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Voyantic Helps Companies Put RFID Tags to the Test

The Finnish startup says its system has allowed tag research and design teams to reduce by half the time needed to bring new tags to market.
By Mary Catherine O'Connor
Jun 18, 2009Since the late 1990s, when MIT professors Sanjay Sharma and David Brock began developing RFID technology for supply chain applications, the evolution of passive ultrahigh-frequency (UHF) tags and interrogators has been dramatic. Nonetheless, designing, developing, testing and finally introducing new products based on the EPC Gen 2 standard still takes considerable research and development for RFID chip and inlay manufacturers big and small.

To help tag makers speed up the R&D process, a number of businesses have offered tools for testing RFID inlays. Once such company is Finnish startup firm Voyantic, which developed a product known as Tagformance. Voyantic's CEO, Jukka Voutilainen, says his firm's tool is unique in that it not only verifies that tags operate properly, but also qualifies how well they function. According to Voutilainen, the testing tools have enabled tag research and design teams to reduce the design time required to bring new tags to market by half.

The Tagformance Lite device, shown here with an RFID tag positioned opposite a tag being tested, plugs into the USB port of a computer running Tagformance software.

Voyantic grew out of research that Voutilainen and his colleagues carried out in 2004 at the University of Helsinki. "We started offering some [UHF passive RFID] tag measurement services and consulting in 2006," he explains, "and then, in the spring of 2007 we launched the Tagformance product."

Current customers include RFID chip and reader maker Impinj, and RFID tag makers Omni-ID and UPM Raflatac.

Tagformance—a product line with a shared software backbone that runs on the Tagformance Lite measurement device—is used with special extensions based on a particular user's needs. The measurement device is a specialized RFID reader with an input and output antenna port—one used to transmit a signal to the tag, the other to receive the tag's backscatter signal, which the software then analyzes. The device, roughly the size of a shoe box, can be easily transported and plugs into the USB port of a desktop or laptop computer, running the Tagformance software products that the user requires. There are four different Tagformance software products: the Tag Designer Suite, the Application Development Suite, the Protocol Testing Suite and the Tag Production Tester Suite.

Tag developers can employ the Tag Designer Suite to evaluate the performance of a prototype during the design-engineering process. The suite's software has specialized algorithms to determine and characterize a tag's radio frequency sensitivity and backscatter signal properties, in accordance with the EPC Class 1 Gen 2 standard, Atmel's proprietary Tagidu protocol or EM Microelectronic's EM4122 protocol.

"We use Voyantic's [Tag Designer] software to characterize RF performance of our [tag] products," says Andre Cote, Omni-ID's CTO. "The software allows you to plot the RF response curves [from various tags] against each other, so you can look at how one tag performs against another for various tag designs."

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