Synergy Develops RFID, IoT Technologies During Crisis Period in Brazil

The Brazilian company is launching innovative and international-class radio frequency identification equipment under its Identhis brand name.
Published: March 13, 2018

Synergy, as popular wisdom says, is making lemonade from lemons. With its own resources, the company is dodging the difficulties of the local Brazilian market to develop high-technology equipment. This is reflected in its launch of an Internet of Things (IoT) product line and an international-class line of radio frequency identification solutions under its Identhis brand .

According to Maurício Strasburg, Synergy’s CEO, among the key innovations from the third quarter of 2017 to the first half of 2018 was the Identix EZR2500 IoT RAIN RFID Gateway. Launched late last year, the gateway is already being used by some of Synergy’s customers. “The EZR2500 is called an IoT gateway,” Strasburg explains, “because it encompasses different functions in a single device, with ease of sending information collected for IoT platforms.”

Synergy’s Maurício Strasburg

The main features of this compact solution, developed in Brazil by Synergy, include a low-cost UHF RAIN RFID reader with four ports and 31.5dBm of power. The system can support expansion for up to 32 RF ports, by means of an accessory called Catena. It acts as a gateway to Bluetooth Low Energy (BLE) beacons, and can identify BLE devices of different standards: iBeacon, Eddystone, AltBeacon and other proprietary formats.

The BLE gateway function allows the identification of beacons at a distance greater than 50m, the company reports, depending on the model of device used. In addition to identification, the gateway is capable of obtaining telemetry data transmitted by some types of beacons, such as battery level, temperature reading, humidity, movement and more.

In addition to RFID and BLE, the EZR2500 has built-in Wi-Fi connectivity for communication and the location of items. The reader can passively scan the air interface of the Wi-Fi network, identifying all Wi-Fi devices, including smartphones, tablets, notebooks and tags. The collected data can then be forwarded to IoT platforms via the MQTT protocol. “In less than five minutes,” Strasburg says, “it’s possible to have the EZR2500 running on the Microsoft Azure, IBM BlueMix, Amazon AWS or Google Cloud platforms.”

The EZR2500 can be powered by power supplies between + 9VDC and + 28VDC, making installation in utility vehicles and trucks easier. It has an Ethernet interface with Power-over-Ethernet (PoE), two protected general-purpose input-output (GPIO) inputs and three GPO outputs, with selectable output voltage of + 5VDC, + 12VDC and + 24VDC, one of which is relayed. A cryptographic module stores keys and certificates.

“We are piloting a new loss-prevention system at Levi’s,” Strasburg says, “which will work in tandem with the iTag solution. This new RFID anti-theft system incorporates sophisticated algorithms and has hardware based on the EZR2500 and a Raspberry-Pi minicomputer. Raspberry-Pi will be phased out soon, when we launch the Identix NR2500 Gateway, because the software will run on that new device” (see Levi’s Tests RFID Use Successfully).

“We also launched an on-board version called the EZR2500R, which is a version of the reader for use in forklift trucks,” Strasburg reports. “As a differential, it has IP66 environmental protection, a height sensor, a warehouse-management system to record pallet handling, and an auxiliary system for inertial navigation.” That system—known as an inertial measurement unit (IMU)—is a sensor composed of a nine-axis electronic accelerometer and a gyro, which allows for the tracking and indoor location of forklifts.

By 2018, Synergy plans to carry out several more launches. The Identix NR2500, according to the company, will be launched by the middle of this year. “It is similar to the EZR2500, but more powerful, with more connectivity options and sensors,” Strasburg says. “It has a 64-bit quadcore CPU, 2 GB of RAM, 8 GB of ROM, a MicroSD slot for expansion, HDMI video output, two USB ports and the Linux operating system, with the possibility of installing embedded applications at the gateway itself.”

Identix’s EZR2500 IoT RAIN RFID Gateway

The NR2500 will have four ports with 31.5dBm of power for connecting UHF RFID antennas (expandable to 32 via Catena); Wi-Fi and Bluetooth or BLE; two opto-isolated GPIs and four opto-isolated GPOs, with selectable output voltage of +5VDC, +12VDC and +24VDC, as well as integrated GPS (GNSS); an RS485 port for the connection of external temperature sensors; and an integrated alarm bell.

The NR2500 can be powered by power supplies from +9 to + 28VDC, making installation in utility vehicles and trucks easier. It has a cryptographic module for storing keys and certificates, and an optional, multi-band 4G LTE communication interface with global coverage. Among the new releases is an “important update of USB portable players (miniPad, rPad and miniPad SMA)—equipment that has been in use for several customers for more than two years, including at Levi’s,” Strasburg states. These solutions are expected to be launched by the end of the first quarter of 2018.

With this update, features will be incorporated as an option for additional power: the current generation of the Pads delivers up to +23dBm, while new ones can reach up to +27dBm. In addition to a traditional USB communication port, the Pads will offer Wi-Fi and Bluetooth communication, along with other additional features.

In addition to the BLE gateway functionality, Pads can be configured as virtual beacons. The package includes passive Wi-Fi scanning for item location and the MQTT protocol, similar to the features present in the EZR2500 gateway. When used as a USB device, the Pads will be powered by the same port on the computer and, when operating wirelessly, through an external USB power source.

New phased-array antennas perform large-area monitoring for continuous inventory counts and the real-time location of items. Two models are expected to be released by the end of the first quarter of 2018. The SpotView Gateway phased-array antenna system will offer four reading zones and approximately 160m2 of UHF RFID coverage, with the Identix EZR2500 built in, incorporating all of its features.

The Identix active phased-array antenna system features nine reading zones and UHF RFID coverage of approximately 200m2. Up to four units per EZR2500 or NR2500 reader can be used, creating a UHF RFID coverage area of up to 800m2.

“Our key differentiators,” Strasburg says, “are that we have idealized converged products that integrate different identification and localization technologies into a single device.” Identix products are inexpensive and plug-and-play, he says, and offer high performance and unique functionality, facilitating installation, administration and integration with other systems.

According to Strasburg, the products were designed to solve the demands that new consumer markets have been presenting—for example, the use of Internet of Things communications protocols, GPS/GNSS integration, various sensors, 4G LTE communication and security features. “In the UHF RFID part,” he states, “we use 100 percent Impinj embedded technology.”

Identix solutions serve a variety of markets. “In the hospital segment,” Strasburg says, “functions such as RTLS, which are used to trace and locate items, people [employees and patients] and objects in real time, can be automatically monitored in the surgical center, in the sterilized material center, in emergency care, in the control of drugs at pharmacies and surgical centers, and in aiding the control of hospital infections through the automatic monitoring of hand hygiene.”

“In retail, the technologies serve to control the receipt, dispatch and checking of goods in distribution centers and stores, at points of sale (POS) with the Pads, and in the control of movement of goods between storefront and stock room,” Strasburg says, “and real-time inventory of goods with phased arrays, in addition to loss-prevention portals with the new system we are testing at Levi’s.”

“In industry,” Strasburg states, “Identix products are used in the control of goods receipt, dispatch and conferencing, and for numerous other use cases, such as a new system that will soon be tested at Veiling, which allows the detection of transition of items in portals, with the elimination of readings of undesirable items.”

Freight inventory and logistics are also the focus of Identix products, which are used to move items shipped through docks, and in the continuous monitoring of items identified by RFID in the cold chain using the NR2500 reader. “In our hospital segment, for example, Synergy created a vertical health-care facility called Identhis,” Strasburg states, “which provides health-intelligence solutions with that data, aiming to increase the effectiveness, efficiency and profitability of hospital units. In the other segments, we work through authorized partners and channels. We are also open to incorporating new integrating partners who are interested in offering our products and integrating with their applications.”