SAMSys Announces Reader Upgrade Policy

By Mark Roberti

The Canadian manufacturer says its UHF RFID readers can be upgraded to EPC Gen 2 at no additional cost.

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SAMSys Technologies, an RFID reader and consulting services provider based in Toronto, has announced a “Tru Blue Gen 2” customer-assurance policy to address concerns end users have about whether the readers they are looking to buy can be upgraded to the second-generation Electronic Product Code protocol and can conform to protocols established by EPCglobal and the International Organization for Standardization.

“The concern is that you will have to throw away what you buy today,” says Steve Hall, VP of sales and marketing for SAMSys. “We want to let the market know that we are working with Philips Semiconductor, Texas Instruments, Impinj and other companies that are developing Gen 2 tags, and we’re developing the firmware needed to drive the features in the Gen 2 protocol.”

Steve Hall

Under the new customer-assurance program, anyone purchasing a SAMSys UHF reader today qualifies for a free upgrade to the Gen 2 protocol. The upgrade consists of both hardware and software for SAMSys’ MP9320 multiport reader (v 2.7) and software only for its MP9310 embedded UHF reader module.

The MP9320 multiport reader needs a new digital signal processor (DSP) circuit board with enhanced memory and functionality to execute Gen 2 features. The embedded UHF reader module already has the circuit board.

Companies that purchase the MP9320 multiport reader between Jan. 1 and Mar. 31, will be given a new DSP circuit board at no extra charge. Companies that bought the reader before January will need to pay between $400 and $500 for the DSP circuit board. Readers sold after Mar. 31 will come with the circuit board already installed.

The readers will also require a firmware upgrade to be fully Gen 2 compatible. The firmware won’t be available until after June or July, when the first EPC-compliant tags are available. Readers with the new firmware have to be tested to ensure they can read the Gen 2 tags.

SAMSys says that once upgraded, both of its UHF readers will read and write to all EPC and ISO-compliant UHF RFID tags. Hall says the way the readers are designed makes it possible for users to easily configure the readers to interrogate tags using a wide array of UHF protocols via SAMSys’ RF Command Suite Configurator application, a Windows-based software interface that allows the end users to program and control the readers. The Configurator software comes with the readers at no extra charge. Hall says the readers can also operate according to regulations established by the U.S. Federal Communications Commission and the European Telecommunications Standards Institute.

The existing SAMSys readers will comply with the Gen 2 single- and multi-reader modes, but not the dense-reader mode, which is required when there are more than 50 readers operating within 1 square kilometer, or 0.38 square miles. Dense-reader mode requires that readers “listen” to see if other readers are using a channel before broadcasting to ensure that they don’t interfere with one another in locations where many readers are operating in close proximity to one another.

SAMSys plans to have an EPC Gen 2 reader that can operate in the dense-reader mode on the market by next January. “Most end users don’t need dense-reader mode right now, so they can upgrade to Gen 2 readers with multi-reader mode,” says Hall. “And by the time they require dense-reader mode, we’ll have a reader on the market that can do that.”

Hall stresses that RFID readers can be set up right now to avoid interfering with one another, and they can be used to read current and future generations of EPC tags. “We want to reassure end users that they can invest in UHF systems today,” says Hall. “Our readers are forward and backward compatible, so there’s no reason for people to hesitate.”