RFID technology vendor Alien Technology is releasing Intelligent Tag Reader, a reader software platform that uses second-generation radio-frequency identification technology to provide detailed tag data.
Alien announced the solution June 23 and will make it available June 30.
"Right now, when you read an RFID tag, you know that reader at that particular location saw a particular tag number," said Scot Stelter, director of reader product marketing for Alien. "For a retailer, having a reader between the back room and sales floor will tell you a product has arrived. But wouldn't you like to know the direction the product is traveling?"
Stelter said ITR software allows a reader to measure the velocity of tag movement. By recording the "top dead center" of a tag's movement when it directly passes in front of an RFID antenna, the reader can determine a tag's precise location, as well as the direction a tag is traveling in relation to other nearby antennas.
"Some retailers use 'electric eyes' or [antennas] that point in different directions to help determine the direction of tag travel," Stelter said. "But those methods are unreliable and difficult to replicate at different sites. ITR is replicable, deterministic and business-practical."
In a specific example of how this information could be used, Stelter said DVDs in a stationary display could be tagged to report if they get picked up and how long they are held. Based on that real-time information, a retailer could then have a trailer of that DVD play on an attached video screen to help encourage its purchase.
"In the retail space, RFID impacts two areas," he said. "Supply chain and the customer side. Singulation [determining the precise location of a specific tag] and determining the direction of tag travel on the supply chain side enhances activities like inventory control, but there has not been a lot of RFID impact to date on the customer side. Now that technology allows you to visualize information on a tag's velocity and location, the impact will be huge. ITR can improve the customer experience and the likelihood a customer will buy a product, while reducing business costs."
Stetler said ITR enables a reader to be intelligent and operate autonomously, making decisions on its own without human or computer guidance. Alien will offer firmware upgrades and software development kits free to existing customers. ITR is compatible with the ALR-9900, ALR-9800 and ALR-8800 enterprise-class reader platforms.
Mike Liard, RFID and contactless research director for ABI Research, said Alien is trying to make RFID deliver on its ROI promise with the ITR platform.
"This offering adds value to the Alien readers," Liard said. "A long-term goal for Alien, and the industry in general, is to contribute to the adoption of RFID by enabling certain applications."
He said ITR offers a lower-cost, passive alternative to real-time locating systems based on active RFID technology.
"It may not be as precise as real-time locating systems, but not everyone is going to need real-time locating systems," he said.
Dan Berthiaume covers the retail space for eWEEK. For more industry news, check out eWEEK.com's Retail Site.