New Impinj Reader Boasts Edge Computing

Published: November 27, 2023

The Impinj R720 RAIN UHF RFID reader provides improved processing power and memory, offering more autonomous tag reading and management.

RFID technology applications are evolving to require greater edge-based decision-making— to make smarter environments at conveyors, store exits or in parcel delivery vehicles.

To address the needs of a wide range of use cases, Impinj will begin shipping in mid-December a new RFID reader that is slated to provide edge intelligence, as well as improved speed and automation.

The Impinj R720 RAIN RFID reader comes with higher processing power to allow edge applications to accomplish control and decision-making, as an alternative to traditional readers that require a separate PC or link to backend software. Its processing power enables algorithms such as generating alerts if a tag crosses a threshold, or analyzing reads across multiple readers.

Building on the R700

The new product follows the Impinj R700 RAIN RFID reader which offered higher RFID read functionality when compared to the company’s previous Speedway Reader, as well as many competitive readers in the market.

The R720 has the same features as the R700 but includes a Qualcomm QCS404 quad-core processor. Since the enhanced processing power enables edge intelligence, it reduces network bandwidth use and latency, says Matt Branda, Impinj’s product VP.

The Impinj R720 includes a new v8.2 reader firmware, which increases custom application memory to further enhance on-reader applications. When compared to the R700, the new reader has three-time higher processing power, and 2X application memory with firmware 8.2, the company reports.

Meeting New Demands for RFID

Traditionally, RFID readers capture tag read data and forward it to a network via an onsite computer or server, where middleware and software manage that data and provide the necessary response.

That has meant that real-time decisions were often not possible (such as determining whether a tag is on the right conveyor, or if a tag is moving out—rather than in—a doorway). Branda points out that it’s much less efficient, from a network perspective, to send data to the cloud for decision making compared to accomplishing the data analysis on the reader.

Branda offered there are several trends, underway by RFID technology users, that the new product was designed to address. Stores using RFID at their exits, for instance, can benefit from edge-based data processing as a tagged product is being taken out of the store.

Eliminating Local Servers

Another trend the reader is designed to address is the elimination of local servers or PCs, that in the past have been used to connect the reader with a software platform.

With more processing and more memory at the edge, users eliminate the need for additional computers onsite and can simply capture and process data on the reader, and forward directly to the cloud.

“We’re seeing more and more readers and reading elements—similar to other IT connectivity devices—being directly connected to cloud applications whether that’s the enterprise application, that’s device management applications, or both,” says Branda.

Transitioning from Handheld to Fixed Readers

Impinj has witnessed a shift in customer demand from handheld readers to fixed readers, as well. Handheld devices require users to manually read the tags of goods—usually interrupting other processes.

“That’s why we’re investing in fixed or autonomous readers,” Branda says.

With the R720, the fixed reader installation automatically captures tag IDs as they move in and out of range, informing business decisions.

For instance, algorithms on the reader can help identify if a specific tag is positioned on the conveyor correctly or is on a neighboring conveyor; it can determine whether tags are being loaded onto a truck through one portal or another; and it can be programmed to ignore specific tags, as required by the user.

Additionally, the processor enables multiple applications to be run on the reader such as device management, to gain remote control and monitoring capabilities.

Developers Create Local Algorithms

The algorithms can be used to ensure greater accuracy of reads as well. Traditionally, read zone issues, such as inadvertent stray reads, were handled by adjusting the transmission power, or installing shields to prevent unwanted tag transmissions. The goal was to concentrate or control the field of view as much as possible.

“The problem is that each deployment like this needs customization,” said Branda, resulting in RFID technology deployment that is costlier and more time consuming.

According to Branda, the R720 purpose “is to more elegantly solve those type of problems. By adding more processing power and more memory you’re giving the developers more capability to develop those algorithms themselves.”

Leveraging Sensor Data

Increasingly, RFID solutions are relying on other IoT sensors to help make decisions, such as a photo eye tracking a dock door to identify whether a door is open or closed. That data can be sent directly to the reader, and solution providers can use those sensor results.

The reader has a built-in IoT device interface that allows for easy transmission of data to the cloud, while developers can continue to leverage the more standard MQTT or HTTP data protocols if they prefer. It includes the existing security features of the Impinj R700 to securely connect data from readers to enterprise applications.

The R720 is about 10 percent more expensive than its predecessor. But company officials note this is offset by lower overall deployment cost being achieved because users will no longer need local servers and deployments will be more straight forward.

Applications in Stores, Vehicles and Warehouses

Besides being used in retail stores at exits, points of sale and other fixed locations to track merchandise, the R720 can be used at manufacturing sites when mounted at conveyor belts or dock doors.

“It’s really addressing that growth that’s happening right now predominantly in supply chain and logistics and retail,” says Branda.

Logistics companies are extending their RFID technology use beyond handheld reads to forklift or conveyor reading, and Impinj expects the R720 to be used for this application. Delivery trucks may be using the new reader onboard to identify what is loaded in the vehicle, and what is removed, when and where.

“The industry-leading RF performance of the R700 series of readers, and software compatible with our R700, will make it very seamless for someone developing solutions to pick and choose when they need,” as part of their solution, Branda says.

Key Takeaways:
  • Impinj R720 RAIN reader leverages built-in Qualcomm processor to enable RFID tag read intelligence at the edge.
  • The new reader is intended to make deployments easier, and enable decision-making in real time, based on read data