Mobile RFID tag reader helps track assets from handhelds

It uses technology from fixed readers that is adapted for mobility, flexibility

RFID technology maker RF Code announced a US$995 mobile active RFID tag reader on Wednesday that allows IT managers and others to better find tagged assets using common handheld computers.

The M220 reader from Austin-based RF Code, takes the signals from active RFID tags that transmit data over the 433-MHz band and transmits data via Bluetooth over a short distance to a Research In Motion BlackBerry device, a Windows Mobile handheld or a laptop, RF Code officials said in an interview. Currently, the only tag readers with similar capabilities are expensive, industrial-class handhelds such as those from Symbol Technologies, a division of Motorola.

"Just about everybody in IT has a BlackBerry," said RF Code CEO Mitch Medford. Since tag signals can now be detected with less expensive mobile devices, the value of using RFID to track IT assets is growing, he said, noting that the same is true for hospital administrators looking to track valuable medical equipment that moves constantly and must be cleaned regularly.

RF Code, founded in 1997, has made fixed-RFID readers for five years, and the technology in those devices has been configured for its new mobile reader, which is small enough to be worn on a belt or attached to a vehicle, said Tim Bresien, RF Code's marketing director. Fixed-RFID tag readers are typically mounted on ceilings near tagged inventory, limiting their range.

RF Code has dozens of customers who have deployed nearly a million RFID active tags, including one IT services provider who has tagged 150,000 IT devices throughout a client's organization to keep track of them, Medford said.

Bresien said RF Code is the first to market with the mobile reader. But competitors such as Wavetrend Technologies, and Axcess International are expected to follow soon with mobile readers in the hardware market for 433-MHz and 303-MHz active RFID. Other vendors market RFID technology that operates over Wi-Fi, such as AeroScout USA, and Ekahau. By contrast, RF Code believes Wi-Fi-based tags use up batteries too fast, Medford said.

The M220 Mobile Reader is battery powered and will report radio messages from 100 RFID tags per second at up to about 200 feet away, according to RF Code specifications. RF Code works with many integrators that provide applications for handhelds to take data transmitted via Bluetooth regarding assets, Medford said. With the belt clip, the device measures 4.79-in. by 3.01-in. by 1.15-in. and weighs 5.7 ounces.

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