Several companies have completed early piloting of a holistic RFID solution employing distributed antennas system (DAS) readers to track inventory through distribution, around a sales floor, to the point of sale (POS) and out the door. Cambridge, England-based RFID company PervasID's Ranger Series includes four different readers for the use cases of a typical retail supply chain, or a health-care asset-management environment, as well as software to manage the collected read data. According to PervasID, multiple retailers, as well as several health-care companies, are moving from the pilot stage of this new solution to determining deployment plans.
The system PervasID refers to as a "one-stop-shop" offers several benefits over existing RFID solutions, according to Sithamparanathan Sabesan, PervasID's CEO. For one thing, the series offers retailers automated tracking of goods from a manufacturing site through distribution, onto a store's sales floor and to the point of sale, all the way out the door. By employing the company's patented DAS antenna array, Sabesan reports, the system provides a read rate of more than 99 percent—even as goods are moving through dock doors packed densely within cartons. On average, he says, a return on investment can be achieved with the Ranger Series within less than a year.
The Ranger Series consists of what PervasID says are four categories of EPC ultrahigh-frequency (UHF) RFID readers: a model that provides dock door tracking for inventory management at warehouse locations, a real-time location overhead reader for use on a store's sales floor, a POS solution and a security system that can be deployed at exits to prevent shrinkage.
The Dock Door Ranger was released this year. According to the company, the device is designed to read tags as they move through a portal, such as at a warehouse dock door. The reader can be installed on walls or ceilings, and can interrogate tags even when they are moving through a door on a pallet, packed inside cartons. "The reader is effective," Sabesan states, "even if bulk items are moving through the door."
The Space Ranger is an overhead RFID reader that includes four pairs of external, ceiling-mounted antennas. The reader uses its wide-area interrogation capability to cover 4,500 square feet in low-density areas, or 450 square feet in high-density areas in which many tags are packed together, such as in the case of stacked denim garments. It provides near-real-time location data for tags, within minutes or hours of reads, Sabesan says, depending on tag density. A single overhead reader can be installed with up to five antennas, whereas if multiple readers are used, the antennas can be leveraged by all neighboring readers, requiring fewer antennas per reader—typically, two to three per reader will provide coverage at near 100 percent.
The Point of Sale Ranger can be installed under a counter or on a wall, and can read the tags of products being purchased. The device interrogates each tag, and PervasID software disables that tag while updating the product's status as sold. "This is the same reader" as the other Ranger Series models, Sabesan notes, "with different software and antenna," and is specifically designed for the POS use case. Once a tag comes within range, he explains, "It automatically detects and deactivates the tag."
The Security Ranger (a modified version of PervasID's gate reader) replaces traditional electronic article surveillance (EAS) systems for the purpose of providing theft prevention. The reader includes both audio and video alerts. If a person walks through a store's front doors with a product whose RFID tag has not been disabled, the Security Ranger will read that item's tag ID number. The device will then forward that data to the software, thereby prompting an audible alert, as well as displaying a flashing warning on a video monitor, along with instructions for the individual to return to the point of sale to purchase the product. In addition, the software updates the product's status as having been removed from the store.
The Ranger Series improves on existing RFID systems for retailers in several ways, Sabesan claims. Due to its effective read rate and longer range, he says, it can be installed with fewer readers in a given deployment. That results in a lower installation cost. He adds that a PervasID DAS reader can interrogate tags at a distance of up to 20 meters (65.6 feet), while traditional phased-array readers more commonly average a 10-meter (32.8-foot) read range. Location accuracy is 1 to 2 meters (3.3 to 6.6 feet), which is similar to the phased-array reader.
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