Fixed passive ultrahigh-frequency RFID readers come in a wide range of shapes, sizes and price ranges, each with its own variety of features. There are fixed portal and shelf readers, for example, and models that can be installed in ceilings. So how do you decide which one will be best for your RFID system? There are many factors to consider, according to experts, but before you start looking at product features and capabilities, you must first determine your business objectives and requirements.
"I would never suggest considering technological components until you've identified your pain points," says Anthony Palermo, director of business development at RFID Academia, a Montreal-based RFID consulting and engineering firm. After that, he says, you can figure out how to address those needs, and which technology can potentially do that.
"Without question, the starting point for selecting any technology is to identify the functional requirements and the desired business outcomes," says Robert Zielinski, director or commercial marketing at CDO Technologies, a Dayton, Ohio, systems integration and consulting provider. "The magic behind RFID is gone, and today, RFID devices—like any piece of technology—should be selected based on [their] ability to produce value."
Knowing the environment in which the reader will be deployed, as well as the application involved, will help you narrow down your choices to broad categories of fixed readers. A general-purpose fixed reader will meet some basic asset-management applications across different vertical markets, says Chris Schaefer, senior director of global market development for data-capture solutions at Motorola Solutions, a provider of RFID interrogators.
If you want to deploy an RFID system in, say, a warehouse or manufacturing facility, you need a rugged reader designed for industrial settings. "Warehouses and manufacturing facilities are often hot and dusty, so the reader should have an environmental rating that is acceptable for the anticipated conditions," says— Kurt Mensch, RFID principal product manager at Intermec by Honeywell, an RFID reader provider.
Here are seven important issues to consider that will help you evaluate products and features, so you can make a knowledgeable decision.
Reader performance is key to a successful RFID implementation, says Patrick O'Bright, COO of Quake Global, a San Diego, Calif., provider of industrial asset-monitoring and -tracking communications systems. "An RFID solution is only as accurate as the data gathered at the network edge," he states. "If the reader fails to capture tag data, no amount of middleware, integration elegance or process efficiency can retrieve it."
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