RFID Journal Live: Hardware Evolves, but Software Leaps Forward
on Apr 22, 2015
At RFID Journal Live last week, hardware continued to make incremental, if important advances, while software continued its headlong plunge into the future. We'll cover readers in this issue and tag chips and software in the next one.
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Alien launched the ALR-F800 this week, an important new product that will put competitive pressure on the top performance tier for fixed readers. Let’s put this in perspective.
Alien’s new, ultra-high-performance ALR-F800
When Impinj launched its Speedway Revolution reader line in 2009, it remade the fixed reader landscape. With significantly better performance and a 25% price reduction compared to contemporary general-purpose, multi-port readers, Impinj’s product quickly boxed out Alien Technology, Motorola and ThingMagic to take about 30% of the fixed reader market. Impinj’s reader had a list price of under $1600, and its significant functional advances enabled a whole new range of applications, including many embedded RFID products.
Impinj’s industry-leading Speedway Revolution
Impinj did not use its own reader chipset in its Speedway Revolution. But a number of other vendors soon did. From 2010 to 2013 a variety of vendors launched mid-range readers based on chip sets from Impinj and AMS. This trend, which included vendors from Europe, the United States and Asia, established a new, lower, list price range of from $1000 to $1300 suitable for applications not requiring top performance. Impinj’s Indy chip line seemed to be the winner here with Alien, Motorola, ATID, Kathrein and ThingMagic1 all launching readers based on Impinj’s chips. None of these readers delivered the performance of the Impinj Speedway revolution, however.
Reader Vendors Looking for Performance Prefer Home-grown Designs
Lately, leading reader vendors have moved back to home-grown designs for their top-of-the-line models. Examples include Motorola’s2 FX7500, Tyco’s IDX-8000, CSL’s3 CS469 and Alien’s new ALR-F800. These new “discrete” designs deliver higher performance compared to their predecessors, while continuing the downward trend in price. In fact, Alien claims to have displaced the Impinj product as the most sensitive reader on the market, citing a new high for the all-important sensitivity spec of -85dBm.4
This spec is important because as tags get smaller, so do their signals, meaning that readers have to be more sensitive to read them. Return on investment for many RFID solutions depends on the tradeoff between the cost of the hardware and the percentage of tags the reader solution can reliably capture. In retail, for example, as retailers consider moving from the handheld use model, with its fallible human operators, to a more reliable, but more costly fixed infrastructure approach, the price/performance ratio of the readers is key to ROI.
Impinj is not standing still, of course. To provide the processing power required for its xArray RFID Gateway, the company refreshed its Speedway Revolution design to boost processing power and overall performance. Armed with this horsepower, ceiling-mounted readers such as the xArray will deliver a raft of new benefits to users. One of the key success factors will be reader performance.
Impinj’s xArray RFID Gateway
The other key success factors will involve software and tag chips, which we’ll cover next issue.