Friday, October 30, 2009

MIT Auto ID & Sensing Expo

The RFID Special Interest Group ran this event for the local RFID community at MIT in Cambrige, MA. The Expo provided a chance to educate, network and collaborate among the RFID community of the MIT Enterprise Forum so I could not resist attending this nice event in our own backyard.

There were 2 keynote speakers, Sam Madden (Assoc. Prof at MIT) and Carlo Ratti (Dir, Senseable City Lab). Prof. Madden discussed the CarTel Mobile Sensor Network where they had built applications on top of a system of wireless car sensors riding on taxis and volunteer cars around the city. They collect position, speed, etc. from the car's electrical system and GPS plus have an accelerometer and transmitter unit to send the data to the network. They even can detect and map potholes. They have mapped the size and position of all of the potholes in Cambridge and even verified the data with cameras. They collect the data via open WiFi networks and have a web interface where you can track the vehicles in real time, see trip history and even calculate the best routes via real time traffic information.

I was not able to stay for Carlo Ratti's presentation but it focused on the Trash Tracking project that MIT has been doing which I remember seeing in the news recently. TrashTrack uses hundreds of small, smart, location aware tags and tracks the trash through the waste management system. The system hopes to understand the removal chain to achieve 100% recycling in the future.

There were table top exhibits from market research companies, universities, industry organizations, RFID suppliers and RFID integrators. Some of the well known names attending were Zebra, Alien, ThingMagic, EPCglobal, Nokia, and NXP. There were over 40 organizations participating which is great for a local event.

I made the rounds from table to table and found the following interesting tidbits:
  • Conair, the small appliance manufacturer/importer, has a RFID division that supplies smart cargo tags, RFID labels and GPS tags. They have negotiated a RFID tag price under 10 cents as manufacturers continue the quest for the 1 cent tag
  • Alien and ThingMagic have Gen 2 reader units now with integrated antennas on top of them which I had not seen. The ThingMagic unit uses a custom Laird antenna mounted directly on their reader and the Alien unit has the antenna integrated into the reader top.
  • NXP was showing off ICs for LF, HF and UHF smart tags - I was not really aware they had such a broad offering of ICs for RFID. They have various options for memory, authentication, power, data rate, etc.
  • I still love the Ford RFID tool tracking system available on F-series trucks and E-series vans. It uses a ThingMagic system and is done in association with DeWalt tools. When the vehicle is started or the system initiated, the antennas in the truck bed scan for the tagged tools and take an inventory to let the user know if anything is missing from their list of tools that is stored in the system.
  • It has always been difficult to tag metal products with RFID tags that will be accurately read but Emerson & Cuming has developed specialized standard and custom designed tags that solve this problem. The have several versions from thin to flexible types for most any application.

What interesting RFID products or applications have you come across lately???

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Top 10 Most-Anticipated Cell Phones

The list below came to me in an e-mail. The popularity of smart phones will hopefully continue and many of these soon-to-be released products will enjoy robust sales, translating into good earnings for component vendors. Media-rich phones also require more bandwidth capacity on the inforstructure-side, so strong smart phone sales will benefit many in the microwave field.

1. Motorola Droid (Verizon Wireless) - The most anticipated cell phone launch of the season is just days away, but the hype for this the Motorola Droid smartphone has been building for quite some time. Verizon Wireless has invested heavily in a national “teaser” marketing campaign, while keeping the details about this Android-based device close to the vest. The Droid is the first commercial phone released with the new Android 2.0 platform, and has been dubbed the “iPhone killer” by many a technology-writer. Verizon Wireless is stoking the fire with a campaign that touts all the things the Droid does that the iPhone doesn’t – from running multiple apps, to a full slide-out keyboard, to changeable batteries and memory to a 5.0 megapixel camera that takes photos in the dark.

2. Motorola CLIQ MB200 (T-Mobile) - The highly-anticipated Motorola CLIQ is the new king of the T-Mobile Android smartphone lineup, and the first since the original G-1 to have a full slide-out keyboard. What really makes it buzz-worthy, though, is that it utilizes the new MotoBlur user interface that syncs your social media, contacts, and e-mail in real time, providing instant access to the latest happenings and messages from friends. (The Cliq is currently available to existing T-Mobile customers, however, new customers will not be able to purchase the device until November 2nd, and therefore, it still garners a spot on our top picks.)

3. Samsung Moment (Sprint) - Sprint’s second Android device, the Samsung Moment, mark’s Samsung’s entry into the Android smartphone market with a full slide-out keyboard and a first-of-its-kind AMOLED touch screen, providing unprecedented brightness that’s also kind to your battery life.

4. LG Chocolate Touch (Verizon Wireless) – The LG Chocolate is an iconic Verizon Wireless phone, and this new touch version should be even sweeter than its predecessors.

5. Samsung Behold II (T-Mobile) – The Behold II is the sequel to the very successful Samsung Behold but with one MAJOR difference - the latest version runs on the Android smartphone operating system. The Behold II also features a "cube menu" that provides quick access to six multimedia features at the flick of a finger: music, photos, videos, the Web, YouTube, and Amazon MP3.

6. HTC Desire 6200 (Verizon Wireless) – Verizon Wireless is making headlines with the Droid, but is expected to follow quickly with a second Android-powered smartphone dubbed the Desire. The Desire will not have a keyboard, and will boast HTC’s touch screen “Sense” interface that has won rave reviews on the HTC Hero.

7. Sprint Palm Pixi (Sprint) – The Sprint Palm Pixi is being touted as a tiny, sleek webOS-based handset that offers many of the same features and functionality as the Pre without the hefty price tag.

8. BlackBerry Storm 2 (Verizon Wireless) – This next generation of the touch screen BlackBerry Storm looks similar to the original model on the outside, but boasts notable improvements on the inside such as a Wi-Fi radio, sleeker design, and an improved SurePress typing system.

9. BlackBerry Bold 9700 (AT&T & T-Mobile) –This smartphone is an updated version of the high-end Blackberry Bold that hit the market last year. It is thinner and lighter with a faster Web browser than its predecessor and replaces the original Bold's track ball with an optical track pad.

10. LG Shine 2 (AT&T) – The successor to the immensely popular Shine; but as its name indicates, it promises to be twice as sleek and sexy.