Washington Business JournalCarlyle Group invests in RFID .....Mon Apr 10, 2006 03:39
Matrics bets chips on $14M launch
Cheaper ID technology could lead to extinction of bar codes
Washington Business Journal - January 11, 2002
by Martin Kady II
For more than two years, a team of former National Security Agency scientists has eschewed the Internet boom in favor of a simpler task: building a better radio frequency identification chip known as RFID.
Now the company, Matrics, is ready to launch, and it's doing so with a $14 million investment from venture capital firms Novak Biddle Venture Partners, The Carlyle Group, Polaris Venture Partners and Venturehouse Group.
(RESEARCHERS, THESE ARE WORTH CHECKING OUT)
Matrics (http://www.matricsrfid.com) closed the deal in December, but has chosen to lay low until its product is launched. What the company promises is a cheaper, smarter version of the RFID tag, which could be attached to virtually any product that needs tracking, from DVDs in a video store to engine turbines in an airport hangar.
Ideally, a cheap RFID could replace the ubiquitous UPC bar codes on consumer goods because it can track more information.
For now, however, Matrics is pitching its product for supply chain management, some retail uses and to any business that needs to track thousands of products or parts. The Matrics product, embedded with the RF chip, is a thin, flexible piece of silicon about the size and shape of a large Band-Aid. With this RFID, there is no need for a person to scan the device because it can be done by a remote sensor.
While RFID may not be a household term, many people use the product in everyday life.
When you see the cars on the Dulles Toll Road zip by in the fast lane using an E-ZPass, they're using RF chips. If you've ever had a small device on your key chain that you wave in front of a scanner to unlock a door, it's probably an RFID. The Mobil SpeedPass used to pay at the pump at Mobil gas stations also operates on RFIDs.
These radio frequency chips are in heavy use, but they're limited because they can be expensive, don't have good range and can't process much information.
What Matrics has done, according to those familiar with its technology, is solve the riddles of cost, range and processing that have limited past generations of RFID devices. The Matrics prototype can be made for about 30 cents and can be read by a scanner from 15 feet away. In addition, the scanner Matrics is using can simultaneously read thousands of RFID tags.
The ability to read multiple tags at once is a key distinction. If every videotape or DVD in a video store had an RFID attached, the manager could do a quick scan of the entire store to immediately learn what's in stock, what's checked out and whether anything has been stolen.
In the manufacturing world, Matrics is working with Boeing to use the RFID to track inventory for thousands of airplane parts. A load of equipment sitting on a forklift, for example, could be scanned as the forklift drives past the scanning device.
"People have been working on RF devices for a long time, but haven't been able to come up with the right price and performance to justify the technology," says Mark Ein, CEO of D.C.-based Venturehouse Group, an investor in the $14 million round with Matrics. "The Holy Grail here is where you put these devices in billions of goods to track them. Ultimately, the idea is to replace the bar code, but that's a long way away."
The company is led by CEO Piyush Sodha, who has been CEO at LCC International and NextLinx, and was an executive at Global Crossing. The science behind the chip comes from NSA veterans William Bandy and Michael Arneson, who worked on RF technology at the secretive intelligence agency.
"This is a great deal -- they've got world-class scientists and great technology," says Jack Biddle, managing partner at Bethesda-based Novak Biddle Venture Partners (http://www.novakbiddle.com), one of Matrics' investors. "The NSA does amazing things. These guys are very clever."
Also in on the deal along with the four main VC firms are eCentury Capital Partners, The Washington Dinner Club, Allied Capital, Apgar Investments, WomenAngels.net, Riggs Capital Partners, and former New Enterprise Associates partner Frank Bonsal Jr.
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3/16/06 George Noory, Coast to Coast
WHAT IS RFID?
Govt. Tracking: RFID & NAIS
Consumer privacy expert Katherine Albrecht, joined by activists Pat Showalter and Celeste Bishop in hour two, spoke out against the National Animal Identification System (NAIS), a USDA plan to track farm animals using RFID chips. Showalter and Bishop, who both own animals in a small scale, non-commercial capacity, said the new regulations are very burdensome for small farmers. For instance, the "Premises Identification" part of the plan requires owners to report any movements or visitors of the animals, even in the case of a few chickens and goats. The cost and time for such monitoring is prohibitive and also an invasion of their privacy, they argued.
Technology is being used to clamp down and control food in general, said Albrecht, who compared the NAIS plan to the tracking done with grocery loyalty cards, and the efforts to restrict farmers' rights to seeds. In regards to the NAIS, she hoped that small farmers will refuse to comply with the plan, as she believes it does nothing to make the food supply safer (the stated goal of the program), and it discourages self-sufficiency.
Further, the RFID chips, used to track the animals, and recently introduced in passports, are susceptible to hackers who can infect large databases with malicious viruses, she pointed out. The bigger picture is that the government is seeking a top down control of the populace on a global level, and there is "a move afoot to number everything and everyone," said Albrecht. However, she finds that US citizens are more prone to resisting these efforts than Europeans, and that the NAIS may be the issue that wakes people up.
#3 http://www.apfn.net/audio/A002I06031523555700550-rfid3.MP3 (4.56MB) 6Min 37 Sec
#4 http://www.apfn.net/audio/A003I06031601051000550-rfid4.MP3 (4.42MB) 6Min 25 Sec
#5 http://www.apfn.net/audio/A002I06031523555700550-rfid5.MP3 (4.55MB) 6Min 37 Sec
#6 http://www.apfn.net/audio/A003I06031601051000550-rfid6.MP3 (4.60MB) 6Min 41 Sec
#7 http://www.apfn.net/audio/A003I06031601051000550-rfid7.MP3 (5.81MB) 8Min 26 Sec
#8 http://www.apfn.net/audio/A003I06031601051000550-rfid8.MP3 (3.10MB) 4Min 29 Sec
#9 http://www.apfn.net/audio/A004I06031602453700550-rfid9.MP3 (4.34MB) 18Min 58 Sec
"You can run, but you may not be able to hide. Not just from Big Brother, but Big Business, writes Katherine Albrecht in her book Spychips, a detailed analysis of how Radio Frequency Identification technology -- RFID for short -- threatens to erode the last vestiges of our privacy."
RECENT CASPIAN MEDIA:
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>> click here to read more!
Spychips RFID Blog
Time to buy a flyswatter
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