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EXI Broadens Its RTLS Platform

In an effort to expand its offerings beyond healthcare into industrial applications, eXI Wireless has developed software that adds support for UHF tags and readers.
By Jonathan Collins
Nov 04, 2004Canadian RFID systems provider eXI Wireless has developed its first software platform able to be deployed across its core RFID proprietary asset- and people-tracking systems. The new software will also be its first to support UHF tags and readers.
Alan Foster

Headquartered in Richmond, B.C., the company has built its business developing 433 MHz active-tag RFID-based real-time location systems (RTLS) for access control, and for tracking assets, staff and patients at healthcare facilities. Its new e-Tegra software is the company's initial step to expand its offerings beyond healthcare into industrial applications.

The company believes that by bringing passive UHF technology to its offerings, it can support a wider range of applications and potential RFID deployments. "We can provide a more expansive offering. We are not just selling UHF but HF, active and passive tags as well as bar code," says Alan Foster, president of eXI Wireless.

The new e-Tegra offering works with the company's existing eLink Network Manager (eNM) unit, a device for converting data transmissions using the RS-485 protocol to those using TCP so that data can be directly routed onto IP-based networks. The eNM unit supports the company's own 433 MHz active RFID tags and RFID readers to manage data collection as well as decision processing and integration with external resources and applications. Integrated with e-Tegra, however, the eNM unit can act as a network element that polls up to 128 nodes connected to it. With its own processor and local database, the eNM, when combined with e-Tegra, condenses information from nodes such as RFID readers and door portals with an ID reader and forwards the data to the main application server for further processing. It also monitors devices connected to it regarding communication. If a node's communication link or power is disconnected and the node is therefore not functional, the eNM will forward this information as well.

EXI's systems traditionally have supported only the company's own access-control readers for its 433 MHz active tag systems, as well as dual-mode handheld devices that scan bar code and read 13.56 MHz tags. The company, however, says it is working with UHF RFID equipment suppliers to enable e-Tegra to work with those suppliers' tags and readers.

"We are testing various 900 MHz UHF tags at the moment," says eXI's director of business development, Harald Fritz.

The company envisions its e-Tegra software supporting industrial RFID deployments where a variety of RFID technologies and frequencies are used side by side. For example, says Forster, the system could support the tracking of the individual components used to build aircraft engines. The components could be tagged with active tags, while cheaper, passive UHF tags could be used on the containers the items are stored in.

To integrate with enterprise software, e-Tegra uses XML-based APIs to provide a standardized connection between eXI systems and existing or customized applications. In addition to playing a middleware role connecting RFID readers with enterprise applications, e-Tegra software also brings decision-processing capabilities to eXI's systems, enabling them to automatically respond to RFID reads based on tag associations. For example, the software could automatically associate certain assets with individual staff members or raise alarms when items or individuals leave defined areas.

The company sells its systems to both end users and as an OEM product for system integrators and application developers to develop their own specific systems. For end users, eXI says pricing for e-Tegra will be determined related to the number of nodes that the software will be supporting. Typical deployments, say the company, will vary from $10,000 to $40,000.

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