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ODIN Technologies, Virginia company focused on RFID deployments, acquires Reva Systems for undisclosed sum

Posted by Scott Kirsner  December 9, 2010 03:11 PM

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Remember RFID tags? They were gonna be on everything?

Radio-frequency identification was one of the biggest areas of promise — and hype — in the post-dot com era. MIT's Auto-ID Center was formed to proselytize about the "Internet of things," the notion that products ought to be trackable and readily identifiable as they zoomed around the global supply chain, and that RFID tags would replace the stodgy old UPC code.

The arrival of RFID, like every other hotly-heralded revolution, has been happening more slowly than everyone expected. And some of the more promising start-ups (including two spun out of MIT's early research in RFID) have been gobbled up by larger players for undisclosed amounts. ThingMagic raised about $30 million and was acquired in October by Trimble. OATSystems raised about $25 million and was bought by CheckPoint Systems two years ago, for who knows how much. (Alien Technologies, a California maker of RFID tags and readers, filed for an IPO but never got public.)

And just today, another acquisition closed: Virginia-based ODIN Technologies, a small firm that sells RFID-related software and services, is buying Westford-based Reva Systems — once more, for an undisclosed sum. Reva had raised about $35 million in funding, much of it from North Bridge, Charles River Ventures, and Cisco.

Patrick J. Sweeney II, ODIN's founder, says that Reva will become his firm's Massachusetts office, and he'll retain about ten members of Reva's technology team. While Reva's chief executive, Bruce Berger, installed just last year, won't stay after the acquisition, Sweeney tells me that co-founder Ashley Stephenson and technology vice president Scott Barvick will. Sweeney also plans to hire more engineers (Java developers specifically) in Massachusetts.

Sweeney says that ODIN primarily puts together RFID systems for clients in healthcare, government, and financial services. He found Reva appealing for the real-time location system it developed using inexpensive, "passive" RFID tags, which don't require a battery. "It's exactly what hospitals are looking for," Sweeney says. "A typical tag in an active system costs $50 or $60 bucks. That makes sense for an infusion pump or an EKG machine, but you wouldn't put it on a floor mat or a pair of scrubs. The passive tags are about a dime apiece, or even cheaper in volume, and you can put them on everything. The holy grail has been passive real-time location systems, but no one has been able to figure out the complexity."

Sweeney, who is originally from Belmont and earned his undergrad degree from the University of New Hampshire, started ODIN in 2002. (In 2005, he authored the inevitable book "RFID for Dummies.") The company has just over 40 employees, and Sweeney says it was built without venture capital funding. Early on, he hired Daniel Engels as a consultant to Odin; Engels was the former head of research at MIT's Auto-ID Center.

ODIN's acquisition of Reva is "a mostly stock deal, with a little bit of cash," Sweeney says, declining to specify how much he's paying. As for whether Reva's investors are happy with the outcome, Sweeney says they may not be crowing about the return on their investment, but, "I think the Charles River and North Bridge guys probably think that the combination of the two companies, and our upside as the leader in the space, have the potential to get them there." Meaning: their stake in privately-held ODIN may prove valuable some day.

I placed calls this morning to Mike Zak at Charles River and Jamie Goldstein at North Bridge, but haven't heard back yet.

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Scott Kirsner was part of the team that launched Boston.com in 1995, and has been writing a column for the Globe since 2000. His work has also appeared in Wired, Fast Company, The New York Times, BusinessWeek, Newsweek, and Variety. Scott is also the author of the books "Fans, Friends & Followers" and "Inventing the Movies," was the editor of "The Convergence Guide: Life Sciences in New England," and was a contributor to "The Good City: Writers Explore 21st Century Boston." Scott also helps organize several local events on entrepreneurship, including the Nantucket Conference and Future Forward. Here's some background on how Scott decides what to cover, and how to pitch him a story idea.

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