PervasID Releases RFID Readers for RTLS, Portal Applications

The U.K. company's Space Ranger 9100 UHF reader can track the movements of tagged items within a coverage area as large as 4,500 square feet for zonal tracking.
Published: November 14, 2016

PervasID, a startup company founded by University of Cambridge researchers, has launched an ultrahigh-frequency (UHF) RFID reader designed to provide read accuracy near 100 percent, and to allow the automatic monitoring of tags for the purpose of constant stock-control updates. The device can identify the locations of thousands of items within a store, stock room or warehouse, as well as determine a particular product’s location within a meter or less.

The device, known as the Space Ranger 9100, is an overhead reader with four pairs of external ceiling-mounted antennas. It can cover 4,500 square feet in low-density read areas (where RFID-tagged items are not densely packed) or 450 square feet for high-density reads in which many tagged items are located within a small area and a user requires nearly 100 percent tag detection.

The Space Ranger 9100 reader has ports for four pairs of external ceiling-mounted antennas.

The company is also releasing an RFID portal known as the Gate Ranger 9100 that it claims can interrogate tags with high accuracy and detect the direction at which each tag moves through the portal. The device is intended for entrances, exits, loading areas and other strategic locations, says Sithamparanathan Sabesan, PervasID’s CEO and one of the company’s cofounders.

A major retailer has tested the solution, and is installing an earlier version of PervasID’s readers within a 45,000-square-foot store. That deployment covers receiving, storage, sales and fitting-room areas, spanning two floors and more than 100,000 tagged items.

Last month, Cambridge University’s commercial arm, Cambridge Enterprise, together with the University of Cambridge Enterprise Fund IV (managed by Parkwalk), Cambridge Innovation Capital (CIC) and an unnamed private company, have invested a combined total of £720,000 ($773,000) in the RFID company. CIC invests long-term capital into businesses in the Cambridge cluster, including PervasID, that have disruptive technologies and the potential to become significant players.

PervasID was established in 2011, Sabesan explains, after its founders developed an RFID reader that employs a distributed antenna system (DAS) consisting of an array of antennas that capture data IDs within the reader’s zone (see UK Startup Company Launches “Wide-Area” EPC RFID Prototype System). By using the patented DAS technology, he says, PervasID’s reader can transmit RF signals across wide beams that fill a zone and capture the presence of an RFID tag, with a read rate of nearly 100 percent.

Initially, the technology was developed by Sabesan and fellow university researchers Michael Crisp, Richard Penty and Ian White, for use in an airport system called The INtelligent Airport (TINA), to capture UHF RFID data, and to carry other wireless services that might be present at an airport (see UK Researchers Study Distributed Antenna System for Airports). However, the company then looked into other applications that could be in demand, after which it developed a prototype solution for such applications as tracking documents in office environments. The Space Ranger 9100 improves on PervasID’s previous readers in several ways, Sabesan explains. Because of its effective read rate and longer range, he notes, the Space Ranger 9100 can be installed with 60 percent fewer readers in a given deployment, resulting in an approximately 70 percent lower installation cost.

The Space Ranger 9100 is designed for use in three scenarios, based on the density of tagged items. The low-density application would typically involve a warehouse or other logistics-based environment in which users track tagged crates or boxes throughout a large area. For that sort of environment, one reader can cover an area of 4,500 square feet. The medium-density scenario would typically involve a retailer’s sales floor, with a single reader capable of covering 900 square feet. The high-density application could be deployed within a store’s back room, in which dozens or hundreds of tags may be packed closely together on a shelf or on hangers. In this case, a reader would cover a 450-square-foot area. Users can also determine the location accuracy they require, which would affect the number of readers that need to be installed.

The retailer that is testing the system created multiple zones—one in its receiving area, as well as others in its storage area and fitting rooms and on its sales floors—so that it could understand movements of tagged merchandise in each area, and when goods passed from one zone to another.

Sithamparanathan Sabesan

The retailer’s goals, Sabesan says, are to improve inventory accuracy and reduce shrinkage by understanding which products are at which locations, and when they might actually leave the store entirely. According to Sabesan, the system can provide intelligence to drive up sales. “An advantage of having readers located on the ceiling,” he states, “is that movement of items within the store can be monitored in real time, highlighting clothes that are not displayed on sales floors, clothes that are tried on but never purchased, and collections of items selected together, and it can track how the shopper moves through the store. All of this can be used to help the retailer improve the shopping experience. It also offers opportunity for up-selling, by suggesting companion items and alternatives based on success with other shoppers.”

That retailer next plans to test the Space Ranger 9100.

When PervasID tested the Space Ranger 9100 in-house, Sabesan says, the company put hundreds of tags together on a single shelf. During testing, the system was able to interrogate those tags at a read rate near 100 percent.

PervasID is now in discussions with other retailers, as well as health-care firms that are interested in using the new Gate or Space Ranger readers, or a combination of the two. Some companies are already testing the readers for security applications, Sabesan reports. However, he adds, non-disclosure agreements prevent him from describing those deployments.

“We believe that with the development of DAS passive RFID technology, it’s now possible to achieve highly accurate RFID solutions over a wide area in a short period of time, with passive UHF tags in dense tag environments,” Sabesan says. “The system is compact and capable of easily scaling for large buildings, and can more easily accommodate unusual store layouts. We hope this will change the way RFID hands-free technology is used.”

Sabesan spoke about the technology at last week’s RFID Journal LIVE! Europe conference and exhibition, held in London, England.