Zebra Technologies (Nasdaq: ZBRA), a leading global supplier of radio frequency identification (RFID) printing solutions for compliance and business improvement, today announced it is demonstrating the use of EPCglobal's UHF Electronic Product Code (EPC) Class 1 Generation 2 (Gen2) RFID protocol. Zebra is the first thermal printer manufacturer to demonstrate success with Gen 2 technology using existing and readily available printer/encoders that meet the RFID specifications and frequencies for use in Europe. Zebra announced a successful Gen 2 demonstration with its U.S. products last month. The demonstrations will take place at the GS1 EPC Conference at The Queen Elizabeth Conference Centre in London on June 7, as well as The Metro RFID Fach Kongress on June 8 and 9, in Cologne, Germany.
Zebra Technologies Europe Limited is demonstrating EPC Gen 2 technology within its industry-leading R4Mplus UHF RFID printer/encoder, which features fully integrated support for ISO 18000-6B and Philips U-Code 1.19 transponders. Built on Zebra's proven Z4Mplus platform, the R4Mplus is uniquely configured to support European specifications and regulatory requirements, and can operate at 100 percent duty cycle relative to encoding tags, unlike other RFID offerings on the market today. The R4Mplus models currently shipping will support new, emerging protocols, including the forthcoming EPC Gen 2 standards, via simple firmware upgrades, offering investment protection as RFID standards continue to evolve.
"We are committed to ensuring that an RFID printer purchased from Zebra today will provide our customers with even greater value tomorrow," said Bob Cornick, general manager of RFID for Zebra. "This Gen 2 tag communication demonstration proves that Zebra's current R4Mplus printer can be upgraded with new firmware, adding Gen 2 capabilities without costly and disruptive hardware changes. By 'future-proofing' our printers in this way," he explained, "we ensure a seamless transition for Zebra customers once Gen 2 is commercially available."
Zebra demonstrated this same concept last month using the R110Xi, an RFID printer/encoder for the U.S. market, at the Retail Systems trade show in Chicago. The company has been working closely with several of the industry's foremost technology companies in the advancement and development of RFID solutions that support the new Gen 2 standard. Once Gen 2 smart media is commercially available, Zebra plans to offer the upgrade via an Internet download to ensure widespread and easy access.
With EPCglobal's ratification of the Gen 2 protocol, and the availability of Zebra printer/encoders to support this standard, companies can now confidently purchase and implement supply chain RFID solutions without the risks associated with changing protocols. "The earlier RFID can be deployed across a global supply chain, the earlier companies will start to benefit from its improved efficiencies," said Cornick.
Gen 2 Advantages
Zebra RFID customers who move to Gen 2 will appreciate these significant enhancements: more memory for greater storage capability; better security encryption for tag data; open standards allowing multiple sourcing of tags, resulting in interoperability from several different vendors; and extremely high read rates.
As a pioneer and leader in RFID printing/encoding technologies, Zebra has been researching and developing RFID "smart label" technologies for more than 10 years and manufactured the first commercially available integrated, on-demand RFID printer/encoders in 2000. According to VDC, an industry research organization, Zebra is the leading supplier of RFID printer/encoders, accounting for nearly 60% of RFID printer/encoders sold worldwide. The company plays a leading role in the development of RFID standards and applications for supply chain and business improvement programs designed to help suppliers to the DoD, Wal-Mart, and other retailers meet the RFID EPC compliance labeling requirements. It is a lead member of EPCglobal's Hardware Action Group, which oversaw the process of creating the Gen 2 standard, and is also a member of the AIM RFID Expert Group, which works to increase the understanding and adoption of Auto ID, RFID, and enterprise mobility.