The 411 on RFID, Part 3

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May 2004
Auto ID Labs ( 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 ( 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 ( 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 ( 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 (

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' ( 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, 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 ( reports Avery Dennison ( Retail Information Services and Paxar ( 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 (, 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 ( 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.

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