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Siemens Starts Shipping New Readers for Industries, Logistics

The UHF RFID readers, including a low-cost model, are designed to be easily installed and operated by automatically adjusting their RF power and internal algorithms to filter stray reads.
By Claire Swedberg
Dec 02, 2014

German engineering firm Siemens is beginning the shipment of three new fixed EPC Gen 2 ultrahigh-frequency (UHF) RFID readers this month that, according to the company, are aimed at making the deployment of RFID systems in industrial and logistics settings simpler and less expensive. The Simatic RF680R and RF685R readers, geared toward use by manufacturers and other industrial companies, are intended to be less expensive to install since they do not require the same degree of preliminary testing most RFID systems need in order to ensure that they will operate well within a specific environment. The Simatic RF650R, meanwhile, is built for "light-industrial" applications and costs about 30 percent less than the other two models.

Siemens sells a wide variety of electrical and electronics-related products and services. In 2005, the company released its first UHF RFID readers intended to serve the industrial market, as well as logistics centers and warehouses, with a ruggedized design built to read well in environments that can include the presence of metal, numerous conveyor belts onto which readers may be attached, and heavy equipment for moving automotive parts and other items through portals and past readers. In fact, says Markus Weinländer, the head of product management at Simatic Ident (the company's division for automatic identification products and services), Siemens began developing the first UHF RFID readers because it found that there were not any effective readers built specifically for the use cases of industrial companies, like manufacturers.

Left to right: Siemens' new Simatic RF685R, RF650R and RF680R readers
The most recent Simatic readers build on the company's existing portfolio of UHF readers, the RF600 series. The RF680R connects to four external antennas and can be set to interrogate tags only within its immediate vicinity. The RF685R has a built-in antenna that can use both circular and linear polarization to improve read rates. The RF650R has the same functionality as the RF680R, but features a lower IP rating and lacks the Programmable Logic Computer (PLC) integration functionality built into the other two models, so it can be sold at about a 30 percent lower cost.

The older reader models of the RF600 series will be gradually phased out, Weinländer says, while replacement parts will typically remain available for up to 10 years.

Siemens has been developing the three latest readers to meet the changing needs of its customers, Weinländer says. The companies that use Siemens readers—such as car manufacturers, automotive-parts companies, pharmaceutical firms and logistics providers—have been expanding their use of RFID from one or two key read locations within their facilities, to RFID systems that extend through work-in-progress, warehouse and supply chain management. However, he notes, many businesses still consider the deployment of UHF RFID a risky endeavor, since there may be considerable work around the reader installation to ensure that they can capture the RFID numbers on tags within a specific setting, but only those tags directly in front of them.

According to Weinländer, Siemens' customers worldwide found that, for some situations, the installation of RFID readers was too expensive, given the quantities needed. For instance, most customers are installing 30, 40 or 50 readers within a facility, and occasionally hundreds of units. For some companies, he says, installing high-frequency (HF) RFID or bar-code systems seems to be less expensive and require less testing to ensure that the devices are operational.

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