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ODIN Benchmark Study Identifies Top Handheld Performers

Handheld UHF RFID readers from Motorola and Convergence Systems Ltd. scored highest in some of the tests.
By Claire Swedberg
Sep 08, 2010ODIN's scientific research division, ODIN Labs, has published a new benchmark study of eight handheld readers supporting the EPC Gen 2 and ISO 18000-6C standards for passive ultrahigh-frequency (UHF) tags. Motorola's MC3090-Z reader and Convergence Systems Ltd.'s (CSL) CS101 were the top performers for distance reading. ODIN's researchers also tested the eight models for orientation sensitivity, and found that antenna arrays had a significant impact on the devices' functionality.

The study, conducted during summer 2010, also included handheld readers from Intermec, Unitech and MacSema. The researchers found that while some interrogators were clear winners when it came to read range and orientation sensitivity, the wide variety of users, use cases and features make the task of selecting the appropriate handheld more complex than simply finding the best read range. The benchmark study lists the various characteristics of each device, comparing and contrasting the various models based on those attributes.

The new benchmark study was an update to one that ODIN published in 2005, says Patrick Sweeney, the firm's founder, explaining that ODIN felt the time had come to once again examine the functionality of some of the RFID industry's top-selling handheld readers. Much has changed in five years, he says. The 2005 report examined four handhelds: LXE's MX3X, Psion Teklogix's RD7950 and Workabout Pro, and the Symbol MC9000-G, designed by Symbol Technologies (later purchased by Motorola). At the time, the EPC Gen 2 protocol had just been released and had not yet been adopted as the ISO 18000-6C standard. Nowadays, Sweeney says, there are many more handheld readers that support the EPC Gen 2 and ISO 18000-6C standards, offer better performance and are available in a wider variety of form factors, and for various use cases, such as mining versus retail. In addition, the number of industries using the handhelds has grown exponentially. "We identified 25 different industries using this technology," he says, including resorts, medical device manufacturers and aerospace.

Early this summer, ODIN identified the eight most commonly used readers out of an initial group of around 16, as well as those available for testing (as opposed to those still in development). In addition to testing Motorola's MC3090-Z and CSL's CS101 models, the company's researchers also included Motorola's MC3190-Z, Intermec's IP30 CK61 and IPCO CN3, Unitech's RHS767 and MacSema's PCE 4050, as well as the Symbol MC9000-G, a model ODIN tested for its 2005 report that is no longer being produced but was included for comparison purposes.

The team then set up testing in several European locations, as well as at ODIN's facilities in northern Virginia. Over the next two months, researchers conducted more than a dozen pretests to determine which testing methods would be the most effective, and which would mimic the real-world tag-reading environment. Based on the results of those tests, the firm selected two distinct types of tests—one for read range, and another for orientation sensitivity. Three RFID tags were chosen for the testing, based on their own common usage and high read results: Alien Technology's Squiggle, Confidex's Steelwave Micro and Omni-ID's Ultra.

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