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ThingMagic Upgrades Flagship Reader

RFID reader manufacturer ThingMagic yesterday released an upgrade to MercuryOS, the software operating system that controls the features and performance of the company's line of Mercury4 readers.
Jul 27, 2005This article was originally published by RFID Update.

July 27, 2005—RFID reader manufacturer ThingMagic of Cambridge, Massachusetts, yesterday released an upgrade to MercuryOS, the software operating system that controls the features and performance of the company's line of Mercury4 readers. The result of the upgrade, dubbed MercuryOS 2.2 Shannon, is that the Mercury4 reader now offers greater functionality including enhanced security, optimized reading capabilities, and expanded RFID tag support.

RFID Update spoke with ThingMagic Director of Marketing Kevin Ashton, who emphasized improved scalability as the upgrade's key theme. In the first place, ThingMagic has rid MercuryOS of the Telnet application, which is used to remotely access the reader, and replaced it with the far more secure SSH and SSL. The technologies together offer similar remote administration capabilities as those of Telnet but in a highly secure, encrypted, password-protected fashion. Ashton said that in working with many enterprise clients deploying RFID, ThingMagic encountered significant pushback from IT people uncomfortable with the possible security vulnerabilities posed by adding RFID readers to a network. "What we found in deployments is that the CIO would look at an RFID reader and say, 'No, you're not putting that on our network.'" As a result, readers would be installed on isolated, parallel networks, "islands" unto their own. "This practice is not very scalable and significantly hampers the performance of a true enterprise-wide deployment," said Ashton. ThingMagic expects to have addressed this issue with the increased security of the MercuryOS upgrade. "You can just stick a Mercury4 reader on your network with no risk of security breach, and its data can seamlessly flow from your RFID deployment into your enterprise systems."

The other enhancement to MercuryOS that will improve scalability is its optimized performance for reading tags from tagged items moving down high-speed conveyors. With MercuryOS 2.2, Mercury4 readers can read a tag on an object moving at 600 feet per minute in 12 milliseconds (in controlled, simulated situations). The addition of this capability was again driven by demand from customers with an eye towards scalability. "If you are the VP of supply chain, you can't ask that your conveyor belt be slowed down to accommodate the RFID reader's speed," noted Ashton. Instead, ThingMagic hopes that the reader upgrade will exceed the "very high bar of performance" necessary to ensure that the RFID deployment does not itself become a pain point and that it can scale across an enterprise's fast-moving supply chain.

The upgrade also expands the number of tags supported, with the most significant development being full support for all of the Matrics Class 0+ capabilities (previously, the Mercury4 could not utilize the tag's kill and lock capabilities). The upgrade is included in the cost of the standard Mercury4 license, so those customers whose license is current can upgrade at no additional cost. Consistent with the company's belief in "software defined radio," the upgrade to the readers is purely a software upgrade; no hardware modifications or field workers are necessary. Already deployed Mercury4 readers can be "upgraded remotely," said Ashton. "It takes 60 seconds to do it across the whole network."

Read the press release from ThingMagic
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