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RFID Development Kit Update
Tuesday, January 25, 2005
If you recall my post
about RFID Development Kit blog, I had appealed to vendors about providing an evaluation kit. Anita Campbell from RFID-Weblog had posted similar appeal
. I had also emailed to various vendors about the kits. Finally, I received one response. This vendor has agreed to provide the kit. Once I receive this kit, I will be starting a new blog as promised. This blog will document various experiments and hopefully help people in doing their own "pilot" projects.
Tips to Approach Venture Capitalists
Friday, January 21, 2005
This is a continuation of my yesterday's post
Venture Capitalists are very busy people. It is always a good idea to rehearse your meeting in the privacy of your own office and time yourself while describing salient points about your company. That brings us to first tip:Be prepared!
It is a well known fact that opportunity knocks once on your door. Make best use of this opportunity, by preparing for the meeting well in advance. If your proposal is rejected due to lack of preparedness or any other reason more than once, your reputation spreads fast in Venture world. Venture capitalists don't hesitate in exchanging notes about the companies.Present yourself as a Global Player....
Product or services you wish to develop or sell, must be unique and have global appeal. Specialization is essential to get Venture Capitalist interested as it gives your company a niche.Demonstrate your willingness to risk everything you own....
Your commitment to the project, shows your confidence. For a Venture Capitalist, that is a huge plus in your favour.Remember, Venture Capitalists are smart individuals....
If you need a million, do not ask for 10. Venture Capitalists can and will, easily spot overestimates. They have various means of finding out.Then there are other small things, you must remember:
* Wear a conservative suit to the meeting and avoid flashy apparel.
* Demonstrate your frugality by travelling Economy class and in a modest car.
* Use a decent leatherbound cover to present your business plan.
Good Luck in Venture Capital Hunting!
Business of Selecting and Approaching Venture Capitalist
Thursday, January 20, 2005
Now that the Business Plan is made, Vendors are selected, next step is to approach Venture Capitalists with a Business Plan and get some finance to get the business started. Ideally a real business would first get started with their own funds and with loans from banks or angel investors, but then we are not a real business. We will follow the approach of getting the idea approved and financed.
With abundance of Venture Capitalists, there is a need to select one who fits your needs. The Pratt's Guide to Venture Capital Sources (Needham, Massachusetts: Venture Economics, Inc., 1990) documents five ways of choosing a venture capital firm. Go Local
: Whether it is you or me or a Venture Capitalist, one feels safer when investment is local. In other words, the closer the venture capitalist is to the investment, the easier it is to "add value" to it.Phase of development
: Venture Capitalists are sensitive to the stage-of-development they invest. Some have bias towards later-stage investment and very few are seed investment providers.Amount matters
: Follow the glove-fits-the-hand rule. Investment firms have limits, both upper and lower. Approach the firm that can cater to your project needs.Go to the specialists
: After Dotcom boom and bust, the venture capitalists became wiser and started specializing in the industries that they can considered profitable. So go to the firm that understands your business. This way it helps both entrepreneur and investment firm.Go to the Leader
:Smaller investors tend to be cautious and may not be equipped to understand your business. So start with a lead venture capital investor first and let this venture capitalist complete the syndication.
Tips for approaching the Venture Capitalists:
A quality introduction is a must. It carries more weight than directly approaching the Venture Capitalists with a business plan. Your plan may not get the attention it deserves. You can approach your banker, a lawyer, an accountant or even another venture capitalist to make the introduction. If your contact is not willing to introduce you, then they may not be confident about your venture and want to keep their name away from your venture. If your contact does not know any venture capitalists, in that case you must seriously consider changing them.
The best introduction may be from another successful entrepreneur who has received funding from a specific venture capitalist.
In my next post, I will write about more tips to approach Venture Capitalists
Monday, January 17, 2005
I have presented three vendor profiles so far. Next I will compare them and then select one as a primary vendor and other two as backups.
|Features||Vendor One||Vendor Two||Vendor Three|
|RFID Sales (Annual)||$2,200 million||$1,500 million||$50 million|
|Tag Volume (Annual)||200 million||150 million||10 million|
|Transponders||125/134.2 kHz, 13.56 MHz and UHF||433.92 MHz||433.92 MHz|
|Readers Range||450 feet||250 feet||250 feet|
|Terms||Credit until project implementation||120 days or Project implementation||Credit until project implementation|
|Contract||Long Term||Case-to-Case||Long Term|
My choice is Vendor Three as a Primary Vendor, Vendor Two as first backup and Vendor One as second backup. Vendor Three, although much smaller in size compared to other two is willing to accommodate all the changes which we may require in the course of implementation. Other two, though reliable, may not be willing to modify their products to suit our requirements.Due to other commitments, I will be posting twice a week on this blog.
Vendor number 3 Profile
Thursday, January 13, 2005
RFID VendorThree Inc. is a new entrant to RFID market and is looking to establish relationships with integrators. They have a reasonable production facility. Being new in market, they are willing to bend over backwards to provide best possible product, service and terms. Some risks are involved but I presume this feeling is mutual as our company is a start-up too. VendorThree has similar product portfolio as VendorTwo. Other features of interest are:
RFID Sales (Annual).............. : $50 Millions
Tag Volume (Annual)..............: 10 million tags
Adopted Standards.................: ePC Gen 2 Class 2
Transponder Product Portfolio: 433.92 MHz frequency, Output power of 300 microwatts and range upto 250 feet
Reader Product Portfolio..........: Readers with serial RS-232 or RS-485 protocol. Concealable Range adjustable antennas.Readers can simultaneously read multiple RFID Asset Tags at ranges up to 250 feet.
Applications............................:Asset Tracking, ID systems
Vendor Number 2 profile
Wednesday, January 12, 2005
RFID VendorTwo Inc. is relatively new market but are soon establishing themselves as leaders with excellent products and service. They too have a huge production facility to cater large amount of Tags and Readers. However they are willing to work with RFID solution providers on case to case basis only. Terms are flexible with credit facilities ranging from 120 days to project completion . Other features of interest are:
RFID Sales (Annual).............. : $1500 Millions
Tag Volume (Annual)..............: 150 million tags
Adopted Standards.................: ePC Gen 2 Class 2
Transponder Product Portfolio:
UHF (ultra high frequency) RFID tags only 433.92 MHz frequency, Output power of 300 microwatts and range upto 250 feet **
Reader Product Portfolio..........: Readers with serial RS-232 or RS-485 protocol. Concealable Range adjustable antennas.Readers can simultaneously read multiple RFID Asset Tags at ranges up to
300 250 feet. **
Applications............................:Asset Tracking, ID systems
** Thanks to my reader Bartek, for pointing out the error
Vendor number 1 profile
Tuesday, January 11, 2005
As I had decided in my earlier posts
, I will profile three "virtual" vendors for the discussion of Vendor evaluations. Today I will profile our first vendor who has been conveniently named as RFID VendorOne Inc.Profile:
RFID VendorOne Inc. specializes in manufacturing of ePC Gen 2 RFID Tags and Reader systems. They are well established since 1980s with a great customer support. They have a huge production facility to cater large amount of Tags and Readers. So far they have tied up with RFID solution providers on case to case basis. However they are willing to join hands with a select few RFID solution providers for a long term contract to provide RFID hardware.Terms are reasonable with credit facilities till the implementation is completed. Other features of interest are:
RFID Sales (Annual).............. : $2200 MillionsPlease note: Information provided here is strictly fictitious. Any resemblance to a real vendor is purely coincidental
Tag Volume (Annual)..............: 200 million tags
Adopted Standards.................: ePC Gen 2 Class 2
Transponder Product Portfolio..: HF (high frequency) and UHF (ultra high frequency) RFID tag families.(125/134.2 kHz, 13.56 MHz and UHF) in various shapes and sizes
Reader Product Portfolio..........: Readers with Standard 26-bit Wiegand format, serial RS-232 or RS-485 protocol and also able to operate on any new or existing Ethernet LAN / WAN Network. Concealable Range adjustable antennas.Readers can simultaneously read multiple RFID Asset Tags at ranges up to 450 feet.
Questions to answer before approaching a Vendor
Thursday, January 06, 2005
If you recall my post dated January 3rd, 2005
, I had mentioned few questions that need to be answered before we approach a vendor. Please read the "big" idea post
to get a clear perspective about the answered questions.
1. What type of environment will the RFID system be in?
RFID Tags and GPS Devices will be residing in the vehicle and RFID Readers will be located at Truck stops and other strategic locations, mostly exposed to diverse climatic conditions
2. Will there be electrical noise, temperature extremes, high humidity or harsh chemicals?
A combination of all or some of these hazards are possible most of the time as RFID Readers will be located outside in a non-protected environment.
3. How many tags will be needed?
Tags will depend on number of vehicles used, but it will easily in the range of buying bulk quantities. Typically a truck fleet of a reasonable sized transportation company is in excess of 100 vehicles.
4. How many read stations will be needed?
A wild estimate can be thousands of readers, if the fleet travels all over the country.
5. How fast will the tags be moving?
Depending on speed limits of each state, speeds of the vehicle can range from 45 to 75 miles per hour.
6. What read range is needed?
Read range may vary from 5 feet to 50 feet
7. How much information will be transferred to and from the tags?
Tags will be sending Truck ID, Next Destination, goods on truck, Information from previous reader to the current reader. Tags will be receiving Reader ID and Information for the next reader. This information will be at bare minimum. Other information will depend on the application.
8. How often will the tags be read and written to?
This will depend on route selected, but a typical route will require reading and writing of tags at least 10 times
9. Will the RFID system be reporting to a PC or a PLC?
RFID system will be reporting to PC
10. Will more than one tag need to be read at the same time?
Yes. There is a distinct possibility of such a occurrence, multiple times.
These responses are very generalized and can vary from application to application. Feel free to comment if you have worked previously with a similar application.
RFID Development Kit Blog
Wednesday, January 05, 2005
This was one of those ideas which I wanted to pursue when I started my Businessworks Blog, that you are currently reading. To do complete justice to a RFID business blog, I needed an actual RFID Development Kit to see the technology in action. I wanted to experiment with RFIDs and explore the problems and find solutions.
My quest for the kit, started from the day I commenced this blog. I did find quite a few kits and all of them were beyond the price I was willing to pay for writing a blog that can do nothing but only benefit the students, entrepreneurs, technology enthusiasts and RFID Industry watchers. With this RFID Development Kit, I wanted to do various experiments with RFIDs and present them in easy to understand, layman language. This blog, I hoped would encourage my audience to experiment on their own.
Due to exorbitant cost, I wrote to various RFID companies who make these kits, if they can provide me with a kit for experimentation. Although I am dead against letting Companies control my writing, I was willing to give due credit for providing me a free kit for evaluation. It was a win-win situation for company providing the kit, my readers and me. Company gets free advertising from my writing and readers get to read those experiments and decide their Pilot Vendors and I get to experiment and learn in the process. However, so far I have not received any response from any of these companies.
Today I found a kit at Phidgets USA
. It comes with one RFID Reader, six 30mm disc RFID Tags, two Credit card sized RFID Tags, two Keyfob RFID Tags and a 6 foot USB cable to connect the kit to a PC. It is well under $100
and within my budget. Phidgets provides you with a software interface and one can write programs in Java, Visual Basic,
, C++, Delphi and
to experiment with the kit. It is an excellent hobby kit which I might buy and start my "RFID Development Kit BLOG". However, if I have to influence "decision making process" of my readers, I may still need one of those elusive high priced kits to conduct serious experiments. This does not mean, I am trying to undermine Phidgets, I will most likely buy the kit to start my Blog, unless they read this post first and offer me one.
Understanding RFID System Components
Tuesday, January 04, 2005
When Bar code technology was born, it was sufficient for the needs of the time it was born. However as manufacturing and assembly processes became complex, codes were not enough to hold all the needed information. Secondly, codes cannot be used in every assembly application and can be damaged or destroyed by few manufacturing operations. Then entered, low frequency RFID technology to overcome these limitations.
RFID is a means of storing and retrieving data through radio signals. Instead of a scanner that optically reads a code, a device sends and receives radio signals from a small, reusable tag attached to the assembly itself or to the pallet or tote holding the assembly.
The added ability to add and subtract information from identification tags became important to assemblers of cars, computers, appliances and other high-value, high-mix products. An RFID tag traveling with a car chassis can tell an assembler which parts to install--just like a bar code. But, unlike other identification technologies, the assembler can also input information back to the tag. For example, he/she can report that certain parts are installed and successfully tested.
With this background in perspective, let us talk about system components that we defined yesterday.
A typical RFID system implementation will need an antenna, a reader, a controller interface and a number of tags.
Each RF tag (transponder or data carrier, ) consists of a solid-state memory chip, a substrate or circuit board, and an antenna, all of which is encapsulated in epoxy and plastic. The memory chip, usually EEPROM, can be programmed to hold ASCII, hex or decimal characters. The chip can have "read only," "write-once, read-many," or "read-write" memory.
The size, shape and cost attributes of the tag depends on how much memory it has, how far it can send and receive data, and how it will be used. Tags can be shaped like a watch battery, a flat disk, a thin cylinder, a cracker, a credit card or a cigarette pack. A tag the size and shape of a US quarter (suit button) can store 128 bytes of information. A credit card sized tag can store 8 kilobytes.
Unlike printed codes, RFID tags can be reused and they can withstand harsh manufacturing environments. Depending on the tag and its environment, each memory address can be overwritten hundreds of thousands of times. Some tags are unaffected by acids, detergents and other chemicals, and some tags can operate in temperatures of -40 degrees to 350 degrees Fahrenheit.
Tags cost vary from $1 for "off the shelf" ones to $200 each for highly customized ones.
Tags are either passive or active. Passive tags derive their electrical power from the radio waves generated by the reader and antenna. Active tags are powered by a battery. Both tags have their pros and cons and are used depending on the application. Passive tags are less expensive and are long lasting. On other hand, active tags have more memory and a longer radio range than passive tags.
The antenna (interrogator or read-write head) is a coil of copper wire that emits a radio signal at a certain frequency. It constantly broadcasts the signal and waits for a tag's reply. Like RFID tags, the antenna comes in various shapes. It can be a flat, rectangular box or a small cylinder similar to a proximity sensor. Antenna can be mounted above or alongside a conveyor, or it can be a handheld wand.
Either way, the antenna's maximum transmission distance is directly proportional to its size and signal frequency. A large antenna broadcasting a high-frequency signal will have a longer range than a small antenna broadcasting a low-frequency signal.
When first introduced in the 1980s, the first RFID systems were low-frequency devices that broadcast at 125 to 150 kilohertz. The maximum range of these systems is approximately 2 feet for passive tags and 10 feet for active tags.
Medium-frequency systems emerged in the 1990s. These systems broadcast at a standard frequency of 13.56 megahertz. The advantage of this frequency is that tags need fewer coil windings and thus are less expensive. The broadcast range is also slightly larger.
Some recent RFID systems broadcast at 915 megahertz, or the microwave spectrum. These systems have an even longer range than 13.56-megahertz systems. However, because liquids can interfere with microwave signals, this system is not suitable for all applications.
High-frequency systems that broadcast at gigahertz frequencies are available, but are rarely needed for manufacturing. With a broadcast range of several hundred feet, these systems are used in automatic toll collection systems.
For assembly line applications, the distance between the antenna and the tag is usually less than 18 inches and rarely exceeds 6 feet. Tags do not have to be directly in sight of the antenna, but they must be within the antenna's broadcast range. To avoid interference, large metal objects should not be placed between the antenna and the tag.
The reader powers the antenna. It receives tag data from the antenna, then filters, boosts and transmits the data to the controller interface. The interface translates the signals from the reader into a computer language and transfers that information to a PC or a programmable logic controller. A reader can control one or two antennas, and one interface can control several readers. Some RFID suppliers offer the reader and the interface as a single unit.
Vendor Evaluation - Initial steps
Monday, January 03, 2005
In absence of response from vendors, I have decided to establish three "virtual" vendors and evaluate them. This could have been a wonderful opportunity for vendors to get some free advertising, but it was not to be. In any case, we will evaluate these three imaginary vendors and move forward with our business. Before we begin, let us establish some criteria that will be evaluated. We also need to ask few questions to ourselves before we contact the vendors. Here are some questions we will be looking forward to answer first:
* What will be identified?
* What type of environment will the RFID system be in?
* Will there be electrical noise, temperature extremes, high humidity or harsh chemicals?
* How many tags will be needed?
* How many read stations will be needed?
* How fast will the tags be moving?
* What read range is needed?
* How much information will be transferred to and from the tags?
* How often will the tags be read and written to?
* Will the RFID system be reporting to a PC or a PLC?
* Will more than one tag need to be read at the same time?
However these questions are not easy to answer, unless we go through some basic definitions and understanding of each component of a RFID system. Few terms that are essential to understand are:Active tag:
An RF tag powered by an external source, like battery. Passive tag:
An RF tag that draws its electrical power from radio waves. Antenna:
This sends and receives information from RF tags. Also known as the interrogator or read-write head.Reader:
This device powers the antenna. It receives tag data from the antenna, then filters, boosts and transmits the data to the controller interface.Interface:
The device that translates signals from the reader into a computer language and transfers that information to a Personal Computer or a Programmable Logic Controller (PLC). EEPROM:
Electrically Erasable Programmable Read-Only Memory. A memory chip that holds its content without power. It functions like nonvolatile RAM. RF portal:
The effective broadcast area of the antenna. It is also known as saturation area. RF tag:
This is an assembly of a memory chip, a substrate and an antenna. It is also known as a transponder or data carrier.
Tomorrow I will continue with the explanation of how these defined pieces work together.
'Twas the night before Christmas
Sunday, January 02, 2005
I came across this excellent interview with Santa at RFIDNews
. Lets hear what he has to say about RFID and technology in general, but before that a small poem....
'Twas the night before Christmas, when all through the facility
The elves were keeping up to the best of their ability,
Pallets were tagged by the gate with care,
In hopes that St. Nicholas soon would be there;
Retailers were nestled all snug in their beds,
With dreams of ROI dancing in their heads;
And I at the North Pole talking to Santa for you,
In my fourth full-length feature, an RFID News Interview.
When out by the dock there arose such a clattle,
As four new shipments came in from Seattle
And away off the truck goods flew like a flash,
New middleware gave the WMS a touch of panache
But who made the North Pole so lively and quick?
I knew in a moment it must be St. Nick.
He was dressed in fleece from his head to his toe,
This is not the same Santa we all used to know.
He was chubby and plump, a jolly old elf,
And I laughed when asked him, in spite of myself:
“Could you explain how you do it to me?”
And with a mischievous wink he whispered, “RFID”
Now to the article....