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Impinj unveils Monza® 4 family of tags;
enhanced functionality to drive market

02/23/10 | John R. Johnson | email

As the Winter Olympics unfold, athletes have elevated their performances to new levels, nearly re-defining their sport in the process. Lindsey Vonn turned to men’s skis to win the women’s downhill. Shaun White re-invented snowboarding with his Double McTwist 1260 en route to winning gold.

Impinj hopes to similarly raise the bar in the RFID sector with today’s introduction of the Monza 4 line of premium tag chips. The Monza 4 family is expected to speed RFID adoption by delivering a faster return on investment and operational improvements. Impinj vice president of marketing Kerry Krause says the Monza 4 line should account for 10-20 percent of sales by the end of the year. The popular Monza 3 tag, targeted at cost-sensitive applications that require only basic UHF Gen 2 functionality, will remain a major force in the Impinj portfolio.

"We will be building and selling Monza 3 for several years to come," says Krause. "These new tag chips are premium products that represent incremental business for us and we believe they will also enable new applications."

The Monza 4 family of chips is expected to be the go-to brand for industries that seek enhanced security standards, increased read and write reliability, and the greater memory offered by the new line, which includes four high-performance configurations: Monza 4D, 4E, 4U and 4QT. Each configuration addresses specific challenges for varied applications.

"I view these as innovative steps in the marketplace," says Mike Liard, research director for RFID at ABI Research. "I think the Monza 3 will still be their flagship product moving forward, but the Monza 4 family offers a new avenue for some additional customers and partners looking to enable new applications."

The Monza 4 line represents ground-breaking technology in a number of ways. For starters, performance is enhanced dramatically by the inclusion of two fully independent antenna ports, eliminating tag blind spots and significantly increasing read and write reliability in applications where tag orientation is hard to control, such as apparel, retail, baggage handling and asset tracking. As a result of Impinj’s patent-pending True3D antenna technology, Monza 4 chips boast the industry’s highest read reliability – a 66 percent range improvement over the best performing competitive tag chip.

"This is the first tag chip on the market that supports two completely independent antennas," says Krause. "With True3D, regardless of how the tag is oriented relative to the reader antenna, you get consistent high performance."

Krause adds that the Monza 4 line is also suitable for applications that use dipole antennas, which still represents the majority of tag designs on the market. Although early Monza 4 products will take advantage of those popular form factors, Krause says to watch for more and more True3D designs on the market over the next two months. Avery Dennison, UPM Raflatac and Invengo have Monza 4 based tags in development, as do others.

The Monza 4QT tag chips carry an enhanced privacy feature -- a layer of security added to UHF RFID tags that functions like two tags in one and protects confidential information by maintaining two separate data profiles (public and private) and allowing the tag owner to control data exposure. The chip’s private mode reveals all data, while the public mode conceals confidential data and replaces the tag’s EPC with a generic, user-defined number. A password can be required to switch between public and private modes. Additionally, QT technology enables the owner to selectively switch the tag into a short-range mode in which private profile data is accessible only at a very short range. This enhanced security helps prevent unauthorized readers from retrieving private data, further protecting both confidential data and, in the case of retail applications, consumer privacy.

Liard sees this tag feature as ideal for retailers of fashion apparel or other high-end items that are likely to be counterfeited. At the point of manufacture, specific information can be written into user memory on the tag to uniquely identify that item. The manufacturer can then switch the tag to public mode, and the regular EPC code can be exposed. As the product goes through the supply chain, the manufacturer can authenticate the item by switching the tag to private mode. Keeping track of equipment maintenance on airplanes is another potential application, as is the returns market for high-value electronics.

"This starts to feed into what happens after the product leaves the retail front door and what the benefit is for the consumer and the retailer using RFID technology when it comes back into the store," says Liard, noting that warranties and returns can be tracked much easier with the Monza 4QT.

The Monza 4 line includes two configurations that address markets for larger memory. The Monza 4U has 512 bits of user memory, and Monza 4E contains 496 bits of EPC memory. "We’re starting to see a growing demand for large EPC memory chips," says Krause, especially for electronics manufacturers. Although the Monza 4U isn’t the first tag on the market with 512 bits of user memory, Krause says that Impinj is seeing increased interest from end users for hard tags or for work-in-process manufacturing applications where there is a requirement to store more information than just an EPC code on the tag.

It’s too early to tell which line of Monza 4 tags will enjoy the most success, although Krause expects the early momentum to be with the 4U and 4E lines. The 4D – the most basic configuration among the four lines – represents the most affordable way for customers to realize the performance improvements offered by True3D technology. The market for the 4QT line will take longer to develop as end users familiarize themselves with technology and how to bets use it in their applications.

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