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Startup Brings Locationing to Passive RFID

A startup called Wirama has announced proprietary technology that it claims allows precise locationing using Gen2 passive RFID. It is an unusual application for passive RFID, which has historically been used to simply determine if a tagged object is present and what its tag data contains, but not the object's exact location.
Feb 13, 2008This article was originally published by RFID Update.

February 13, 2008—A startup called Wirama has announced proprietary technology that it claims allows precise locationing using Gen2 passive RFID. It is an unusual application for passive RFID, which has historically been used to determine if a tagged object is present within a read field and what its tag data contains, but not to identify the exact position of the object. RFID Update spoke with Wirama co-founder and president Ben Wild about his company's innovation and its potential applications.

Specifically, the Wirama technology is an algorithm, programmed into software, that is designed to be installed on a mobile Gen2 RFID reader. It does not require special hardware for either the reader or the tags. The read range for the algorithm software (or "locationing engine") is about 15 feet; that is, tagged objects more than 15 feet away from the current location of the mobile reader cannot be precisely located. Those within 15 feet can be located to within six inches, according to Wild. "That's functionality that doesn't currently exist in the market," he said.

Wild sees a number of retail applications for the technology, which would enable retailers to quickly obtain precise, shelf-level location information about their inventory. For example, in the backroom of a shoe store there could be 50 pairs on a single shelf. While existing Gen2 technology would enable a clerk to know that a particular pair was there somewhere, it wouldn't be able to specify exactly where. Wirama's software, on the other hand, would. "In a few seconds, you could figure out exactly where the box is that you seek."

Determining location using passive RFID technology is no small feat, according to Wild, which is likely the reason such functionality hasn't existed before. He said the company's exact go-to-market strategy is not yet decided, and options like product manufacturing and licensing are being considered. One way or the other, Wild expects that the technology will be commercialized in the second half of this year.

In addition to Wild, Wirama's two other co-founders are Dr. Upamanyu Madhow, a professor of electrical and computer engineering at UC Santa Barbara, and Dr. Kannan Ramchandran, a professor of electrical engineering and computer science at UC Berkeley. All three are involved in wireless technology research, work which led to the development of their algorithm.

Wirama (pronounced "wire - amma", rhymes with "gamma") is based in Sunnyvale, California, the heart of Silicon Valley. The company raised $1 million in a first round of funding last year, and is now looking to raise more, though Wild wouldn't specify how much.

Read the announcement from Wirama
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