Tego Launches 32-Kilobyte EPC RFID Tag

By Beth Bacheldor

The company's passive UHF TegoTag can be read by any standard EPC Gen 2 reader. Aircraft maker Airbus is testing a prototype.

image_pdfimage_print

Startup tag maker Tego has taken the wraps off its first product, the TegoTag, a passive RFID tag with 32 kilobytes of memory—far more than current UHF EPC Gen 2 tags. The extra memory, the company reports, will enable companies to encode large amounts of information to the tag, as well as access that data directly from the tag, without the need for battery power and using a standard EPC Gen 2 interrogator.

According to Tego, the TegoTag is compliant with aspects of Spec 2000, an aviation industry standard administered by the Air Transport Association that defines methods for sharing information among airlines, manufacturers, suppliers and repair agencies.

What sets TegoTags apart from other UHF EPC Gen 2 tags, says the company’s CEO, Tim Butler, is the amount of data they can store. “Typically,” he explains, “the UHF tags can store license plates, in terms of the information, and we are essentially making it so that you can put a whole novel on the tag.”

Tego believes its TegoTag is the first EPC Gen 2 tag on the market to offer 32 kilobytes of memory. Most UHF tags, Butler says, can store only 96 to 512 bits of data. In January 2008, Fujitsu announced that it had developed a 64-kilobyte passive UHF tag, compliant with the EPC Gen 2 standard, and that the tag would become available sometime in 2008 (see Boeing Approves Intelleflex Chip, Weighs Higher-Memory Fujitsu Tag). That tag, however, has yet to become commercially released. “The tag is not commercially available at the moment,” says Aya Kagawa, a spokesperson for Fujitsu, “and we are still in the preparation process; thus, the expected date for the availability is not yet determined either.”

There are plenty of applications that could make use of the high-memory tag, Butler says. For instance, the aviation industry could utilize the memory to record the lifecycle and history of a specific part on an airplane, from its point of manufacture, through all inspections and repairs, including the component’s entire maintenance history, and on to its disposal. The data can be accessed by any party—be it the part’s maker, the manufacturer of the aircraft on which that component is installed or an airline that purchases that particular aircraft—as long as that party has a standard EPC Gen 2 reader.

Both Boeing and Airbus have committed to using EPC Gen 2 RFID tags on aircraft parts, and the two manufacturers have collaborated extensively on standards regarding the use of RFID technology in aerospace applications. The firms have been working together to create a common specification for the RFID tags they’d like to use for tracking and maintaining maintenance records on aircraft parts (see Boeing Outlines Tagging Timetable).

Tego reports that Airbus, which published requirements for its suppliers to tag parts on their planes by the end of 2009, has been testing a prototype of the TegoTag—which Tego claims is the only commercially available tag that can meet all of the aircraft maker’s stated requirements.

Current RFID tags that can store a large amount of memory are either active tags requiring batteries, or passive tags that necessitate the use of proprietary RFID readers.

“Prior to this,” Butler says, “the industry built tags around the components, rather than looking at the tag as a whole. Tags were built with a single physical structure of the chip and antenna design, and it was all designed around the notion that the structure would only have a small amount of memory.” He adds, “We’ve designed, from the ground up, a full architecture,” enabling the writing and reading of a great deal of data using a passive reader and a reasonable read range. Based on tests using a variety of interrogators in different environments, he says, the company expects the read ranges of production tags to be between 6 and 12 feet with a fixed reader, and between 2 and 8 feet with a handheld interrogator.

In addition, according to Butler, Tego claims its TegoTag will retain its memory for up to 20 years, whereas conventional tags lose their memory retention within five to seven years. That’s because the conventional tags’ memory stores data in the form of an electrical charge that can dissipate over time and is also vulnerable to high temperatures. TegoTags, on the other hand, employ a patented approach that he says is not charge-dependent, and that does not exhibit this vulnerability.

Tego has also developed its TegoView software, which can be loaded onto standard EPC Gen 2 readers, providing the devices with a program for viewing, displaying and analyzing data culled from the RFID tags. Interrogators do not require TegoView, but without this software, the data can only be viewed in a linear fashion, and if a lot of information is stored on the tag, a user might have to scroll through a great deal of data before finding the particular information they require.

Tego, based in Waltham, Mass., was founded in 2005. The company closed its first round of investment funding, totaling $6 million, in the fall of 2007, with Bainco International Investors, an asset-management and wealth-advisory firm located in Wellesley, Mass., as the lead investor (see Tego Announces Initial Funding).

Tego is selling its tags directly to end users in credit-card, label and packaged metal-mount configurations suitable for rugged industrial and aviation use. In addition, the company also plans to sell them to technology and manufacturing partners for specialty applications.

The 32-kilobyte TegoTags are expected to be available this month, with pricing dependent on the volume ordered. Tego is not yet releasing any specific pricing details, Butler says, though he adds, “We expect to be competitively priced.”

Invengo Technology Corp. recently announced that it is selling its XCTF-8030 UHF EPC Gen 2 inlay at 5.8 cents apiece for orders of at least 5 million. However, that inlay’s total memory is only 368 bits in size (see Invengo Debuts in the U.S. Market With 5.8-Cent Inlay).

Tego currently has the production capabilities to produce thousands of tags, and expects to increase that level to millions by year’s end.