RFID.com up for sale!

January 12, 2010

Just a FYI that the domain ‘rfid.com’ registration expires this year (in August). It is owned by, and links to, HID Global Corporation.

I got to believe it will be a good ‘chunk of change’ (as my dad used to say) to get HID to part with it but you never know. Considering that it might take some months of negotiating, if you’re tied to RFID and want to get this domain name you might want to get on it…


Keithley Throws in the RF Towel

January 12, 2010

Keithley Instruments made the decision in November of last year to sell their RF instruments group to Agilent for $9 million in cash.

I had heard rumors that Keithley was shopping for a buyer and speculated that Tektronix/Danaher would snatch them up to round out their RF offering by adding power meters and MIMO offering as well as taking one more competitor out of the running.

Color me surprised when Danaher passed (or was never approached?) and instead got acquired by Agilent. Maybe it has something to do with them being neighbors in Santa Rosa, CA? OK, if I was one of the two dozen folks in Keithley’s RF group, I’d probably be sweating it out a bit right now considering that Agilent recently gave the ax to over 15% of it’s workforce just last year and that all of the products from Keithley are redundant….just sayin’.


RFID Programming Course

September 9, 2009

The University of Houston College of Business has an RFID lab which offers some great courses, you can view the course notes, slides, presentations and some great overview videos even if you are not a student using the links below…

http://www.bauer.uh.edu/rfid/summer2008.html

http://www.bauer.uh.edu/rfid/disc4397section12977.html

It’s certainly not the most in-depth technical tutorials but I found the link to using Winsock Control in VB programming helpful for a current project.


Testing MIMO? You Only Have a Few Options…

August 7, 2009

If you are testing Multiple Input, Multiple Output (MIMO) devices beyond 2×2 then your test solutions get fairly limited, in fact there are really only three:

1. Litepoint NxN system

  • Using the IQnxn hardware and IQwave software
  • You’ll need one IQnxn unit/module per antenna (i.e. 3 units for a 3×3 MIMO) at a cost of around $US 50,000 per

    Advantages

    • Built-in generator (VSG) and analyzer (VSA) in one instrument
    • Great insight into device behavior with detailed displays
    • API available (i.e. for MATLAB)
    • Timely updates as standards get updated
    • Ability to incorporate the Device Under Test (DUT) MAC address into the preamble – this is needed for putting most devices into test mode (without actually connecting to an access point) for Packet Error Rate (PER) testing

    Challenges

    • One of the more expensive solutions on the market (but then there’s only three)
    • Dedicated tester, limited usefulness for any other applications
    • Can be a challenge to get technical and sales support

    Link(s)

    http://www.litepoint.com/content/view/105/140/

    2. Agilent Oscilloscope w/89601 VSA Software

    • Required options 200 (Basic Vector Analysis) and 300 (Hardware Connectivity) to work with any hardware platform including oscillloscopes
    • Option B7Z required for 802.11n, if you also will be testing a/b/g then you’ll also need opt. B7R
    • You’ll need at least 6 GHz of bandwidth and at least 20GS/s (I recommend 40 Gs/s) if your DUT operates in the 5 GHz band (i.e. DSO90804A or a used DSO80604B)
    • Note: Tektronix also offers spectrum analysis software for their high-end oscilloscopes called SignalVu; however, it does not offer 802.11 demodulation nor the ability to assign individual displays to each channel

    Advantages

    • 4 independent channels – ability to view spectrum, amplitude, phase and demod on all channels in one view
    • Ability to add demodulation options to the 89601A VSA software (i.e. WiMAX, LTE, etc.)
    • General purpose instrument – possible to use for a variety of other applications

    Challenges

    • Oscilloscopes are not optimized for RF performance
    • Need to use external generator for receiver testing (i.e. PER)
    • Dealing with licensing and installation

    Link(s)

    Oscilloscopes: http://www.home.agilent.com/agilent/product.jspx?nid=-536902447.0.00&lc=eng&cc=US

    89601A VSA Software: http://www.home.agilent.com/agilent/product.jspx?nid=-35484.0.00&cc=US&lc=eng

    3. Agilent N4010A

    • Requires option 103 (802.11a/b/g) and Option 108 (802.11n)
    • Can test up to 4×4 MIMO using the N4011A expansion module

    Advantages

    • The least expensive of the options for testing up to 4×4 MIMO
    • Offers full suite of pre-loaded/configured tests for both transmit and receive (built-in VSG/VSA)

    Challenges

    • Appears to be targeted more to manufacturing, does not offer the level of insight/debugging as the Oscilloscope or Litepoint approach
    • Need to use external generator for receiver testing (i.e. PER)
    • Dedicated tester for WLAN, Bluetooth and Zigbee only – limited usefulness as a general purpose instrument

    Link(s)

    N4010A: http://www.home.agilent.com/agilent/product.jspx?cc=US&lc=eng&ckey=736843&nid=-536900799.536908552.00&id=736843

    N4011A: http://www.home.agilent.com/agilent/product.jspx?cc=US&lc=eng&nid=-536900799.382855&pageMode=OV

    Some great demo/tutorial videos: http://www.home.agilent.com/agilent/editorial.jspx?cc=US&lc=eng&ckey=1426165&nid=-34317.536883549.02&id=1426165

    Conclusion

    For those testing MIMO beyond 2×2, the options really do slim down to these three that I’ve been able to use/evaluate over the years. All of these allow for common transmitter measurements (i.e. EVM, I/Q parameters, center frequency, bandwidth, power, ACPR, demodulate to bit leve, etc.).

    If you know of any other solutions for testing 3×3 MIMO feel free to post them in the comment section.


    Streaming itunes via Bluetooth!

    July 19, 2009

    I’m excited about getting my car stereo that supports Bluetooth so I can stream music from my iPhone. This is especially true after having tried a number of FM modulators (where you tune to an FM station that the iphone/ipod is broadcasting to via an adapter) with no success due to a very crowded FM spectrum here in Portland. Check it out here: Parrot RK8200


    Top Tools for Sharing Ideas, Presentations and Concepts

    July 13, 2009

    The Center for Learning & Performance Technologies has released their 2009 top tools for learning professionals and I thought I’d highlight some of their listings and expand a bit with some of my personal favorites…

    Hey! Break free from the chains of slide addiction! We’ve all probably experienced the syndrome known as “Death by Powerpoint”, haven’t we? You know, those long, droning voices accompanying slide after slide after slide until you think, “Please, someone end my suffering, kill me (or this presenter) now!”

    I can actually recall inviting a subject matter expert to present on a topic and being asked, “How many slides do you need?” After a moment of stunned silence on my part I answered, “As many, or rather as few, as it takes to explain your topic to a level suitable to the audience; in fact, I think you should really blow their mind and not use slides at all.” Suffice to say it was then his turn to sit in stunned silence.

    There are alternatives to PowerPoint, here’s one that’s really cool: Prezi. Prezi is a zooming editor, in which you create a map of your ideas, images, videos, then show an overview and zoom to details. It’s based on mind mapping software, another cool tool for brainstorming if you’ve never used it, a couple favs are: Freemind and Bubble.us.

    If you prefer a traditional approach to creating and sharing slides but can’t (or don’t want to) afford the MS Office Suite or iWork, then use the OpenOffice.org tools; completely free suite to develop and edit: presentations, documents and spreadsheets that are compatible with the Microsoft (and Apple) versions.

    Once you’ve created your presentations (or documents, videos, etc.) and are ready to share them, you can do so using Slideshare or VoiceThread, both great tools! I especially like VoiceThread as it is very interactive, check out the demo for yourself. Of course, if you’re a Mac user, you already have access to some great tools like iChat (assuming your participants are all Mac users as well) or , if you have iWork, you can convert a recorded presentation to a Quicktime movie, an ipod/iphone compatible file or publish directly to Youtube.

    Feel free to view the entire report on all 25 of the top tools, many of them are a given (i.e. Twitter for micro-blogging) but some categories may have some alternative tools that are new to you.


    Free Netbooks!

    July 7, 2009

    Mobile carriers may start giving away netbooks for free, and Linux-based application stores could help them profit by doing it, the head of a Linux advocacy group told Chinese companies earlier this month.

    The move by carriers to sell netbooks at a discount and seek revenue from later application downloads is an opportunity for Linux, Jim Zemlin, executive director of the Linux Foundation, said at a Beijing forum. He urged Chinese and global companies to consider offering devices and download stores based on Linux.

    But while Linux has some advantages, user habits and slim software offerings on the operating system mean Windows will continue to dominate on netbooks in the near term, said Jack Gold, an analyst at J. Gold Associates.

    Selling discounted netbooks to users who buy a mobile data subscription would extend a sales strategy widely used for mobile phones. Carriers often sell phones for below retail price and let a user’s subscription fees make up for any loss.

    AT&T already sells subsidized 3G netbooks in the U.S., and China Mobile has announced similar plans. Carriers worldwide are likely considering the option, which lets them charge for added services like downloads of music, videos and software, said Gold.

    Those downloads could come from platforms like the iPhone App Store that target mainly mobile phones today.

    Competition could push netbook prices down as more carriers subsidize them, which would make putting Linux on the laptops an attractive way to cut costs, said Zemlin.
    Hmmm, things could get real interesting for Microsoft!
    “In less than a year, I predict that the new cost of a netbook will be zero,” Zemlin said.

    A carrier that creates its own application store using an open source OS also avoids having to share download revenue with the OS designer, he said. The carrier can then pocket more of the revenue itself under any split arranged with application developers, he said.

    But users could find Linux limiting. Linux does not support the wide pool of programs that Windows does, and most users favor Windows because they are more familiar with its interface, said Gold, the analyst.

    Carriers would also incur costs by customizing Linux to create their own download stores, or by handing the task to a device maker, said Gold.

    Windows could get another boost if the low-end version of Windows 7 proves effective on netbooks when the new OS comes out this year, he said.

    But it remains attractive for carriers to subsidize netbooks, which costs less than doing so for a high-end smartphone, Gold said. Netbooks can run from US$300 to $400 off the shelf, while an iPhone is $599, he said.

    Some Linux-based download stores are already open or in the works. The Android Market for phones and upcoming netbooks is based on Google’s Android OS, which uses a Linux kernel. China Mobile plans to open an application store based on an Android-based mobile OS it is developing.