Intelleflex Launches Self-Contained Reader to Bring Visibility to Remote Sites

The CMR-6100 RFID interrogator's built-in cellular transmitter and a GPS receiver make the device easy to install, and the company's Zest cloud-based service makes it simple to track a shipment's location and temperature.
Published: April 3, 2012

Intelleflex has released an RFID solution intended to make it simpler and less costly for businesses to monitor the conditions and locations of temperature-sensitive goods at remote sites. The company’s new CMR-6100 reader comes equipped with a cellular transmitter, as well as a GPS unit, to identify where the reader is located, as well as whether it might have been moved, either inadvertently or deliberately. Once the interrogator is mounted on a wall or near a dock door, it reads EPC Gen 2 UHF RFID tags and forwards the collected data to Intelleflex’s cloud-based Zest Data Services platform, via a GPRS or SMS cellular connection. In this way, the firm reports, middleware or a server running a database becomes unnecessary, and the warehouse at which the device is installed does not require Internet access via an Ethernet or Wi-Fi connection—though the CMR-6100 reader is available with an Ethernet connectivity option.

Currently, companies looking to track the temperatures and locations of products within the supply chain—fresh produce, for instance—must establish an agreement with supply chain participants, such as distribution centers or retailers, to install fixed readers with Ethernet or Wi-Fi connections, in order to capture and store RFID read data and monitor such things as a shipment’s arrival, temperature or departure. An alternative, the company reports, is to equip warehouse staff members or truck drivers with handheld readers, and to instruct them to interrogate RFID tags at specified locations or intervals. Although this data can be valuable for food companies—since they can gain visibility into how long their goods remained at particular sites, and at what temperatures—the process of installing and maintaining an RFID reader infrastructure at multiple sites (or relying on employees equipped with handhelds to conduct the RFID readings themselves) is expensive and complex. A variety of pilots are presently underway for tracking products through the cold chain, but few of these types of installations are currently in place for companies such as food providers.

The CMR-6100 reader makes the tracking of RFID data much simpler, explains Peter Mehring, Intelleflex’s CEO. It includes the company’s Zest Data Services platform for receiving and managing data acquired from each read. The device itself is referred to as “peel and stick,” because it can easily be fastened to a wall or other flat surface, and then simply be left at that location to begin capturing reads. It comes with a Linux-based computer, an integrated cellular communication module and an integrated GPS receiver, and also has a battery to power it, or can be plugged directly into an outlet. The reader itself is multiprotocol, meaning it can interrogate standard EPC Class 1 Gen 2 tags, as well as battery-assisted passive (BAP) tags complying with the ISO 18000-6C Class 3 standard. BAP tags are most commonly found within environments such as hospitals or health-care facilities, for such applications as managing pharmaceuticals or tissue samples. Other assets are more likely to be tagged using standard UHF EPC Gen 2 passive tags.
Zest is a cloud-based data service enabling users to share information with participants across a supply chain, such as distributors, logistics companies and retailers, or with interested parties like insurance companies. The service stores read data received from the CMR-6100 device, and then displays that information, including the tag’s temperature and location at the time of the reading, along with data regarding the reader’s health and location.

“Our dominant use mode is off-premise data-capture,” Mehring states. “A customer won’t necessarily agree to a fixed reader infrastructure on their premises, but they would be willing to put a cellular reader by a dock door.”

The new reader, which is being launched in conjunction with the RFID Journal LIVE! 2012 conference and exhibition—taking place this week in Orlando, Fla.—has a list price of $1,995, while monthly connectivity costs for the cellular connection average between $15 and $40. Access to the Zest service is available for a monthly or annual fee. In addition to having battery or standard 12- or 24-volt power options, the reader can also be powered via a solar panel.

The GPS location data enables a user to know not only where the reader has been installed, but also when it might be moved. For example, if the device were taken away from a dock door while a user’s products were being unloaded at that site, the user could receive an alert indicating that the interrogator has been moved. The user could then contact the facility or visit the location in order to investigate.