote areas.