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RFID Helps Golfers Stay on the Ball

A system from Prazza Group enables players to use a handheld reader to locate balls on a golf course, thanks to a built-in active RFID tag.
By Claire Swedberg
Sep 13, 2011Several thousand casual golfers throughout North America and Europe are employing an RFID system that could spare them time otherwise spent wandering around golf courses searching for balls. The system, known as Prazza Golf Ball Finder—developed by a Netherlands startup known as Prazza Group—consists of a 2.4 GHz RFID reader called a finder, as well as two golf balls with built-in battery-powered RFID tags. Golfers can use the finder to direct them to the location of a ball they have hit, and presumably save minutes or even hours of time they might have previously spent searching for that ball. The device also reduces the number of balls that end up lost, Prazza reports, since golfers often abandon balls that land in the rough, or completely off a course. According to the company, 500 million golf balls are lost annually on courses worldwide.

The Prazza Golf Ball Finder system was envisioned approximately two-and-a-half years ago by one of Prazza Group's founders who is a golfing enthusiast, says Jan Dewaard, the company's president. The firm's challenge was to develop technology that would provide a sufficient read range to capture a ball's tag at great distances. The solution developed consists of hardware manufactured by Prazza, including an RFID reader built into a handset about the size and form factor of a smartphone. The device, powered by a lithium polymer battery, has three antennas built into it, as well as electronics that boost its read range. While the first prototype of this technology had a range of approximately 20 meters to 30 meters (66 feet to 98 feet), Dewaard says, the commercially released version can read a tag at a distance of up to 100 meters (330 feet).

Prazza's golf ball contains an active 2.4 GHz RFID tag.
Each ball comes with a built-in RFID tag powered by a lithium battery. The tag automatically switches off its transmissions about 50 minutes after the ball stops moving, thereby conserving battery life.

Upon receiving the kit, a golfer can first use an outlet or USB cord to charge the finder, then utilize the handset to read the two balls included with the kit, in order to save their unique identifiers in the reader's memory. In that way, the handset will recognize the unique ID number transmitted by each ball's RFID tag, but will not respond to transmissions from other balls with different RFID numbers. However, Dewaard notes, additional balls can be purchased and added to the finder's firmware at any time.

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