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U.K. Startup Debuts High-Performance Handheld EPC Gen 2 Readers

PeopleVox claims its new handheld EPC Gen 2 interrogators enable retailers to accurately read the tags of hundreds of closely packed garments in less than a minute.
By Beth Bacheldor
According to Bellwood, the PeopleVox reader can scan 350 items in less than 40 seconds, with 99.99 percent accuracy. "No one believes us when we say 100 percent, but it was 100 percent when we tested it," he notes. "And we do need to account for tag defects."

Both the PVX-50 and PVX-100 are lightweight, each weighing approximately 650 grams (22 ounces), and are ergonomically designed to prevent stress injuries and fatigue. The interrogators' patent-pending antenna design has been balanced to control and limit the amount of power required—the system can operate at about a half watt of power—and the RF signal shuts off immediately when the reader's button is released, thus extending battery life. The battery can last for three hours, PeopleVox reports, scanning approximately 5,000 items.

"What we have done with the pattern of the antenna field means that the operator doesn't have to do a lot of rotation with the wrist," says Andrew Dean, PeopleVox's chief engineer, "because that can be very tiresome." Before joining PeopleVox, Dean worked with Marks & Spencer, designing and helping the retailer implement a device that it now uses to conduct inventory twice weekly.

"The [PeopleVox] reader is really designed to read tags in a high-density environment, because the tags are packed together on hanging garments," Dean explains. "Retailers want accurate reads, without requiring intervention, such as sliding the garments on the rack or angling them in a way to get a read. Our reader does not have a linear or circular antenna. Instead, it fires the field in exactly the right pattern to read the hanging tag. So even if you have stacked garments, you just have to go on the side [of the stack] to get the reads. The pattern created by the antenna is key."

The PeopleVox interrogators can be tuned to support the different UHF frequencies dictated by regulations in North America, Europe and Asia. "We've made sure we can tune for the different global frequencies, and we've balanced the antenna field pattern for each," Dean states. "We haven't just produced a general antenna that has a broad enough field that can accommodate all the different frequencies."

Both the PVX-50 and PVX-100 are available now for pilots and testing, and PeopleVox is currently planning several tests with retailers in Europe. The expected price for the units, the company reports, will range from €2,000 to €2,500 ($2,546 to $3,182).

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