ThingMagic Nano: Small, Cost Effective, Reliable

Posted by Shannon Downey on Thu, Mar 12, 2015 @ 09:17 AM

Tags: Internet of Things, Embedded RFID, uhf rfid, IoT, RFID modules

Our Mercury6e series of embedded UHF RFID modules has grown yet again with the addition of the family’s smallest, lowest cost module to date – the ThingMagic Nano. As we find ourselves in the middle of an Internet of Things (IoT) revolution, RFID applications are popping up in this expanding ecosystem in all shapes and sizes, with developers begging for options that give them flexibility.

These options come in the form of a suite of embeddable modules that put developers in a position to plug low cost, low power components into their RFID solutions when the application calls for it, and still use larger high-power modules when part of an application still requires greater bandwidth and read rates. Because our universal API – MercuryAPI – spans the entire suite of module offerings, customers are free to expand their solutions with this new, smallest form factor and integrate the technology immediately into existing systems. Different readers with different jobs can coexist to suit specific customer needs without the headache of re-writing software.

Keonn, a Spanish solution provider that can implement RFID for everything from securing and re-stocking a hospital’s medical products to making marathon time-keeping more accurate, cites the Nano as an excellent source of flexibility for their solutions. The universal compatibility of ThingMagic’s software development kit, Mercury API, was a piece that CEO Ramir De Porrata-Doria cited as a major selling point, since “because we have designed other products with ThingMagic’s modules, the transition to build in this new, smaller module was seamless and enables us to expand our portfolio to include smaller readers.”

We’ve watched the industry scramble to accommodate solutions that are requiring more and more of the hardware and software involved. What we’re putting in the hands of developers and customers are the tools to adapt quickly in the face of RFID innovation.

Mercury xPRESS, a Developer’s Sensor Hub for the Internet of Things

Posted by Shannon Downey on Fri, Sep 26, 2014 @ 08:41 AM

Tags: Sensors, Internet of Things, Embedded RFID

The potential of a broader set of ID and sensing solutions is something IT decision makers and business stakeholders have been able to understand the potential value of for some time now, but have struggled to put into practice. As a result, though most solutions can offer measurable value, many fall short when it comes to going above and beyond what they’re tasked with and supporting greater ideals like the Internet of Things (IoT).  What’s keeping us from reaching that point?  In part, it’s a lack of tools that are easier to use, richer in functionality and can more easily and quickly integrate with the world around them.

Organizations have high hopes for IoT, but significant gaps still exist that are keeping us from opening up communication between people, devices and other objects of all types. In particular, we need to bridge the communication gap that’s always existed between the consumer world and the ID and sensing solutions of the enterprise world. Much of this disconnect stems from having devices and networks that all speak different languages, making development a more confusing and time-consuming process than it needs to be. When the goal is seamless communication between an infinite number of devices and technologies, the only way to achieve it is through platforms outfitted with tools that automatically act as a translator.

The developers tasked with building ID and sensing solutions now have a tool that will enable them to overcome that challenge and help make significant steps toward IoT. Enhancements to ThingMagic’s Mercury xPRESS Sensor Hub flexible development platform, which already allows developers to bring up a fully functional RFID reader in minutes, have now transformed it into the Sensor Hub that developers need. With new support for network interfaces (PoE and WiFi) as well as GPS, developers can easily access and deliver diverse sensor data. This enables developers to focus on application functionality, fast deployment and quicker return on investment.

Today we’re on the cusp of realizing the next wave of the Internet of Things, where communication is seamless between people, devices and objects, regardless of whether a computing device is involved. One of the biggest barriers keeping us from achieving this next step in IoT are the  parties fighting to make their language and protocols the standard, which is actually slowing the process of realizing IoT’s purpose.  We see the Mercury xPRESS Sensor Hub as a part of the solution, a step towards opening the lines of communications between devices and systems of all types that haven’t been interacting. The road to IoT is filled with many obstacles.  A major one has been integrating all the applications that use different languages and protocols.  It’s doubtful we’ll ever achieve the nirvana of a single standard that unites everything.  So until that day comes we’ll continue to need tools like the Mercury xPRESS Sensor Hub, which can act as the unifying connector and translator of the many devices and applications we’ll encounter on the path to IoT.

ThingMagic and Digi-Key: Helping the IoT Realize Its Full Potential Using RFID

Posted by Shannon Downey on Thu, Aug 28, 2014 @ 02:38 PM

Tags: RFID, Sensors, Healthcare, Internet of Things, IT Asset Tracking, Embedded RFID, RFID Data, Inventory Management, Construction, Digi-Key

Conceptually, the Internet of Things (IoT), at its most basic, is composed of billions of items all connected and communicating information through wired and wireless technology.  One of its first and fundamental building blocks is sensing technologies like RFID. To date, however, RFID has been largely relegated to specific enterprise markets and applications. Though RFID-based applications can vary greatly, there is still similar functionality and value to a retailer looking to better track inventory and manage its supply chain; a hospital looking to better organize its equipment, medications and patients; or a construction company looking to better monitor job sites and work assignments to better guarantee the safety of its workers in the event of an emergency.  And this is just a small sampling of the industries and verticals that can benefit from RFID applications.  These applications, across all industries, are capable of delivering tremendous measureable value - but there is so much more that RFID can do within IoT.

Thus, a challenge we face is working to understand the limitations organizations and developers perceive when considering building RFID applications. One of the things that has kept RFID from achieving wider-spread adoption has been the availability of tools that make it easy for engineers and developers to quickly build and integrate RFID-based applications. Nobody understands this issue better than us. But having just signed a global distribution agreement with Digi-Key – one of the world’s largest and fastest growing electronic components distributors – we’re hoping to offer a solution by giving engineers better access to RFID tools and a better foundation for innovating with RFID.

Here at ThingMagic, we are now collaborating with Digi-Key to distribute our Mercury 6e Series and Mercury 5e Series embedded modules, putting us in a position to reach more engineers with the building blocks for tomorrow’s innovations.  Digi-Key’s distribution of ThingMagic development kits along with our modules will enable more companies to develop and produce the connected items that are behind the next wave of IoT solutions. Our award-winning family of modules has the performance capabilities to sustain the speed and connectivity of today’s complex systems, with the compact form factor required for the billions of devices that will one day make up the Internet of Things.

As the proliferation of devices of all types and sizes continues, the development and adoption of the Internet of Things should grow as well.  But we’re still far from that tipping point where we truly connect all devices across the enterprise and consumer worlds seamlessly through the IoT.  In spite of the progress that’s been made, the IoT ecosystem does not yet work together as it should.  For it to reach its potential, we’ll need cooperation from all the participants in the market.  By providing developers and engineers with development tools, platforms and technologies – like RFID – that all support industry standards, then we will have a collaboration that will enable the true vision of IoT.   Our partnering with Digi-Key is another step on the path to achieving that objective.

Best in Show Finalist – ThingMagic Mercury xPRESS Platform

Posted by Ken Lynch on Fri, Mar 21, 2014 @ 01:16 PM

Tags: RFID, Embedded RFID, Product Design

RFID Journal Best in ShowThe premier industry event for radio frequency and related connectivity and communication technologies, RFID Journal LIVE!, is here again and our RFID reader development platform for OEMs – Mercury xPRESS – has been selected as one of the ten finalists for the 2014 RFID Journal Best in Show award! The award is given to the company that exhibits the best new RFID product or service at the show. RFID Journal Founder and Editor, Mark Roberti, praised the finalists, citing the breadth and scope of the offerings as they illustrate how far companies have come in using RFID technology on a large scale.

ThingMagic introduced the Mercury xPRESS Platform earlier this year, hitting a market at just the right time. Since introducing the xPRESS Platform, we’ve seen customer interest grow quickly. Regardless of company size or embedded RFID project, developers are demanding products that will enable them to create and deploy RFID applications more quickly and easily. 

This interest stems in part from the barriers driven down by the innovative Mercury 6e Series of modules, which are supported by the platform.  These modules enable OEMs to build smaller yet more powerful devices and solutions. With the Mercury xPRESS platform, developers can now focus on designing the next generation of application-specific readers, handhelds, mobile devices and more – solutions that will bring innovation, automation and process improvement to markets that, until now, have yet to realize the true value of RFID.Mercury xPRESS Platform

The Mercury xPRESS platform includes hardware, software and reference documentation that enable more efficient development of low-cost, high-performance application-specific RFID solutions.  With the platform, developers can bring up a fully functional RFID reader in minutes and demonstrate proof of concept using sample applications from the software library almost immediately. This means rapid integration of RFID with a wider variety of products and complementary wireless communication technologies. And, to support ongoing innovation, the integrated development tools, device drivers and application software of the Mercury xPRESS Platform will be enhanced with updates that expand capabilities and enable development of a wider range of end products.

The broad range of product and solution development that is possible through the Mercury xPRESS Platform is something we’re looking forward to exploring with everyone at this year’s RFID Journal LIVE! 

When RFID Goes Global, So Do We

Posted by Ken Lynch on Thu, Mar 20, 2014 @ 10:00 AM

Tags: RFID, Embedded RFID, Product Design

Micro FamilyThingMagic is pleased to announce that its Micro and Micro-LTE UHF RFID modules now operate within the recently ratified 920 MHz ultra-high frequency (UHF) standard in Japan. The ratification by Japan to expand the nation’s UHF standard to 920 MHz is further proof of what we’ve seen happening for some time now – RFID is going global.  

Japan’s move to a standard that is compatible with much of the rest of the world’s radio frequency range represents a significant lowering of barriers to RFID implementation.  It will now be easier to integrate high performance RFID features into products that can change how industries in Japan operate and become more productive. The shift in Japan from a 955 MHz band to a 920 MHz band, in part, represents an opportunity for a market that was valued at just over $637 million (66.7 billion Yen) in FY2012 to grow to a projected $940 million (98.4 billion Yen) in FY2017 (according to Yano Research Institute in Japan).

For developers and OEMs using ThingMagic products, this means they can now support the Japanese market with the industry-leading products they’re already using today.  Organizations looking to deploy solutions in Japan are now able to use the ThingMagic Micro and Micro-LTE modules – known for their high performance and read distance in a form factor – in a host of markets, ranging from healthcare to retail to manufacturing and more.

At ThingMagic, we’ve developed some of the most advanced embedded RFID reader modules on the market, and now developers and OEMs are able to move forward in providing progressive solutions in Japan without limitation.

Embedded RFID and The Internet of Things

Posted by Ken Lynch on Thu, Jan 16, 2014 @ 11:57 AM

Tags: RFID, Sensors, Internet of Things, Embedded RFID, Product Design

Internet of Things

We all know our world is more connected than ever, as is evidenced by the millions of smart phones cradled in the hands of people all over the word. But beyond this, there is a vast world of connected devices that is projected to far exceed smart phones.  From toll booths and parking spots to refrigerators and thermostats, many places and common place 'things' can and will be connected. This is what the Internet of Things is all about.  

The Internet of Things has stealthily crept its way into our everyday lives, promising to create ease and efficiency in everything we do.  In the years since the term “Internet of Things” was coined at the Auto-ID Center at MIT, its definition has evolved in some interesting ways.  For example, Intel's tagline The Iternet of Things Starts with Intelligence Inside indicates their heavy focus on embedded technology. Cisco’s newly formed Internet of Things business unit has a vision to turn what were once physical products into services by enabling those products to deliver data. Their vision is broad, taking the Internet of Things a step further to The Internet of Everything. Just recently, SalesForce.com has begun defining its vision of IoT as The Internet of Customers. What ever the Internet of Things is or will eventually become, reserch firm Gartner predicts it is growing rapidly. By the year 2020, the Internet of Things market as defined by Gartner will grow to 26 billion units, representing an almost 30 fold increase from 2009.

While the Internet of Things may have expanded to inclue technologies and applications well beyond its roots in RFID, we believe RFID still plays a defining role, particularly as an embedded solution.  We’re seeing this manifested in the growth of the RFID industry, with new applications of embedded RFID increasing at a rapid pace across a variety of industries and product categories. 

To help drive this growth, ThingMagic recenlty announced the Mercury xPRESS Platform.  The Mercury xPRESS Platform is the first of its kind development platform that will make new application-specific RFID product development faster, easier and less expensive.

Leveraging over 10 years of RFID technology advancements and development expertise from ThingMagic, we expect the Mercury xPRESS platform will revolutionize the way that RFID readers and embedded solutions are brought to market, inevitably strengthening RFID’s role in the Internet of Things. 

To learn more, please attend our webinar: Innovating With Embedded RFID: Introducing ThingMagic's Mercury xPRESS Platform

Register Now!

We are excited to share the possibilities this new platform offers for designing the next generation of application-specific RFID readers, handhelds, mobile devices and more!

Image source: IEEE

Innovating with Embedded RFID

Posted by Ken Lynch on Mon, Dec 02, 2013 @ 11:29 AM

Tags: RFID, Sensors, Embedded RFID, Product Design

ThingMagic Mercury xPRESS PlatformApprehension developers may have with embedding RFID in new solutions does not come from a lack of perceived value – that value has been proven time and time again.

Like many embedded technologies however, RFID has a history of challenging complexities; often requiring a deep understanding of both RF hardware and application software development.

To answer these challenges, we’ve introduced a comprehensive platform that allows developers to build RFID-enabled solutions with the backing of over a decade of ThingMagic RFID technology expertise and resources!

The first of its kind Mercury xPRESS Platform includes hardware, software and reference documentation to enable the rapid development of low-cost, high-performance application specific RFID readers and embedded RFID solutions. By simplifying the integration of RFID into new and existing solutions, the Mercury xPRESS Platform results in unit cost savings, deployments with a stronger ROI, and an overall positive bottom line impact in many deployments.

With the platform, developers can bring up a fully functional RFID reader in minutes and testing and proof of concept using sample applications from the software library can start almost immediately. No longer do developers need to have significant RFID domain expertise. This means rapid integration of RFID with a wider variety of products and complementary wireless communication technologies. And, to support ongoing innovation, the integrated development tools, device drivers and application software of the Mercury xPRESS Platform will be enhanced with updates that expand capabilities and enable development of a wider range of end products.

Key components of the Mercury xPRESS Platform include:

  • Hardware kit with microcontroller-based motherboard, including:
    • Integrated ThingMagic UHF RFID module (Micro, Micro-LTE, or M6e)
    • USB interface
    • Ports for up to 2 additional plug-in data transport interface modules
  • MCU preloaded with sample keyboard wedge application
  • An optional Bluetooth plug-in module
  • Software toolkit and SDK
  • Reference design files including schematics, layout files, Gerber files, bill of material, component data sheets

The growth of RFID has been fueled in part by innovative hardware like our M6e series of modules, which has eroded one major barrier to RFID adoption: having a module that is small enough and powerful enough to fit in readers and other devices that are continually required to be built smaller yet still operate with high performance.

Now with the Mercury xPRESS platform from ThingMagic, developers can focus on designing the next generation of application specific readers, handhelds, mobile devices and more – solutions that could bring innovation, automation and process improvement to markets that until now have not had the resources in place to realize the true value of RFID.

Embedding RFID Modules with Ease

Posted by Ken Lynch on Tue, Oct 29, 2013 @ 04:10 PM

Tags: RFID, Embedded RFID, Android

ThingMagic RFID DevKitLike athletes constantly searching for the right combination of training and nutrition to make them stronger and faster, developers are always looking for new tools and techniques that make it easier to more quickly build smarter, more powerful applications. For both, it’s about maintaining that competitive edge that will set them apart from others. Developers are finding that the convergence of more efficient and advanced embeddable technology is enabling them to change the wireless industry with a new class of applications.

Embedded RFID has emerged as an extraordinary growth technology. Research shows RFID, contactless, RTLS and similar technologies are enabling a growing number of auto-ID, location, sensing, M2M and Internet of Things applications. According to VDC Research, the market for these applications could grow to over $8 billion within the next five years. And as embedded RFID module innovation continues - with more application-specific options and ease of use features making their way into products - the technology is becoming more desirable for integration.

As a manufacturer of RFID reader modules, we know the hardware is only part of the battle. Our M6e series of modules has pushed the industry standard for size and performance to a point where nearly any engineer or OEM can include RFID as a product feature. But what separates the ideal embedded RFID solution from competing options is a combination of hardware, software and development tools. The importance of having an advanced software capabilities and a robust set of design tools can’t be overstated. This is what will truly drive the growth of embedded RFID.

MercuryAPI
ThingMagic’s commitment to ease-of-use with our family of advanced RFID modules runs deeper than most. With all ThingMagic RFID modules comes a set of development tools designed to simplify the process of creating an RFID-enabled solution.  
 
These include the ThingMagic RFID module developer kits, our Universal Reader Assistant utility for initializing readers and selecting application-specific performance settings, and our Mercury API SDK with sample applications and source code to help developers get started demonstrating and developing RFID functionality. 

And we’re continually enhancing these tools, as the process of programming and implementation is hardly a static one. Most recently we added a set of enhancements to 

android

the Mercury API, including Android OS Support. According to VDC Research, nearly one million developers will be developing applications for embedded systems and M2M applications using Android by the end of 2015. Now, with a sample 

Android application and project files, developers can build ThingMagic RFID-enabled Android applications with an easy “out of the box” solution!

Embedding RFID, like integrating any technology, comes with its challenges, which is exactly the reason it’s necessary to drive down these barriers from every direction. RFID exists to simplify the data collection processes and improve business process, but if it’s not simple to implement an RFID solution, it may be hard for some to justify. It is possible to embed RFID with ease, and requires only that a developer find a partner whose offerings can turn them into a championship-level performer. 

Download our Embedded RFID Module Brochure" href="/collateral-download---thingmagic-rfid-modules/" target="_blank">> Download our Embedded RFID Module Brochure

Let us know how ThingMagic can help you embed RFID with ease!

Adding a New Dimension to the ThingMagic RFID Module Family

Posted by Ken Lynch on Wed, Aug 14, 2013 @ 11:43 AM

Tags: RFID, Embedded RFID

Micro-LTEOpportunities for the wireless and contactless technology industries are growing as auto-ID, sensing, M2M and Internet of Things applications are being developed at a rapid pace. RFID is playing a particularly important role in this growth. RFID tag volumes are shipping in the billions and according to several research firms, the global market for RFID products and services is projected to approach $10 billion in the not so distant future.

There is enormous pressure for technology companies to innovate these days, as a newer and better solution is always right around the corner. This pressure exists in parallel with a need to continually drive down both the size and cost of hardware components, as these are two metrics that can make or break a product development project. Fortunately, this challenge we face also provides an enormous growth opportunity, as the importance of embedded technologies have become clearer than they’ve ever been.

In October of last year ThingMagic introduced the Micro as the best RFID module ever, showing what pushing the boundaries of size and power could mean for embedded RFID. Now, we’re a creating a family of the smallest high-performance RFID modules on the market with the introduction of a new Low Tag-read Enabled Micro. This newest addition to our Mercury6e Series of embedded UHF RFID modules, the Micro-LTE, is optimized to read small tag populations, opening doors for organizations that in the past may have faced size, performance, or cost barriers to RFID adoption.

As a leader in the space, it’s important we understand not only where RFID can be of value, but also what barriers to adoption exist that are keeping organizations from being able to tap into the efficiencies RFID can create. We built the Micro-LTE with different markets in mind, optimizing it for small tag population and making it ideal for mobile printers, handheld devices, RFID readers, portals, mobile device accessories and other emerging solutions. With embedded RFID readers like the Micro-LTE, device manufacturers and solution providers can now more easily develop and customize solutions by application, making it a valuable technology for a wide variety of industries.

We’ve already communicated our belief that the Micro is the best RFID module ever, but the addition of the Micro-LTE to the breadth of our UHF RFID module portfolio has created a family of embedded RFID modules that leaves no market, industry or application unattainable.

Simplified Printing and Encoding

Zebra Technologies recently announced the ZD500R UHF desktop printer that takes advantage of the small form factor and optimized read rate of the ThingMagic Micro-LTE RFID module. The ZD500R is ideal for space constrained retail and healthcare environments that require accurate, on-demand printing and encoding. The ZD500R is Zebra’s smallest and lowest cost UHF RFID printer to date.

Powerful Handheld Devices

ThingMagic RFID modules are a popular choice for handheld device manufacturers. For example, VerdaSee Solutions introduced a new mobile device for first responder and military applications. By utilizing all four antenna ports of the ThingMagic M6e RFID module, this portable and ruggedized handheld provides users with an extended read distance required by mission-critical applications.

Leveraging the small form factor and high-performance features of the ThingMagic Micro, ACURA Global offers the Smart AB-700 handheld reader for use in several commercial and industrial markets.

Innovation Across Industry

Other ThingMagic partners are embedding our RFID modules into products and solutions used in a variety of markets. For example, the AdvanPanel from Keonn Technologies integrates the ThingMagic Micro to read RFID-enabled Kanban cards in just-in-time inventory systems. Venture Research integrates ThingMagic modules into smart shelves, waste management solutions, fork lift readers, industrial portals and several other RFID-enabled systems. With similarly diverse customer bases, partners Beijing Silion in Asia and ACURA Global in South America use ThingMagic embedded RFID modules to develop retail, supply chain, logistics, transportation, and healthcare solutions.

Where do you see embedded RFID headed next?  Are the form factors, price points, and applicaiton optimization of today's RFID modules making it easier to implement the technology?

Download RFID Modules Brochure

The ThingMagic USB Plus+ RFID Reader – A New Level of Versatility

Posted by Ken Lynch on Mon, Jul 22, 2013 @ 10:07 AM

Tags: RFID, Embedded RFID, USB RFID reader

USB PlusWe blogged not too long ago about the benefits of desktop USB RFID readers, a main theme being that they’re used in a wide variety of places because of their versatile form factor and a level of simplicity that allows for easy deployment. So in setting out to enhance our already popular offering in this space, we were presented with what seemed to be a unique challenge: What can you add to a simple and versatile product to make it simpler and more versatile?

Introducing the ThingMagic USB Plus+ RFID Reader (download datasheet)

What the USB Plus+ brings to the table is an improved antenna design with a read range 3 times the distance of its predecessor. Because it is now adjustable to a much longer read distance – up to 3 feet instead of 12 inches – it can open doors for new types of deployments; and it does so without sacrificing its unobtrusive nature. Furthermore, because the USB Plus+ offers the same form, fit and function (and price) as our previous USB reader, it can be added to existing systems and immediately improve their performance and add value.

Where this variability of read range becomes a significant differentiator is in deployments that require a certain degree of tag read sensitivity. For manufacturing work-in-process or warehouse inventory and distribution, having an extended read range could lessen the effort and time burden put on employees and operators keeping track of assets moving in and out of facilities. But the ability to adjust the read range of the USB Plus+ supports certain applications where the extended antenna could interfere with other critical operations. In healthcare, for example, deployments may require a shorter and stricter read distance to ensure the safety of patients and security of private information.

Beyond newfound flexibility in read range, the USB Plus+ Reader is able to better support high-memory tags like those used in the aerospace industry. The ability to read and write these tags greatly benefits manufacturers that need to tag and track assets that can be difficult to maneuver and where recording maintenance history is critical to ongoing operation and part servicing. On the opposite end of the spectrum, those who need to be able to read much smaller form factor RFID tags, such as jewelers, are also able to do so more effectively.

Download our Application Note" target="_blank">> Download our Application Note: Transitioning to the ThingMagic USB Plus+ Reader to learn how to make a seamless transition from one model to another.

The value behind desktop USB RFID readers isn’t changing with the introduction of ThingMagic’s USB Plus+ Reader – it’s still the cost-effective and simple option for those who want the efficiency and visibility that RFID can provide, without interrupting operations. Enhanced features, however, allow the USB Plus+ to both open doors for industries that have found barriers to RFID adoption and offer newer capabilities for those already deploying these types of readers.

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