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Impinj Unveils New UHF Readers for RTLS Applications, Embedding in Other Devices

The xArray can interrogate UHF RFID tags within a 40-foot diameter and identify an item's location, while the Indy RS500 system-in-package chip provides a simplified way to add reader functionality to a device.
By Claire Swedberg
Apr 19, 2013

Seattle-based RFID technology company Impinj has developed two new RFID reader products intended to expand the way in which passive ultrahigh-frequency (UHF) RFID tags are used, one that provides real-time location system (RTLS) functionality, and the other making it possible to add RFID interrogator functionality to any device without large expense. The Speedway xArray system consists of Impinj's Speedway Revolution R420 reader combined with an integrated antenna and special software. The unit can be installed in a ceiling and create a 40-foot diameter read zone (wider than for a typical EPC Gen 2 RFID reader), thereby enabling real-time visibility into tags' locations within that radius, and pinpointing their positions within a few meters. The Indy RS500 system-in-package (SiP) reader chip can be installed in such objects as manufacturing equipment, beverage dispensers, locked goods or tool cages, to enable the reading of EPC tags that come within range of a particular machine or product. It requires no other RFID reader hardware—simply an antenna, a power source and a connection to a back-end system.

According to Scot Stelter, Impinj's senior director of product marketing, both products signal Impinj's evolution beyond the traditional approach to enabling RFID reads at locations and for use cases previously considered too costly for implementation.

Installed on a ceiling at a height of 15 feet, the xArray reader can identify a tagged item's approximate location within a 40-foot diameter read zone.

Measuring 18 inches in length and width and 2 inches in thickness, the xArray is designed to fit into a ceiling tile and provide wide-area monitoring via an antenna array that radiates a single RF beam in a pattern comprising a total of 52 orientations (both horizontal and vertical paths). The reader, when installed at a typical ceiling height of 15 feet, creates a 40-foot diameter read zone, identifying tags' locations based on the angle of response. The unit comes with a power-over-Ethernet (PoE) connection so that it can be installed directly onto a ceiling or other location with only a local area network (LAN) cable connection, thus eliminating the need for a power cable.

The xArray reader accomplishes the wide range and location capabilities thanks to a combination of that antenna array and Speedway Revolution reader software that analyzes the tag-read angles and approximates each tag's location, even if that tag is moving—and also ascertains the direction of that movement. The device, Stelter explains, can distinguish the RF beam's orientation during the reads, as if each beam orientation were a separate antenna, and thereby approximate each tag's location based on the beam orientation that receives a response.

Various Impinj customers are currently trialing the technology in several form factors falling within two general categories, Stelter says: inventory management and asset tracking. In the case of asset tracking, hospitals, for example, can employ the technology to locate such assets as high-value equipment on wheels, by installing the readers in ceiling tiles to identify EPC Gen 2 UHF passive RFID-tagged items within a room. Inventory management within a retail store would be possible as well, by installing the reader on the ceiling, above the sales floor or stock room, in order to obtain real-time data regarding the location of inventory, rather than relying on staff members to carry a handheld reader past shelves to ascertain the inventory on hand.

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