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Mobile RFID

If you have fixed your data collection plans solely on RFID reader-antennae portals, then you may want to recalibrate your strategy a bit. Vendors offer wireless mobile solutions that permit flexible alternatives to fixed portals for RFID data acquisition.

The value of such a solution for consumer packaged goods companies (CPGs) depends on your company’s specific needs.

Thomas Ryan, principal, TKR Consulting Associates, sees fixed RFID portals’ role as that of capturing RFID information for goods going into and out of the warehouse. But for tracking flow within warehouses and distribution centers, portable devices have their place, he says.

“Handheld and lift truck-mounted devices can augment existing bar-code scanners as a part of the RF terminal network for goods within the warehouse,” notes Ryan.

Natural progression

Ralf Saykiewicz, formerly an RFID expert with Deloitte Consulting, recently joined Chicago-based Technology Solutions Co. as vice president, solutions and architecture. He believes that mobility is a natural part of data gathering via RFID. “It is in tune with the overall philosophy of mobile business devices such as PDAs, laptops, and cellular phones,” he says. “The market for mobile RFID devices is growing rapidly. This comes not only from traditional users, but also from the U.S. Department of Defense, which is currently seeking appropriate mobile UHF devices for a blanket purchasing agreement. That means a high demand for many thousands of these devices in a short time.”

Will these mobile solutions replace or augment fixed readers and antennas?

“Fixed RFID hardware plays a very important role in generating data in the business mode, and is currently more reliable than handheld units,” says Saykiewicz. “Fixed devices have a greater read range and play into the 0HIO principle–Zero Human Intervention Operation. Fixed devices are affixed at one choke point and are automatically activated once any object–RFID enabled or not–passes through its read range.

“This usually is enabled by a photocell synchronized with the particular fixed reader. This event does not require the intervention of an operator. It accelerates processes and makes them more reliable. Handheld devices supplement the process and are a source of additional data, but due to the human factor involved, should not be the primary source of data collection.”

For the full article that includes a sampling of vendors’ portable RFID solutions, see:

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