Readers, Tags Make Splash at RFID Show

At the RFID Journal Live conference, IBM, OATSystems and Alien announce a smart reader, while Symbol unveils Gen 2 inlays and a metal mount tag.

The news coming out of this years RFID Journal Live conference in Las Vegas has a collective focus on hardware: RFID tags and readers, and their expanding capabilities, emerging from vendors.

OATSystems, IBM and Alien Technology, for example, announced May 2 the availability of a "smart reader"—a handheld device that has radio frequency identification applications directly deployed on it.

At the same time, Symbol Technologies announced a bevy of RFID tag inlays that are based on Gen 2, the standard ratified by EPCglobal last year (and being built into products this year). The company also unveiled a prototype of a hardened metal mount tag—the first in a line of products that will be designed to provide intelligent asset management capabilities within RFID tags.

On a related note, Sybase subsidiary iAnywhere announced the 2.1 version of its RFID Anywhere development platform that includes support for both fixed and handheld readers. With this iteration, developers have access to the full set of capabilities available in an RFID reader—regardless of its manufacturer. They also have the ability to add additional capabilities around supporting new tag formats, general-purpose input/output control and reader synchronization for operating in a dense-reader mode.

/zimages/2/28571.gifHow secure is your RFID system? Click here to read Eric Lundquists column.

"We are moving beyond introductory research in the RFID space and getting into a lot more of the practical issues to create an overall RFID intelligent network," said Martyn Mallick, director of RFID and mobile solutions at iAnywhere, in Dublin, Calif. "What were seeing, as we start to roll out [networks], there are a new set of issues to address, really geared around the ability to work at a very integrated level with physical RFID devices."

To this end, Mallick said its important for RFID platform developers to have a close relationship with hardware vendors.

"In the past we always provided support for a broad set of hardware," said Mallick. "Were working to extend that support to the lower level, with the integration of hardware and capabilities we provide while we work with that hardware."

The smart reader from OATSystems, IBM and Alien brings new software functionality directly on the reader—a marriage thats been hinted at in the past but is really just emerging for the market now. With this release, OATxpress 5.0 RFID applications can be deployed on Aliens ALR-9800 reader, based on any combination of enterprise and edge servers (an area IBM plays big in), edge controllers and readers. The combination of OATSystems and Alien leverages IBMs WebSphere RFID Device Infrastructure, which provides an embedded environment for deploying distributed applications onto readers.

"This is a major milestone for the RFID industry. For the first time, end users can deploy RFID software applications to enterprise-class intelligent readers," said Scott Burroughs, solutions executive for IBMs Sensor & Actuator Solutions Group in Somers, N.Y., in a statement. "This greatly simplifies implementation and ongoing management."

Separately, Symbols first Asset Tag, a 6-by-6-inch metal mount designed for asset management applications, will be able to track goods in rough environments, from distances up to 50 feet, officials said.

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