How to Choose a RFID Reader

Not all readers are created equal, and for good reason. They can be grouped into four simple categories based upon the maximum number of antennas they support and local intelligence they provide. The characteristics and behavior of the tagged items play a large role in determining the number of antennas your reader needs to support.

Your application may dictate the use of a sophisticated RFID reader capable of controlling peripheral devices based on data read from the tag or you may need to attach your RFID reader to a separate local server or a programmable logic controller for local decision making.

Questions to Help You Choose the Right RFID Reader

The questions below have “either/or” options that are color coded to aid you in determining your reader choices in the quadrant below.

  1. Are the tags you’re trying to read always oriented the same way or are they unpredictable in their placement?
  2. Will you be reading a small number or large number of tags at the same time?
  3. Will the tagged items be moving slowly or fast at the time they are read?
  4. Will filtering of redundant tag data need to be performed at the reader level or by a server or host?
  5. Are PLCs currently used or will local decision making need to be handled by the reader?

Simple Scanner versus Smart Readers

With a primary function of collecting and passing on tag data, simple scanners rely on a host system “up stream” for decision making. The host system can either be a tethered handheld or vehicle-mounted computer, or a cabled connection to a programmable logic controller, server or PC. This is an adequate solution in environments where PLCs (programmable logic controllers) and edge servers are already relied upon to drive application-based decisions. A simple scanner, combined with a single antenna, will usually provide a cost effective solution when:

  1. There is already a local controller
  2. Tags are consistently oriented the same way and always located in the same place, and
  3. Only a few tags travel through the RF field at a time, relatively slowly.

Simple scanner readers with multiple antennas can alleviate issues with tag orientation, quantity and speed by increasing the “read field”. Additionally, simple scanners offer a more economical option for enterprises that want to leverage their investment in existing handheld and vehicle- mounted computers to achieve RFID capability.

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