New Sled from Janam Brings UHF RFID Reading to Android-based Handhelds

The sled snaps into XT2 and XT2+ series mobile-computing devices so that users can have the flexibility of reading RFID tags, along with the existing functions of bar-code scanning, as well as HF RFID and NFC tag reads.
Published: May 27, 2019

Several companies are testing a new product that offers the option of reading UHF RFID tags via handheld computers. Early this year, Janam Technologies released its UHF RFID sled that brings RFID functionality to its Android-based XT2 and XT2+ devices, thereby allowing customers to use a single mobile device to scan bar codes and read Near Field Communication (NFC) and high-frequency (HF) RFID tags, as well as use the new Bluetooth-connected sled to interrogate ultrahigh-frequency (UHF) RFID tags. The new sled is intended to bring RFID to companies that traditionally utilize bar codes or NFC reads to identify products, assets or personnel on job sites.

The XT2 handheld computer was released several years ago, and the most recent iteration, an Android 6 version, is the XT2+, launched in mid-2018. The unit enables the capturing of a tag’s ID number at a frequency of 13.56 MHz, complying with both the 15693 ISO (for HF) and ISO 14443 (for NFC) standards. It is also commonly used for bar-code scanning. With a cellular and Wi-Fi connection, the system allows businesses to store data regarding such scanning events.

Janam found that its customers were increasingly encountering RFID-tagged goods or felt they could benefit from introducing RFID to their processes. “We see a mature level of RFID available today, as well as an awareness of how to use it,” says Doug Lloyd, Janam’s VP of global sales. For that reason, the firm is taking advantage of a shift in technology, as UHF RFID tags proliferate in retail and other industries. While dedicated handheld UHF RFID readers are already available on the market, the company wanted to employ a solution that would give businesses the flexibility to utilize bar codes, NFC, or HF or UHF RFID without requiring a large financial investment.

Janam’s Doug Lloyd

Janam’s new sled snaps onto the company’s XT2 and XT2+ rugged touch computers. It weighs less than 1 pound—which, the firm claims, makes it the lightest UHF RFID sled available in its class. The unit can perform tag writing and reading from a distance of more than 22 feet away. It comes with its own 3350-mAh battery, which is intended to power the device throughout a typical work shift.

The need to scan bar codes isn’t expected to end any time soon, Lloyd says. “UHF RFID is an adjunct or complimentary technology,” he states. “There will always be a need, in the near or long term, for bar-code technologies… While a lot of development has been done around UHF, there are still applications and logistics systems that continue to be dependent on the more traditional technology.”

The XT2 is designed for flexibility, the company reports. The sled, which can be attached to any XT2 or XT2+ device and begin operating, is built to serve a variety of functions. A user, for instance, could utilize the device to scan bar codes, look up pricing on store shelves or conduct inventory-based tasks. He or she would now have the added feature of an RFID read of goods with a long range.

Several firms have been ordering the sled since its release, Janam indicates, and are currently testing it with the XT2 for applications ranging from access control to retail. At construction sites, for instance, the existing XT2 device can scan bar codes or read the HF or NFC ID badges of personnel arriving onsite, making a quick clock-in and clock-out system possible. RFID can be more effective in this environment, Lloyd notes, since it can capture an ID from a tag or badge faster, at a distance, even if that tag has become dirty. With UHF RFID, the reading of tags could even be accomplished while workers were in their vehicles, enabling a faster and more efficient process.

Retailers are using the handhelds to identify goods being received or being moved to the store front. Because a growing number of products are arriving with UHF RFID tags already applied, the UHF sled enables companies to leverage those tags for their own in-store purposes. Lloyd cites the example of linking a pair of shoes to a sample shoe in a display.

What’s more, the handhelds could be used in conjunction with fixed portal readers. In food manufacturing, for instance, the sled is being tested for use with baked goods. In this scenario, UHF RFID tags are attached to the trays on which products are baked, with fixed readers capturing tags as goods move through the baking process, thereby providing work-in-progress visibility. The UHF reader serves primarily as a quality-assurance tool, Lloyd says, allowing users “to locate a pre-specified item or an entire lot in order to perform random quality inspections or even to pull goods that may be deemed not consistent with company or government guidelines prior to shipment.”

In health care, the sled could identify high-value assets, such as an anesthesia machine or an infusion pump. One potential customer in media production is testing the new sled to read UHF RFID tags attached to large items that move from a storage area to the field, then back again, such as cameras or spotlights. Moreover, the sled enables companies that already utilize the XT2 for scanning goods, assets or personnel badges, to add UHF functionality to some of its devices, in the event that they only require UHF RFID reads for very limited use cases.

This product, Lloyd says, serves as a compliment to the trend toward more automation technology in multiple industries. Sensors are not yet replacing humans, he says, adding that technology instead provides a way of improving a company’s system, “and the UHF reader adds to their total feature set.”