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View Technologies Launches Long-Range RTLS for Passive UHF Tags

The inView system is being tested or deployed by manufacturers, logistics companies and retailers, through systems integrators, to track the locations of UHF RFID-tagged items in real time.
By Claire Swedberg
Sep 03, 2015

View Technologies has commercially released a passive ultrahigh-frequency (UHF) RFID solution designed to make it possible for companies to track the locations of UHF tags up to 150 feet away, with location granularity of less than 1 foot to 3 feet. The real-time location system (RTLS), known as inView, consists of Echo smart antenna technology designed by St. Louis technology company RF Controls and manufactured by tools and hardware firm Stanley Black and Decker, as well as RF Controls' RFC-6100XR RFID reader and View Technologies' inView software. End users in three sectors—logistics, manufacturing and big-box-style retail—are already using the inView system in pilots and full deployments. The product is being offered through various solution providers, such as RFID middleware companies and integrators that tend to install such systems in those sectors.

View Technologies, a joint venture between Stanley Black & Decker and RF Controls, aims to provide RTLS solutions to businesses more accustomed to employing portals or handheld readers to interrogate passive EPC Gen 2 UHF tags, also known as RAIN RFID tags. The Echo antenna uses steerable phased-array technology allowing it to create a cone-shaped read zone for long distances, while related software can create zones within the Echo antenna's range as small as a customer needs, down to less than 1 foot in granularity. The term "steerable phased array" refers to the use of an array of antennas able to create varying beam direction and radiation patterns to reinforce one direction of RF transmission while suppressing the transmission of RF signals in other directions.

The Echo 300 antenna
With inView, companies can know where their RFID-tagged items are located in real time, as well as when they move and in what direction, explains Steve Hudson, View Technologies' president. They can then collect analytics based on that data, view it in real time or receive alerts when specific events occur, such as an item heading through a door.

The technology is being offered in three tiers, based on the level of intelligence that a customer or systems integrator requires. At the first tier, known as Locate, the inView platform delivers raw location data based on the three-dimensional position identified by the reader and software. That raw data can then be managed by an end user's existing software or a solution provider's middleware. The next tier, dubbed Track, creates virtual zones through which the item moves, and the inView software presents that data to the user in the form of information regarding where within a facility or area that product is going. The final tier, called Act, includes rules-based events, such as sending alerts in the event of an unauthorized movement or updating the status of goods based on their movement through a shipping dock or other area.

Although there are other phased-array UHF RFID solutions on the market, such as Impinj's xArray reader and related software, Hudson notes that the Echo antenna is unique in that it can be positioned at an angle, enabling it to read farther in specific areas, and offers a longer overall read range and better location granularity than most solutions.

The technology is currently being tested or has been deployed in all three of the market sectors that View Technologies is targeting, Hudson reports. One customer has permanently deployed the technology in the maintenance, repair and overhaul (MRO) segment of the aerospace industry, while several other MRO companies are piloting the system. According to Hudson, the Echo antenna can be hung from a ceiling more than 50 feet high, such as within an aircraft hangar, and can then read tags that may be attached to an aircraft or the tools around that aircraft.

That data enables MRO companies to better manage the locations of aircraft parts and tools, in order to ensure that equipment does not end up missing, as well as determine the stage of an item's maintenance or repair based on its location. In some cases, Hudson says, the tags may not be readable if they are located on the underside of an aircraft. In that case, he adds, another Echo reader can be mounted on walls around the hangar to capture the locations of items closer to the floor that might have been blocked by the metal in the aircraft.

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