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Zebra Printers Enable Intelligent Badge Printing With HF, LF Tags

With the company's ZC300 and ZC350 printers, businesses will be able to print badges, either in batches or on demand, that will allow them to identify mustering individuals during emergencies, count students and faculty attendance at schools, or better manage exhibits at trade shows based on attendee traffic.
By Claire Swedberg

The latest generation of CardStudio software, Matas says, "helps to take our card-printing design to another level of simplicity," such as by allowing a two-step process in which one user could design what is printed on the card, in the CardStudio software, while another could access that data and print the card. The ZC300-series printers, with RFID encoders, were designed to make the process easy, the company explains, and to create RFIID-enabled badges on demand or in batches.

When it comes to schools, Ramaprasad says, "Student identification has been a very important trend." Many schools gain their state funding based on students' daily attendance, and collecting attendance data has traditionally been a manual process that was time-consuming and error-prone. With the ZC300 printer and appropriate application software, a school could automatically capture this data.

Ram Ramaprasad
First, a school would need to register each new student by entering his or her name and other identifying information, then take a picture with his or her own webcam, or one provided by Zebra. The picture and identification data can be stored on a cloud-based server, or simply be captured by the CardStudio-based software. In either case, the badge could then be printed, with the student's picture and relevant information. This could be accomplished with each new student registration, or in batches before the school year starts. The card feeder adjusts automatically to the thickness of the card being printed. The school could then register each student's attendance with an RFID reader deployed at the school or classroom entrance.

School badges are only one application for the printers. At trade shows, for instance, the software and printer could enable mobile badge printing. In such a scenario, users could employ an Android-based tablet to input data regarding an individual, such as an attendee at the show, or to scan a bar code to access that data; the tablet could also be used to take a photo of the individual. That information could then be forwarded to software on a cloud-based server, and sent to the printer to prompt the printing of a badge. Software could be supplied by a solution provider or the company using the printer.

Ski resorts company Vail Resorts is already utilizing Zebra's ZXP Series 7 printer to print UHF RFID lift badges for its visitors to use for day or season passes. The lift badge includes a picture of the skier and an encoded UHF RFID tag built inside. When a badge passes a resort employee equipped with a handheld reader at the lift, the device can capture its tag ID through as many as five layers of clothing items, Ramaprasad says, and thereby provide access to that authorized user. Because the ZC300 series will be smaller, the resort intends to transition to using the new printers when the UHF RFID encoding functionality is available.

"What we offer today," Matas says, "is a solution platform [including the printer and CardStudio 2.0 software] that is easy to deploy, and easy to operate and maintain." While the ZC350 is already available in North America and EMEA, the ZC300 version, also with RFID encoding capabilities, is expected to be made available later this year in Latin America and the Asia-Pacific region.

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