The 411 on RFID, Part 2

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March 2004
Information Week ( 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. (, a provider of thin and flexible micro-power source technology and devices, and Graphic Solutions Intl. (, 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 ( 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’ (, Intermec Technologies Corp. (, Philips Semiconductors (, SAMsys Technologies (, Zebra Technologies Corp. (, Impinj Inc. (, and Rafsec ( 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 (, GlobeRanger (, HighJump Software (, Intermec (, Manhattan Associates (, and Provia Software (

Manhattan Assoc. (, a provider of supply-chain execution solutions, and Matrics Inc. ( 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 ( 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 ( 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. ( 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 ( reports start-up venture Sandtracker claims to have cracked the 5¢-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 ( reports a team of researchers at Xerox ( 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 ( 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.

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