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Intel Rolls Out New Chip To Jump-Start RFID

R1000 retools radio frequency ID readers and could lower prices.
RFID got a boost last week when Intel introduced a chip it says could halve the price of radio frequency identification readers. It can't hurt to have the world's largest chipmaker getting serious about the technology, which has been slow to take hold mostly because of various pricing and management issues.


RFID in action

RFID in action
The R1000 chip is for the ultrahigh-frequency RFID readers that are often used in supply chain management, asset tracking, and access control systems. It's among the first of a new category of reader chips that integrate various functions on one platform. About a dozen reader manufacturers plan to start shipping R1000-equipped readers in the next few months, including Alien, Thing Magic, and Samsung/Techwin.

The 8-millimeter by 8-millimeter chip includes most of the components found in an RFID reader's radio, including those that handle reception, transmission, baseband, modulation, and demodulation. Putting more functionality on the chip should lower the cost of RFID readers, which are now priced from hundreds of dollars to more than $1,500.

"Readers are too expensive, too complex, and have too much variability from manufacturer to manufacturer," says Kerry Krause, marketing manager of Intel's RFID operation. With the R1000, Krause says he wouldn't be surprised if prices on some types of readers will be cut in half by year's end.

The chip also will give businesses greater management capabilities, he says. Intel has worked with Microsoft and other software vendors to develop tools it will offer for device management and a software design kit that's compatible with many leading enterprise apps, including SAP.

Some manufacturers plan to use the R1000 to create compact modules that can turn a laptop or PDA into a reader. The R1000 will compete with integrated chips from Starport Systems and WJ Communications.

Intel has no plans to create RFID tags. "We saw a lot of people trying to solve the problem of getting tags from 50 cents to below 10 cents," says Michael Reed, general manager of Intel's RFID operation, "and we saw a unique problem we could solve with readers."