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ODIN Upgrades Its Tag-Testing Tool

The systems integrator known for its scientific RF testing methods has upgraded Trifecta, the tag-testing software it launched last October.
By Mary Catherine O'Connor
Mar 08, 2005Late last year, Reston, Va.-based radio frequency identification systems integrator ODIN Technologies announced that it had developed a tool, called Trifecta, to test the radio frequency properties of a particular product that needs to be tagged and to determine the best tag and best tag placement for that product (see ODIN Debuts RF Analysis Software). Now ODIN has upgraded Trifecta's functionality to provide more detailed tests and a Web-based user interface that is easy to use and deploy. ODIN has also updated its benchmark report on EPC tags.

The most significant upgrade to Trifecta is the addition of a minimum effective power (MEP) testing method. This test shows the minimum power needed to achieve a successful read from a given tag across the entire RFID UHF spectrum—an important measurement because the lower the power needed to read a tag, the greater the chance of the tag being read successfully. ODIN developed this testing method by using standard testing protocols developed by the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST).

Patrick Sweeney
ODIN has also made the Trifecta software Web-based, which means that end users can now use a virtual server and an encrypted user key to run the program, instead of running Trifecta on a server within either ODIN's or the end user's facility. The hosted Trifecta software automatically records, uploads and stores online tag testing data for the user's future reference from any computer with an Internet connection.

Once the MEP testing is done, the Trifecta software employs a frequency response characterization (FRC) method to test tags. For this, the Trifecta software sends commands to a reader to interrogate a tag 100 times on each of the 120 channels within the ultra-high frequency (902 MHz to 928 MHz) band used by UHF RFID readers and then displays a graph showing on which channels the tag read was successful. This information is important because readers are forced to hop from channel to channel in order to cofunction in environments where there is a significant amount of RF noise. Some tags are tuned to perform best at certain channels within the UHF range (915 MHz, for example), but tags that perform well across the spectrum show greater success in deployments where RFID readers may need to do a lot of channel-hopping.

The end user repeats the MEP and FCR tests for each model of tag it is evaluating and then varies the placement of each tag on each product that it will be tagging in its deployment. Trifecta analyzes the full results, combining the MEP and FRP results, to show the optimal tag (model A vs. model B) and placement location for each product.

This version of the Trifecta "gives end users the power to test tags on each product" as they add additional products to their RFID deployments, says ODIN CEO Patrick Sweeney. "Or, if you have a small number of SKUs that you're tagging, you could opt to outsource your testing to a [engineering services] firm like Accu-Sort." Accu-Sort is a RFID systems solution provider based in Telford, Pa., that uses this new version of Trifecta to help end users optimize tagging systems using readers on conveyor belts. Accu-Sort demonstrated the Trifecta testing process at last week's RFID World conference in Texas.

The latest version of Trifecta also includes a friendlier user interface, with a step-by-step tag-testing wizard that walks the end user through the process of setting up a test, which includes inputting information on the tags to be tested, as well as information on the products the tags are being tested on and where the tag is being placed on the product. The upgraded version of Trifecta allows users to do batch testing, which generates a template of all the product and tag-placement information so that the user does not have to input that data multiple times for each tag and product. ODIN estimates that this feature removes up to 30 percent of the total testing time.

End user licenses to the new version of Trifecta are available now, but pricing information was not released. Each subscription to Trifecta comes with an RFID reader and antenna, 15 different models of UHF tags, a Trifecta software user's license and training from ODIN staff.

Benchmark Report Released
ODIN Technologies also updated its EPC tag benchmark report that was released in October (see ODIN Benchmarks RFID UHF Tags) to include six models of UHF tags new to the market, including Impinj's Zigzag, Rafsec's Hourglass and Symbol Trident, as well as the 96-bit versions of tags tested in October, including the Alien I-tag.

ODIN employs four distinct testing methods that analyze how well each tag model extracts, consumes and reflects RF power at varying speeds, distances and orientation with respect to materials that pose RF interference problems. ODIN has not released information on the performance of these tags relative to the tags in the October report, but the updated report is available as a single-user license for $425 or as an enterprise-wide license for $995 at http://www.odinrfid.com/store. Individuals or groups who already purchased the October benchmark report will receive a discount on the updated report.
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