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What’s New in RFID? A Recap of RFID Journal LIVE! 2015

My name is Jeff Polly, Vice President of Lowry Solutions, Inc., a system integrator that discovers, plans, implements and sustains enterprise RFID solutions. We recently participated as an exhibitor at the RFID Journal LIVE! event in San Diego, California. During my time at the show, I had the opportunity to roam the exhibit hall and see what was new and exciting from the RFID industry. I found a powerful new passive UHF reader from Alien. I found new application-specific RFID chips from Impinj and NXP. Impinj continued to showcase their exciting xARRAY reader system, and I found a number of new products that RFID enable smartphones. It was great to see our long-time RFID middleware partner 7iD exhibiting at the show as well.

The folks at Alien were excited to show off their new ALR-F800 reader — and they should be. The reader introduces a paradigm shift in RFID reader practicality. The reader provides the highest transmit power of any reader when operating power over Ethernet (PoE) and can seamlessly switch between PoE and AC power. It is self-optimizing, meaning it constantly monitors the environment and manipulates a number of parameters, filters and tuning metrics dynamically to maximize tag reads. The reader is extensible via industry standard I/O, supporting micro-SD cards for added memory and USB connection to WiFi and cellular modems. With LLRP support coming soon, this reader would be a fine addition to any RFID infrastructure.

RFID chip manufacturers Impinj and NXP showcased their exciting new integrated circuits. NXP’s UCODE DNA is the world’s first UHF (ultra-high frequency) RAIN RFID tag IC to combine long-range read performance with cryptographic authentication. The new tag is a breakthrough in UHF security and is ideally suited for a wide variety of applications, such as electronic road tolling, electronic vehicle registration, license plate authentication, access control, asset tracking, parking and fast visitor processing at large scale venues, sports stadiums or entertainment parks. Impinj showed why retailers should be excited about the new Monza 6 line of ICs. The Monza R6-P RAIN RFID IC is optimized for serializing items, such as apparel, electronics, cosmetics, pharmaceuticals, jewelry and various other products. The chip supports privacy, loss-prevention, and brand protection capabilities for retailers and brand owners. The Monza S6-C IC provides high performance and a fail-safe, one-way counter that is ideal for secure ticketing and consumable metering solutions. The Monza 6 line of ICs includes automatic performance adjustments, self-diagnostics and durable construction methods that improve tag quality and reliability while decreasing costs associated with tagging. In my opinion, the emergence of application specific ICs will allow passive RFID applications to expand into areas not considered before.

As I walked the exhibit hall at RFID Journal LIVE!, I couldn’t help but notice how many companies were demonstrating their new RFID products for smartphones. There were attachments for UHF, HF, LF and all manner of barcodes. The devices were Bluetooth-attached and audio port-attached to smartphones. One product we liked was from uGROKit. It is a lightweight, easy-to-use UHF reader that attaches to a smartphone’s audio port. I was impressed at how easy it was to install; I had the reader working with my phone within a couple of minutes. I can see a device like this being very useful in some field service applications, retail store inventory and fixed asset inventory applications.

I have been to four RFID Journal LIVE! shows over the past ten years and have to say this was the best show I’ve experienced. It was well attended by both exhibitors and buyers, and there seemed to be a buzz about RFID technology that hasn’t always been there in the past. I truly believe we are now witnessing the breakout period for RFID technology that we have been waiting for.

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