What Do I Need to Know When Buying an RFID Developer’s Kit?

By RFID Journal

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Ask The ExpertsWhat Do I Need to Know When Buying an RFID Developer’s Kit?
RFID Journal Staff asked 8 years ago

I am an experienced C programmer, but a beginner when it comes to radio frequency identification. I am currently planning a hands-on RFID deployment and would appreciate some advice.

—Salim

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Dear Salim,

The first thing you need to understand is that radio frequency identification is not a single technology. There are many different types of RFID, including passive low-frequency (LF), high-frequency (HF) and ultrahigh-frequency (HF), as well as active systems and hybrid solutions (RFID combined with GPS, infrared or some other technology). So choosing the right developer’s kit for your needs would start with the type of RFID system you are interested in developing.

To my knowledge, there have been no reviews of RFID development kits released. As such, I cannot tell you which one would be better for you, or why. That said, below is a sampling of some developer’s kits currently available.

Ultrahigh-Frequency Kits
Impinj, a manufacturer of UHF chips, readers and reader chips, offers its INDY SDK software developer’s kit, with a robust application programming interface (API) library, a graphical user interface (GUI) and an extensive sample code library that simplifies application development.

Alien Technology offers the ALR-9900+ Developer Kit, which includes all necessary components for developing an RFID solution. The kit comes with Alien’s ALR-9900+ RFID reader, which enables users to deploy more efficient and manageable solutions across a variety of industrial verticals.

CAEN RFID, a manufacturer of passive UHF readers, offers a software developer’s kit including software libraries that, according to its Web site, “define a high-level object-oriented interface that permits the communication with all easy2read readers, allowing the developers to focus their commitment on the application logic instead of wasting time with the communication protocol details.” CAEN RFID provides libraries for Visual C++, Java and Microsoft .Net. These tools aim to make it easier to link CAEN readers with middleware and enterprise applications.

ThingMagic, a provider of passive UHF RFID readers and modules, offers developer’s kits for its fixed readers, as well as one for reader modules. Each kit “contains all the components necessary to begin reading and writing RFID tags and developing RFID-enabled applications,” according to the company’s Web site. The kit also comes with the Mercury API, which includes code examples and a graphical read-write demonstration program, and “delivers a consistent programmatic interface for development with all ThingMagic fixed and embedded reader products.”

High-Frequency Kits
Texas Instruments offers the Stellaris 13.56 MHz RFID Wireless Kit. The kit uses the Stellaris microcontroller development kit (sold separately), a Stellaris EM2 expansion board, and TI’s TRF7960TB HF RFID Reader Module, along with all necessary firmware and software to provide a compelling RFID development environment and interactive system demonstration.

Low-Frequency Kits
Atmel, a provider of passive RFID transponder chips, offers several developer’s kits to help engineers evaluate its integrated circuits. The LF RFID Application Kit (ATA2270-EK1), a “self-contained introduction kit for RFID systems for designers with little prior RFID experience, includes an LCD and control buttons to interact with the RFID system,” according to the company’s Web site. The kit supports Atmel’s e5530/TK5530, T5551/TK5551, ATA5567 (T5557), ATA5570, ATA5575, ATA5577 and ATA5558 chips, as well as the U2270B. The kit includes a graphical user interface on a CD. The GUI allows users to configure tags into all available modulation and coding schemes. Texas Instruments and Melexis also offer LF developer’s kits.

—Mark Roberti, Founder and Editor, RFID Journal

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