Newest crop of RFID readers and tags blooming for spring
The ODIN engineering team made a full on assault of RFID Journal Live this year, the 10th Anniversary edition. It was clear that the show had changed significantly, from a showcase for end-users to now (indicative of the RFID market) a marketplace for software and integration companies to learn about the latest-and-greatest products to make their clients more successful in adopting RFID solutions.
The first class of products I'll cover in this completely non-scientific review (I know, not very ODIN-like) is the latest readers.
RFID Reader Innovations
Microelectronics Technology Inc (MTI), displayed the RFID Mini ME that converts Android smartphones and tablets into UHF RFID Readers. MTI provides a low level command set API that integrates with the Android 4.0 SDK. MTI RFID ME™ GUI can be downloaded for free as an Android app at Google Play. MINI ME™ is just 38mm x 33mm x 15 mm and has adjustable output power control.
Impinj showed the Antenna Hub, a MUX device that allows a single R420 reader to control up to 32 antennas, as well as a new firmware to make integration of the MUX a seamless experience. This is ideal for areas that need blanket RF coverage in a close zone, such as RF-enabled retail shelves.
Improvements in RFID Tagging Capabilities
The Murata MAGICSTRAP and the NXP UCODE I2C chips are UHF chips designed for placement on a PCB of a laptop, tablet, phone or any other electronic device. Both devices come with application guides for PCB design engineers. The NXP chip communicates with the host processor over I2C, allowing pre-configuration of a device without turning it on.
Figure 2: The Murata MAGICSTRAP on a PCB
Xerafy and Omni-ID both showed solutions for tagging hand tools by tool manufacturers. Both companies worked with Cribmaster, a division of Stanley Black and Decker to come up with methods to attach tags to sockets, wrenches, screwdrivers, and similar hand tools. This is a huge improvement over the standard approach of using adhesives and heat-shrink, which interfere with the use of the tools and are at risk of falling off.
Additionally, both Xerafy and Omni-ID showed new metal mount tags thin enough to be printed and encoded with standard RFID label printer/encoders. Printer manufacturers said there will be some adjustment needed to make the tags print well, but not too much. Both companies showed a tag with approximate dimensions of 4" x 1" and promised more form factors in the future.
Figure 3: Omni-ID's tool tags on right and Xerafy's printable tags on left