Archive for August, 2010

RFID will drive social media skiing at Vail Resorts

Tuesday, August 31st, 2010

Ever try to find your skiing partners after you become separated on the slopes? It’s not easy, but it will be when you ski Vail Resorts this year. RFID technology, along with a host of social media tools, will power a new location-based social media service called EpicMix.

The service acts as a cross between Nike+ and Gowalla, and enables users to check-in on the slopes through Facebook Places to earn pins and rewards for various skiing accomplishments, view the location of friends and family on the mountain, and track ski routes and vertical feet traveled.

Talk about cool stuff! Read the entire Fast Company article here, and stay tuned to RFID 24-7 for in-depth updates on this exciting development.

RFID Consortium adds eighth member

Wednesday, August 25th, 2010

The RFID Consortium added its eighth member this week when the Electronics and Telecommunications Research Institute (ETRI) announced it will participate in the Consortium’s joint licensing program for patents essential to the UHF RFID standard. ETRI joins other patent owners 3M, France Telecom, HP, LG Electronics, Motorola, ThingMagic, and Zebra Technologies. All Consortium members promote rapid adoption of UHF RFID technology by offering a single license to patents essential to the practice of the UHF RFID standards owned by the participating companies.

“There are many essential patents covering various aspects of UHF RFID technology in multiple countries around the world, creating complex and costly licensing requirements for anyone who wants to manufacture or sell UHF RFID tags or readers,” said Jim O’Hagan, a spokesperson for the RFID Consortium and Director of Patents and Technology for Zebra Technologies. “Through the RFID Consortium, manufacturers will have access to a single low-cost license to essential patents from multiple leading global firms.”

“As a leader in information and communications technology research, ETRI is a great addition to the Consortium and their participation will enhance the value of the Consortium’s patent portfolio license for manufacturers and sellers of UHF RFID products.”

Participation in the UHF RFID licensing program and the RFID Consortium is open to all holders of patents essential to the UHF RFID standards.

Police in Nottingham trial RFID to track hundreds of Tasers

Tuesday, August 24th, 2010

For anyone that missed last week’s issue of RFID 24-7, here is our lead story.

Police forces in the UK are unique in that they are among the few in the world that do not regularly carry firearms. However, police officers now carry Tasers, and law enforcement agencies in the UK are using RFID technology to trace and track the weapons. Since legislation passed allowing police forces to carry Tasers at the beginning of this year, their use has skyrocketed. Therefore, the need for a technology solution to track and maintain them was critical.

RFID is being piloted at about 20 police stations in Nottingham, with wider usage anticipated by the end of the year. Each police department in Nottingham has deployed between 8 and 36 Tasers, depending on staff size, meaning that several hundred are being tagged in the pilot, which utilizes passive RFID tags that measure only 7.9 millimeters in diameter.

According to published reports, UK defense officials recently approved the eventual distribution of more than 10,000 Tasers to be used in England and Wales. Depending on the trial results, each weapon could eventually carry an RFID tag. The use of RFID to track firearms is not new. The Department of Defense has been utilizing RFID to track weapons for years, and ODIN technology announced a pilot at the University of Wisconsin earlier this year. The technology has been slower to catch on with individual police departments in the U.S., since states in the U.S. each have their own regulations to follow.

“It’s a very interesting application,” says Maria Kaganov, director of marketing for TAGSYS, which is supplying the tags and readers for the solution while working with system integrator RFIP of the UK. “Overall we’ve seen a lot of requests for weapons tracking solutions. This I our first foray into it, but the solution is working very well.” The TAGSYS and RFIP system is dubbed the Intelligent Drawer Armory System (iDAS), and utilizes embedded RFID technology to automatically record the issue and return of weapons to a secure storage locker. The solution not only automates inefficient manual weapons issuing processes, but also provides a complete service history for each weapon, generates audit reports for supervisors, prevents issue of weapons to un-authorized officers and improves weapon security. When a weapon is returned that is not in working order, the locker automatically prevents the weapon from being checked out again until a supervisor has cleared the issue.

In the current installation, the police department is keeping track of its Tasers using RFID-equipped storage cabinets. Each Taser is tagged with a high frequency TAGSYS Ario 370-SDM (Small Disc Module) RFID tag, and monitored using TAGSYS Medio P032 OEM RFID readers and antennas mounted in the cabinet.

“The TAGSYS Ario tags are very small, making them easy to apply to the Tasers without interference with the functionality of the weapon, but they also provide a reliable read range,” says David Armstrong, director at RFIP Ltd. “The tags are very rugged, which is important given the environments these weapons are typically used in.”

When an officer needs a Taser, he presents his identification card to a card reader on the cabinet. At this stage, the system establishes if the officer is authorized to carry a weapon. Upon authorization, a touch screen attached to the system guides the officer through a series of legal and procedural notices and the Taser is then electronically signed for before the system signals one of the drawers to open. The authenticated officer then removes the Taser, and the weapon is automatically allocated to him within the asset management application from JML Software Solutions Ltd., a UK-based company that specializes in asset tracking solutions for law enforcement.

The solution has provided the department with a complete pedigree for each weapon, allowing supervisors to track which officers have used which units. This provides the department with a robust audit trail for any investigation regarding the use of a Taser, or the relevant officer’s training record.

“In the beginning of the year when officers were allowed to begin carrying Tasers, they had an issue regarding process changes and wanted to simplify the tracking and tracing system,” says Kaganov. “This solution allows them to track and trace who has which Taser and at which point, but also how often the Taser has been used, so they can rotate the usage of the weapon. It also allows them to do maintenance on weapons that are malfunctioning.”

Free RFID trial intended to jump-start RFID in medical device sector

Monday, August 23rd, 2010

Medical device companies have no excuse not to at least trial RFID technology. Raftar, a provider of RFID and mobile application based logistics and distribution solutions, today announced a “risk-free” way for medical device companies to prove that RFID can streamline sales and distribution operations for their business.

During the limited time offer, Raftar will deliver a full bundle of RFID  services – including its RFID-based warehouse and mobile, field service automation software — and will manage the entire 90-day pilot process from implementation and training through to successful completion. The RFID solution provided by Raftar will utilize Impinj high performance Monza® tags and Speedway® readers.

The “risk-free RFID” pilot will enable qualified companies to deploy an RFID-based case scheduling and inventory management and tracking solution that extends from a selected warehouse location to the point of consumption at the hospital in the field, with no up-front investment.

After the 90-day pilot, participating companies will have the option to discontinue the program with no obligation or deploy a fully functional production system, supported by a robust business case and real-world performance benchmarks.

“The driver here is to remove the uncertainty surrounding RFID in the medical devices industry,” said Ismail Nalwala, Raftar’s President and CEO. “Strong evidence exists globally that our technology can create dramatic operational efficiencies by slashing order processing times from 30 minutes to seconds and to help sales and customer service reps drive better service results for hospital and surgeons. The financial benefits continue through to inventory reduction and extend to better quality through order accuracy and item-level visibility. With the ‘Risk-Free RFID’ Pilot program, Raftar hopes to remove the uncertainty and enable companies to get practical experience with our solution and RFID and formulate a go-forward strategy.”

“We are excited that Raftar is exposing more medical device companies to the benefits of the latest RFID technology. In 2010, we’ve seen a surge in the use of UHF RFID technology and rapid growth in the variety of RFID enabled devices,” said Kerry Krause, vice president of marketing for Impinj. “Raftar’s software solutions and medical device industry domain expertise combined with Impinj’s hardware offerings, provide an optimal solution for accurate item-level counting of loaner kit items, including metal implants and instruments.”

ThingMagic CEO Tom Grant: Upside for RFID is incredible

Monday, August 16th, 2010

In a Q&A session published by Manufacturing Business Technology, ThingMagic CEO Tom Grant says that RFID is at the “very beginning of the adoption cycle of RFID in general and UHF RFID, in particular. The upside is incredible and spans all markets with the enormous upside in consumer markets in the coming years.  Second, that success will require most of us to revise our business models over time in light of the inevitable and exciting improvement in form and function of the technology.”

B.O.S. Better Online Solutions reports Q2 sales of $10.4M; stock soars

Wednesday, August 11th, 2010

What a day for B.O.S Better Online Solutions. On a day that the overall stock market tanked because of new economic worries, the Israeli provider of RFID and supply chain solutions saw its stock soar close to 20 percent after it reported revenue of $10.4 million for the second quarter. The stock closed at $1.30, up 21 cents, after briefly soaring to $1.69.

The revenue reflects 10 percent growth over the previous quarter, and 30 percent growth as compared to the second quarter last year. Backlog was at $12.3 million.

Operating profit for the second quarter was $563,000 compared to an operating loss of $2.1 million in the comparable quarter last year. Operating profit for the first six months of 2010 totaled $778,000 compared to an operating loss of $2.4 million in the comparable six month period last year.

“For the first time in many years, we are pleased to report a net profit, as well as two consecutive quarters of operating profit,” said Yuval Viner, BOS CEO. “We are revising our original outlook for 2010: we reiterate our target of $35 million in revenues, and now believe we will end the year with net profit, not only an operating profit. We expect to make several new customer-related announcements in the near future.”

UK police turn to RFID to track Tasers

Tuesday, August 10th, 2010

More law enforcement groups are turning to RFID technology to track assets like hand guns and Tasers. The latest pilot project is in the UK , where a British police department is securing and tracking weapons with a solution from TAGSYS and systems integrator RFIP, Ltd. The two firms announced they have developed a new and innovative RFID-based weapons tracking solution to secure armaments for military, law enforcement and other agencies.

Called the Intelligent Drawer Armory System (iDAS), the solution utilizes embedded RFID technology to automatically record the issue and return of weapons to a secure storage locker. The solution not only automates inefficient manual weapons issuing processes, but also provides a complete service history for each weapon, generates audit reports for supervisors, prevents issue of weapons to un-authorized officers and improves weapon security.

In the current installations, the police department is keeping track of its Tasers using RFID-equipped storage cabinets. Each Taser is tagged with a high frequency TAGSYS Ario 370-SDM (Small Disc Module) RFID tag, and monitored using TAGSYS Medio P032 OEM RFID readers and antennas mounted in the cabinet.

“The TAGSYS Ario tags are very small, making them easy to apply to the Tasers without interference with the functionality of the weapon, but they also provide a reliable read range,” said David Armstrong, director at RFIP Ltd. “The tags are very rugged, which is important given the environments these weapons are typically used in.”

Previously, Tasers were issued by armories at the larger police stations in the UK. However, the devices are now being deployed at smaller precinct locations. As a result, local police stations need a compact and secure method of storing and issuing Tasers that is also cost effective.

Click here to read the full release.

Impinj unveils new reader chip designed for lower cost apps

Friday, August 6th, 2010

RFID technology solutions will soon become more affordable for a wider array of applications that don’t require high-octane and expensive readers. Driven by customer requests for lower cost readers for some of the simpler yet creative RFID apps hitting the market, Impinj last week unveiled its Indy® R500 reader chip, developed specifically to address the emerging market for hand-held, desktop and embedded RFID readers.

The R500 RFID reader chip uses the same software architecture as the Indy R1000/2000 versions and enables UHF Gen 2 readers with the lowest development times and per unit cost on the market while ensuring the highest standards of quality, reliability and performance inherent in Impinj’s Indy products

“There is a huge growth surge happening in RFID being driven not only by retail but simultaneously by an expanding bubble of different applications,” says Scot Stelter, senior director of product marketing for Impinj. “So there is a diversification of application types as people apply RFID to more problems.”

That has led to greater demand for less expensive readers. Sharing a common architecture with all members of the Indy reader chip product line, the R500 is drop-in compatible with the high performance Indy R2000. The common architecture employed across the Indy product line significantly benefits RFID hardware vendors because design effort can be reused across multiple development projects addressing different market segments. Designed to meet regulatory requirements in over 100 countries, the Indy R500 also accelerates time-to-market by simplifying attainment of government certifications worldwide.

Impinj expects that its partners will have products developed and in the field by the first quarter of 2011.

Stelter says a very interesting market is opening up for applications that add RFID to devices that are not primarily RFID readers, such as the Coca-Cola Freestyle drink dispenser, which uses RFID to track the flavor cartridges inside the machines.

“The drink dispenser has four Indy chips inside it and they provide the ability to read the tags in syrup cartridges so that the machine can trigger supply chain replenishment,” he says. “We’re seeing a growing need for that kind of application. Virtually all of these embedded apps have very low range and speed requirements, so this chip is ideally targeted for them.”

Impinj execs say that while some users will drop the R1000 in favor of the lower cost R500, they don’t anticipate a dropoff in sales whatsoever.

“The straight answer is no,” says Stelter. “We do expect some people who might use the R1000 to convert to the R500.  But the industry growth is so rapid, and we’re seeing growth across the R1000 and the R2000, so even with the R500 those two will continue to grow. The R500 will fill an expanding void for new applications so we think the R1000 is not going to be greatly affected by the R500. It’s [market] will definitely increase.”

Click here to read the Impinj release on the R500.

Will the Impinj R500 reduce RFID reader costs?

Friday, August 6th, 2010

Last week, Impinj announced its new, lower cost reader chip, the R500, which the company says is ideal for applications that do not require long read range or the need to read many items at once.

We just came across this interesting blog piece from our friends at ODIN, and thought we’d share it with you. Bret Kinsela breaks down the economics of the new R500, and what it will mean for lower end reader pricing.

Read the full blog here.

TheStreet: Wal-Mart item-level tagging doesn’t represent an invasion of privacy – or does it?

Tuesday, August 3rd, 2010

I’m a firm believer that privacy concerns about RFID are fading as the benefits of the technology become more apparent to consumers. While there is still a ways to go on that subject, a recent poll by TheStreet suggests that consumers are not concerned about privacy invasions from RFID – although only by a small majority. In the poll, 53.3 percent of respondents said they do not consider RFID tags a breach of privacy, while 46.7 percent believe their rights could potentially be violated.

The publication doesn’t reveal any information on margins of error, but you’ve got to believe that the poll isn’t far off from a 50-50 split on the topic, which suggests further education is needed when it comes to privacy. Regarding the Street poll, first I’d like to know why the poll results were buried in the last paragraph. Secondly, I’d like to know how many people TheStreet surveyed, and how familiar they are with the technology.

Click here to read previous coverage of privacy issues in RFID 24-7.

Click here to read the full story from TheStreet