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Impinj Launches Products to Speed Item-Level Encoding

The company's Monza 5 chip and STP Source Tagging platform aim to enable companies to encode more than 1,000 RFID labels a minute, with fewer errors.
By Claire Swedberg
Apr 05, 2011With an eye toward boosting speed for writing data to item-level EPC Gen 2 ultrahigh-frequency (UHF) tags, as well as reducing the incidence of encoding errors, Impinj is releasing two new products: the Monza 5 chip and the STP Source Tagging platform, which combines previously released Impinj readers and antennas with new firmware dedicated to encoding tags at high speed. In anticipation of the expected ramp-up of RFID tagging of apparel in the retail market, the products are intended to aid goods manufacturers, as well as service bureaus that supply tags to those manufacturers, by making the writing process faster, with fewer encoding errors. Impinj predicts that for product manufacturers to be able to tag goods at the item level without slowing down their own processes, RFID technology will need to become faster and more accurate than what is currently possible using existing systems, to allow the encoding of large quantities of tags without errors.

The Monza 5 chip is designed to support an encoding rate of up to 3,000 tags per minute, and comes with a 48-bit serialized tag identifier (TID) memory. With Impinj's FastID inventory mode—intended to boost the speed of TID authentication by reading the 48-bit TID concurrently with the writing of an EPC number, rather than reading the TID first and then encoding the EPC as a second step—the Monza 5 can boost encoding speeds by up to 220 percent compared with other RFID technology on the market. While Impinj's Monza 4 supports dual tag antennas (designed for item-level RFID applications, such as tagging luggage), the Monza 5 supports a single antenna. A tag manufactured with a Monza 5 chip, however, is four to six times more sensitive for encoding, and about 25 percent more sensitive for reading, than tags made with other chips currently available, says Scot Stelter, Impinj's senior director of product marketing. By increasing sensitivity, he explains, the company is able to provide a chip that is encoded faster, with less likelihood of failing. This greater sensitivity and speed for encoding, he says, is accomplished using several features.

Impinj's bulk-encoding STP solution uses the Speedway Revolution reader and a pair of Guardwall reader antennas.

The chip's SafeWrite mechanism is intended to reduce the rate of failed encodings. With SafeWrite, a circuit in the chip monitors the amount of power in that chip, and does not allow encoding until it determines that the power is at a high enough level. If a tag with insufficient power is encoded, Stelter explains, it could then fail to be encoded properly, and would thus be rendered unreadable.

The Monza 5 chip also comes with a feature known as TagFocus, intended to minimize redundant reads within a crowded reading environment (many tags passing through a portal at once). Stelter likens an item-level tag-reading environment to a classroom filled with noisy children, noting that those tags that might be in the front row and are the noisiest (such as those closest to the reader, with no obstructions) tend to interfere with other reads from tags further away. With TagFocus, the tags already read can be "parked" so that they will cease transmitting once read, and then remain silent until the read event is completed.

While other EPC tags can also be parked, Stelter says, those other tags resume transmitting within a short span of time—approximately half a second—while tags made with the Monza 5 chip remains parked as long as the reader is transmitting. With Monza 5, the interrogator can extend the time that tags are kept quiet after first being read during an inventory, from the typical half-second to an indefinite period.

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