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Supervision Sees a Market for Fixed Battery-powered UHF Readers

The company says its readers will be so inexpensive and easy to deploy that they can be installed in every doorway, thereby providing room-level visibility at less cost than an RTLS.
By Claire Swedberg
Jun 29, 2015

Supervision, an RFID technology startup company based in Boise, Idaho, is about to launch a health-care clinic pilot aimed at offering visibility into the movements of assets and personnel with a fast and easy installation at a fraction of the cost of most real-time location systems (RTLS). The solution consists of wireless battery-powered RFID readers affixed in doorways to monitor who and what enters and leaves a specific area, based on the reading of ultrahigh-frequency (UHF) tags on assets, such as medical equipment, and worn in staff badges.

Steve Jessup, Supervision's manager, says his company is challenging what he calls the misperception that RTLS with active RFID or Wi-Fi is the only way to effectively track people and things in a health-care environment.

The battery-powered Doorway Monitor reader comes with an integrated antenna and is designed to capture the IDs of passing tags and forward that data to a gateway via a Bluetooth connection.
Supervision's battery-powered readers are easier to install than wired fixed UHF reader portals, the company reports, and require less manual intervention to operate than a handheld interrogator. Additionally, the firm expects its solution to compete with RTLS solutions since the relatively low cost of readers—less than $1,000 apiece—makes it possible to put them around a facility in large numbers to achieve, for instance, room-level accuracy.

Traditionally, RTLS solutions employ battery-powered tags and are more expensive than passive RFID installations, over time, based on the tags' relatively high purchase price and their need for maintenance and battery replacement.

Supervision's Steve Jessup
Supervision's Doorway Monitor readers, on the other hand, can work with any standard EPC Gen 2 passive UHF tags, which are generally much cheaper than battery-powered tags. The Doorway Monitor reader, which measures approximately 6 inches by 5 inches by 4 inches, comes with an integrated antenna and is made with Supervision's recently released Lite RF reader module. Supervision is also marketing the reader module, which comes in the form of a printed circuit board, to original equipment manufacturers (OEMs) at a price under $300. The module weighs 7 grams (0.25 ounce), and measures 1.3 inches by 1.4 inches—small enough that it can be fitted into a handheld PDA, as well as in a fixed reader.

When the Doorway Monitor reader interrogates a tag, it transmits the captured data to a gateway via a Bluetooth connection. The gateway, plugged directly into a PC or laptop, then forwards that information to software on the user's database, or hosted in the cloud. The reader is designed to be low-power, so its batteries require recharging only about once every four to six months, depending on the activity level. Because so many fewer readers are used than tags, this makes battery maintenance much easier compared with a system that employs thousands of active tags attached to assets or individuals moving around a facility.

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