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What You Need to Know About RFID Reader Antennas

Innovative designs engineered for specific applications make it easier to monitor myriad items in a wide range of environments.
By Jennifer Zaino
Nov 28, 2011—As RFID solution providers develop vertical applications that make it easier and more cost-efficient for end users to deploy the technology, RFID hardware vendors are doing their part by designing innovative reader antennas for passive systems. "The antenna is one of the most important parts of the system when it comes to making an RFID reader system application-specific," says Scot Stelter, Impinj's senior director of product marketing.

That's because the antenna's efficiency, gain (power) and beam width can determine how fast and accurately the reader captures tag information. In addition, factors such as gain, orientation and polarization impact the distance at which a tag can be read. "If you have an application whose read rate is insufficient and you want to increase the read rate, you change the antenna and you get better system performance," says Reuven Drori, MTI Wireless Edge RFID sales and marketing director.

Photo courtesy of Impinj
Early RFID installations typically depended on patch antennas, which radiate a single beam in a given direction. That meant systems integrators had to spend a lot of time figuring out how to cover different zones for each application. And patch antennas often caused unwanted tag reads.

Today's RFID reader antennas let you monitor everything from jewelry on a store shelf to mining equipment in a hazardous environment. In addition, vendors are developing more efficient manufacturing processes that promise to lower costs. What follows is a look at recent innovations from some leading technology providers. For more details about each reader antenna, see the table on page 33.
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