RFID Technology Companies Team for Product Development

By Claire Swedberg

Global RF and satellite product manufacturer MTI is teaming with California startup SensThys to provide RFID solutions using products built at MTI's facilities with hardware from both companies.

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Technology startup SensThys has joined with wireless communication technology manufacturer Microelectronics Technology Inc. (MTI) to create a series of new products, under the SensThys brand, that incorporate hardware and engineering from both companies. The SensThys reader devices will include modules from MTI and will be manufactured at MTI’s factories. The companies plan to release the first products during this year’s RFID Journal LIVE! conference and exhibition, to be held on Apr. 2-4 at Arizona’s Phoenix Convention Center.

MTI and SensThys have declined to describe the products in specifics, but claim they will outperform existing RFID readers and antennas, and will include wireless and sensor technologies beyond UHF RFID. The partnership leverages engineering and software knowledge from the Silicon Valley company, with the resources and manufacturing capacity of the global Taiwanese technology manufacturer. The partners intend to build products with new capabilities that they say will provide performance not previously seen in traditional RFID readers. “We wanted to start pushing the boundaries of what readers can do,” says Jo Major, SensThys’s CEO.

SensThys’s Jo Major

SensThys is a Cupertino, Ca. firm that designs and manufactures networked sensor systems (see SensThys Releases $49 RFID Antenna). The firm sells its SensArray integrated reader and antenna, as well as low-cost SensRF antennas, and acquired Digame Systems in July 2018. MTI, a 36-year-old Taiwan-based company that makes RF and microwave solutions, manufactures UHF RFID technologies, including readers and antennas, according to Darryn Prince, MTI’s RFID business unit head.

The genesis of this partnership, Major says, was SensThys’s commitment to offering what it calls world-class RFID reader performance. Approximately a year ago, the company sought to raise the performance level of its products to make them the best available, and it began testing its competitors’ existing solutions. “We were benchmarking every reader we could lay our hands on,” he says, “and one of the things we found was that MTI [offered] good reader technology,” as well as having similar development visions on the part of the company’s leadership and engineers.

Part of that shared vision was to find ways in which to provide solutions to obstacles that typical RFID installations may experience, including high costs and stray-read issues. As a result of those efforts, Major states, “Our products combine the collective wisdom of the two companies.” Prince adds, “What we have is integration of current MTI modules and products into SensThys readers and solutions.”

One basis for the product development has been to incorporate multiple sensor technologies into a single product. “We saw RFID as being the center of the sensor technologies,” Major says, “but we also saw a lot of other sensors out there—and being able to handle them together gracefully was key.” The new products slated to be announced at LIVE! offer greater performance than traditional RFID readers tested to date, the companies report, and will provide improvements in networking, power management and durability.

The two companies have been working together for about nine months, and prototypes of the products have been in the hands of some customers for beta testing for the past few months. Those businesses have asked to remain unnamed. Going forward, SensThys and MTI intend to continue collaborating on product development and cost-sharing, while testing and production is taking place at MTI’s facilities.

MTI’s Darryn Prince

For MTI, Prince says, SensThys brings an understanding at the solutions level, including software and a broad range of sensor technologies. The company also plans to take advantage of SensThys’s expertise in optimizing software, firmware, “and its small but powerful sales and marketing team,” he adds. With the partnership, Prince explains, “We see lot of things MTI didn’t have,” such as the development of full solutions, which will be linked to MTI’s “best-in-class ability to make RF hardware in high volumes cost-effectively.”

Customers using RFID have faced a variety of obstacles throughout the years, Major says. These include the cost and difficulty of installation, as well as the need for products that would be aesthetically acceptable for the location at which they are being used. The companies that have been testing the technology, or that are preparing to order the new products, are in the hospitality, manufacturing, retail and race-timing markets, he adds.

“We want to offer the best damn reader out there,” says Neil Mitchell, SenThys’s sales and marketing VP. “That’s what we’ve been focusing on.”

MTI believes the new products will remove some obstacles that the RFID industry and its users have previously face, Prince says. “There are problems solved here that will knock down some of those barriers,” he states. So far, Prince reports, feedback from companies testing the technology has been good. “Customers are very excited to have these products.”