A Comprehensive Guide to RFID Readers

Posted by Advanced Mobile Group on Jul 11, 2017 2:27:26 PM

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RFID readers have grown in popularity in many retail and manufacturing companies. It’s no surprise that the rise of RFID readers has improved a company’s efficiency. The newer models allow you to do more with the readers, but there are benefits, and there are cons to each one. If your company is thinking about getting a new RFID reader, you need to make sure you get the right one for your needs. Every RFID reader is different, so understanding those differences can help you decide will help you decide which one is right for your needs.

Types of RFID readers

There are numerous types of RFID readers. Depending on your company, you will want to choose one over the other. Here are some types of RFID readers available.

  • Fixed Readers
    • For a powerful device, the fixed readers have multiple ports, and provide excellent performance. They have higher power than other readers, and are ideal for non-mobile applications. A fixed reader can be used with integrated readers, which is a reader and antenna that’s combined into a single unit. They can have an additional port, aren’t mobile, and depending on the unit, can have medium to high performance levels. 
  • Mobile Readers
    • Mobile readers don’t have antennas on the outside. Instead, the antenna is integrated inside the mobile reader. There are plenty of features on the mobile readers, such as onboard processing, which allows the reader to run multiple applications at the same time. They can continue reading while performing with a high speed. There are different types of mobile readers, like sleds, that are small enough to fit in your pocket. They can connect to a smart device via Bluetooth, or use an auxiliary port. There are different functions and applications that can be used downloaded for different uses. 
  • Integrated Readers
    • Integrated readers are perfect for small reading zones, and can be used for retail or file tracking. There is an integrated antenna and an additional port that you can attach an antenna to. They are pleasing to look at, which is good for those that care about how their tools look when they’re using them. No matter how you want to use the reader, you can focus more attention to specific areas. This allows you to take inventory more accurately, find out if there are items in stock, and help customers find what they’re looking for. They can be used in manufacturing plants, as well.

 If you’re not a retail company, you can still use RFID readers to help your manufacturing plant run a lot smoother. There are different types of readers available that can improve efficiency in your manufacturing plant. Here are some readers you can use by themselves, or with a combination of the different readers.

  • Conveyor
    • A conveyer reader has multiple antennas that are great for case-level applications. They can be used for plastic recyclable containers that have RFID tags.
  • Dock Door or Portal
    • The portal readers provide information for any pallets and work going on around the area. An RF-reflective surface can keep adjoining doors from being misread, and using a metal mesh can effectively target the area.
  • Stretch Wrap Station
    • When you’re categorizing items on a pallet, you want to make sure you’re having the right items on the pallet. You can identify the products and categorize them with the RFID-enabled pallet to ensure they are the right products. 
  • Overhead
    • Any bulky product can be difficult to read, and using an overhead RFID reader will help you with inventory. You can use the forklift to read the product, and use antennas to the floor with a RF-reflective surface on the ground. It makes reading products easier than climbing on a ladder.
  • Handheld Mobile
    • When you’re searching for an item, using a handheld device can be tremendous help. A handheld mobile has different applications that allows you to find a product quickly and easily. You don’t need to go searching for the product when you know exactly where it is.
  • Printing and Encoding
    • A reader module will allow the printers to verify any data that is commissioned to the smart label. You can print your tags based on what the RFID reader relates to. You can save time and effort trying to print off the right label using the RFID reader.

Bonus: The Ultimate Barcodes vs RFID Comparison Guide. Which technology is best  for your business?

Choosing an RFID Reader

When you’re looking for an RFID reader, there are lots of things you should consider before making a choice. While some of these considerations may not apply to your company right now, they are still good points to know for the future.

  • RF Power Output
    • The RF power output level allows you to use the reader the way you want to. This includes the antenna, and you can use the reader up to a certain distance. Choosing the right power allows you to read different tags, near or far.
  • RF Receive Sensitivity
    • The reader should be sensitive to read a tag. Since it is difficult to build a more sensitive tag, the reader should read some of the tougher tags. Deflections can cause the reader to try and process its own information, which can make reading a tag impossible. You can adjust the sensitivity on the reader to read a tag. 
  • DC Power Consumption
    • Since many readers use a battery, you want to make sure the reader has a good battery. You should find out how much power is consumed when transmitting at full strength, and how it saves power when it’s on the minimum setting. There are many options available that can help preserve the battery, including a sleep mode.
  • Module Size
    • The reader size is crucial to working with the reader. There are different vendors that use different sizes for their readers with different capabilities. Ensuring both parties have the same information is crucial. You may need to upgrade the size to correspond with the vendors and download specific applications.
  • RF Ports
    • Depending on the company, you may need to have extra antennas that attach to the reader. While one port may suffice, you should make sure you can add more than one antenna. These different ports allow you to have more applications, read certain tags, and create new programs. There are some readers that will require you to use a cable to make sure the reader will work for certain tags. Ensuring you have enough ports allows you to do more with the reader. 
  • Interfaces
    • The interfaces on the reader are broken down into three types. SMA, MMCX, and U.FL have their own unique operations. SMA is the most common and easiest to use. The power and data connectors have four varieties, with each one having their own purpose. The common external connector, multi-pin connector, ribbon-cable connector, and a board-to-board connector have their unique ways of working. For more complicated systems, you will need a different connector, but a common external connector will suffice for most applications. 
  • Heat Dissipation
    • No matter what model you’re using, the reader will generate heat. You want to make sure the reader doesn’t get too hot, and finding one with a heat sink to dissipate the heat is ideal. You don’t want the internal components to overheat, which will make them stop working. Of course, different functions and different readers will have different ways to dissipate the heat, so you should monitor the heat output to prevent it from overheating.
  • Command Support
    • Since RFID readers have come a long way since their induction, you want to make sure the reader is future proof. You don’t want to buy a new reader next year because yours is outdated. You want to make sure the vendor has kept up with any new features, which will help you run more efficiently. Any lack of preparing for the future will result in your reader becoming quickly outdated. 
  • Availability of Host Applications
    • When a vendor notices that some applications are not used frequently, they will divert their time and energy to something else. You should make sure the reader can deal with low-level tasks, which can prevent your reader from becoming obsolete with basic tasks. A common software can be used, which allows the vendor and the company to use the basic tasks. 
  • Compliance
    • Using an RFID reader comes with a lot of responsibility, and following the rules will prevent your reader from being obsolete. You must have the reader certified to meet the market needs. An FCC Modular Certification can certify a reader alone, but you can also certify it with other readers. To be FCC certified, the DC power conditioning circuitry must be connected to the reader by itself. It shouldn’t make any noise, otherwise, it could disrupt other DC power lines that are connected to the module. 

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