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Symbol Releases New Gen 2 Interrogator

The mobile unit, designed for use on forklifts, has several potential applications for users of RFID technology.
By Mary Catherine O'Connor
Sep 19, 2006Stationary RFID interrogators (readers) mounted around loading-dock portals are effective in reading pallets full of tagged products being loaded or unloaded from a truck, but this is far from the only place companies are using readers. Handheld computers with integrated interrogators allow workers to read tags on individual cases or rows of cases with a wave of the hand. However, mounting an interrogator on a forklift or similar vehicle can serve both purposes: It can interrogate tags on pallets as the forklift moves them to or from a truck, and it can also read tags—or look for specific tags—as the vehicle moves along a row within a distribution center or warehouse.

With this in mind, RFID hardware provider Symbol announced today the release of the RD5000, its first RFID interrogator designed for mounting onto a forklift or similar vehicle. The device is compliant only with the EPC Gen 2 tag protocol and can communicate with other devices via 802.11b Wi-Fi and Bluetooth technology. The Bluetooth link would, in most applications, be used to send data from the interrogator to a vehicle-mounted computer, such as Symbol's VC5090, requiring no cabling to link the two devices. In applications for which the interrogator is not used along with a vehicle-mounted computer, and for which it needs to send tag data a greater distance, the Wi-Fi link would most likely be used.

Justin Hotard, Symbol's director of business development, says the RD5000 comes with a library of application programming interfaces (APIs) enabling it to be used with the company's line of handheld computers. This would be useful if an operator mounted the RD5000 on a mobile cart for stocking tagged product in a store, for instance, and carried the handheld to send relevant product data to back-end systems.

Mounting an RFID interrogator on a forklift makes "intuitive sense," Hotard explains. "When products are moving, there is critical information to be tracked," he says. Most new users of RFID, he notes, are deploying the technology to comply with retailer or DOD mandates, and they use forklifts and vehicle-mount computers that could send data collected from the interrogator to the user's back-end systems over a wireless LAN.

According to Symbol, the RD5000 weighs 3 pounds 10 ounces and can run either on direct current (DC) power source or a removable, rechargeable 7.2-volt lithium ion battery that, depending on usage, provides 6 to 8 hours of power before needing a recharge. It is also equipped with sensors able to detect the device's proximity to tagged items. To extend battery life, the interrogator can be set to shut down when motionless or out of tag range. The RD5000 contains an Intel XScale processor, runs the Microsoft Windows CE 5.0 operating system and measures 7 inches in length by 9 inches in width by 2 inches deep.

The RD5000 is now available and costs $7,995. Symbol says Creative Concepts Software, a provider of wireless computing solutions for retailers, has already integrated the device into solutions for its customers, as have RFID systems integrators Xterprise, Rush Tracking Systems and epcSolutions.
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