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ETSI Tests Show EPC Scaleable in Europe

In a final, large-scale test involving 20 full pallets of tagged cases moving through portal reading zones, all interrogators tested worked in sync while still observing ETSI regulations.
By Mary Catherine O'Connor
Oct 10, 2006Last month, an RFID-focused subgroup of the European Telecommunications Standards Institute (ETSI) conducted tests to determine the effectiveness of RF signal-synchronization schemes designed to enable large numbers of interrogators to function simultaneously under current ETSI regulations. Such rules require devices using the UHF band to listen before transmitting to ensure that a frequency channel is not already in use by another interrogator. If a reader can not find a free channel on which to transmit a signal, it could hamper a company's business processes, such as moving a pallet of goods through a portal reader.

During the summer, ETSI's Electromagnetic Compatibility and Radio Spectrum Matters Task Group 34 (ERM TG34) set forth plans to test the RF signal-synchronization schemes, which are made possible by the dense-reader mode specification of the EPCglobal Gen 2 standard (see ETSI Group Plans Dense-Reader Trial).

Each hardware provider involved in the tests was able to test its products, using any of the approved synchronization schemes and employing software they each had newly developed to enable those synchronization schemes, in a large-scale deployment dock-door test.

"I felt this was a very significant set of results, and should act as a catalyst for encouraging companies to roll out RFID systems in Europe," says John Falck, chairman of the TG34 group.

RFID reader manufacturers Feig Electronic, Impinj, Intermec, Sirit and Symbol tested their ETSI-compliant EPC Gen 2 interrogators, while Reva Systems tested its centralized reader controller device. IBM assisted TG34 in preparing the tests, collecting the read data and analyzing the results. Falck says more than 4.5 million read records were logged during the testing period. Checkpoint System, which provides security and RFID label services to the retail industry, installed the portals and associated cabling needed for the tests. Procter & Gamble (P&G) provided the pallets full of tagged goods for part of the tests.

Interrogators can be synchronized via hardwired devices or wireless ones, says Falck, adding that both proved equally effective in the TG34 tests. Using a wired approach, TG34 tested two different methods. In one, a centralized device, called a controller, uses an RF receiver to listen for transmissions on each channel, then instructs each reader in a network, linked together via Ethernet, to operate on a specific channel. The controller approach was developed by Reva Systems, which sells a platform called the Tag Acquisition Network, featuring a device that serves as an interrogator controller.

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