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New Handheld RFID Reader Locates Tags Within Centimeters

AsReader's ASR-R250G reader, paired with a smartphone, employs software from RFLocus and can display the locations of tagged items in 3D from a range of about 10 meters.
By Claire Swedberg

This data enables the reader to identify a more granular location in order to provide 3D location data. In that way, users can differentiate not only whether a tag is in front, behind or to the side of a reader, but also the specific shelf on which it is located. Chen notes that the system works with the high granularity as long as a reader is moving. Therefore, a user can carry a handheld around a room, or wave it past shelves or stacks of inventory, in order to collect location data. The software can determine if a reader is approaching a tag, as well as from what direction—above, below, left or right—and whether the device is moving toward or away from the tag. The handheld can emit sound alerts as the tag gets closer or further from it, and display location data on the phone or tablet screen.

The smartphone snaps onto each reader model via a strong magnetic connector that provides the data link between reader and phone, and also charges its battery. This hard magnetic connection allows a read range of approximately 10 meters (33 feet), Whitney says, though with a clear line of sight, he has used the readers at a distance of 17 meters (56 feet).

Hajime Kamiya
According to Whitney, AsReader's customers have been requesting a product like the ones it already makes, that can fit in a worker's pocket but be used in a lost-and-found mode. With a longer read range and highly granular location data, AsReader's customers could use the Geiger counter mode to very quickly locate a specific item within a store, factory, hospital, warehouse or office.

AsReader is now developing software integration that, in the future, will enable users to create grids representing a warehouse or room, and to then use a handheld's collected RFID read data to determine in which zone within a grid a particular tag is located, along with when it moves from one small zone to another. In this case, the technology could be used with RFID tags installed in the corners of a room, to serve as reference points. A smartphone with an AsReader device, running the AsReader-based app, could then read the tag ID numbers, identifying the reader's own position within a room, along with each tag's position.

AsReader and RFLocus expect to test the technology on drones this year. According to the company, the drones would use fixed RFID tags as reference points, and would interrogate each asset or inventory tag within a warehouse to specifically identify where each item is being stored or used.

Currently, says Mark Tailford, AsReader's global division sales director, multiple retailers in the United States and Europe are testing the new reader. AsReader is also in discussions with health-care companies to track assets and pharmaceuticals, while some manufacturers are interested in using the technology for assembly work-in-progress, as well as lost-and-found functions for finding misplaced parts. If a custom vehicle were being built, the manufacturer could use the reader to quickly identify which items—such as premium parts—had been installed in it.

The new reader model is priced at $1,299 without a built-in bar-code scanner (or $1,449 with a 2D and 1D bar-code scanner). Users can order the device without the bar-code scanner at a lower price, Whitney notes, and use the smartphone's camera for occasional bar-code scanning.

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