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New Zebra Reader Promises Real-Time RFID Data Capture

The company's ATR7000 overhead reader provides real-time location data for retailers and warehouses using UHF RFID tags on assets, inventory and personnel, while a hybrid solution with an optical camera and an RFID reader tracks space usage as trailers or containers are packed.
By Claire Swedberg
Apr 24, 2019

Tracking and printing solutions company Zebra Technologies has released a new reader that enables real-time location system (RTLS) solutions with passive tags. The company's new ATR7000 overhead reader is designed for use in warehouses and stores, as well as for other businesses, and provides location data regarding tagged items or personnel in real time.

The new reader is designed to provide more accurate location data, the company reports—with inexpensive tags, thereby reducing costs and maintenance—than traditional RTLS solutions. Zebra demonstrated its new products at this year's RFID Journal LIVE! conference, held this month in Phoenix, Ariz. Both the ATR7000 and Zebra's handheld MC3300 family of readers were among the finalists in the Best New Product category for the RFID Journal Awards.

Zebra's ATR7000 overhead reader
The ATR7000 overhead reader automatically captures the presence of tagged assets and individuals wearing RFID badges. With Zebra's software, the device enables companies to identify, locate and track tags or badges in real time, as well as receive alerts based on that data. The reader's location data falls typically within a range of 2 feet when the device is used with standard UHF RFID tags.

The reader is designed to enable new levels of continuous and autonomous visibility "from dock door to every inch of a warehouse space," according to Altaf Mulla, Zebra's director of RFID product management. Both handheld and fixed reader portals come with their limits, he says, since portals can only track data when tags are within range of a fixed reader, while handheld units require that an employee walk throughout a location to physically scan tags.

The ATR7000 overhead reader was built to enable the collection of real-time data regarding assets or personnel moving around a facility. It captures tag reads with what the company calls its wide-angle integrated antenna array reader. Additionally, the reader's built-in parallel, multi-transmit and receive architecture is built to provide a wide area of coverage per reader, along with location accuracy. To accomplish this, Mulla explains, the reader electronically steers and processes several hundred narrow flashlight-style beams simultaneously.

Each time a tag is read, a heat map is created using hundreds of beams that are pointed in all 360-degree azimuth directions, estimating the tag location. This reader architecture and associated RTLS software (known as CLAS, for Configuration, Location Analytics Software) is what gives the Zebra RTLS solution its high performance, Mulla says.

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