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Key Findings from RFID Reader Benchmark

ODIN technologies has released the latest in its RFID hardware benchmark series, this one covering Gen2 readers. The , sponsored by Unisys, includes the test results and analysis of seven RFID readers currently in production. RFID Update spoke with ODIN's chief operating officer Bret Kinsella about the findings.
May 12, 2006This article was originally published by RFID Update.

May 12, 2006—ODIN technologies has released the latest in its RFID hardware benchmark series, this one covering Gen2 readers. The Gen 2 RFID Reader Benchmark, sponsored by Unisys, includes the test results and analysis of seven RFID readers currently in production. RFID Update spoke with ODIN's chief operating officer Bret Kinsella about the findings.

The resounding conclusion from ODIN's testing is the maturity of Gen2 reader technology. Kinsella echoed what many end users -- notably Wal-Mart -- have been saying: Gen2 is a significant improvement over Gen1. "Gen2 is ready for primetime now," said Kinsella. "End users should expect very good performance from properly deployed Gen2 systems."

He also noted that Gen2 technology itself has improved dramatically even in the first few months of 2006. "Gen2 performance as of May is even better than the Gen2 performance you would have found at the beginning of January." Such progress is often a double-edged sword, however, in that it causes would-be purchasers to wait out of concern that a technology investment will rapidly become obsolete. That's an unnecessary concern in this case, asserts Kinsella, who sees the Gen2 reader technology advancements plateauing in the short term. "The platform has stabilized and is very effective right now."

While there was no winner among the tested readers, Kinsella remarked that "Symbol and Alien continue to distinguish themselves as high-performance, low-risk options for deployment." But he was keen to note that no single reader is the correct choice for every deployment. "There are still differences," he said, "and it's important for end users to know that they need to select a reader that meets their particular performance profile." The readers featured in the benchmark are: ODIN tested a number of common reader use cases, such as positioning on dock doors, conveyors, and stretch wrappers. The characteristics measured and analyzed relate to distance, power output, receive sensitivity, interference rejection/dense reader mode, and time to read tag population.

In addition to hard numbers, the report includes industry analysis with respect to the selection of RFID readers. Kinsella noted that a key consideration beyond hardware performance is the long-term stability and support resources of the reader vendor. The report specifically considers three of the biggest developments in the reader space to occur in 2006: the widely-reported Wal-Mart and Albertsons reader purchases (see Wal-Mart to Buy 15k RFID Readers; Albertsons 5k), the acquisition of SAMSys by Sirit (see RFID Reader Company SAMSys Sells Assets), and AWID's FCC compliance issues (see RFID Reader Maker Announces FCC Problems). While ODIN did not perform FCC compliance testing on the featured readers, Kinsella did say that he understands them all to be domestically certified.

ODIN's timing for the benchmark release was deliberate. Wal-Mart has set a June 30th sunset date for Gen1, meaning all those first- and second-wave suppliers currently shipping Gen1-tagged product will need to upgrade to Gen2 in the coming months. Furthermore, the Wal-Mart "Next 300", whose compliance deadline looms in January, will also be deploying and in the market for Gen2 readers.

The 55-page Gen 2 RFID Reader Benchmark costs $1,500 and is available for purchase on ODIN's website.
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