By Claire Swedberg
Feb. 27, 2012—RFID
vendors are developing tags and readers that will operate with the ISO 18000
-3 Mode 3 (3M3) standard and the EPC
HF RFID Air Interface Standard v. 2.0.3, enabling users to interrogate high-frequency
(HF) tags employing GS1
standard, thereby providing compatibility
) and HF EPCglobal-compliant systems. More than a year after the International Organization for Standardization
) approved its 18000-3 Mode 3 standard, and approximately five months after GS1 ratified a comparable standard (see GS1 Ratifies EPC HF Standard, Aerospace Tag-Data Amendment
), only one 3M3-compatible reader
is commercially available at this time. However, a handful of unnamed end users are currently testing prototypes of RFID readers and tags that work with the standard, primarily in the gaming industry, as well as for document tracking and item-level
logistics—all areas in which tags will be densely contained.
is the first company to come out with a 3M3-compliant RFID reader. Its offering, known as OptRFID ILT, was released in December 2011, though 3M3-compliant passive HF tags are still not commercially available in large quantities. UPM RFID
are developing inlays that will operate with NXP Semiconductors
' Icode ILT integrated circuit
(the first 3M3-compatible RFID tag chip
), NXP reports, while Identive is developing its own 3M3 readers, as are Frosch Electronics
and Feig Electronic
The OptRFiD ILT has an internal antenna, and is powered by and communicates through a USB cable.
Optys' existing reader is low-powered, while the firm is working to create a high-powered version that is expected to be made available next month. The higher-powered version, says David Rutherford, Optys' business development and sales manager, will be able to read more tags, and faster—at a rate of up to 200 tags per second, he says, as opposed to several dozen tags per second, which the lower-powered version is capable of reading.
HF technology is commonly used in applications in which tags are read
in the near-field range, such as the dispensing of beverages into a prepaid RFID-tagged container, the tagging of poker chips stacked in high density on a table above an RFID reader, or the use of tags on medical or court documents stored in high density that do not require a long read range
. By utilizing the new standard, RFID interrogators can read many more tags simultaneously, and much more quickly, compared with most currently available passive HF tags (that is, those complying with the ISO 15693
or ISO 14443
The system provides two benefits to end users, Rutherford explains. First, companies already employing a UHF
solution that wish to add HF functionality for some items can utilize the 18000-3M3 tags and readers, which will be compatible with the data standard used for EPC
UHF tags, and data culled from the HF tag reads can thus be stored on the same software system as that collected from the UHF tag reads. Other advantages of using HF tags, he says, include a reading speed and read rate
similar to those of UHF tags.
Optys has traditionally been a developer and manufacturer of power supply systems, Rutherford says, but its customers began requesting HF RFID
solutions that would enable them to interrogate multiple tags within close proximity at high speeds. Over the past two years, the company offered custom RFID solutions to such end users, including Blockbuster
's video vending machines with HF RFID readers, codeveloped with Blockbuster's supplier, Touch Automation. Optys also supplied the UHF RFID interrogator
built into a version of Retailers Advantage
's Multi-Lock Power Detacher (MLPD) for RFID-enabled electronic article surveillance
) hard tags (see Apparel Retailers Test RFID-enhanced EAS Hard Tags
). However, he says, the firm has also been working with NXP to develop a reader
that would speak the UHF language—that is, one that would comply with EPCglobal
Data Standard (TDS), but operate at 13.56 MHz (in other words, one using the ISO 18000
-3M3 standard). Readers complying with the standard can read tags much faster than traditional HF readers—at a rate of up to about 700 tags per second. In December 2011, Optys released its OptRFID ILT reader, which is now being tested, along with reader prototypes by some of NXP's clients, says Kurt Bischof, the marketing manager for NXP's RFID core business.
UPM RFID is working to release inlays based on the Icode ILT chip
supporting the new 3M3 protocol
. The company reports that samples of the inlays will be made available in April 2012, with production slated to follow soon thereafter. Identive is producing a 3M3-based tag, known as the S6, as part of its Smartag IJ series of labels, with a 50-millimeter-by-50-millimeter (2-inch-by-2-inch) antenna
for use with the Icode ILT chip for document tracking—which, at present, is only available in limited quantities.
"We delivered around 25,000 tags into a document-tracking project in Asia recently," says Michael Ganzera, the VP of business development and marketing within Identive's ID infrastructure and transponder
division. Identive is also designing 3M3 tags to address the casino and gaming industry that could, for example, be attached to poker chips and have a round form factor
. Those tags, Ganzera says, are likely to become available within the next two quarters. He expects that they would be readable using an ISO
180000-3M3 reader, with about 140 labels read simultaneously. Moreover, the company is developing a new reader module
based on NXP's latest HF reader chip, the CLRC663 model, compliant with the ISO 18000-3M3 standard, for the second quarter of this year.
The end-user companies testing 3M3 RFID
technology are using tags for tracking poker chips or gaming cards within the casino industry, as well as for document tracking. The densely packed RFID tags, Bischoff says, would be read
too slowly using traditional HF readers (that is, those complying with the ISO 15693
or ISO 14443
standard), but most UHF
readers and tags operate in the far field, and thus have a long read range
that might create problems as well. However, several RFID vendors provide an EPC Gen 2
UHF tag designed to be interrogated only at close range, such as Avery Dennison
's AD-110m5 inlay
(see RFID News Roundup: Avery Dennison Intros Ultra-Small RFID Inlay for Item-Level Applications
) and Alien Technology
's ALN-9613 "SIT" inlay (see Alien Technology Announces New IC, Handheld Readers and Inlays
). In addition, some RFID hardware companies, such as Impinj
, offer RFID reader
antennas designed for near-field (close-range) UHF applications, such as Impinj's Brickyard, Matchbox and Mini-Guardrail antennas (see Impinj Launches Products to Speed Item-Level Encoding
In some cases, says Victor Vega, NXP's director of RFID solutions, customers request an HF solution for the "controlled and consistent read range" that such a system offers.
"UHF offers either near-field or far-field solutions, and HF is limited to near-field only," Vega states. "But when considering the near field of both, it's interesting to note a more consistent and controlled RF field and performance with an HF system versus that of a UHF system. In many applications, that may not matter—but in some, it's critical."
According to Bischof, the technology's cost would also be considerably less than that of traditional HF tags and readers.