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Venture Research Adds More Intelligence to Its Surface Reader

The latest version can identify not only EPC Gen 2 RFID tags, but also Bluetooth beacons, enabling companies to track tools and other assets in real time.
By Claire Swedberg

The businesses currently testing the latest Surface Reader are employing the device to encode their RFID hard tags, and are using the LED lighting functionality to indicate whether an item placed on the reader has an approaching expiration date. The companies then utilize Bluetooth functionality to track tools' movements throughout their facilities, not just when they are on the reader. In this case, something like a torque wrench, which is very expensive, could be located in real time if fitted with a Bluetooth beacon. Venture Research works with middleware partners that create the necessary solutions to take advantage of the combined RFID and BLE capability, Baker says. "Venture Research also has embedded applications that provide inventory visibility suitable for tool-tracking and health-care applications," he states.

A company that provides mobile phone repair plans to use the new Surface Reader but without the BLE functionality, Baker says. Each cell phone that arrives for repair is tagged with a UHF tag. The components that go in the phone also contain UHF RFID tags, so if they are placed on the Surface Reader, the RFID read functionality links every component with that particular phone, thus creating a record of all repair work carried out. If the BLE functionality were used, the company could also find the phones throughout the facility in real time, to ensure that they were being serviced according to schedule.

The new Surface Readers are priced to be low-cost, Baker says, though the price varies according to the volume in which they are purchased. "They're priced about the cost of an off-the-shelf reader," he states.

All of the UHF RFID readers that the company now offers, including its portal and forklift models, come with the BLE functionality, Baker reports. An aerospace firm is already using one of Venture Research's beacon-reading portals, installing the device at a doorway to track RFID-tagged assets, such as lab equipment, as it is moved from one facility to another. By having personnel wear similar RFID tags, the labs can identify not only when an item was removed, but also by whom. Once they implement the BLE-enabled technology, the laboratory managers will also be able to know, in real time, the specific lab—or the particular part of a lab—in which the asset is located.

Another user of beacon-reading portals is a utility company that operates a warehouse and yard in which it stores generator parts that it tags with Bluetooth beacons. With the portal installed in its warehouse's doorway, the utility can determine whether those items are within its warehouse or in its yard.

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