RFID Helps Danish Dairy Farmers Increase Production and Profits

November 27, 2009

In Denmark, dairy farmers are finding new uses for RFID and Real Time Location System (RTLS) technology: to locate individual animals within herds and to analyze those animals’ movements in order to predict which are entering heat and which are ill. With this information, the farmers can better schedule insemination of those that are ovulating and remove sick animals from the herd in hopes of treating the illness. The results: more successful pregnancies, better farm production, and increased profits (http://www.rfidjournal.com/article/view/5083/1).

The system is comprised of active, ultra-wide band RFID tags and readers. The tags emit a series of extremely brief signals (lasting billionths of a second or less) at frequencies between 6 and 8 GHz. As the pulses are emitted, the RFID readers calculate the tags’ locations by using time difference of arrival (TDOA) and angle of arrival (AOA) techniques. Because of the pulses’ brevity, the signals are less affected by interference from objects and other RF noise than most conventional RFID RTLS systems—thus improving accuracy and reliability.

In addition to using the technology to monitor which animals are ill and which are in heat, some dairy farmers are using RFID to ensure that cows are milked multiple times each day. These farmers use robotic, automated milking machines, over which RFID readers are mounted. The readers catch the signal emitted by the passive, ISO-compliant 134.2 kHz RFID tag attached to each animal’s ear, letting farmers know that the animal has been milked. If the data captured by the system suggests that a specific cow hasn’t been sufficiently milked, the farmer can use the system to track the cow to its exact location—a chore that used to take hours to complete.

With the system, Danish farmers are realizing a savings of  $60 to $67 per animal, per year. On larger farms, this could translate to annual savings of nearly $40,000.

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RFID Orders Swell, Reach $5.5 Billion Worldwide

November 24, 2009

The market for RFID devices has experienced major growth in 2009, but the technology’s potential within manufacturing, supply chain management, and healthcare has yet to be fully realized, reports Ilya Leybovich of Thomas Net Industrial News Room.

Although RFID tags are already in use in a vast range of applications, including passport security, vehicle and product tracking, inventory management, and even human implantation, the RFID market has maintained dramatic growth throughout 2009. Analysts predict the technology will soon be even more prevalent in commercial and industrial fields. A new report from consultancy firm IDTechEx says the global RFID market has grown by 5 percent in 2009, reaching $5.56 billion worldwide, with orders for RFID products rising by 10 percent in some sectors.

This expansion is continuing despite last year’s completion of the $6 billion China National ID Card program, the world’s largest RFID project to date, according to IDTechEx. The firm forecasts the market will quintuple in the next ten years, with new growth driven largely by the 3,800 documented RFID projects currently under way.

The United States leads global RFID development, with 2,174 projects in place, while the United Kingdom (383), China (240), Germany (199), and Japan (188) round out the world’s top five contributors.

A separate report from market research firm RNCOS also predicts the global RFID market will continue to expand at a compound annual growth rate of 28 percent through 2013, but previous years’ sales will slow down by about a third before the end of 2009.

Capital markets firm Robert W. Baird & Co.’s recent RFID report says that government purchasing is one of the key motivators behind immediate growth. And strengthened sales in the financial, warehouse, and healthcare industries, coupled with gains in manufacturing, transportation and retail, are helping the RFID industry remain healthy amid the recession.


Tut’s Treasures Tagged

November 20, 2009

While they are on their worldwide tour, traveling exhibits manager Arts and Exhibition International is using active RFID technology and sensors to protect the treasure of King Tutankhamun’s tomb, writes Claire Sweedburg in a recent issue of RFID Journal. The system is traveling with the “Tutankhamun: The Golden King and the Great Pharaohs” exhibit.

The tags, used in other museums, such as the National Gallery in London, New York’s Museum of Modern Art, contain built-in vibration sensors and magnetic tamper switches to determine if an object has been touched or moved, and to detect if a display case has been opened. If display cases are tampered with while on display, video images from a CCTV system are instantly displayed in the museum’s security office and alerts are sent to museum staff members on their pagers. An audible alarm inside the gallery warns the perpetrator and security guards that the system has been triggered.

The system tracks 75 display cases with 130 Egyptian national treasures, including more than 50 items from Tutankhamun’s tomb and more than 70 artifacts representing other pharaohs and notables, along with the latest scientific research about King Tut. The system is able to protect the exhibit in each of the multiple installations at a variety of different museums and galleries in seven or eight cities over the course of five years, according to  Jeffrey Wyatt, Arts and Exhibitions International’s VP and project manager. The advantages of using RFID vs. traditional wired sensor systems are that it can work in multiple countries (as opposed to dedicated security solutions specific to certain standards), and it tracks data about the display’s location and status at all times, and not only when something goes wrong. With RFID, the exibition managers always know the location and status of the exhibit’s precious items.


Global RFID Market Will Continue to Grow

November 19, 2009

Despite the global economic crisis, the global industry for radio frequency identification (RFID) technology has been steadily growing for past few years, and is expected to pick up pace before stabilizing and settling on a steady growth path, according to a new report by RNCOS, an industry research firm based in New Delhi, India. The report says the market is greatly benefiting from the excitement related to mandates, entry of new players, re-positioning of some companies as RFID-focused, new product and service launches, technology advances, standards evolution, partnerships and alliances, mergers and acquisitions, and general market awareness.

RNOCS forecasts that the global RFID market is expected to grow at a compound annual growth rate of approximately 28% from 2010 to 2013. The report found that the economic crisis will not stall the global RFID market, but growth in 2009 is expected to slow down to a third of that posted in previous years. The report also found the Americas to be the leading region in global RFID revenues, followed by Europe, Asia-Pacific and the MEA regions. In the coming years, the Asia-Pac region is expected to experience the highest growth in RFID revenues due to the rapidly growing use of the technology in China, Taiwan, India, South Korea, and Thailand, among others.

Within the RFID market, a major part of the growth has stemmed from the applications of RFID in various vertical segments, including transportation, government applications, and consumer packaged goods. However, other application segments such as security-based solutions, contactless payments, pharmaceuticals, and healthcare are in their emerging stage and are forecasted to drive growth in new markets.


Safety group to settle RFID issue

November 19, 2009

The Commercial Vehicle Safety Alliance (CVSA) hopes to decide if it will back requiring electronic identification devices on all commercial motor vehicles at its upcoming executive committee meeting in August, writes Jill Dunn for eTrucker.com
(http://www.etrucker.com/apps/news/article.asp?id=80395).

In January, the Alliance’s Intelligent Transportation Systems Committee issued a draft petition to ask the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) to require electronic IDs by 2012. But in April, the CVSA Associate Advisory Committee recommended “in the strongest terms possible” that CVSA not petition the FMCSA to amend code to mandate them.

The ITS committee wants regulations amended to require every interstate commercial motor vehicle be equipped with an electronic device capable of communicating, via radio frequency, an identification number when queried by a roadside system. In enforcement operations, fixed and mobile, it is impossible to inspect every truck. But these automated systems could offer efficient screening of all trucks, resulting in enforcement resources being focused on the high-risk carriers and vehicles, according to the petition.

The draft petition also advocates a low-cost, decal-type, radio frequency identification (RFID) device mounted on the inside of truck windshields. Vehicles already with these decals will not have to add another one. Federal funds would be available to states, which could incorporate them into license plate renewal process. Each state could decide whether to extend the requirement to intrastate trucks.

The FMCSA’s Commercial Vehicle Information Systems and Networks program has helped many state technology deployments. Most states have installed electronic screening technology, but participation in these programs is voluntary and 15 percent or less of all U.S. trucks participate.


Researchers Demo Highly Secure EPC Gen 2 RFID

November 17, 2009

The RFID Journal reports that the Tag Security Research Group (TSRG) is hoping to improve the security of EPC Gen2 RFID tags after carrying out an experiment using a prototype tag. TSRG members also wrote a white paper that explains their vision for more secure EPC Gen2 tags. The paper can be dowloaded from the Building Radio frequency IDentification solutions for the Global Environment (BRIDGE) project Web site, click on WP4 Security White Paper under the Publications heading.

The aim of the TSRG and its paper, is to provide suggestions, and a proof of concept for deploying EPC Gen 2 tags that support a robust security protocol between the tag and reader. The current Gen 2 air-interface protocol includes an option to use a password to protect tag data, preventing it from being altered by an unauthorized party. However, the password is static and it passes between the tag and reader in plain text. Plus, the password does not prevent the tag data from being interrogated by any EPC Gen 2 reader.

The TSRG’s new approach relies on the use of cryptography with a focus on widely adopted standard data security methods such as the Advanced Encryption Standard (AES). Developed as a proof of concept, the prototype shows the feasibility of implementing the group’s proposed security methods. While the group is proposing a fully passive, encryptable  EPC Gen 2 tag, the prototype contains a battery to power the cryptographic computations and the exchange of keys with the reader. Otherwise the prototype operates like a conventional passive tag.


RFID, Encrypted Card Readers Are Hot POS Trends

November 13, 2009

Since its introduction to the supermarket 35 years ago in Troy, Ohio, Universal Product Code (UPC) barcode technology has ushered in extraordinary economic and productivity gains for shoppers, retailers, and manufacturers alike. The technology has provided an estimated annual cost savings of $17 billion to the grocery sector alone.

And about ten years ago, writes Regina Ciardello in the latest issue of Vertical Systems Reseller, technology enabled the introduction of self-checkout devices, which further enhanced the shopping experience. The fact that progress continues will be demonstrated at the Retail Solutions Providers Association’s (RSPA) Convention & Expo taking place this month in Las Vegas. To set the stage for the show, VSR asked a variety of vendors, VARs, and distributors for their thoughts about important questions facing the retail channel and found that responses from the three very distinct groups were in tune with each other.

When asked about the top POS retail hardware trends, RFID barcode printers, RFID scanners and mobile POS terminals were at the top of the list submitted by Mahendran Ramanthan, president of Retail Technology Experts, a Miami-based solution provider.

When it comes to software trends, many respondents said that integration was top of mind. “We’re seeing phenomenal levels of integration between disparate apps, or complementary applications,” says Atkinson of CAP Software. “This benefits both VARs and retailers.”

Respondents cited encrypted card readers among the top retail POS peripherals, noting that they are “truly becoming a necessity in the merchant’s eyes.” Encrypting customer information and account data at the card reader significantly minimizes security threats and encrypted card readers play a big part in enabling merchants to take an active role in security and work toward PCI DSS compliance.