Chris Chang, CEOAs CEO of leading RFID technology provider Alien Technology, Chris Chang believes that IoT is as much Identification of Things as it is Internet of Things. That’s because RFID is growing as a tool to solve the identification of every object—whether smart or benign— within the IoT infrastructure. “The sensors here from an IoT perspective are the RFID tags combined with the RFID readers,” says Chang. It is this focus of driving the cost-effective identification of objects worldwide through passive RFID that has Alien Technology operating at the convergence of IoT and RFID.
Alien connects all kinds of objects including simple and non-intelligent devices to local and Wide Area Networks, including cellular. The company holds key patents in passive RFID technology that uses no batteries or super-capacitors. Instead, the technology harvests RF radiation energy from a device that could be 30 feet away and “reads” the RFID tag or label. “Perhaps RFID in future will be ‘chipless’, perhaps the RFID label goes away and RFID is ‘printed’ directly into the packaging of items,” remarks Chang.
As a vertically integrated RFID company, Alien is uniquely positioned at all four corners of the RFID ecosystem—integrated circuits (IC), tags, readers and services. The company’s latest ICs encompass Error Correcting Memory technologies. “Our ICs fix damaged memory cells offering self-healing identification numbers, which are the fundamental deliverable for a passive RFID solution,” says Chang. These RFID chips, can then be applied to an inlay—a flexible, clear plastic tape for printing, branding and marking bar codes. The result is called a “tag.” Alien offers a wide spectrum of inlays that are ‘converted’ into labels by its customers. The company has three series of ICs with various read capabilities and memory capacities across different inlays. “We also do special custom inlays for certain high volume customers,” explains Chang.
We will continue making all products smarter through the use of passive RFID
Alien has recently introduced the F800, a new enterprise class fixed reader with best-in-class sensitivity, which is power source agnostic (provides optimal sensitivity when operating from either Power-over-Ethernet or a DC power source). The reader also incorporates the ability to dynamically adapt in real-time to the changing real-world conditions in a warehouse or store. These readers provide additional ‘brains’ that allow significant local processing, resulting in less frequent access to the network and reducing network load and infrastructure cost.
With 1500 customers and partners, Alien is well positioned to leverage its expertise to integrate passive RFIDs into both IoT and non-IoT applications. In one instance, one of the company’s clients was struggling with a Point of Sale (POS) installation at a retail store where the system was reading items from another POS location or someone else’s basket who was strolling by. To display the correct contents of the ‘basket’ of items at that desired location required managing the ‘read zone control’ of each POS location to its unique RF properties. Alien delivered the desired result by using varying antenna, attenuation, read modes, read speeds and software filtering.
RFID is embedded inside many small products today, but the cost still needs to be reduced and the ease of RFID integration simplified. To this end, Alien is working toward commoditizing the technology and is continuously investing across new products such as advanced readers that will drive the ease of use of item level intelligence. “We will continue making all products smarter through the use of passive RFID,” concludes Chang.