Testing is key to launching a successful RFID implementation. While RFID works well in a wide variety of environments, testing is necessary to find the optimum RFID tags, readers, and antennas for your application and environment.
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So you have a great new idea for your business. It may be a plan for supply chain management. Maybe you are hosting events and would like to keep track of people that attend. And you believe that RFID is the key to solving that problem. That’s great! Many businesses have used RFID in asset tracking, manufacturing, supply chain management, retail, and access control to improve their operations.
So what’s next? You’ve looked around and have seen a vast selection of tags, readers, and antennas to choose from, and you can’t decide which products will work best for your application. You may get confused by all of the different types of products that are related to a specific application. You’ll notice that there are several RFID tags whose suggested use fits the criteria of your situation. How do you know which product is the perfect fit for your application? The answer is testing.
Testing is a simple, low-cost, and effective way to see if your idea for your business can improve your operations without having to make a major purchase decision.
Testing is extremely important because there are many factors that can affect the ability to read RFID tags consistently – the environment in which the tag is being read, the orientation of the tag on the object, the antenna gain, and reader settings are just a few of the factors that can affect your ability to capture reads.
There is not one RFID tag, reader, or antenna that works best for every situation. Most products have been created to fit a specific need because every business situation will be unique in some way. For example, if you are tagging a cardboard box, you’ll use a very different tag than if you are tagging a steel beam.
So, before assuming RFID is right for you and spending a lot of money on readers, tags, antennas, and the software necessary to bring it all together, start small.
Customizable RFID tag sample packs and development kits are a great place to begin. Tag sample packs can be customized specifically for your application – combining an assortment of tags that should perform well in your situation. During your testing, a customized sample pack will make it easier to select the tag that works best with your operation.
An RFID development kit is a low-cost and effective way of testing your idea before you make a major purchase decision. Each development kit is a little different, but all development kits include:
- An RFID reader
- An antenna (which is sometimes integrated directly into the device)
- An antenna cable (if the antenna isn’t directly integrated)
- Tag samples, and
- Access to the testing software you will need to get started.
The four major categories of RFID Development Kits are 4-port reader development kits, integrated reader development kits, USB reader development kits, and handheld reader development kits. Each type of development kit has its own pros & cons and some fit certain applications better than others.
The four-port reader is great for applications where you will need lots of coverage. The four ports allow users to attach multiple antennas to a single reader (depending on the reader and setup, the number can range from 4 to 32 antennas). With the ability to attach additional antennas, users can cover more ground and have the added flexibility of being able to choose from a wide array of antenna options. Depending on the kit selected, you have options for Wi-Fi and Power-over-Ethernet.
The integrated reader is a lower-cost option than the four-port reader. It has an antenna integrated inside of it, as well as an additional antenna port which gives users the option to add another antenna if needed. If you only need one or two antennas, this may be the best option for you. Like the four-port readers, you also have Wi-Fi and Power over Ethernet options.
The USB reader is the least expensive of the RFID readers and is a great fit for desktop and close proximity applications. It is also a great fit if you are just getting into RFID and want to start with an inexpensive option. Because of its size and power output, its read range is much less than any other reader. Additionally, due to having a serial connection, USB readers must be connected to a host computer and cannot be placed on a network like other RFID readers.
The handheld reader is a mobile RFID reader with an integrated antenna. It is great for applications where you are on the move, and don’t want to be restricted to a single point for reading tags. Most handheld readers also have the ability to read various types of barcodes. Because many units are also full-fledge mobile computers, they are typically the most expense type of RFID reader you can buy.
As I mentioned earlier, a development kit is great for testing because it allows users to try out different approaches to various applications. With the ability to test multiple types of antennas and tags, an RFID Development kit can help you asses your business idea to see if RFID can improve your operation without spending a tremendous amount of money.