Pilots of CSL’s Battery-Assisted Passive UHF RFID Card Underway

December 17, 2012

Several dozen sites, including a large U.S. retailer and a private school in India, are testing CSL’s tag, which offers a read range of up to 80 feet without obstructions, and about 15 feet when attached to a person’s body.

Complete article by Claire Swedburg of RFID Journal can be viewed at:

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Dec. 12, 2012—Although there are a variety of ultrahigh-frequency (UHF) RFID solutions for passive proximity badges, access control and other ID cards carried by personnel or customers, adoption has been challenged by a drop in read range and reliability when the cards are in close proximity to the human body, according to Jerry Garrett, the managing director of Hong Kong RFID technology firm Convergence Systems Ltd. (CSL). Active tags, while offering a longer read range in the presence of a person’s body, are expensive, and some models beacon constantly—a feature many users do not want in an ID card. Now, several dozen pilots are underway involving a new CSL product that aims to provide a longer read range with battery-assisted passive (BAP) UHF RFID tags that strikes a compromise between passive and active technologies. The new BAP CS9010 card, also known the BAP ID Card, contains a UHF RFID inlay compliant with the EPC Gen 2 and ISO 18000-6c standards. It comes with its own power source—a battery—which is activated only if the tag is scanned by a reader, in which case the card will use the battery power to boost the transmission, and the tag will then go to sleep.

The CS9010 card is being tested by systems integrators around the world, Garrett says, as well as by end users, including a large retailer in the United States and a private school in India.

CSL first announced a soft launch of the BAP ID Card at the RFID Journal LIVE! conference held in April 2012. Since then, companies have been trialing it for use in tracking the zones in which people—such as students, employees or customers with loyalty cards—are located. The card is also being tested for use in monitoring items that can be challenging to track via passive UHF tag, such as those containing a large amount of metal that would otherwise require metal-mount tags. The BAP ID Card became available commercially as of last month.

The CS9010 card measures 1.8 millimeters (0.07 inch) in thickness and is about the size of a credit card. It is intended to fit into a pocket, wallet or purse, the company reports, or to be worn as a badge or on a lanyard. The tag’s read range is approximately 5 meters (16.4 feet) when held against a person’s body, such as in a shirt pocket, but can exceed 25 meters (82 feet) in open space. These statistics apply when CSL’s CS203 reader is used; however, Garrett says, any UHF RFID reader can interrogate the tags.

The card is intended for such uses as personnel monitoring, time and attendance tracking, remote identification of workers within hazardous environments, employee mustering, event monitoring, sports timing, and automatic recognition by a store utilizing loyalty cards.

In the case of a U.S. retailer, the cards are being employed at multiple stores as employee IDs, to track whether workers are in the facility, as well as in which section they are located. Integrated CS203 readers are installed in the ceiling about 15 feet high, creating read zones approximately 12 feet in diameter. This retailer, Garrett says, prides itself on its customer service. So by tracking its staff’s movements, it can obtain data indicating whether employees tend to cluster within the appropriate areas, such as in a part of the store in which a hot new product is being sold. The retailer has asked not to be named, however, or to have the details of the installation described. The company, Garrett says, plans to decide at the end of the first quarter of 2013 whether to install the system at all of its stores.

In another case, an Indian private grammar school is using the BAP ID Card to track its students. For this deployment, Garrett explains, readers were installed in ceilings, and the school tracks in which areas of the facility students are located. In the future, the school hopes to install a reader in every classroom, in order to identify, in real time, which students are in which rooms.

Another use case that interests some businesses is a BAP ID loyalty card for stores. A customer could apply for the card, and have a unique ID number linked to his or her identity in the retailer’s software. Upon entering the store, the shopper could be greeted by name, or be provided with discounts specific to his or her shopping habits. In addition, Garrett says, a theme park is piloting the cards for a loyalty use case, to identify when a major donor to the park enters the property, and to then provide the appropriate VIP service to that individual.

The BAP ID Card was in development for at least one year, Garrett says, and it required some effort to find a BAP integrated circuit that was UHF-compatible. The company’s focus was on developing a tag that would employ the ISO 18000-6C standard and be readable by any EPC Gen 2 reader, rather than only by a CSL device.

For those looking to trial the technology, Convergence Systems Ltd. sells a kit consisting of 10 preprogrammed BAP ID Cards for $150. CSL intends to offer the CS9010 tag in other form factors as well during the next few months, such as a wristband version, or one that could be fitted to a shoe for runners taking part in competitions.

One of CSL’s U.S distributors, TransTech Systems, is providing the technology to some of its RFID-using customers. Jeff Kruse, TransTech’s president, says several firms are currently testing the BAP ID Cards, while most of the testing to date has been performed at the laboratories of systems integrators, for clients to view. He estimates that about 20 integrators that use RFID were testing the technology.

“Some people are doing accelerated battery-life testing,” Kruse states, to simulate very frequent reads to the tag, with the goal of determining how long the battery would last under such situations in the real world. Most use cases, he says, seem to be centered on manufacturing and distribution centers, for use in tracking assets or personnel. With regard to tracking personnel, the technology could be utilized to sound an alert or shut down automated systems in the event that an individual wearing the tag strayed into a hazardous location in which unmanned machinery was in operation.

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