Intel's RFID Move To Slash Reader Prices

Intel on Tuesday will aggressively move into the RFID, integrating enough RFID into one of its chips to cut reader prices anywhere from 50-60 percent.

Intel is expected to make its first move into the RFID space and will try and cram enough discrete components into its chip to slash reader prices, reduce power consumption and shrink the needed footprint.

The UHF RFID transceiver branded by Intel will be called the R1000 and the chip giant is claiming to have schmooshed "approximately 90 percent of the discrete components found in a typical RFID reader radio (including receive, transmit, baseband, modulation and demodulation functionality) onto a single chip."

That miniaturization effort brings with it quite a few Intel claims, some of which are more legitimate than others, but the most significant part of the introduction is simply that Intel is doing it, said Drew Nathanson, a senior RFID analyst with VDC in Natick, Mass.

The $35 billion chip company's move "gives so much credibility to the RFID industry," Nathanson said. That's merely by Intel lending its name to the effort. It's "not tapping into their own capacity at this point" and they are outsourcing the actual manufacturing, he said.

Intel internally launched its RFID plans about three years ago, with about $20 million in initial seed funding for a small startup team, said Kerry Krause, the marketing director for Intel's RFID operations.

Krause said the new design should force reader prices to about half of where they are today. Nathanson agreed that reader prices will plummet, but he is projecting a much steeper fall than even Krause predicted.

"By integrating these components in?at a $40/pop price point?you're going to significantly bring down reader" costs, Nathanson said. Today's typical EPC UHF reader costs about $1,600 to $1,700, Nathanson said, adding that he expects to see those prices quickly hit about $500.

Intel's "cutting out a lot of the components" that reader manufacturers such as Symbol Technologies and ThingMagic have historically had to put in themselves.

Another advantage claimed by Intel is less power needed. The R1000 will need about one-and-a-half watts of power, compared with typical readers today that they need anywhere from 20-40 watts, Krause said. That's low enough that it could allow limited deployments with non-traditional power sources, such as short-range power supplied by the USB and long-range powered by Ethernet. But, Krause concedes, "most reader modules will be powered in the more traditional way."

The small size of the unit?an 8-millimeter 56-pin QFN package?also makes it attractive for various form factors, such as mobile phones.