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Researchers Seek Challenging Sites for Multibeam Antenna Pilot

The Fraunhofer Institute for Integrated Circuits has developed an antenna with four elements and nine different beams fed to those elements that can detect the precise location and direction of tags in challenging environments.
By Claire Swedberg

With the multiple beams and four elements, the antenna can begin reading tags earlier (assuming a pallet will pass through the reader's field, for instance), and finish reading later. Users can point beams to cover certain directions and areas. "That is," Schühler says, "we widen the read area and can, therefore, extend the read period."

In environments in which multiple gates are deployed and operated in parallel, the antenna allows the system to identify the specific gate through which goods pass. The antenna thus helps to prevent stray reads beyond the intended coverage area.

Mario Schühler
Using the Multibeam Antenna eases the installation of otherwise complex systems, according to Fraunhofer. Instead of installing eight antennas throughout a wide area, Schühler says, "The gate can be equipped with two Multibeam Antennas, one per side, without loss of performance."

Fraunhofer intends to prove the technology in real-world environments from pilots, and the organization is currently seeking pilot users. The companies it seeks will preferably have been using UHF RFID systems, Schühler says, but have encountered some problems with their read reliability or directional understanding. "We want to deploy the antenna at the user's facility," he states, "and do tests in order to prove the performance of the antenna, and to benchmark it against existing solutions."

Companies can retrofit their existing RFID readers with the Multibeam Antenna. The direction identification can be accomplished by the antennas using Fraunhofer software that is aware of the antenna's characteristics for direction estimation. The software can run on a site's server connected to the reader, or on the reader itself, provided that the device supports that software. The reader, therefore, does not require any additional firmware or software to estimate direction. If no direction identification is necessary, he adds, the deployment becomes easier, since the antenna can be operated in an autonomous mode without requiring a remote control interface.

Following the pilots' completion, the company expects the antenna to be made commercial available during the fourth quarter of this year.

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