Traditional applications for UHF passive RFID readers were designed to provide data from RFID tags attached to items on where those items are in a business or process. Each antenna attached to a fixed reader can be assigned a location ID for RFID data collection purposes, meaning that when that antenna reads a tag, you know where the item is by the antenna’s location ID.
These reader/antenna combinations are typically installed at strategic choke points where items pass through to capture items — for instance, as items pass into or out of inventory, or as items pass into or off a truck for shipping and receiving purposes. Passive RFID readers and antennas have proven very effective for these types of applications and will for years to come.
But over the past couple of years, powerful new RFID technologies have emerged.
These new RFID systems, referred to as RFID gateways, go well beyond traditional RFID fixed reader capabilities in that they provide the capability to track and report the movement of RFID tags, and to capture a large population of RFID tags by monitoring a large area or floor space.
These gateways differ from traditional readers in that they are equipped with many dual polarized antennas that produce a 2D array, which provides coverage of a specific location or space. This functionality allows the gateway to read an RFID tag producing not only the tag ID but also capture the X and Y coordinates of where the tag is located within the gateway’s assigned space. XY positioning is what enables the gateways to provide location data for a large population of tags in a defined floor space and report when any or all of those tags move. In essence, these RFID gateways truly provide real-time locating capability at a fraction of the cost of legacy real-time location systems (RTLS).
There are many applications for this exciting new technology. Retailers are the embracing these new RFID gateway systems to provide them real-time, all-the-time visibility of their instore inventories. For instance, you may have seen that Macy’s is planning to implement an RFID solution to track every item in their stores.
Manufacturers are implementing gateways to monitor personnel for safety and security purposes, to improve logistics planning, and to improve work in process (WIP) and line-side inventory replenishment. The new RFID gateways provide a cost-effective way to produce a real-time locating system to track and assist in securing your most important people and assets.
Another important advantage of the RFID gateways versus traditional fixed readers is that they are much easier to install. The gateways are single-unit enclosures that contain the RFID reader and all the antennas in a simple slim line enclosure.
We have all struggled with the installation of traditional fixed RFID readers. Each antenna must be mounted separately and attached to the reader by a cable — so with traditional readers you must install the reader (sometimes in an enclosure), mount each antenna (usually with a mounting kit), and install and route each antenna cable and then provide power to the reader either power over Ethernet (POE) or AC power. Installations of this type can become quite costly.
With the new RFID gateway systems, you simply mount the gateway to the ceiling (mounting kits available) or wall and plug in a POE cable, and the installation is done. Much simpler and less costly.
The new RFID gateway systems bring more power than ever to the UHF passive RFID space, providing true RTLS capability while substantially reducing installation costs. They are truly a game-changer.