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U Grok It Releases UHF RFID Reader for Phones, Tablets

The Grokker enables small and midsize businesses to read tags via their Android or iOS smartphones or tablets, using an app created for the purpose of collecting, managing and viewing data about the tagged items being read.
By Claire Swedberg
Sep 29, 2014

Two years after developing an inexpensive ultrahigh-frequency (UHF) RFID reader for use with smartphones and tablets, Colorado startup U Grok It has begun filling orders from small and midsize companies throughout the United States and Canada. The solution includes a battery-powered RFID reader (compliant with the EPC Gen 2 standard) that plugs into the audio port of an iOS- or Android-based phone or tablet, as well as a software development kit (SDK), intended for developers to use in creating use case-specific apps.

Initially, the company intended to market its reader, known as a Grokker, primarily to consumers, who could then use the device to locate tagged items around their home or office (see U Grok It Wants to Help Consumers and Small Businesses Find Their Stuff). However, Carrie Requist, the company's CEO, and her husband, Tony Requist, its co-founder and CTO, began hearing from potential customers in the business sector, seeking an RFID solution that would be inexpensive and easy to use.

Carrie Requist
The types of companies that approached U Grok It fell into three categories, Requist says: current enterprises seeking to expand their existing RFID usage, small to midsize businesses that had yet to implement RFID at all, and app developers looking to offer value-added services based on RFID read data. Their requests for a solution led the Requists to ditch their plans to make a consumer product, and to instead refocus their efforts on the business market. "Our hearts are still in building drop-dead, easy-to-use RFID for everyone," she says, but the company initially intends to meet the needs of businesses.

In the case of enterprises that already used RFID, companies reported that they needed low-cost technology enabling them to expand their existing RFID deployments. For example, if a manufacturer was already tagging products in order to track them through a distribution center via fixed or handheld readers, the Grokker could be used by retailers receiving the products, for instance, or by salesmen working for the manufacturer to read the tags of goods they deliver at a store exhibit.

The Grokker is 6.0 inches by 3.75 inches by 1.5 inches (153 millimeters by 95 millimeters by 38 millimeters) in size and weighs 7.5 ounces (213 grams).
Some small and midsize businesses that have not yet deployed RFID are already sampling the Grokker, Requist says, or have begun purchasing units. In the case of this category of end users, she adds, conducting pilots and purchasing software and industrial-style readers can often be too expensive. The U Grok It solution, on the other hand, costs only $500 to purchase the Grokker and the Discover Grok app, which is designed to showcase the system and demonstrate its ability to read and encode tags, locate and take inventory of tagged items, and create databases. Discover Grok 2.0, slated for release later this fall, will allow data to be stored on a cloud-based server and then be retrieved via a smartphone, tablet or computer.

In addition, U Grok It offers an SDK that its customers can download for free and then use to create their own apps. (Versions of the SDK are available only for Apple and Android devices, since the Grokker is incompatible with phones or tablets that employ the BlackBerry, Microsoft Windows or Google Chrome operating systems.) For example, a storage service provider known as Cubiq developed a phone app enabling its personnel to use the Grokker to facilitate the cataloging, storing and delivering of its clients' belongings (see Cubiq Uses RFID to Create 'Magic Closet').

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