Thursday, June 30, 2011

Articles about our S/Cap RFID tag

RFID Journal, the premier publication for the RFID industry, did an article on our new S/Cap RFID tag yesterday, June 29:

In addition, the product had a nice write up on VeryFields, which hosts the largest RFID tag database, on June 28:

Monday, June 27, 2011

US patent reform

The following is an excerpt of a couple of postings from the old Enable IPC blog, dated during July and August of 2007:

The July/August (2007) edition of Forbes Small Business has an important and interesting article that discusses the overloaded US patent system. The backlog of applications is now at 800,000! … There are some reforms that are in the works, apparently. A bill is aimed at improving the quality of patent applications. However, the FSB article says that the bill would make things more difficult for small businesses.

In particular, the issues seem to be changing the protection from "first to invent" to "first to file", … -- meaning you could invent something first, but if someone else files a patent application before you, they get the rights.

The article seems to say that larger businesses are generally for this change while smaller companies are against it (the reason being, larger companies can more easily beat smaller companies to the patent office because they have greater resources).

The latest issue of Fortune Small Business contains a letter from Lynn Sky (owner of Blue Sky Gallery) that asks the question: if we change the law from first to invent to first to file, then "aren't we simply legalizing theft?"

Last week, the House of Representative passed a plan for patent reform, which includes the change to “first to file” (see ). A number of groups continue to oppose this particular provision, including the National Small Business Association (NSBA; see  The NSBA also brings up the fact that patent fees are being diverted from the patent office, which is contributing to the backlog issue as well.   

The House version, however, has some differences with a Senate version that was passed earlier and the two versions now have to be reconciled.

It will be interesting to see what we end up with. We agree with the NSBA; "first to file" seems wrong and the diversion of US patent fees needs to stop. The USPTO needs those fees so they can hire and utilize additional, more experienced examiners to permanently address this backlog.

The website has provided an interesting summary of where we are at today. Check it out at:

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Enable IPC Introduces the S/Cap RFID Tag

This morning, we were excited to announce the launch of a new product: the S/Cap RFID Tag. 

RFID stands for Radio Frequency Identification.  Whether they realize it or not, most people encounter RFID everyday; when they use the EZPass tollway, when the use their "SpeedPass" device at Mobil stations, when they have the chip placed in their pets in case they get lost . . . there are many examples of RFID in use right now and many more are sure to follow.

(Check out our blog posting on RFID basics to learn more)

Our tag is geared toward asset tracking.  Companies might use it to keep track of expensive equipment.  Protecting assets means more than just ensuring no one walks away with a piece of equipment. An oft-cited 2007 report published by McAfee and Datamonitor estimates that an average laptop, which might cost $1,000, holds data worth $972,000, and could store as much as $8.8 million in commercially sensitive information and intellectual property.

Also, the internal costs – in time, productivity and cash – of physically trying to track a misplaced asset or locating and purchasing a needed replacement due to loss or theft can be enormous.

What makes our tag truly unique, however, is its power source.  Most tags do not use a power source, and those that do typically will use a small battery that will last maybe a year or two.  We don't use a battery; we combined an ultracapacitor with a small light panel instead.

The result is a read range of up to 75 feet (other tags in this class will read anywhere from 3 to 40 feet or so).  In addition, because ultracapacitors can outlast batteries by as much as 1000x, our tag could last longer than many of the assets it tracks.

So, while most tags we compete with offer 90 day to 1 year limited warranties, we offer a 7 year limited warranty.

We are excited about this new product.  We think it will enhance and expand the use of RFID, especially in outdoor and harsh environments.

The press release on our new product can be found here:  

More information on the tag, including a link to download or view a data sheet, can be found at

Thursday, June 16, 2011

IP Rights: ideas vs expression recently created a blog post that discussed the issue of ideas vs the expression of those ideas, and what can be protected under US law.  Essentially, it comes down to reducing the idea to writing as a first step -- just because someone had an idea before anyone else doesn't mean they automatically have the rights to a patent or copyright to it.

The article can be found here:

In the coming weeks, we plan to post a series of articles on intellectual property, patents, trademarks, copyrights and licensing from our perspective.  Enable IPC stands for "Intellectual Property Commercialization" (i.e., turning technologies into products).  We think we will have quite a bit of interesting information to share on the subject.

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Some Basics About RFID Technology - Part 1 in our Series

According to the RFID journal, the idea of Radio Frequency Identification (RFID) has been around since World War II. When approaching a friendly radar position German pilots would roll their planes, which would change the signal reflection and alert the radar operators that a friendly craft was approaching; this is something like a passive RFID system. The British meanwhile, fixed transmitters to their craft to send signals to special receivers at their radar stations alerting the operators that a friendly craft was approaching (more like an active RFID system).[1]

RFID systems consist of two parts: a reader (like the radar station in the examples) and a tag (like the airplanes, or the airplane’s transmitters). An RFID tag can be as simple as a microchip and an antenna. The tag transmits information to the reader via radio waves and the reader intercepts and interprets the information.

RFID tags can further be defined as passive, battery assisted passive (BAP), or active. BAP and active tags use a power source to enhance the signal so it can be read from much further away.

  • Passive RFID tags are comprised of two components: a chip and a radio antenna. The reader is used to send out a signal that 'wakes up' the chip in the tag. The tag sends back the signal ('backscatters') to the reader, transmitting the information on the chip. Passive chips backscatter 10-15% of the energy they receive and, therefore, can usually be read from only a few feet away.
  • Battery-assisted passive (BAP) RFID tags contain an embedded power source – a thin film battery or other energy storage device. When receiving a signal from a reader, the power source enables the tag to backscatter much more of the energy it receives (some claim as much as 90%). BAP Tags have been shown to be read from dozens of feet to over 100 feet away.
  • Active RFID tags utilize a power source (usually a stronger battery than BAP tags), are typically 'always on', and emit the energy from the battery rather than through backscatter. This means essentially that they are always broadcasting a signal and therefore do not reflect back the signal from a reader. They are needed in electromagnetically unfriendly environments and some can be read from readers over 100 feet away;  and, with additional power, some can be read from over 300 feet away.
There have been three major issues with the energy storage components of BAP and active RFID tags: cost, reliability and maintenance. Up until recently, active and BAP technologies added significant bulk and therefore cost to RFID tags. With recent thin film battery technologies bulk is less of an issue, however the thin film batteries can be less reliable and more costly. In addition, detection ranges can drop significantly with the age of the tag and battery, with some dropping from dozens of feet to a range comparable to a passive tag.

There are a wide variety of uses for RFID however, and they make use of all the different RFID characteristics. We will discuss more on RFID applications in later postings, but small, inexpensive and simple Passive RFID tags can be printed out in large quantities and used to help track large volume, but relatively low cost items such as garments for Wal-Mart. Their low-read range is not a problem when used for things like contactless payment cards, or automobile toll station passes. BAP or Active tags, while more expensive, provide options for tracking large items in large fields like containers in a dockyard, automobiles in a parking lot, or pallets in a warehouse.

At some city libraries you can now use a self-checkout where you place your stack of library books on an RFID pad (the reader), scan your library card, and within seconds the books are identified and checked out on your account. One day soon, we expect to use a “smart shopping cart” where you put the items you want in a cart, they are logged and payment is done automatically when you exit the store. Companies should see the ability to easily and cost-effectively track assets or track inventory throughout their supply chains, and food and pharmaceutical supply chains should be able to more effectively control the quality of their products making them safer for consumers.

RFID has the potential to impact all of our lives. Using the unique characteristics of different types of tags and systems RFID should see a wide variety of uses and is sure to have tremendous implications for our future.

[1] Roberti, Mark “The History of RFID Technology” RFID Journal

Monday, June 13, 2011

Out-of-stock items: an issue addressed by RFID

Inventory control can be a tedious exercise for employees, and it can result in frequent errors.  But, the lack of a good inventory control system means the seller may not have a good handle on what he needs to stock and how many of the item he needs to keep on hand.

And, one of the worst things for a retailer is to have a customer leave empty handed because the seller was out-of-stock on a desired item.
One study says that 20% of shoppers of electronics equipment end up leaving the store without buying anything because the item they want is out-of-stock.  This translates into a $430 billion annual loss for retailers. 

The study also states that resolving this issue would increase overall sales by 10%.

Wal Mart, Kohl's, Dillard's and others are aggressively addressing this problem using RFID.  Placing a tag on each item, rather than conducting manual inventory tracking, will help eliminate or greatly reduce the losses from out-of-stock goods.

A summary of the study can be found here:  

Sunday, June 12, 2011

RFID to track sponges in operating rooms

RFID News reports that a VA medical center in Cleveland is working with an RFID company to track sponges used in operating rooms, making sure that none are left inside patients.  The article can be found here:

Saturday, June 11, 2011

The 311th birthday of Ewald van Kleist

311 years ago yesterday, Ewald Georg van Kliest was born.  He invented the Leyden Jar (i.e., the first capacitor). 
Of course, capacitors have come a long way since then.  Today's ultracapacitors (also known as "supercapacitors" or "electric double layer" [EDL] capacitors) can have 1,000,000+ times the capacitance of traditional capacitors.
Also, ultracapacitors can have 10 to 100 times the power and 1000 times the cycle life of batteries.  They tend to fall short, however, when one compares the energy density of ultracapacitors to batteries.
If you have a minute, check out our video titled "What is an ultracapacitor?" on our YouTube channel (it only lasts 60 seconds).  Here's a link: 
If you want to know more about ultracapacitors and Enable IPC's technology, check out our website's write up:
And, we have some papers and presentations available for more in-depth information: 

Friday, June 10, 2011

The White House: Supporting the Responsible Realization of Nanotechnology's Full Potential

The White House is interested in the supporting the "realization of nanotechnology's full potential".  The Office of Science and Technology announced the release of a report that concludes that, not only has the National Nanotechnology Initiative's $12 billion investment in nanotech over the past 10 years been extraordinarily successful, but that it should be continued to ensure "continued U.S. dominance" in the area.
The following are some of the areas affected by nanotechnology that are discussed or mentioned in the report:
- water purification
- nano-medicines
- adaptive camouflage
- self-healing armor
- self-decontaminating clothing
- sensors for a myriad of applications
- nanostructured materials for transportation that are stronger and lighter, and therefore energy-saving
- catalyst breakthroughs, leading to huge improvements in clean, sustainable and plentiful energy
and many other examples.
Among other things, the report also states that, in the next 10 years, it expects "nanotechnology-enabled diagnosis, imaging, and therapy [that] will provide superior new methodologies for the management of cancer"; initiatives to address "Nanotechnology Applications for Solar Energy, Sustainable Nanomanufacturing, and Nanoelectronics for 2020 and Beyond"; and "a stronger focus on fundamental issues related to environmental health and safety."
The announcement can be found on the White House's Office of Science and Technology website here:
The report (96 pages long and 5+MB) can be downloaded here:

Thursday, June 9, 2011

New research from NIST: Catching and releasing nanoparticles helps determine if they are safe

Nanoparticle safety has become a major worry in recent years.  In 2007, there was evidence discovered that some nanoparticles could damage DNA and lead to cancer.  This led to a call for studies on the safety of different types of nanoparticles. 

Yesterday, an article we found online at Science Daily's website (here's a link: discussed some work along these lines by researchers at NIST.  They figured out a way to capture nanoparticles, where they could be exposed to cells to see whether they are pose a hazard, then released. 

Friday, June 3, 2011

The Dow at 20,000 by the 2012 election?

MSN posted an article yesterday that explains the reasoning behind one hedge fund manager and investor's prediction that the Dow Jones Industrial Average will hit 20,000 by the end of 2012. 

James Altucher cites the Fed's purchase of long-term Treasury bonds, the extension of the Bush tax cuts, a "multiplier effect" from the stimulus and the fact that corporations, some experiencing record profits, have begun (or will soon begin) spending.

He has his detractors, of course . . . but we hope he's right!  Here's a link to the article:

Thursday, June 2, 2011

Another use for RFID: tracking the flights of honey bees!

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

"Engines of Creation" - published 25 years ago this month