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Zebra's Sled Reader Enables UHF RFID Tag Reads Via Smartphone

The RFD8500 reads EPC UHF RFID tags and sends that data to iOS and some Android devices via a Bluetooth connection, enabling users, such as store personnel, to collect read data on their mobile devices.
By Claire Swedberg
Apr 22, 2015

At last week's RFID Journal LIVE! exhibition and conference, Zebra Technologies announced an RFID sled known as the RFD8500 that will enable users of smartphones and other mobile devices to read EPC ultrahigh-frequency (UHF) RFID tags by connecting their Android or iOS devices to the reader via Bluetooth. Zebra has already tested and approved the RFD8500 for use with Apple's iPhone 6, iPad and iPod Touch, as well as Zebra's Android-based mobile devices, such as the TC55 and MC40. The company also expects to eventually test and approve the RFD8500 for use with Android smartphones and tablets, according to Chris Schaefer, Zebra's market-development senior director, following the RFD8500's anticipated availability in September.

The RFD8500 sled, which comes with UHF RFID reader hardware developed by Zebra for this specific product, is designed to be light and ergonomically comfortable for use in indoor settings, the company reports. To operate the device, an individual could either attach a compatible phone to the RFD8500 by simply sliding it onto the sled's top, or carry it on his or her person. The reader captures UHF RFID data from standard UHF tags when it comes within range of them, and that information is then transmitted to the user's mobile phone or tablet that is paired to that reader, via a Bluetooth connection. If the user does not want to carry a phone or tablet at the time he or she is reading tags, the RFD8500 can automatically store the collected read data until it comes within range of the tablet or phone—about 10 meters (33 feet). The phone or tablet could then forward that information to a server via a Wi-Fi, cellular or Bluetooth connection.

The RFD8500 with Zebra's MC-40 Android computer
A single sled will be compatible with both iOS and Android devices so that it could be used by multiple devices at a single site, such as a store, says Altaf Mulla, Zebra's product management director for RFID and other data capture systems (DCS). The sled's rechargeable battery has a full-shift (eight-hour) life range. It supports two mounting options—a custom adaptor and a quad-lock adaptor—to allow a range of Zebra computers, smartphones and third-party devices to be easily attached. Additionally, the RFD8500 will support select features of the EPC Gen2v2 standard, in order to provide retailers with additional protection of consumer privacy and against counterfeit products. The company plans to announce other details about the RFD8500, including its pricing and expected read range, sometime in July 2015.

Once it is commercially released five months from now, the RFD8500 will join several other already-available products designed to bring UHF RFID read capability to a smartphone or tablet, including devices from CipherLab, Technology Solutions Ltd. (TSL) and U Grok It. TSL's 1128 Bluetooth UHF RFID reader is a sled designed to accommodate a variety of smartphones and other handheld devices, regardless of operating system platform (including iOS and Android, as well as Microsoft Windows Mobile, Windows Phone 8 and WinCE). The 1228 has a price of about $1,400 and a range of approximately 2 meters (6.6 feet). U Grok It sells a simpler sled-like product with a read range of up to 7 meters (23 feet), at a price of $500. The company is currently developing solutions with which the reader could be used. Though not a sled device, CipherLab's recently released 1862 UHF RFID Bluetooth Reader is the latest in the 1860 series of handheld readers that pair with mobile devices via a Bluetooth connection. The 1862 is priced at $1,700 and offers a read range of up to 6 meters (19.7 feet).

The RFD8500 UHF RFID Bluetooth reader follows the 2013 release of Zebra's RFD5500 sled, which works with the company's MC55, MC65 and MC67 family of mobile computers based on the Windows Mobile operating system (see Motorola Sled Reader Adds Low-Cost RFID Functionality to Mobile Computers). The RFD5500 sled was Zebra's first product for adding EPC UHF RFID functionality to its existing mobile computers.

USER COMMENTS

Luis Wu 2015-05-01 12:28:51 PM
CipherLab's 1862 list price is US$1,200, not $1,700. You may find less than $800 on reseller's website. The working hour is 8 hours and 2 batteries with charger are included in the standard package.

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