Sunday, April 1, 2007

An expert’s look at RFID World 2007


By Martyn Mallick

The annual RFID World conference, held last week in Dallas, Texas, continues to draw a large crowd of vendors, developers and end-users interested in Radio Frequency Identification. The size of the show appeared to be marginally larger than last year, with more than 200 exhibitors and nine separate educational tracks focused on topics ranging from hardware advancements to real-time location tracking to security to mandate compliance.

Active RFID

While there were continued advancements in the EPC (Electronic Product Code passive RFID space (more on that later), the really interesting trend of the show was the increased presence of active RFID and sensor technologies. Gone are the days where people were impressed with being able read data from a simple tag and display it through an application. Today we are seeing some very innovative uses of sensors integrated into active tags that can wirelessly communicate the sensory data to backend systems.

For example, AXCESS Inc. was showing an active tag that incorporates a biometric fingerprint reader. This tag is used for high security environments where two-factor authentication is required for access control. When these tags are used, employees are no longer able to borrow a colleague's badge to enter a building as the tag is only "activated" by the fingerprint scanner.

Seeing this type of technology on a PDA impressed me several years ago. Seeing it on a tag not much larger than the size of a credit card truly shows how far sensor technologies have come.

Other interesting implementations of active RFID technologies included those combining temperature, light, and humidity sensors. The cost of active tags continues to decline as well, with tags projected to be as low as $5 to $25 -- depending on the capabilities -- making them a viable alternative to passive tags for certain applications.

Mobile and forklift RFID

Another trend is the continued focus on mobile and forklift devices. LXE announced two new certified software vendors for their RX2 vehicle-mounted terminal. The improved ability for these devices to work in disconnected mode, with on-device intelligence, is contributing to their increased usage in manufacturing, healthcare and related industries.

Going smaller was Wireless Dynamics' introduction of a low-frequency RFID Reader/Writer SD Card -- the SDiD 1210 -- that enables smartphones and PDAs to read and write low-frequency tags. Low-frequency tags are being used in several application types including animal identification, asset tagging and process compliance applications.