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ODIN Releases RFID Reader Benchmark for Europe

RFID solutions provider ODIN technologies this week released a benchmark of RFID readers designed for deployments in Europe. The benchmark features seven RFID readers compliant with ETSI regulations, each of which was subjected to six scientific tests and three common deployment use cases.
Jun 29, 2007This article was originally published by RFID Update.

June 29, 2007—RFID solutions provider ODIN technologies this week released European RFID Reader Benchmark, a benchmark of RFID readers designed for deployments in Europe. It is the ninth in the company's benchmark series, which the company develops as an RFID hardware purchasing resource for end users. This benchmark features seven RFID readers compliant with European Telecommunications Standards Institute (ETSI) regulations, each of which was subjected to six scientific tests and three common use cases.

According to ODIN chief operating officer Bret Kinsella, two readers performed "very well", two readers "well", and three "acceptably." Despite this variation, Kinsella noted, none of the tested readers should be ruled out by end users, as all of them demonstrated good enough performance for use in many of the applications seen in Europe. This is a dramatic improvement over just last year, when the RFID reader equipment in Europe was far less adequate. "We couldn't have done a benchmark of European readers a year ago," said Kinsella. "These models are much better than their predecessors, and the technology is continuing to improve."

Kinsella also shared that readers manufactured by North American companies on the whole performed better. "Reader vendors that have done more deployments in North America have a slight advantage overall. Because of the more mature RFID adoption in North America, they have more experience and have received more feedback from the field," he said. "The newer European readers haven't had as many deployments, so there is still room for improvement."

The seven benchmarked readers are the Alien ALR-8800, Caen A968EU, Feig ID ISC.LRU2000, Impinj URP1000-ETSI, Intermec IF61, Motorola XR480EU, and Sirit INfinity 510. Power output, occupied channel power, receive sensitivity, interference rejection, tag acquisition speed, and read distance were the six scientific tests conducted, while the three use cases were positioning on a conveyor, a stretch wrapper, and adjacent dock door portals. The dock door portal test was tested according to both the Listen Before Talk (LBT) protocol and the proposed ETSI EN 302-208 standard.

Recall that LBT is the restrictive reader regulation currently imposed in Europe, while ETSI EN 302-208 would permit additional power and a wider frequency band necessary for readers in Europe to perform as well as those in the US. While European end users and vendors are hopeful that ETSI EN 302-208 will become reality sooner than later, it is still uncertain, so ODIN wanted to evaluate performance under the existing LBT framework.

Despite the restrictive regulations in Europe, Kinsella indicated that reader technology has improved to the point that it is no longer a material barrier to adoption. European end users have to work harder to achieve the read rates seen in the US, but it is certainly possible. "You just have to take more care and apply more expertise in the deployment process so you can be sure you're going to get a high read rate," explained Kinsella. He also emphasized that not all European RFID implementations are impaired enough by the existing RF regulations that they would necessarily benefit from EN 302-208. "There are use cases in which EN 302-208 will have no impact," he said, "and lots of readers can handle them quite well today."

Kinsella characterized the RFID adoption environment in Europe as 18 to 24 months behind that of the US, a fact which likely portends a productive spate of technology improvement. The US saw dramatic improvements in RFID performance between 2004 and 2006, and Kinsella predicted that similar gains will materialize in Europe. And not just with reader technology; ODIN has observed that tag manufacturers are also devoting energy to the optimization of their products for the European market.

In the last two weeks, two European companies have signaled major escalation in their RFID adoption efforts. Airline manufacturer Airbus contracted ODIN for an aggressive phase of RFID deployment up and down its value chain (see Airbus Taps ODIN, Signals Aerospace RFID Adoption), while giant retailer METRO Group announced that it will equip roughly 200 retail and distribution center locations around Germany with RFID (see METRO Moves RFID Pilot to Production, Taps Reva). The combination of rapid technology improvement and growing commitment from large, influential end users is a positive indicator indeed for the rate of RFID adoption in Europe.
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