Omron Unveils First RoHS-Compatible UHF-Band RFID Reader/Writer

9/19/2005 - OMRON Corporation (TSE: 6645; NYSE: OMRNY), a global leader in automation, sensing and control technologies, announced it will release its RFID reader/writer which is compatible with UHF frequency bands. This unit, to be released at the end of September 2005, conforms to European RoHS directive(*1) (EU Directive on the Restriction of certain Hazardous Substances in electrical and electronic equipment) for the U.S. retail industry - the first of its kind in the world. The reader/writer is a monostatic type(*2) that uses an integral transmission and reception antenna element and can be connected with up to four antennas. Omron plans to ship 2,000 reader/writer units to the North American market during fiscal 2005 with a sales goal of 500 million yen. Following this, Omron also plans to market an RoHS-compatible UHF-band RFID reader/writer for the European market.

Recently, laws and regulations concerning the management of chemical substances have been increasingly tightened throughout the world. Especially in Europe, directives such as RoHS, WEEE (Waste Electrical and Electronic Equipment directive) and ELV (End of Life Vehicles directive) either ban the use of hazardous chemical substances in products, or make it mandatory to eliminate them. Accordingly, these directives require companies to supply products that are not just environmentally sound but environmentally warranted as well. In Europe, use of specified chemical substances will be banned from products to be sold from July 1, 2006. In response, Omron has specified 73 substances that will be banned/eliminated, five substances for which the use of alternative substances is to be promoted, and 134 substances to be self-controlled.

Until now, Omron has marketed bistatic type RFID reader/writers(*3), which require separate antenna elements for transmission and reception and can connect with up to two antennas. The monostatic type reader/writer, to be released for the first time among the ThingMagic(*4) licensees, allows connection of up to four antennas - twice that of the bistatic type. It maintains the same performance level as with one antenna even when four antennas are connected, thus proving highly cost effective. The new reader/writer also supports EPCglobal Class C1b protocol(*5). Moreover, by upgrading its firmware, it will accommodate Class 1 Generation 2 protocol by EPC Global (C1G2)(*6) from October 2005.

Recent movements of EPCglobal
As operations of the distribution and retail industries have become increasingly border-less, products from different countries are available throughout the world. However, RFID-based global distribution and traceability management have not yet been fully realized. In light of this situation, the adoption of Electronic Product Code Class 1 Generation 2 (C1G2) developed by EPCglobal Inc. as ISO's global standard for RFID implementation, will provide efficiency improvement for global distribution and fulfillment of traceabiltiy requirements. This will eventually contribute to the progress of industry and society. Accordingly, end-user members of EPCglobal are looking forward to the launch of C1G2-compliant products.

In response to this global marketplace interest, in January, 2005 EPCglobal submitted C1G2 specifications to international standards organizations ISO/IEC to be included in ISO/IEC 18000 Part 6 Type C - Radio Frequency Identification (RFID) for Item Management. A decision was reached to adopt the C1G2 specifications as Type C for establishment as an international standard from early 2006. In the future, as C1G2-based product development will be further accelerated by many RFID vendors along with increased penetration, it will also contribute to reducing costs for RFID tags and equipment.

Omron's future activities
As part of its commitment to environmental conservation, Omron has drawn up the following Environmental Declaration.

Environmental Declaration:

We pledge to aspire to harmonize with nature and work for a better environment through activities showing a strong sense of public responsibility.

To provide its customers with environmentally warranted products, Omron is now striving to attain the goal of eliminating all regulated chemical substances from its products by March 31, 2006.

During fiscal 2004, Omron established a business process necessary to offer environmentally warranted products and strengthened the functions of information systems that support the development of such products (Rechs and E-Warps systems). In fiscal 2005, Omron will concentrate on the reduction of regulated chemical substances from its products by making extensive use of these systems to achieve its total elimination target specified for March 31, 2006.

Regarding RFID, Omron is working to expand sales by drawing on its excellent track record of RFID system deployment as an RFID equipment vendor, as well as relying on its accumulated expertise and advanced product technology. It is expected that the penetration and growth of UHF band RFID tag inlets will steadily expand from the U.S. market into markets in Europe and then Eastern Asia, which serves as its production center. By offering products that match market needs on a timely basis and by utilizing its RFID tag inlet and reader/writer commercialization and production technologies, Omron is striving to expand markets on a step-by-step basis to accelerate business growth.

*1 Response to the RoHS Directive
To comply with the RoHS directive (EU Directive on the Restriction of certain Hazardous Substances in electrical and electronic equipment), Omron has already initiated efforts to produce and market products free from hazardous chemical substances. In Europe, the RoHS directive bans the use of six substances from products to be sold from July 1, 2006. These substances are: lead (Pb), cadmium (Cd), mercury (Hg), hexavalent chromium (Cr6+), polybrominated biphenyls (PBBs) and polybrominated diphenyl ethers (PBDEs). To warrant that these substances are not contained in products, it is necessary to survey the presence of chemical substances and their contents in all parts and materials to be used. Besides these six substances, there are other types of hazardous substances as well.

*2 About Monostatic RFID Reader/Writer
The RFID reader/writer, to be released this September, is a monostatic type, in which a signal transmitter to and receiver from the antenna are combined to enable communications with an RFID tag using a single antenna element. The drawback of this type was instability due to the transmission signal flowing into the reception signal. Omron has succeeded in the commercialization of a monostatic reader/writer by developing technology to prevent the flow of the transmission signal into the reception signal. With this technology, Omron's new RFID reader/writer makes it possible to connect to four antennas - twice that of a bistatic type. This allows the production of a low-cost RFID system demanded by end users. However, the monostatic type unit cannot communicate with EPCglobal's Class 0 RFID tags.

*3 About the Bistatic RFID Reader/Writer
Omron has conventionally released bistatic type RFID reader/writers. With separate trasmitter and receiver sections, this type requires two antenna elements for transmission of signals to and reception of signals from RFID tags. The bistatic type can communicate with RFID tags conforming to all class specifications of EPCglobal, but can be connected only with a maximum of two antennas.

*4 About ThingMagic
ThingMagic Inc., founded in 2000, is a privately held company based in Cambridge, Massachusetts. It is a world leader in the research and development of Radio Frequency Identification (RFID) and embedded computing and sensing technology. It is a leading member of EPCglobal and has active collaborations with a number of corporations including TYCO, INTEL and Omron Corporation. With large-scale RFID implementations being planned by Wal-Mart, Target Corp. and the U.S. Department of Defense, the RFID market is expected to enjoy exceptional growth in the immediate future.

Company Name: ThingMagic Inc.
Headquarters: One Broadway, Cambridge, MA 02142, USA
Principal Executive: Tom Grant, Chairman & CEO

*5 About EPCglobal Class 1b
A variation of EPCglobal Class 1 Generation 1 specifications, Class 1b contains a 128-bit memory, 96 bits of which are available for users. A built-in non-volatile memory allows users to program tags at the point of application in the supply chain, providing a dedicated code for a specific item or data to be updated as processing progresses.

*6 About EPCglobal C1G2 (Class 1, Generation 2)
C1G2 is a protocol ratified by international standards organization EPCglobal Inc. at the end of 2004. It has the following features:

  1. EPC (Electronic Product Code) storage area provided within memory.
  2. High-speed reading capability. RFID tag-reader/writer data transmission speed is a fast 640 kbps.
  3. Enhanced privacy protection and security functions.
  4. Improved ruggedness to withstand an unfriendly operating environment where many reader/writers are installed at close proximity.

Headquartered in Kyoto, Japan, OMRON Corporation is a global leader in the field of automation. Established in 1933 and headed by President Hisao Sakuta, Omron has more than 25,000 employees in over 35 countries working to provide products and services to customers in a variety of fields including industrial automation, electronic components industries, and healthcare. The company is divided into five regions and head offices are in Japan (Kyoto), Asia Pacific (Singapore), China (Hong Kong), Europe (Amsterdam) and US (Chicago). The European organisation has its own development and manufacturing facilities, and provides local customer support in all European countries.

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