RFID: AT&T and Tyco jump in, Motorola closes the loop


Dallas, TX —AT&T jumped into sensor-based network and radio frequency identification (RFID) services, Tyco Electronics showed an extended family of RFID products, and Motorola demonstrated closed-loop RFID hardware and software technologies. These were among developments at the 5th Annual RFID World conference and exhibition here, March 26-28, 2007. As RFID use continues to expand beyond manufacturing, those on the plant floor can benefit by lower overall technology costs, advancing integration and services, as well as from continuing standards developments.

AT&T expanded with three sensor-based network services covering mobile resource management, RFID asset visibility, and managed passive RFID solutions. The March 26 announcement is said to build on the company’s significant wireless resources (Cingular), network integration, consulting and managing services, and other expertise.

  • Mobile Resource Management is a “nationwide, location-based service that uses global positioning service (GPS) technology and specialized, hosted-managed applications powered by the AT&T nationwide wireless data network to enable customers to track company vehicles, monitor their speed and condition while on the road, and report on location and condition of company products and inventory.”

  • AT&T RFID Asset Visibility RFID enables the automatic collection, display, and analysis of information on location of a business asset in real time, accurate to the individual item. Combining the power of active RFID technology, location-based software, and Wi-Fi LAN networking aims to help improve the utilization and management of critical assets within that environment. It “delivers precise tracking and tracing, which in turn drives more informed business decision-making, faster identification of product location, more effective service delivery, supply chain management, and other key functions.”

  • AT&T managed passive RFID service enables customers to monitor locations of shipments or individual packages within a shipment—by the pallet, the bundle, or the specific item. It includes professional services to design and deploy the environment, managed RFID devices, and a hosted EPCglobal database and analytics for inventory in movement for RFID transactions.

Prior to the announcement, Ebrahim Keshavarz, vice president AT&T New Services Development, noted that AT&T is interested in how things attach to networks, looking at things like temperature, speed, location, intrusion, direction, pressure, light, chemicals, shock, movement, and elevation. Network end points will grow exponentially, he said, and AT&T wants to help in how they will be managed, he suggested.

Motorola and System Concepts Inc. unveiled an innovative business flow solution for the supply chain, manufacturing, and asset management industries at Motorola’s booth. A work-in-process (WIP) demonstration uses Motorola’s RD5000 mobile reader, XR400 fixed reader and MC9090-G handheld reader, as well as Traxware software developed by System Concepts.

Three box colors intend to indicate different assets or assembly pieces. When a colored box comes into range, the corresponding reader detects the box, updates an LCD monitor with the color, and signals a stacklight to blink. As the colored box passes other readers (or a new colored box is introduced) the LCD and stacklight reflect the change automatically. The visual cues and simple software user interface are said to make tracking tools, parts, and other assets more intuitive for employees in the plant or field. The simplicity of the demonstration is the main point, says Motorola’s Chris Schaefer. “As closed-loop and asset management applications like the Traxware solution grow in number, RFID is getting easier to deploy in the real world,” Schaefer says.

L. Allen Bennett, CEO and president of System Concepts, adds, “With this dynamic application, we hope to break through the noise of new product announcements to show how RFID is being used to drive real ROI for closed-loop, supply chain and asset management deployments today.”

In related news, Motorola completed acquisition of Symbol Technologies in January.

Tyco Electronics’ “end-to-end RFID solutions for industry” as announced in February, were demonstrated and discussed at the show. The company integrated all parts of its RFID portfolio including: tags, inlays, readers, antennas, and software. Customized integrated systems are available for specific applications. RFID labels and tags are available in molded, removable, and self-adhesive styles. Using advanced materials, RFID labels from Tyco Electronics can be used in harsh environments. RFID products include UHF, HF, and LF technologies for readers and antennas; support includes value-added engineering, site surveys, installation, and software.

RFID World Boston will be co-located with Embedded Systems Conference Boston, Sept. 19 and 20.

“What’s Your RFID Spin?” talks about the latest in RFID for manufacturing.

Mark T. Hoske , Control Engineering editor in chief, MHoske@cfemedia.com, Daily News Desk
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