An east Mesa company is creating a buzz in high-tech circles by producing radio frequency identification and locating devices that keep track of high-value assets ranging from helicopter parts to kids at amusement parks.
RF Code, 1250 S. Clearview Ave., won the Small Business Innovator of the Year Award early this month from the Arizona Technology Council. The award, part of the Governor’s Celebration of Innovation competition, is given each year to an Arizona-based company with less than $50 million in annual revenue that has achieved business success and technical innovation.
The award will give a boost to the firm’s marketing efforts, adding to its credibility with current and future partners, said Kevin Hanson, executive vice president and chief financial officer.
“It is a reflection that the general technology and business community is beginning to recognize the value of active radio frequency identification and real-time locating systems,” he said.
In its nine years of existence, RF Code has gone through one name change and a few changes in business direction.
Formed in 1997 under the name of E-Code, the company originally developed “passive” electronic tags, a bar code-type of technology used to keep track of inventory. While doing work for customers in Japan, company officials became convinced there was a better business opportunity in “active” radio frequency tags that send out constant signals with longer ranges and could keep track of more expensive mission-critical parts.
When the company’s new RF tag and reader, called the SpiderTag, won the top award at the 1999 Comdex electronic trade show in Las Vegas, the
company became firmly established in the market.
The company changed its name to RF Code in 2000 to reflect the change in technology, and since then the firm has introduced a second-generation tag called the Mantis II that can have options attached such as infrared, motion and tamper sensors.
Then in 2003 the company introduced a data management software system called Tavis, — for total asset visibility, — that can process data from a network of tags placed throughout a warehouse or building to generate reports about the status and location of parts and products.
In June 2005, the company received $20 million in venture capital funding from QuestMark Partners of Baltimore and Intel Capital, the venture capital organization of Intel Corp.
The company selected Mesa for its headquarters because several employees and founders of the company lived in the area.
“There were many new office and industrial properties going up at the time, so we had quite a few options for our headquarters,” Hanson said.
The company leases its space on Clearview Avenue for offices, test labs, warehouse space, assembly areas and meeting rooms. In 2000, the company opened its software division in Las Vegas.
RF Code’s technology has found uses at such diverse places as the Corpus Christi, Texas, Army Depot to keep track of helicopter parts and the Wild Rivers Waterpark in Irvine, Calif., for wrist bands that allow parents to keep tabs on their kids.
Hospitals are also using the tags to keep track of high-value medical equipment.
RF Code, which has about 50 employees, usually works with partners that incorporate the radio frequency technology in their electronic tracking systems for sale to end users.
One partner, Miami, Fla.-based SYMX, is including the technology in projects that it develops for hospitals. SYMX President Tim Callahan said the system is well suited to health care because of its precision in locating equipment down to the room level.
“Coupling it with other technologies such as infrared and other capabilities has taken it to another level,” he said.
RF Code officials believe their tracking technology has potential uses far beyond the industries that have adopted it so far.
“The market ... is just beginning to mature,” Hanson said.