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New Mobile Active RFID Reader Goes Anywhere

RF Code's new Bluetooth-enabled mobile reader lets any Bluetooth device -- including smart phones, handheld computers and notebooks -- run active RFID applications. The reader also works without a computer and can store tag reads for later processing. The reader is being promoted for IT asset management and other applications.
Sep 14, 2007This article was originally published by RFID Update.

September 14, 2007—Bluetooth-enabled smart phones, PDAs, handheld computers, and notebooks now can easily read active RFID tags and run related applications. RF Code announced a new mobile active reader with a Bluetooth interface for use with any other Bluetooth device. The company also released a sample asset tracking application for the reader that can run on BlackBerry, Windows Mobile, and Windows XP devices.

RF Code CEO Mitch Medford told RFID Update the new M220 mobile reader makes it easy and cost effective for companies to do frequent asset audits and inventory checks.

"One of our beta customers is using the mobile Bluetooth reader to perform simple asset audits inside their buildings. They used to have a highly paid IT guy -- with a six-figure salary -- crawling around under every desk to scan the asset bar code label. Now he just walks down the aisle with this reader and everything is recorded on his PDA," said Medford. "The customer said it used to take ten people four weeks to take a manual inventory, and now they can cover a facility in 30 seconds."

The M220 works with RF Code's family of 433 MHz active RFID tags and has a range of approximately 70 meters. It weighs 5.2 ounces and measures 4.37 by 3.01 by 0.99 inches. A belt clip and shoulder strap are available, and the reader can also be mounted to a desk, cart, or vehicle. It can be used indoors or out.

The device can interface with computers through Bluetooth or a USB cable. It can also be used without a computer to store up to 4,000 tag reads. One customer may install the reader on the carts its cleaning crews use. As the crews make their rounds each night, the reader would automatically identify all tagged assets and their locations. The reader would be downloaded to a PC the next day to generate a report if any assets are missing or out of place.

Security staff could use the readers in a similar manner as they make rounds. Alerts could be sent to a Bluetooth-enabled cell phone, pager, or PDA, or the data could simply be stored on the mobile reader for later download and analysis. By using mobile readers this way, organizations can get RFID coverage in areas where it is difficult or impractical to install fixed-position readers, and can monitor large, outdoor areas.

"We think the Bluetooth connection will open active RFID up to a large community of users who haven't been able to benefit from automated asset tracking," said Tim Bresien of RF Code.

Medford said the list price for the M220 is $995. Previous mobile readers the company developed on Compact Flash (CF) cards cost between $3,000 and $4,000, which limited adoption, he said.

"IT asset tracking is an obvious application, because most IT people already have a BlackBerry clipped to their hips," said Medford.

The reader works with any Bluetooth device, but application software must be compatible with the device's operating system. RF Code recently opened its code base for license-free application development, and plans to release a systems development kit (SDK) soon, Medford said. The reader is compatible with RF Code's recently released combo tags that support active RF and infrared communication (see New RTLS Tag Combines RFID and Infrared).
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