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In September of 2012, 3M acquired Federal Signals Technologies (FSTech) from Federal Signal Corporations. FSTech competed in electronic toll collection (ETC) and automatic vehicle identification (AVI) markets through its subsidiary Sirit, a passive UHF solutions provider specializing in readers. With the acquisition, 3M aimed to increase its overall RFID presence, augmenting its strong position in the high frequency (HF)-focused e-ID (i.e., e-passport) market. Sirit’s high-performance readers were also being used by customers in supply chain environments for work-in-process, asset management, item-level and other applications.
In a letter addressing 3M customers, the company announced the narrowing of their RFID practice to eliminate supply chain technology production and focus exclusively on parking and tolling applications in the transportation market, including Automated Vehicle Identification (AVI), Electronic Vehicle Registration (EVR), and Intelligent Transportation Systems (ITS) applications. Sirit, which leveraged reader technology from peers such as Motorola, was no longer a competitor in industrial sectors.
The timing of this announcement was interesting because it was weeks before a patent lawsuit was settled between Neology (a subsidiary of SMARTRAC) and 3M over ISO 18000-6C technology made by Sirit (acquired by 3M as part of the September 2012 deal with FSTech). The settlement allows SMARTRAC, Neology, and 3M access to the others’ RFID technology in the transportation market and includes an undisclosed payment by 3M.18000-6C technology is the hottest new technology in the automatic tolling and electronic vehicle registration (EVR) sectors because of its long range, lower costs and high performance versus alternative solutions. However, deployments to date have been largely limited to new installations where toll roads and existing infrastructure are not present (i.e., Brazil).