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Zebra's Sled Reader Enables UHF RFID Tag Reads Via Smartphone
The RFD8500 reads EPC UHF RFID tags and sends that data to iOS and some Android devices via a Bluetooth connection, enabling users, such as store personnel, to collect read data on their mobile devices.
"Since that time," Mulla says, "we've continued looking at where we want to go with new products." Zebra found that customers were also interested in adding RFID data-collection capabilities to other devices, such as Android-based phones and tablets, iPhones and iPads. He notes that companies—whether in retail or other markets—increasingly expect their employees to leverage tablets and phones to manage products or work processes. However, such devices generally are not integrated with RFID readers.
The companies that have shown the most initial interest in the product, Mulla reports, are large retailers that operate multiple stores at which workers need to track inventory on store shelves or in back rooms. The sled can also be used in warehouses or other indoor locations, such as at a health-care facility.
To manage the read data, Zebra has created demonstration applications that users could employ to, for instance, create inventory lists. However, Schaefer predicts, most users will want to leverage existing off-the-shelf applications from Zebra's RFID solution provider partners. Customers or partners can also design their own application to manage the read data with the types of features that would be helpful, such as identifying when a product's stock-keeping unit (SKU) needs to be reordered, or whether something needs to be moved from the back room to the sales floor.
The RFD8500 comes with the Zebra Easy Text Interface (ZETI), which allows integration of the read data to a user's own applications. Several companies—primarily retailers—plan to pilot the sleds during the coming months, Schaefer says. Zebra expects the retailers to use the sleds for updating inventory counts, as well as for seeking missing products and identifying a counterfeit product if it has a UHF RFID anti-counterfeit tag.
The sled is not intended for use in industrial or outdoor environments in which users would want a more rugged solution, or would not want to go to the trouble of using a phone or tablet along with the reader. Instead, it is designed for indoor use by companies at which workers use smartphones or tablets to manage read data, and now require the ability to utilize those same devices for reading tags. According to the company, the RFD8500 is designed to be very simple to use; for instance, one button switches the device's mode from bar-code scanning to RFID tag reading.
The device can also be placed in Geiger counter mode. A user would then input the product he or she was seeking, by using the software on his or her phone or tablet. That instruction would be forwarded to the sled, which would then seek a specific tag ID number and emit an audible tone when it comes within range of that tag.
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