Impinj, which offers UHF Gen2 radio-frequency identification solutions, is buying Intel's UHF RFID reader chip operation.
Impinj officials said the acquisition, announced July 10, will round out the company's RFID portfolio. Financial details were not disclosed.
"Impinj has the high-performance Speedway RFID reader on the market for long-range applications," said Kerry Krause, vice president of reader chip products for Impinj. "The Intel reader chip line takes a majority of the complex RFID design and integrates it into the R1000 chip."
Krause said the R1000 chip, which Intel launched in 2007, integrates 90 percent of the components required for a reader radio and will allow Impinj to reach the full RFID market and all RFID reader form factors.
"It's a perfect match for Impinj to enable all our customers' UHF RFID needs," Krause said. "Across vertical markets, end users are finding an increase in the applications for RFID."
Krause said Impinj will now be able to offer RFID solutions in fixed, mobile and embedded reader form factors for a wider range of applications, including manufacturing, asset control and tracking, and item authentication. He said the capabilities of the R1000 chip allow readers to be smaller, use less power and be more cost-effective.
For the retail industry, Krause said the acquisition will help RFID systems move from the back end to the store.
"Deployment of RFID in retail started in the back room and in DCs [distribution centers], tracking cases and pallets," he said. "In the early days, there were readers arranged around the loading dock door."
As a result of technological advancements such as the R1000 chip, Krause said retailers have more recently been able to use handheld RFID readers and mount them on conveyor belts in DCs.
"Retailers are getting much better supply chain visibility and tracking products better throughout the DC and the store," he said. "The vision is to put better technology at the front of the store. This type of technology is essential for the evolution of that RFID usage model to happen."
Mike Liard, director of RFID and contactless research for ABI Research, said by acquiring Intel's business, Impinj can build on its historic strength in developing RFID tags with Intel's reader capabilities.
"Impinj has always understood the real importance of owning as much of the interface as possible," Liard said. "The way tags and readers interact is basically a handshake, and that handshake happens on silicon. Purchasing Intel will improve Impinj's IC [integrated circuit] capabilities on the reader side."
Liard echoed Krause's comments about new form factors and lower costs for Impinj RFID readers.
"Historically, price point is an issue for adoption of RFID," he said. "We have done lots as an industry to reduce costs on the tag side, but there is a cost concern on the reader and infrastructure side. It will be great to have the reader cost come down as well."
Dan Berthiaume covers the retail space for eWEEK. For more industry news, check out eWEEK.com's Retail Site.