Times-7 goes global with next-gen RFID

The tags are extremely reliable and have made accurate readings of vehicles passing at 150km an hour from five metres, says Times-7 chief executive

Lower Hutt-based RFID tag developer Times-7 is powering ahead with plans to launch its new generation passive tags into global markets after successful trials here and offshore.

Times-7 is a specialist in engineering antenna for RFID tags, allowing passive tags — those without battery power — to do some of the work previously reserved for active tags. Applications include sports timing, vehicle identification and container tracking.

The company’s tags and associated technologies, dubbed WheelTime, have been used most recently to time the national secondary schools cycling championships at the beginning of the month. Tags are placed on the forks of the bicycle and timings made when the bike passes a reader. Software called Sportscore is used to manage and report the results.

Chief executive Antony Dixon says the technology has to be successful overseas to be viable and his sights are firmly set on global markets.

He says the tags are extremely reliable and have made accurate readings of vehicles passing at 150km an hour from five metres. Traffic density — when a large group of bikes passes the reader — has been a problem other technologies have encountered. However, Dixon says the Times-7 system has had no misreads.

Times-7 has filed five patents to protect its RFID innovations, which keep the tags small and yet provide an effective read distance. By using passive tags that include the company’s antennas, tags are also cheaper to buy and use.

Dixon says the active tags used on the Tour de France cost US$90 (NZ$126) each, but the Times-7 passive tags can do the job for just NZ$10 a piece. That makes them affordable not just by major events, but by cycling clubs. Only one reader is needed on the finish line.

The company has also sealed an alliance with Canadian RFID company IPICO to take the Times-7 technology to market overseas.

Times-7’s tags are on trial at a European airport, Dixon says, in baggage handling applications. They are also undergoing field trials on high-value items such as gas cylinders.

Dixon says the low profile of the tags make them ideal in these settings, as this protects the tags from damage when such items are transported.

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