The University of Florida is testing Intelletto's RFID Multiport Companion, a device that gives retail stores the ability to use both bar codes labels and RFID tags.
Most users still find bar codes more convenient than RFID tags, but for the University of Floridas Packaging Sciences program, preferences could turn out to be quite the opposite. As a result, the university program is about to start testing RFID Multiport Companion, a new hardware device from Intelletto Technologies Inc.
Up until now, the universitys been using press-on bar code labels to track the productivity of human packers in fruit and vegetable packing environments, according to Hassanail Namazi, Intellettos president and CEO.
Attached to the sides of corrugated cardboard and reusable plastic containers, the bar code labels have identified the contents of each container and the name of the person who packed it. On the downside, however, the labels have tended to stick to the gloves of the workers, and the label backings have generated waste.
As a result, the program is planning to use RFID Multiport Companion to compare RFID tags against bar code labels, Namazi said in an interview with eWEEK.com.
"You cant expect users to switch over from bar codes to RFID all at once. Thats one of the reasons why RFID hasnt exactly been rampantly catching fire all over the place," he said. "Although there are some handheld devices that work with both RFID and bar code data, the Multiport Companion is the first plug-and-play device to treat bar code and RFID information with equality."
Instead of plugging a bar code reader into a PCs serial port, researchers at the University of Florida will attach Intellettos device. "The Multiport has an embedded processor inside that formats the data in a way that makes it transparent to users whether it [originated] from bar code or RFID," Namazi said.
Available now, the Multiport Companion complies with epcGlobals emerging specifications for high frequency RFID devices. But Intelletto is planning another edition, due out by the end of the year, that will conform to epcGlobals UHF (ultra high frequency) spec. "The UHF spec is what Wal-Mart is following," Namazi noted.
To find out why suppliers and competitors are balking at Wal-Marts RFID lead, click here.
As Namazi sees it, the ability to work with both sorts of data will be particularly important in retail stores that carry both low-priced and higher-end goods. "A video store might want to use RFID tags on DVDs, while continuing to attach bar codes to candy bars, bubble gum and cans of Coke," he said.
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