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HP's RFID Center of Excellence to Market Cloud-based Rotating RFID Portal

The center is preparing to offer the portal—featuring an RFID reader that revolves around a pallet loaded with tagged items—to companies in Brazil and worldwide.
By Claire Swedberg

The portal that the Center of Excellence developed has an off-the-shelf ultrahigh-frequency (UHF) RFID reader, with its antenna installed on the tip of a rotating arm. When a pallet is placed in the portal, the arm rotates around that pallet, reading tags and then forwarding the collected read data to software that links the ID numbers with details regarding the products and the shipping order being fulfilled. By 2007, with the use of the RFID-enabled rotating arm, the read time had dropped to 37 seconds per pallet. At present, only about 14 seconds is required.

In 2007, the center developed a tunnel reader to capture the ID numbers of 100 percent of the tags placed on boxed printers, as well as on various other items packed with the printers, such as cartridges, instructional CDs and flyers. In 2009, Rapp says, the tunnels were used to read the tags of cartridges packed in numbers of up to 60 per box, destined for sale to customers who required cartridge replacements in their printers. With the new reader portal and tunnel, the center launched a server on which the software could reside.

Armando Lucrécio, FIT's laboratory manager
"We've already reached very fast transactions," Lucrécio states. "Now we're developing a system that provides an ecosystem that brings all data together." Since they built the rotating portal and tunnel to work in the cloud, he adds—as opposed to on a local network—the center's researchers decided the same cloud-based model could be used by others. "The idea is for the software to be available as a service—and not just for big companies, but small companies."

While large firms with facilities around the world would benefit from managing data from a central location, Lucrécio notes, small businesses gain from utilizing a cloud-based service as well, by requiring a smaller initial investment (such as buying software outright to host locally). A company could then access data stored on the server using the technology, while the firm could also grant access to its own customers or other members of the supply chain, thereby providing greater visibility into the status and location of goods anywhere between the point of manufacture and purchase by a customer.

In addition, the RFID Center of Excellence has developed a smart shelf on which HP printer cartridges loaded in warehouses can be read periodically via RFID readers installed on the shelves. In that way, the company can access data indicating how many cartridges have been manufactured, how many are still in the warehouse and how many have been shipped.

"We understand that the Internet of Things is coming and that RFID will be at the core of it," Lucrécio says.

HP had begun tagging cartridges in addition to printers by 2009, and now tags 20 million such cartridges annually. All products combined require about 25 million tags yearly, Lucrécio says. However, he adds, the solution, including the rotating arm reader and software, is still at the prototype stage. He expects the center will be able to release the product for sale to other users by the end of this year.

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