RFID News Roundup
VDC Forecasts 25 Percent Smart Card Market Growth
RFID smart cards—reusable cards designed for applications ranging from contactless payments and ticketing to access control—account for a vital growth area in the RFID marketplace, according to the latest volume of the RFID Global Industry Business Planning reports produced by Venture Development Corp. (VDC), a technology market research firm in Natick, Mass. The report says RFID smart cards approached $473 million and exceeded 583 million units in 2006. The firm expects global RFID smart card revenues to grow nearly 25 percent annually (CAGR) through 2011, exceeding $1.4 billion. Emerging applications for the cards, and an increased familiarity among consumers and other end users, will help stoke the market growth, says Louis Bianchin, a senior RFID analyst for VDC.
Bianchin foresees the convergence of smart cards with other technologies to enable new applications, and also predicts the growth of multifunctional smart cards will decrease the number of individual cards carried by consumers or other users. VDC sees this trend as similar to how cell phones have continually integrated new applications and convergent technologies—including those based on Near Field Communications (NFC), a short-range RFID protocol.
CipherLab Debuts 9400 Industrial Mobile Computer
CipherLab, a provider of automated identification and data capture (AIDC) devices for the retail, warehouse and distribution markets, has launched its 9400 Series handheld computer. The device includes an integrated high-frequency (HF) RFID reader that can read and encode any 13.56 MHz tag compliant with the ISO 14443-A, 14443-B or 15693 standards. The handheld runs the Windows CE 5.0 Professional operating system and incorporates a 3.5-inch color touch-screen display, an integrated bar-code scanner that reads both linear and 2-D bar codes, and a 2-megapixel digital camera.
The 9400 can withstand multiple drops onto concrete from as high as 1.5 meters, CipherLab claims, and its lithium-ion battery can hold a charge for up to 8 hours. The computer is Wi-Fi-enabled and can also be linked to a user's back-end system via Bluetooth or a Quad-band EDGE RF communications platform. The 9400 is expected to go into production before the end of 2007, with the first shipments expected within the first quarter of 2008.
Tego Announces Initial Funding
Tego, a passive RFID tag-making startup based in Waltham, Mass., says it has closed its first round of investment funding, totaling $6 million. Bainco International Investors, an asset-management and wealth-advisory firm located in Wellesley, Mass., was the lead investor. Founded in 2005, Tego is focused on developing high-memory passive UHF tags, targeted at applications in the aerospace maintenance, repair and overhaul (MRO) market.
It is also developing RFID software and systems that it believes will serve numerous vertical applications and markets, including asset tracking and management, performance management, safety, security and authentication, regulatory compliance, and supply chain management in the automotive, defense, aerospace and manufacturing sectors. The company says it will use the funds to complete the development and commercialization of its products.
TI, NXP RFID Announce New Passport Chips
Texas Instruments (TI) provided details this week on an integrated circuit it is developing for use in electronic passports (e-passports) and national ID cards. The RF360 integrates TI's MSP430 microcontroller, along with embedded Ferroelectric Random Access Memory (FRAM). The chip supports fast encoding and reading rates and is highly sensitive, helping to ensure successful reads by RFID interrogators, says VC Kumar, TI's manager of government IDs. The RF360 is expected to be available for sampling by the middle of next year, Kumar says, and TI plans to announce partners in the coming weeks that it will work with to market the chip for government ID applications.
NXP Semiconductors, meanwhile, has announced a second-generation version of its SmartMX chip, used in the e-passports issued by 43 countries. NXP's latest chip, which is available now, features faster read-write capabilities than the first generation, enabling e-passports to be commissioned roughly three times faster than its first-generation SmartMX chip. NXP says Germany will transition to the upgraded SmartMX chip as it begins issuing the second generation of e-passports, which will store a holder's fingerprints and digital photograph on the chip.
All countries in the European Union (EU) must begin issuing second-generation e-passports by mid-2009, and the EU has also required that chips in these e-passports employ a higher level of data protection than the Basic Access Control (BAC) used to secure data on current e-passports. Both the second-generation NXP SmartMX chip and TI's RF360 chip will be able to store the fingerprint data and support a more robust security level, called Extended Access Control (EAC). Unlike BAC, EAC requires the use of a public key cryptography platform to secure tag data.
SAP Awards Certificates to Datamax, Blue Vector
Datamax, a provider of printer-encoders and other RFID hardware, as well as accompanying software, says ERP company SAP has awarded its "Certified for SAP NetWeaver" certification to Datamax's DMXWare XML version 2 printer-encoder software.
This means the Datamax A-Class, I-Class, M-Class, W-Class and H-Class printers, configured with DMXWare XML firmware, are now certified for easy integration with SAP's Auto-ID Infrastructure middleware, which collects, analyzes and manages real-time information, such as data from RFID tags. Additionally, Blue Vector Systems, a provider of RFID and sensor network infrastructure, says its RFID networking appliances have been awarded certification for integration with the SAP Auto-ID Infrastructure as well.