2004 RFID What's News

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January 2004
VeriSign Inc. (verisign.com), Mountain View, CA, USA, a provider of infrastructure services for the Internet and telecommunications networks, is selected by EPCglobal to operate the Object Naming Service (ONS) as the root directory for the EPCglobal Network.

When the EPC is linked to the directory, it becomes a tool that enables new ways of doing business. To support this new model for supply chain management, thousands of enterprises need to be able to securely access, in real-time, potentially billions of unique EPCs from a highly available global ONS directory.


Chipco Intl. Corp. (chipco.com), Raymond, ME, USA, introduces its latest casino chips embedded with TI-RFID’s new 22mm Tag-it smart label inlay.



February 2004
The Tag and Label Manufacturers Institute (TLMI) (tlmi.org) hosts its annual converter meeting (February 22-25, Rio Grande, Puerto Rico), which features the session "Smart Label Technology: Here Today, Mandatory Tomorrow." Moderated by John Bennett of Flexcon (flexcon.com), panelists included Max Golter, Bielomatik (bielomatick); Tom Pounds, Alien Technology (alientechnology.com); and Peter Tomicki, Baxter Healthcare (baxter.com).

Jeff Dunphy of Design Manufacturing (designlabel.com) and the meeting chairperson writes:

You better learn how to compete on a whole new playing field, or you'll, ultimately, be left watching from the sides."
However, converter skepticism was evident after learning up to 40 percent of RFID tag and label trials are failures.

AIM NA Inc. (aimglobal.org) applauds the efforts of the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) as it issues a report highlighting specific steps it will take to keep the US drug supply secure.

The report cites RFID tagging "of products by manufacturers, wholesalers, and retailers appears to be the most promising approach to reliable product tracking and tracing,’ and ‘most importantly, reliable RFID technology will make the copying of medications either extremely difficult or unprofitable."
The agency goes on to detail a timeline that would lead to mass serialization and RFID adoption by 2007, explains AIM.

At the 10th Annual Public Library Associatoin Conference held in Seattle, WA, USA, 3M (3m.com) introduces the latest addition to its line of library systems technology and solution choices, the 3M One-Tag RFID System. The single-tag system for authenticating, securing, tracking, and managing library materials uses Texas Instruments’ (ti.com) 13.66 MHx ISO inlays with the ISO/IEC 18000-3 and ISO/IEC 15693 standards.


The Auto-ID Labs (autoidlabs.com) Packaging and RFID Special Interest Group (SIG), a research consortium for packaging and RFID-related issues, holds its first quarterly meeting at the Auto-ID Labs of MIT. The Packaging SIG researchers presented their first quarter research progress including the first version of an electromagnetic simulation and visualization tool and the first protoype of an energy detection and tag emulation tool. Packaging SIG members were given prototype energy detection tools for use within their pilots and operations utilizing RFID systems.



March 2004
Information Week (informationweek.com) reports Target Corp. joins Wal-Mart and the US DOD in requiring its top suppliers to use RFID tags on every case and pallet shipped to them. Target will begin using RFID for shipments heading to several distribution facilities by spring 2005 and is asking all suppliers to do so by spring 2007. Like EPC Class 0 and Class 1 protocols, Target plans to move to the EPC Class 1 second-generation protocol when products become available. Target is the No. 4 retailer in the US.


Power Paper Ltd. (powerpaper.com), a provider of thin and flexible micro-power source technology and devices, and Graphic Solutions Intl. (graphicsolutionsinc.com), Burr Ridge, IL, USA, a custom print house specializing in printed circuitry and RFID antennas, announce the availability of two new UHF-based Read-Only and Read/Write transponder Ics for battery-assisted RFID smart labels. The Ics will be available in the PowerID System, said to be a high performance, low-cost, turnkey RFID label system that vastly improves the reliability of remote monitoring, processing, and transmitting data in the supply chain. Power Paper and Graphic Solutions Intl. jointly developed the PowerID System, which will be introduced via demonstrations and pilots in the coming quarter.


The recently formed epcSTARS (epcstars.com) alliance has endorsed a specific plan to achieve total interoperability of their component systems with the goal of providing seamless end-to-end RFID solutions for the retail supply chain. Led by Tyco Fire & Security, epcSTARS is a team of companies specializing in RFID technologies. It was formed to provide turnkey RFID integration services and solutions to help manufacturers meet the RFID implementation goals set by Wal-Mart and others. The initial epcSTARS team includes ADT Security Services, Sensormatic, UPM Rafsec, ThingMagic LLC, and GlobeRanger Corp.



April 2004
Wal-Mart goes live with its initial EPC implementation on April 30 at a distribution center in Sanger, TX. Eight suppliers are shipping cases and pallets of 21 products to the distribution center, and Wal-Mart is using the EPC tags to track the products as they are shipped on to seven local Wal-Mart Supercenters.

Leading manufacturers and technology providers of data collection and RFID have submitted an RFID protocol definition that would pave the way for rapid adoption of a new worldwide RFID standard known as Electronic Product Code (EPC), Ultra-High Frequency (UHF) Generation 2. Companies supporting the protocol include Texas Instruments’ (ti.com), Intermec Technologies Corp. (intermec.com), Philips Semiconductors (semiconductors.philips.com), SAMsys Technologies (samsys.com), Zebra Technologies Corp. (zebra.com), Impinj Inc. (impinj.com), and Rafsec (rafsec.com). The proposed definition, currently in development by EPCglobal Inc., meets user requirements outlined by the world’s leading retailers and others including the US DOD, the companies report. It is said to meet user requirements, work worldwide, meet international standards, and provide a path to low-cost RFID tags and readers.


Microsoft creates new RFID Council, which is comprised of independent software developers and end-users. The council members include Accenture (ac.com), GlobeRanger (globeranger.com), HighJump Software (highjumpsoftware.com), Intermec (intermec.com), Manhattan Associates (manh.com), and Provia Software (provia.com).


Manhattan Assoc. (manh.commanh.com), a provider of supply-chain execution solutions, and Matrics Inc. (matrics.com) announce a strategic alliance to accelerate adoption of RFID technology throughout the consumer goods supply chain. The alliance hopes to help clients reduce overall costs and increase profitability by combining RFID tag and reader technology with RFID-enabled supply chain execution solutions.


Aim North America (aimglobal.org) announces the publication of RFID Knowledge Base, an interactive CD containing key educational information about RFID technologies and solutions designed to address informational needs of systems' integrators and VARS.


Tyco Fire & Security (tycofireandsecurity.com) completes its first series of RFID compliance tests for a Fortune 100 consumer goods manufacturer, a North American customer of its ADT Security Services Inc. (adt.com) unit.


The RFID product-compliance testing process is one of the services offered by Tyco Fire & Security's Sensormatic Performance Center. Compliance testing is a series of tests to ensure RFID systems and solutions will meet the 2005 standards set by Wal-Mart, the Department of Defense, and the Healthcare Distribution Management Association. Additionally, the Sensormatic Performance Center offers integration testing, which tests RFID configurations that are said to go beyond compliance.


Information Week reports California's state senate gave its stamp of approval to a bill that would place limits on the use of RFID technology in stores and libraries. However, the bill faces what's expected to be more-heated debate before the state Assembly's Business and Professions Committee.

SB 1834, introduced by state Sen. Debra Bowen, seeks to prevent stores and libraries from using RFID to collect any information beyond what a customer is buying, renting, or borrowing. If passed, the bill would ban use of the technology to track people while they're shopping—such as detecting what products they pick up but don't buy—or after they've left an establishment. A similar piece of legislation is being drafted by Massachusetts state Sen. Jarret Barrios.


Computer World (computerworld.com) reports start-up venture Sandtracker claims to have cracked the 5-cent-per-tag barrier for RFID with a radically different technology that "doesn't need silicon in quite the same way other tags do," according to one of Sandtracker's backers.

Jan Hilder, of financial services software firm Tacit Group, says the breakthrough stems from a "laterally different" idea from other RFID implementations.

"The competition has concentrated on getting better and better at pursuing the same path. We've taken a completely different path." She says the simpler tags, containing only a number identifying a line of goods, can already be made for less than 6¢, and this could be reduced further by economies of mass-production. She acknowledges, however, the more sophisticated kinds of tags, such as tags enabling variable information to be written to them and those enclosed in ceramic material to survive harsh environments, will cost more.

Sandtracker has been running commercial trials since early this year and claims five companies are trialing various forms of its tags. Hilder won't reveal the identity of the partners, but says applications range from courier packs to meat packaging and distribution, coin bags, and large reels of paper.

All involved companies are keen to begin using RFID if the trials check out, she says.


Tech World (techworld.com) reports a team of researchers at Xerox (xerox.com) has discovered a way to print plastic transistors using a semiconductive ink, paving the way for flexible displays and low-cost RFID chips.

Other companies are working on ways to print chips using ink jet printing technology or other methods of depositing liquid on a surface. Most of those techniques have required manufacturing environments at high temperatures or high pressures, but Xerox has developed a way to print transistors at room temperature, said Beng Ong, a Xerox representative.

The new technique builds on a polythiophene semiconductor developed by Ong's team last fall. Polythiophene is an organic compound that resists degradation in open air better than other semiconductor liquids and also exhibits self-assembling properties.

Ong's team has now found a way to take the polythiophene semiconductor and process it into a liquid that can form ordered nanoparticles. When the particles are put into liquid form, they form an ink that can be used to print the three key components of a circuit: a semiconductor, a conductor, and a dielectric, Xerox reports.

The CMOS (complementary metal-oxide semiconductor) technology used to build most chips today is expensive and requires a solid base such as silicon to manufacture circuits. Xerox hopes this technology can be used to build displays that can be rolled up, bent around a corner, or otherwise stretched in ways not currently possible.


Government Computer News (gcn.com) reports, although the military logistics program itself does not threaten individual privacy, Katherine Albrecht, director of CASPIAN (Consumers Against Supermarket Privacy Invasion and Numbering), calls the mandate "worrisome," because it is pushing the potentially invasive technology at a critical point in its development.

"Privacy organizations worry that small, identifiable tags on consumer goods could let businesses track and gather data on individuals. These databases also could be made available to government.



May 2004
Auto ID Labs (autoidlabs.com) establishes the Healthcare Research Initiative (HRI). The HRI will collaborate with EPCglobal, healthcare companies, and industry associations to research RFID and EPC technology. HRI will provide an objective, coordinated, and comprehensive body of research for the application of automated identification, mass sterilization, networking, and sensing technology to healthcare. It reportedly will provide a foundation of research for organizations to make sound decisions during the deployment of Auto-ID infrastructure for both current and future applications, In a separate exercise, the HRI also will coordinate physical trials to validate its research.

EPCglobal's board of governors votes unanimously to discontinue the work of the Class 0 and Class 1 working groups, which were developing requirements to help an independent authority certify Class 0 and Class 1 tags for standards conformance. The news created rumors that EPCglobal was withdrawing support for the two existing EPC specifications and that these would not be considered EPC standards after a UHF Gen 2 standard is established. EPCglobal soon after issued a memo to subscribers that the rumors are false.

"EPCglobal strongly supports both the current Class 1 and Class 0 published standards," it said. "We encourage vendors to offer products based on those standards, and we encourage end-users to invest in products based on those standards."



EPCglobal also sponsors The EPCglobal US Healthcare Industry Summit on RFID (epcglobalus.org/Healthcare/EPCGlobal_RFID_Summit.pdf) in Princeton, NJ, USA. Organization sponsors include the Healthcare Distribution Management Association, Auto-ID Labs, and the National Association of Chain Drug Stores.


VeriChip begins implanting club-goers at the Baja Beach Club in Madrid, Spain with subdermal RFID tags encoded with the users' credit card numbers for quick and easy payment.


CNET Asia (cnet.asia.com) reports Singapore, the world’s second largest port outside the US, announces its commitment to RFID technology, with plans to spend $10 million, mainly on research and training, to promote the development and deployment of RFID by the end of 2006.



June 2004
EE Times (eetimes.com) reports manufacturers are expected to spend as much as $5 billion over the next three years in hardware, software, and services related to data-collection technology, RFID, Yankee Group reports. In deploying RFID, however, 4 million jobs in the US alone are expected to vanish.

"Nothing is going to happen overnight, but there's 4 million people who carry around bar code scanning devices today, and that function is going to change and ultimately be eliminated as RFID is introduced into the market," Yankee analyst Adam Zawel said. "But it will take a decade or more before the move from bar codes to RFID is complete."

Not all the workers affected by the technology shift will lose their jobs, since others will be created within the new supply chains. However, efficiencies driven by technology will ultimately mean fewer jobs.

Secretary of Health and Human Services Tommy Thompson praises mandatory moves toward bar codes on drugs at the annual meeting of the Biotechnology Industry Organization but said additional technology could ensure greater safety, reports eWeek (eweek.com).

While bar codes can make sure the right drug gets to the right patient at the right dose, RFID technology is the next logical step. RFID advances have made the technology cheap enough to be employed against counterfeit drugs, Thompson said.



July 2004
Wal-Mart announces at a meeting with 300 suppliers that by June 2005, RFID systems will be operating in up to six of its distribution centers, as well as in 250 of it stores. By October 2005, Wal-Mart expects to be using EPC technology in up to 13 distribution centers and 600 Wal-Mart and Sam’s Club stores. By January 2006, the mega-chain reportedly will require its next 200 top suppliers to begin tagging cases and pallets. The retailer currently is working with suppliers to determine in which geographical region the expanded EPC implementation will occur.

Two of the biggest names in RFID hardware production have become one with Symbol Technologies' (symbol.com) purchase of Matrics Inc..

Through the acquisition, Symbol significantly adds to the array of products it will bring to the burgeoning market by augmenting its existing line of handheld radio tag scanners with Matrics' fixed-location readers and RFID chips, along with the devices' underlying software, CNETNews.com reports. According to Symbol executives, the buyout of Matrics was meant to give the company the ability to offer a comprehensive RFID package.

With analysts expecting manufacturers to be spending $3 billion on RFID technology in 2007, IBM has opened up a new test center in Nice, France. The facility will test chips, readers, and applications software.



August 2004
EPCglobal and representatives of various industry sectors implementing RFID EPC technologies have formed the EPC Public Policy Steering Committee to foster open dialogue with key audiences around public policy and other important areas relative to EPC technologies and the EPCglobal Network.


RFID Journal (rfidjournal.com) reports Avery Dennison (averydennison.com) Retail Information Services and Paxar (paxar.com) have added RFID capabilities to their label service bureaus. Avery Dennison RIS’s existing Ticket Express service bureaus produce, manage, and deliver preprinted carton labels to product manufacturers worldwide. Customers of the new RFID Ticket Express service also will be able to order RFID EPC Class 1 UHF smart labels. Paxar has long offered its Monarch Q-Service, which provides its retail supply chain customers with labels printed with bar codes and human-readable text. Paxar’s Monarch Q-Service for RFID, launched last April as a trial and now in production, provides the same service for smart labels.

As with Avery Dennison RIS’ offering, the Monarch Q-service for RFID will print and program RFID labels to order and will deliver tested, working labels anywhere in the world, reports the company. So far, Paxar is producing all its finished labels from its Dayton, OH, plant, but the company says that as demand increases, it will extend RFID-labeling capabilities across its operations in 75 countries.


According to the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (post-gazette.com), the US Department of Agriculture has awarded $615,000 to the state Agriculture Dept. for a pilot study to track cattle using RFID tags attached the ear. Pennsylvania is one of 29 states participating in the 12-month study. State Agriculture Secretary Dennis Wolf said the technology promises to allow animal movements to be rapidly traced in the event of a disease outbreak.


Business Wire (businesswire.com) reports Alien Technology Corp., a provider of reliable RFID tag and reader products, announced today that volume production is underway on its second generation Fluidic Self-Assembly (FSA) manufacturing line. The state-of-the art line, located in Alien's Morgan Hill facility, has been fully qualified. It soon will replace the first generation FSA process, which Alien has used to assemble ten million units that it has shipped over the past two years, the company reports.

"FSA has been recognized as the most advanced manufacturing technology for RFID in the world," said Stav Prodromou, Ph.D., chief executive officer of Alien Technology. "It uses massively parallel assembly of tiny RFID integrated circuits into a thin and flexible form factor that is ideally suited for conversion into finished RFID tags. By integrating all the steps in tag production in an automated reel-to-reel manufacturing process, FSA provides far greater capacity and far lower cost than other approaches," added Dr. Prodromou.

"Alien's outstanding quality system is fully implemented for the new FSA production line, consistent with our registration under ISO9000:2000," said Glen Gengel, Alien's VP of manufacturing. "The second generation FSA line is capable of assembling up to 2 billion straps per year. In fact, we have already demonstrated over a million units per shift, and performance is continually improving as expected," says Gengel.

The growing output of this FSA line will be increasingly important over the coming months to enable Alien and its partners to help meet the demands of the rapidly ramping RFID market, according to the company. Alien is also planning additional tag assembly and test capacity in its new Fargo facility later this year.



September 2004
Best Buy has followed in the footsteps of retail giants Target and Wal-Mart and has issued a mandate to its major suppliers that they be using EPC-compliant RFID tags on their shipments by January 2, 2006, RFID Journal reports.

Paul Freeman, RFID program director for Best Buy, tells RFID Journal many of his company's high-level goals are the same as those of other retailers that have issued RFID mandates, including Wal-Mart and Target. But Best Buy has some advantages in using the technology because it sells high-value goods.


EPCglobal forms the EPCglobal Architecture Review Committee (ARC). Adhering to the EPCglobal standards development process, ARC will be responsible for the design and maintenance of the EPCglobal Network architecture. The EPCglobal Network is an enabling technology that combines RFID technology, the Internet, and the EPC to enable accurate, cost-efficient visibility of information in the supply chain.


Impinj Inc. announces that its Zuma RFID chips, which conform to the increasingly popular EPCglobal Class 0 standard, are interoperable with key products from 15 RFID supply chain solutions providers.


The United States Navy, which has field tested ScenPro’s RFID-based Tactical Medical Coordination System (TacMedCS) to track the status and location of wounded soldiers and others arriving for treatment at Fleet Hospital Three in Iraq, plans to expand the capabilities of the system to include satellite phone data transfer capabilities into a Web-based medical command and control tool called MedCOP (Medical Common Operational Picture).

Using this approach, casualty information can be gathered in the field and transferred to a centralized database, where MedCOP can display the information to medical commanders, providers, planners, analysts, and support personnel.

As casualties are evacuated to various treatment facilities, the location information is updated by TacMedCS and displayed in MedCOP to allow for a more efficient and accurate means of casualty tracking.


SAMSys Technologies enters an agreement with UK-based All Right Now (ARN) that will expand distribution of SAMSys’ RFID readers and related solutions to Eastern Europe. ARN is a systems solution provider specializing in bar coding, smart card and RFID systems.



October 2004
AIM Inc. publishes the “Proposed Guidelines for the Use of RFID-Enabled Labels in Military Logistics: Recommendations for Revision of MIL-STD 129.”

According to Clive Hohberger, PhD, of Zebra Technologies, the document’s lead editor, "Although this document grew out of a request by the US Dept. of Defense (DoD) and reflects their requirements, it contains a tremendous amount of good, practical information on the selection and use of RFID-enabled labels in the supply chain that is equally applicable to commercial logistics."

Developed by AIM Global’s RFID Expert Group (REG), the document is the first of many guideline documents currently under development by the REG.


SATO Corp. improves its industrial traceability system, called “Trace Eye.” The Trace Eye system has been developed to fulfill the needs of manufacturers that need to check the status of products in real-time. Trace Eye is structured to manage the entire production process from the start to warehousing and delivery.



November 2004
Intermec Technologies Corp. and EPCglobal Inc. announce that Intermec has offered to temporarily suspend its RFID intellectual property RAND (reasonable and non-discriminatory) licensing program for the EPCglobal Gen 2 RFID standard for 60 days to allow validation of the candidate specification. The action clears the way for technology providers to submit UHF Gen 2 prototype chips, tags, and readers for purposes of testing by EPCglobal without violating Intermec intellectual property rights.

“This spirit of collaboration is exactly what the EPCglobal community and marketplace needs,” said Dick Cantwell, chairman of the EPCglobal board of governors. “The industry is eager for the release of a common specification that will drive this emerging market forward. Today’s announcement confirms that the process is continuing, the issues are being addressed, and progress is being made.”



December 2004
EPCglobal announces the ratification of the royalty-free EPCglobal UHF Gen 2 candidate specification, which marks the much-anticipated completion of the UHF Gen 2 air interface protocol as an EPCglobal standard. With the Generation 2 standard now in place, technology providers will create products that will meet the requirements of suppliers, manufacturers, and end-users; and industries as a whole can drive EPC implementation with standards-based equipment.



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