So why bother with this appendix when the topic of vendors and other resources is not on the exam? I am hoping that you will use this book even after you successfully pass the exam, and that it will become a good tool for your future RFID endeavors. To succeed, you may need some advice regarding where to turn to get your readers, tags, and printers, as well as useful links that provide reliable information about who is who and what is going on in the RFID industry. Using the Internet is the easiest and the most comprehensive way to find educational resources about the RFID technology itself and its innovations and applications.
In this appendix, I will show you some of the largest RFID equipment vendors and solution providers, tell you what products and solutions they offer, and disclose a little bit of information about them that you will not find in their marketing slicks. The lists are in alphabetical order so that nobody gets angry. (Well, those who didn't make it onto these pages probably will anyway.)
Alien Technology Corporation
18220 Butterfield Blvd., Morgan Hill, CA 95037
Alien Technology is a major manufacturer of passive UHF RFID readers and tags. Besides readers intended for use in the United States, Alien also offers readers that comply with European standards. Using its patented manufacturing technology, Fluidic Self Assembly (FSA), Alien is capable of producing passive EPC tags in large quantities relatively quickly. Its tags used to employ only a single dipole antenna, which posed problems with orientation sensitivity; however, currently it also provides orientation-insensitive tags ("omni-squiggle"). Alien also offers battery-assisted tags and readers, as well as vendor-neutral testing and professional services through its RFID Solutions Center in Dayton, Ohio.
What you won't find in marketing slicks: Alien has the cheapest tags and the fastest order time on readers, and it is working on improving its customer service and support, which used to be its weakness. Alien will not sell you its readers or tags or provide support unless you go through its Alien Academy training (which is not cheap).
4501 Parkway Commerce Blvd., Orlando, FL 32808
Datamax is a subsidiary of Dover Corporation and offers a range of products related to barcode and RFID labeling. Datamax produces thermal printers, labels, tickets, and other tags, as well as thermal transfer ribbons. Datamax offers printers that can come RFID enabled or they can be enabled later using RFID modules. Datamax offers HF, as well as UHF RFID modules that are capable of EPC as well as ISO reading and encoding.
FOX IV Technologies, Inc.
6011 Enterprise Drive, Export, PA 98203
Fox IV, which has been in business for over 20 years, provides print-and-apply systems specially designed to withstand tough environments. It was the first company providing print-and-apply solutions to pass EPCglobal's certification for Class 0 and 1 tags.
What you won't find in marketing slicks: Fox IV Technologies has been a leader in tough environments and situations; however, its products tend to be more expensive than the products of other print-and-apply vendors.
1133 Westchester Ave., White Plains, NY 10604
IBM was in RFID back in the 1990s but devolved its practice when it sold much of its intellectual property to Intermec in the late 1990s. The recent EPC revolution has seen it reenter the market with an interesting approach. IBM envisions RFID as an additional data-capture technology that interoperates with its WebSphere platform. To support this, IBM has created interoperability with most of the leading RFID hardware vendors by using the WebSphere RFID Device Infrastructure (WRDI). This combined with the WebSphere premises server creates a solid middleware package that interoperates with the entire WebSphere suite. It's a great product line for companies that are an IBM shop.
701 N. 34th St., Suite 300, Seattle, WA 98103
Impinj is a highly inventive, venture-backed company that started as a chip manufacturer with innovative design. Impinj played a major role in EPC Generation 2 specifications development. Its chip self-calibrates over the life of the system, which keeps its performance unchanged despite aging and outside conditions. The chip is smaller and consumes less power than other chips, which makes it more effective. Impinj also produces its own inlays and came up with a near-field UHF tag with a great performance around difficult materials (as the result of near-field magnetic coupling, which also causes short read ranges). This tag actually reads while sub-merged in water, as I saw at one of the RFID shows. Impinj also produces inlays for long read ranges. Impinj recently introduced a mono-static interrogator, which was specifically built for the EPCglobal UHF Gen 2 standard; besides traditional features, it also offers tag-response mapping capabilities and other interesting functions.
What you won't find in marketing slicks: Impinj has a talented and focused team, with strong partnerships among antenna and label manufacturers. Although its innovations increase chip and tag performance, the question is whether its prices will be competitive and whether this small company can keep up with the production volume.
Intermec Technologies Corporation
6001 36th Ave. West, Everett, WA 98203
Intermec has been in the automatic identification and data capture (AIDC) technology business for decades. Intermec provides not only standard automated data-collection technologies using bar codes, but also Intellitag RFID solutions including hardware (readers, antennas, printers) and tag manufacturing. Intermec also offers mobile computing systems for companies worldwide. Intermec's readers are certified for operation in the United States at UHF and microwave frequency, in Europe at UHF, and in Japan at microwave frequency. It provides fixed readers and handhelds as well as vehicle-mount units.
What you won't find in marketing slicks: When IBM decided to leave the RFID technology business several years ago, Intermec purchased IBM's RFID intellectual property; therefore, Intermec now owns patents on everything from tag design to testing equipment. As the RFID market started to mature and RFID companies started to come up with their own products, Intermec began to promote its patents and required licensing via its Rapid Start RFID licensing program. Intermec royalty requirements were also partially responsible for slowing down the process of EPC protocol standard design. Because Intermec's main activities have been focused on lawsuits for patent infringements, it has not been concentrating too much on the competitiveness of its products and services. However, once it does, it has a great chance of leading the RFID market.
150 Congress St., Keene, NH 03431
For almost a century, MARKEM has been a company concentrating on marking and printing technologies. It develops inks and printing machines and provides laser, thermal transfer, ink-jet, and ink roll printing, as well as print-and-apply solutions for barcode and RFID labels. MARKEM offers solutions for conveyor tagging, as well as desktop solutions and tagging software.
22960 Shaw Road, Suite 600, Dulles, VA 20166
Phone: 1-866-652-3052 or 1-703-968-0000
ODIN Technologies is the leading provider of specialized software and services for the RFID infrastructure. ODIN has developed novel software to make the testing, deployment, and management of RFID networks highly successful. It was the first company to release software based on sound scientific methodologies for testing tag selection and placement. ODIN has also created a system, called EasyReader automated system design, to design full RFID systems, create bills of materials, and automate configuration, tuning, and testing.
Because ODIN has a background in the physics of RFID, it is uniquely qualified to understand how to manage, monitor, and keep RFID networks healthy. ODIN has the first monitoring and management system in the RFID industry; this system looks at tag read performance over time, using artificial intelligence, machine learning, and fuzzy logic in a patent-pending solution designed to keep RFID networks up and working properly 24/7 in even the most remote locations. The EasySuite of software tools has been proven and utilized at the most complex and largest RFID deployments in the world-for example, for the U.S. Department of Defense, where ODIN technologies was the prime contractor deploying 26 facilities worldwide in the largest RFID deployment in history.
ODIN's laboratories-in Dulles, Virginia, and Budapest, Hungary-are the only commercial labs producing head-to-head comparisons of RFID readers, handhelds, tags, and other components in their RFID Benchmark Series. This "Consumer Reports" for the RFID industry is well recognized for unbiased, scientific information.
What you won't find in marketing slicks: ODIN has worked with more of the Wal-Mart, Target, and Department of Defense clients than any other firm in the marketplace on infrastructure testing, deployment, and monitoring. ODIN was selected over a long list of vendors based on technical excellence to supply the U.S. DoD with passive RFID infrastructure. ODIN bases all of its products and solutions on physics and years of experience in the RFID industry. (Since I am from ODIN, I can brag a little bit, right?)
OMRON Regional Management Center
1920 Thoreau Dr. Suite 165, Shaumburg, IL 60173
OMRON (based in Japan) is a large electronics manufacturer that has been in RFID for over 20 years and offers a range of RFID products. Omron's products include the ONE DAY compliance package including reader, antenna, printer, light stack, middleware, accessories, and training; LF, HF, UHF, and microwave RFID inlays; and readers (fixed units as well as handhelds). OMRON also offers a global tag that is suitable for use across all global UHF frequency bands.
OMRON started its UHF reader design by licensing the firmware and basic design from ThingMagic, while using more-powerful and efficient versions of components. The result was an immediately optimized reader.
170 Monarch Lane, Miamisburg, OH 45342
Phone: 1-888-44PAXAR (72927)
Paxar is a major provider of tickets, tags, and labels, as well as the related technology for retail product identification including printers and software control systems. Paxar has been in business for over 100 years. It provides stationary as well as portable RFID and barcode printers, print-and-apply systems, and barcode and RFID labels. Paxar supplies smart labels for major retailers and manufacturers such as Marks & Spencer, Del Monte Foods, Conair, VF Imagewear, and others. Paxar provides a smart label guarantee by refunding money for failed labels, and it is able to ship out large quantities of labels the same day.
14600 Myford Road, Irvine, CA 92606
Printronix started as a manufacturer of line matrix printers and continued as an innovator of thermal and continuous form laser printers with engineering, manufacturing, sales, and customer support centers worldwide. Printronix also provides thermal transfer RFID printers/encoders and barcode printers, print-and-apply units, RFID labels, network printer management software, and a wide range of industrial printing solutions and solutions for global enterprises.
10350-A Nations Ford Road, Charlotte, NC 28273
SATO is a large international company that has been in the AIDC industry for a long time. You can thank SATO for inventing the first electronic thermal transfer barcode printer. SATO offers the Data Collection System & Labeling concept, which is SATO's complete barcode and labeling solution providing printers, scanners/handheld terminals, label design software, and supplies.
SATO also offers rugged HF and UHF RFID printers/encoders, labeling software, and HF and UHF smart labels, as well as a full RFID services program including site surveys, technical consulting, tag testing and evaluation, installation, and ongoing site support.
615 Tasman Drive, Sunnyvale, CA 94089
Savi has been in business for over 15 years and since its beginnings, it has established itself as one of the leaders in active supply-chain solutions, mainly due to engagements with the U.S. Department of Defense. Savi was recently acquired by Lockheed Martin Corporation. Savi has designed and developed the SmartChain software suite including a unique enterprise software platform, Savi SmartChain Enterprise Platform, which is Savi's RFID, site software, and enterprise software applications that provide the foundation for Savi's supply-chain asset management, consignment management, transportation, and security management solutions. The applications are integrated with other AIDC technologies.
Savi's EchoPoint active RFID systems have been implemented in various harsh environments and offer a wide selection of active RFID tags, including tags with sensors. Savi is a main provider of technology for U.S. DoD RFID consignment monitoring networks including RFID, barcode, cellular, and communications systems.
What you won't find in marketing slicks: Many of today's experts in the RFID industry started at Savi. Some of them learned about Savi while being in the military; for others, it was a next step to get into RFID from barcode and other AIDC technologies.
372 Bay Street, Suite 1100, Toronto, Ontario M5H 2W9 Canada
or 1321 Valwood Parkway, Suite 620, Carrollton, TX 75006
Phone: 1-800-498-8760 or 1-866-338-9586
Sirit is a provider of RFID hardware and solutions. It has been focusing on automatic vehicle identification (AVI), which includes toll collection, parking, access to gated communities, and fleet management. Sirit is one of the four suppliers of current toll-collection infrastructure in the United States. Sirit also offers LF, HF, and UHF readers as well as INfinity OEM reader modules and battery-assisted passive tags and readers for its toll-collection solutions IDentity FleX and Title 21.
What you won't find in marketing slicks: Sirit recently acquired SAMSys Technologies and integrated its reader and OEM solutions into its offerings. Sirit has been concentrating on AVI solutions and hardware and it is not very strong in the services department, mainly on the side of RFID supply-chain solutions.
Symbol Technologies, Inc.
1 Symbol Plaza, Holtsville, NY 11742-1300
Symbol is a large provider of hardware and solutions including barcode scanners, payment systems, Micro Kiosks, mobile computers, wireless infrastructure, and OEM products as well as voice-optimized products (Enterprise Digital Assistants with voice-over-IP). In 2004, Symbol acquired Matrics, a manufacturer of RFID readers and tags, as well as an RFID systems integrator. Matrics started as an aggressive, venture-backed company with technology borne out of scientists from the National Security Agency (NSA). Matrics patented a PICA tag-assembling process, which allowed for fast and cheaper tag production. Symbol continues in RFID by providing UHF EPC-compliant solutions using fixed and handheld readers, antennas, RFID portals, and RFID tags. Matrics originally produced only Class 0 read-only tags; however, Symbol now offers read-only and read-write Gen 1 tags and Gen 2.
What you won't find in marketing slicks: Although Matrics/Symbol readers are some of the best readers on the market (same with their antennas), Symbol continues to have problems with filling large orders of these devices because of slow production. Matrics/Symbol tags are well designed and used to be relatively large. Symbol now offers their Gen 2 tags also in sizes 1" × 1" and 2" × 4" besides the traditional 4" × 4".
196 West Ashland St., Doylestown, PA 18901
TAGSYS is a large provider of item-level RFID systems and tags. TAGSYS also designs, manufactures, and integrates end-to-end RFID solutions and item-level tracking systems mainly for specialized industries such as pharmaceutical, fashion apparel, libraries, and textile rental. TAGSYS manufactures HF and UHF tags in various forms such as nano-size tags, disk tags, small and large tags, thermo tags, encapsulated tags, AK Family of UHF Gen 2 tags, flexible RFID tags, CD tags, and RFID patron cards. TAGSYS also offers short-, medium-, and long-range HF RFID readers, 3D RFID tunnels, inventory stations, circulation stations, and fast tagging stations.
Texas Instruments, Inc.
6550 Chase Oaks Blvd., MS 8470, Plano, TX 75023
TI is a world leader in digital signal processing and analog technologies. TI's offerings include semiconductors (ASIC, amplifiers, clocks, data converters, microcontrollers, sensors, switches and multiplexers, and so forth), digital light processing (DLP) technology (TV, cinema, projectors, and so forth), educational technology and calculators, sensors and control devices, and last but not least RFID. TI has significant experience in LF and HF RFID (providing tags and readers) and also has started to offer UHF Gen 2 tags.
What you won't find in marketing slicks: Several members of the RFID group have been involved with various standards organizations. TI therefore understands the direction in which the standards are going and is ahead on chip design. It released its first foray into EPC in 2006 and is vying for a leadership position with Gen 2 tags. TI has the capacity to produce tags in large quantities in a short amount of time; therefore, it can meet high demand. However, it has to continue with innovation to make sure that it is able to fight off the competition in the RFID market.
1 Broadway, Cambridge, MA 02142
Phone: 1-617-758-4136 or 1-866-833-4069
ThingMagic is a privately held company specializing in RFID readers, sensors, and other embedded and low-cost computing technologies. ThingMagic products are also available as OEM. ThingMagic was one of the first producers of an agile reader, and the first to use Intel architecture coupled with a Linux core. ThingMagic started through early involvement with the Auto-ID Center at MIT and claims that it was profitable from the first day of operation. ThingMagic has licensed its design to Tyco/ADT as well as OMRON.
What you won't find in marketing slicks (although with this one you might): ThingMagic recently introduced its Mercury V as an innovative Gen 2 reader with solid performance in dense reader environments due to "ignoring the interference" techniques. This reader also has something for the design fans-its sleek silvery case with blue stripes and logo is really something. The issues that are keeping big companies away are past production challenges and partnership conflicts.
UPM Raflatac, Inc.
1060 Hanover Street, Hanover Industrial Estates, Hanover Township, PA 18706
UPM Raflatac (previously UPM Rafsec) is a company made up of the combined legacies of UPM Rafsec and Raflatac. UPM Rafsec was a manufacturer of RFID tags and inlays, while Raflatac was a major provider of pressure-sensitive labels for various applications. UPM Raflatac offers HF and UHF RFID tags/smart labels as well as injection molding tags that are suitable for embedding into crates or pallets. UPM Raflatac focuses on pharma e-pedigree, supply chain management, libraries and media management, parcel and post, garment, and baggage-tagging applications.
Zebra Technologies Corporation
333 Corporate Woods Parkway, Vernon Hills, IL 60061-3109
Zebra is a large provider of rugged and reliable printing solutions, including thermal barcode label and receipt printers and supplies, plastic card printers, RFID smart label printers/ encoders, certified smart media, and digital photo printers. Zebra offers HF and mainly UHF RFID printers/encoders with the possibility of wireless access using wireless LAN or Bluetooth. Zebra supplies printers complying with U.S. and European regulations. Zebra also offers labeling design software, ZebraDesigner; printer management software, ZebraNet Bridge Enterprise; and other useful software tools.
What you won't find in marketing slicks: Zebra developed Zebra Programming Language (ZPL) for printer programming, which also has been used by its competitors because of its flexibility and comprehensiveness. Zebra is well known for its robust printers and great customer service.