RFID: controller with Ethernet; tag firm sold; locate persons, files

By Control Engineering Staff July 5, 2007

Radio frequency identification (RFID) developments include a new Ethernet support from Balluff industrial RFID systems, FCI ’s acquisition of Smartag , and technologies that enable person location from Honeywell and document location from Tagsys and Ident.

Balluff RFID systems have Ethernet protocol compatibility with EtherNet/IP, Modbus TCP, and Ethernet TCP/IP.

Balluff RFID systems are Ethernet compatible , including EtherNet/IP, Modbus TCP, and Ethernet TCP/IP protocols (as well as other industrial communications networks, such as Interbus, Profibus, and DeviceNet). Balluff calls EtherNet/IP “the most common, has less connectivity issues, offers the fastest performance and flexibility, and is quickly becoming the predominant industrial network in North America. More to the point, it is the most compatible for supporting higher speed RFID data.” Benefits include: multi-vendor support, with open standard IEEE 802.3 Ethernet hardware topology, faster data communications and less cost with 100 Mbps communication speeds, to eliminate network bottlenecks, enhance network and control performance, and increase production throughput and performance capability. EtherNet/IP and Modbus TCP protocols provide a deterministic and reliable control platform for using RFID for reliable data tracking and error proofing, Balluff says. Ethernet RFID systems are finding multiple uses with automotive Tier One assembly, general automated assembly processes, inter-logistics, and material handling operations, company says. Balluff RFID systems are well suited for reliable product identification at the source, station-based re-write and process step update at each station, on-part continuous data maintenance, recorded error proofing at each step of the process and database linkage of quality parameters, the company says.

FCI, a connector company, recently acquired Smartag , a specialized player in RFID tag manufacturing, located in Singapore. Now called FCI Smartag, the unit develops RFID tags for focused applications including pharmaceutical, cosmetics, and library management. The acquisition expands FCI RFID offerings include antennas design and tag manufacturing for high engineering assets tracking applications. “Our plan is to bring them full technical and operating support. They have shown significant growth in the past year, and in the coming years we want to boost this growth by leveraging their synergy with FCI,” points out Jerôme Duhirel, corporate vice president and general manager of FCI Microconnections Division. The new association helps FCI Smartag accelerate business development and reinforce our international presence, which already included USA, Europe and Asia, says Tiang Siong Lian, FCI Smartag general manager.

Honeywell Instant Location System (HILS) is a real-time location solution that industrial manufacturers can use to ensure safety, improve security and manage people and valuable assets within facilities. HILS is said to integrate the latest identification and location technologies available: ultra-wideband (UWB), global positioning systems (GPS), Wi-Fi and active radio-frequency identification (RFID), with the Honeywell Experion Process Knowledge System (PKS) for process automation. Installed at locations throughout a facility, receivers can pinpoint the location of an employee or piece of equipment and send the information to the HILS server, which directly feeds the information to the operator’s workstation. The receivers can transmit data wirelessly using Honeywell’s new OneWireless network. “Every second counts when you’re trying to locate employees during a plant emergency. Additionally, when employees spend hours looking for a lost piece of equipment, it wastes production time,” said Jack Bolick, president of Honeywell Process Solutions. “Location is not a process variable, but it is a variable that can be monitored and used to improve operations and reduce costs. More importantly, it can save lives.” Within seconds of a major plant incident, HILS can track employees and visitors through personal tags attached to their clothing and generate real-time mustering reports. These reports allow emergency responders to quickly obtain accurate headcounts and locate missing or injured employees. Integrated with Experion, HILS can use equipment and personnel geo-location information to improve plant safety. For example, HILS can use interlocks to ensure dangerous procedures are only executed when personnel are a safe distance from a process unit or machinery.

Tagsys and Ident developed the world’s first RFID system to track and manage client files in a law firm, the companies say. The companies deployed the system at Paris-based Lhermet, La Bigne & Remy (LLR) for the firm’s tens of thousands of archived legal documents covering patent law and intellectual property. The application could help any business seeking to manage high volumes of densely stacked documents by decreasing time for daily inventory from one hour to a few minutes. The firm is currently converting its next set of 10,000 documents. Tagsys is a provider of item-level RFID infrastructure. Ident is a French supplier of RFID systems integration and antitheft protection for document management.

TALK BACK: Telepathx develops RFID networks using reactive embedded RFID sensors and monitors energy networks, transports for automobile crashes, emergency services, and fire ignitions. Read more about the companies’ capabilities in this Talk Back comment to a previously posted Control Engineering article.

—Edited by Mark T. Hoske , editor in chief, Control Engineering System Integration eNewsletter
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