Russian Tag Company Reaches for a Worldwide Audience

By Claire Swedberg

Mikron, which makes Moscow Metro's RFID-enabled subway tickets, is marketing its HF and UHF passive tags through new distributor GoGlobal, with a focus on logistics and retail applications.

Russian semiconductor and RFID tag manufacturer Mikron is seeking to extend its reach beyond its home country, by selling its RFID labels, inlays and cards in Europe, the Middle East, Africa and North America, through its new distributor, German start-up GoGlobal. GoGlobal took on Mikron as its client in January 2013, and is currently in discussions with customers worldwide, most commonly retailers and department stores, for the use of its ultrahigh-frequency (UHF), high-frequency (HF) and low-frequency (LF) passive RFID tags, for such applications as logistics, point of sale and electronic article surveillance (EAS).

Mikron's M-3D inlay is made with an Impinj Monza 4 chip.

Mikron, a division of Sitronics Microelectronics, was founded as a semiconductor manufacturer in 1964, and began its RFID technology development efforts in 2008. The company—according to Andrey Golushko, Mikron's deputy director general for marketing and sales, and commercial director—is Russia's largest RFID tag producer, with a capacity of 50 million tags per month, and sells 40 million tags monthly to Moscow Metro alone. The firm launched its RFID business to meet the transit system's needs, and has since gained additional customers, primarily regional Russian transport companies and ski resorts. Mikron's tags are also being piloted in China.

Moscow Metro incorporates Mikron's HF 13.56 MHz paper labels into its paper tickets, which are used once and then discarded by riders at the end of each trip. The ticket's RFID tag, which complies with the ISO 14443 RFID standard, is read at the gate as each passenger enters a subway platform. Mikron also provides reusable "city cards" for multiple regional transportation authorities in Moscow, Kazan and Novgorod. The cards, made with similar 13.56 MHz RFID labels, allow users to gain entrance to various transit lines, such as buses and trolleys. What's more, the company is providing entrance tickets for the 2014 Winter Olympic Games, to be held in Sochi, and has sold its RFID-enabled tickets for numerous shows, concerts and sporting events throughout Russia.

Mikron's Andrey Golushko

Upon customer request, the company's M-Pass HF tag can contain an NXP Semiconductors Mifare, STMicroelectronics SRI, or Infineon chip for use in tickets and cards. The company's 45-millimeter (1.8-inch) square M-Pass tag for library applications is available with an NXP Icode SLI chip compliant with the ISO 15693 standard. Other Mikron products include the 17-millimeter by 14-millimeter (0.7-inch by 0.6-inch) Near-UHF, a passive EPC Gen 2 inlay made with an NXP G2iM or G2iL chip, and offering a read range of 5 centimeters (2 inches); and the 50-millimeter by 50-millimeter (2-inch by 2-inch) M-3D, made with an Impinj Monza 4 chip and offering an 11.5-meter (37.7-foot) read range.

Mikron is providing its EPC Gen 2 UHF passive RFID tags to ERFID, a Russian systems integrator and RFID solutions provider, for use in jewelry solutions, and is also supplying its M-3D tag for supply chain applications.

The company manufactures RFID inlays, cards and labels onsite, incorporating its own chips or those of third-party manufacturers, as well as custom-designed antennas for adhesive labels or hangtags, cards, tickets or inlays. It is now targeting the worldwide logistics and apparel markets, including in North America.

Mikron is GoGlobal's primary client, says Ernst Weissbach, GoGlobal's marketing director, who has a 40-year history in the semiconductor industry, including representing Arizon RFID Technology, a Taiwanese manufacturer of RFID tags, inlays, cards and tickets. Weissbach has built a network of customers for his previous client's products, he reports, and is now introducing those customers to Mikron's offerings. Weissbach says he is presently in discussions with potential Mikron product users in North America and Western Europe, including apparel manufacturers and department stores.

GoGlobal's Ernst Weissbach

In addition, Mikron manufactures analog integrated circuits, Schottky diodes and light-emitting diode (LED) drivers, as well as RFID chips and inlays, for a variety of applications, including banking, payment systems and access control. The company claims it can offer inlays and labels for custom prototype orders within four to six weeks. For most of its RFID inlays, cards and labels, Mikron utilizes chips supplied by NXP, Infineon and Impinj. However, the firm also creates its own chips, when custom applications require it to do so. Mikron designs appropriate antennas for each tag in order to meet performance requirements, and uses third-party manufacturers to produce antennas according to its own design.

Mikron has designed a dual-interface IC known as the MIK51SC72D, with a contact interface complying with the ISO 7816 standard and a contactless interface complying with the ISO 14443 standard. The company manufactures not only the chip, but also the tag antenna, and assembles them on an inlay. The dual-interface inlay is currently in production for use in banking cards, digital-signature applications and tokens, Weissbach says, and several European companies are in talks with GoGlobal to deploy the inlays in payment cards.

According to Weissbach, one key selling point for Mikron's RFID products is its "complete production chain and, therefore, excellent quality control at all stages." The company, he explains, operates its own design center that enables a fast prototyping service, and offers flexible production, high manufacturing capacity, access to all major chip suppliers, customized products and competitive pricing.