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Symbol, Philips Demo Gen 1 and 2

The two companies used Symbol's new XR400 reader to demonstrate the interoperability of Gen 1 tags with Gen 2 tags, and Symbol released a new portal reader based on the XR400.
By Mary Catherine O'Connor
Jun 15, 2005This week, Symbol Technologies and Philips Electronics demonstrated Gen 1 and Gen 2 tags being read by the Symbol XR400 multiprotocol reader. The demo was held at a meeting of industry analysts at Symbol's Holtsville, N.Y., headquarters. "We stacked up three different types of tags—Gen 1, Class 0; Gen 1 Class 1; and Gen 2 Class 1—and we presented them to an antenna, and it read them virtually simultaneously," says Phil Lazo, vice president and general manager of Symbol's RFID infrastructure division. "So it's a true multiprotocol reader."

Symbol and Philips announced in April that they would collaborate on the testing of the Gen 2 products. This was the first time Symbol has demonstrated the interoperability of Gen 1 and Gen 2 tags. The Gen 1 Class 1 tag used in the test was made by Alien Technology, but the Gen 1 Class 0 tag and the Gen 2 Class 1 tag, which contained a Philips chip, were manufactured by Symbol. Lazo reports that Gen 2 tags from Symbol will be widely available in the early fall.

Phil Lazo, Symbol Technologies
According to Lazo, providing a multiprotocol reader that can work equally well with Gen 1 and Gen 2 tags is going to be extremely important when Gen 2 products start hitting the market, especially to Symbol customers who have already deployed large RFID operations based on the Gen 1 protocols."We anticipate that it will be a multiprotocol environment for quite some time," he says. "It could last for 18 to 24 months."

The new XR400 reader used in the demonstration had its firmware upgraded so it could read Gen 2 tags (the upgrade should be available to XR400 customers later this year). It was running IBM's WebSphere Device Infrastructure software. The software was loaded onto the XR400's Windows CE operating system (see Symbol Puts Windows in Reader). The Device Infrastructure sends RFID tag data to the WebSphere RFID Premises Server, which processes data from all of the readers and printers in an RFID network.

Symbol and IBM, Lazo says, are going to offer end users a package that will include the IBM WebSphere Device Infrastructure software preloaded on the XR400. He adds that Symbol is also developing similar packages with application software from other companies, including SAP. These, along with a package with the XR400 preloaded with Symbol's Mobility Services software (used to provide a single point control for mobile devices, mobile applications and wireless network infrastructure), should be available at the end of the year.

End users will likely find these types of hardware and software packages valuable because they would not have to load the applications onto the readers themselves. If users are already running middleware from the respective software companies (IBM, SAP, etc.), the software-loaded readers could be quickly integrated into an existing network. Also, by running applications directly on the reader, rather than via software on a host computer, users can apply business rules directly to the reader regarding how to process tag data, rather than through an application running on a separate computer. This allows for faster processing of the tag data, says Lazo.

Symbol also introduced this week its new DC600 portal reader, which incorporates the XR400 reader. The DC600 comes in three different configurations. The dual version includes four antennas in two towers, to be positioned on either side of a threshold. The single version has one tower with two antennas and covers just one side of a threshold. The company also makes a slim version of the portal for use in confined spaces.

The DC600 takes one hour to install—less than half the time required to install Symbol's previous portal model, the DC400. This is because the DC600 can be plugged directly into a power outlet, while installing the DC400 requires a power conduit. The dual version costs $6,785, while the single and slim versions each costs $6,160. The DC600 will reportedly be available by the end of this month.
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