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SAMSys: A Reader for Every Need

SAMSys Technologies sells readers that cover the common RFID frequencies and protocols and fit specific applications, such as conveyor systems. Now it's educating the market about how they should be used.
By Bob Violino
Aug 03, 2003—Aug. 4, 2003 - Cliff Horwitz, the chairman and CEO of SAMSys Technologies, doesn't like the generic term "RFID reader." The Canadian maker of RFID readers says the term implies that all readers are the same when, in fact, they can be as different from one another as a Ford pickup and a Caterpillar off-road truck.
CEO Cliff Horwitz

SAMSys is all about providing different types of readers for different business applications. The Richmond Hill, Ontario, company, founded in 1995, is one of the few RFID companies that is publicly listed (its shares are traded on the TSX Venture Exchange under the symbol SMY). The company's philosophy regarding the use of RFID in an open supply chain is simple: No single protocol and no one frequency can be used in every situation.

"It's imperative to use the right frequency and the right protocol for the right applications," says Horwitz. "The hardware has to be able to support a plurality of protocols and frequencies, and it has to be flexible. Otherwise, any investment in hardware is guaranteed to run into premature obsolescence."

SAMSys offers readers that operate at low frequency (125 and 134 KHz), at high frequency (13.56 MHz) and at ultra-high frequency (915 MHz). Some readers are designed for specific applications, such as for reading items coming down a conveyor belt or those sitting on a retail or industrial smart shelf. All of the readers support a variety of proprietary and ISO protocols. The company's 13.56 MHz reader also supports the Auto-ID Center's Electronic Product Code specification, and SAMSys is adding EPC-capability to its UHF reader. What’s more, the protocols used by all of its readers can be upgraded remotely over a network.

SAMSys has also developed a "concentrator," a device that supports a network of readers regardless of whether some are operating at 13.56 MHz and others at 915 MHz. The Interrogator Concentrator Control Module (ICCM), can control up to 256 readers, filter data and then pass on relevant information to enterprise applications via an Ethernet connection. The unit comes with or without a VGA display and costs about $2,000. "All of the readers operate with a single channel through the concentrator to the host, so that you are not tying up the server with unbelievable volume of information," says Horwitz.

Armed with RFID readers for almost any application, SAMSys has begun to educate potential end users about which readers should be used in specific situations. It has created a showroom to demonstrate these different readers and launched a consulting service to do site surveys and help companies understand what problems or limitations they might come up against in their unique environment. And SAMSys has been forming alliances with integrators and value-added resellers (VARs) and training them to install RFID systems.
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