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Zebra Launches Zatar 'Internet of Things' Service for RFID Readers, Networked Devices

The service lets users track the location and manage the operation of RFID readers, printers and other networked devices, via a cloud-based server.
By Claire Swedberg

Depending on how a user configures the devices' profiles, the data collected could consist simply of each device's unique identifier, thereby providing managers with information about which devices are on the company's multiple sites, as well as when a particular device is removed. However, the system could also collect other information, such as each device's battery life, whether it is in operation or powered off at any given time, or the mode in which it is operating. The user could then make adjustments to the device remotely, such as changing a setting or power level.

Currently, Gerskovich says, many companies send personnel around a site (such as a logistics center or an assembly area) to locate devices, and to confirm that each is present and functioning properly. The Zatar solution could reduce the need for such manual checks, he reports.

Zebra Technologies' Phil Gerskovich
What's more, for companies operating RFID readers, the Zatar service could enable them to better manage which tags have been interrogated, and thereby determine when additional tags need to be printed and/or encoded, or when more inventory must be ordered. For example, tag data captured by a fixed or handheld reader could be collected on the Zatar server and then be accessed by authorized users with a password. Management could know, for example, when a large volume of goods passed through the dock doors for shipping at multiple or specific sites.

Users could also employ an application programming interface, provided by Zebra, to create their own apps to work in conjunction with the Zatar service and the device data it collects.

Non-Zebra devices, such as the Raspberry Pi credit-card-size computer, Intel's NUC computer, and Texas Instruments' Sensor Tag, use the CoAP protocol and can thus be managed by the Zatar service, provided a Zatar Gateway device is present. Impinj Speedway Revolution RFID readers currently employ CoAP, and will support Zatar once Zebra finishes beta-testing the service and the app for iPhones or iPads. The Zatar Web site claims Motorola's FX9500 reader will soon not need a Zatar Gateway as well, but a Motorola spokesperson says that the company's readers do not support CoAP at this time.

While in beta mode, Gerskovich says, the Zatar service and the RDM app are being tested by multiple Zebra customers that are tracking devices within their facilities, with full commercial release expected to occur in January 2014. As part of the beta phase, users can sign up at Zatar.com for a free account that will support up to five devices. Beginning in January, Gerskovich expects the monthly fee to be $2 per device, though that price could increase if usage creates a high amount of data traffic.

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