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Design of UHF-based RFID Systems
In order to deploy radio frequency identification to its maximum potential, be sure to consider real-life usage scenarios of a product by an end user, take into account deployment scalability and support, and understand the technology and its limitations.
Therefore, a good understanding of the environment in which the application will be deployed is a must. Every installation could be different, as every area has its own workflow, which is why it is important to consider how and where to install the readers and antennas before actually deploying them, so as to find out whether or not it works. Considering end-user requirements will help us provide them with the confidence they would need in using the system, as most RFID systems need users to embrace the technology to make it successful. This is because the system may not be self-correcting due to the nature of the technology, so the antennas or portals would not read 100 percent of tags all the time.
That is why user engagement is important to understand the limitations of a workflow, and to come up with backup applications (like handheld readers to interrogate any tags missed by an antenna) to increase the readability to its maximum level. Therefore, to ensure the successful deployment of a product, the design needs to be carefully considered before the actual work is carried out. In the end, it's the customer usability acceptance of the product which will make it a success.
A few best practices that would ensure a successful deployment include surveying a site for potential RF interference, including other RF systems in the ecosystem in which the product is being installed. Doing this before the actual deployment will help to reduce errors in the system post-installation. Another example could be to make sure the tags are placed in the right location for tracking—for example, leave air gaps in between a tag and the surface of the item to which it is attached when tracking metal or liquids. If the application uses motion detectors, a combination of antennas, along with the readers, needs to be optimized to reduce any interference between devices.
When it comes to scaling the solution to larger areas, there are two major aspects to ensuring that the product is able to scale successfully: The architecture of the product needs to support multiple read points (readers, antennas and so on) and should process all tags with minimal or no errors, and the software created for the application needs to be designed to accommodate the database requirements of all tag data being collected over time. The product also needs to be designed to adapt to changes in customer requirements and feedback, in order to improve the efficiency and features of the system.
In summary, understanding the problem statement of what we are trying to resolve using RFID technology will help us to choose the right frequency, and we need to ensure that the system design is simple yet efficient. Designing the solution by considering real-life usage scenarios of the product by an end user, and taking into account the deployment scalability and support while understanding the technology and its limitations, will help us to use RFID to its maximum potential and serve business needs.
Akshay Bal is a global RFID technology expert at Abbott Diagnostics.
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