Semiconductor giant Intel this week is scheduled to begin production on R1000 chips, which are expected to enable smaller and less expensive RFID readers in the UHF band, an Intel official said.

With longer range and faster read rates than RFID technologies in lower bands, UHF RFID has greater potential to serve the asset-tracking needs of enterprises at all levels, said Kerry Krause, Intel’s director of marketing for RFID operations. Standards in the sector mean UHF RFID tag prices “have dropped like a rock” during the past two years, reaching a commodity level at 7 cents per tag, he said.

“With maturing standards and cheap tags, the missing piece really was on the reader side,” Krause said. “With the Intel R1000, we’re taking the most expensive and complex part of today’s UHF readers—the radio—and integrating about 90% of the components into a single chip.”

Intel’s R1000 is a complete transceiver that provides transmit/receive, modulation/demodulation and baseband functionality and replaces more than 100 RF components valued at more than $100, Krause said. In addition, the chip includes low-power amplification for short-range applications and supports external power for longer-range applications, he said.

This flexibility is significant, as the R1000 can serve as the building block for a variety of UHF RFID readers, from small handheld readers—something that “just wasn’t feasible” before—to high-performance readers utilized on loading docks, Krause said.

“Historically, there had been some reader vendors that focused on one end or the other,” Krause said. “[The R1000] makes it easy for reader vendors to develop products for the full range of form factors.”

In fact, one Intel customer—Deister Electronics of Germany—is doing just that, having demonstrated a short-range receiver that is about the size of a computer mouse and a dock-door reader using the same R1000 chip, Krause said. Being able to use the same chip technology for so many RFID readers will help simplify the application-development process for software vendors and make it easier for enterprise IT departments to manage RFID systems—all of which improves the economies of scale for the R1000.

With large-scale production of R1000 chips underway, products utilizing the technology should be on the market soon, Krause said.

“We have about 10 manufacturers that will be shipping R1000 products by the end of the second quarter,” he said. “We have an additional 20 customers scheduled to launch products in the second half of the year.”