Desktop USB RFID Readers – Simple yet Versatile

Posted by Ken Lynch on Wed, Apr 24, 2013 @ 01:33 PM

ThingMagic USB ReaderThe value of small form factor RFID readers is not difficult to understand – it is a combination of simplicity, utility and low cost that makes them a popular choice among application developers. Any industry can benefit from being more efficient, yet many are apprehensive to put resources or systems (RFID being an example) in place to make it happen, because of any number of barriers to entry – “it’ll cost too much,” “it’ll be too invasive,” “it’ll be difficult to integrate with our current operations.

ThingMagic’s USB RFID Reader is one answer to these concerns, particularly for users developing and deploying interactive read/write applications. Its small form factor allows users to deploy without affecting existing infrastructure. The reader’s ability to be controlled and powered by a PC means plugging into a USB port is typically all that’s necessary to integrate with existing hardware systems. And, its low cost makes it an easier investment decision. The variety of industries that the ThingMagic USB RFID Reader has made its way into shows this versatility.

Aerospace

Writing information to an RFID tag is easy enough when it involves something as simple as scanning workers’ ID badges into a system, but this becomes significantly more difficult when the tag you need to scan is attached to an enormous airplane part you can’t necessarily just drag over to any old reader. Companies like Honeywell Aerospace have begun applying high-memory RFID tags to various parts they manufacture so that they can be tracked from birth through their eventual use by airlines, and repair if necessary. To write and read information on these tags, which often reside on difficult to reach parts, Honeywell uses simple and portable USB RFID readers provided by ThingMagic that can be easily plugged into a laptop. Using a USB RFID reader to write and read these high-memory tags allows aerospace companies to easily attach information part descriptions, manufacture dates, part numbers, and serial numbers to the equipment being moved around a plant and even to other countries.

Healthcare

Healthcare environments – hospitals, clinics, etc. – depend on accuracy perhaps more than any other industry, as errors could potentially affect not only just business, but individuals’ health and well-being. A recent deployment by XECAN (watch video), a leading provider of smart RFID systems for healthcare, fixes ThingMagic USB readers to the desktop PCs in hospital exam rooms. Doctors can then scan their badge upon greeting a patient and have immediate access to that patient’s profile in the Electronic Medical Record (EMR) system.

The time saved by not having to repeatedly enter login credentials for different software applications allows doctors more time to see patients and focus on care, letting the technology handle logistics. The entire process becomes more efficient and accurate, reducing potential errors and, in turn, lowering costs for patients, healthcare providers and insurers. And it involves little more effort from employees than simply touching their IDs to a desktop USB RFID reader.  Download XECAN Case Study

Sports

These types of readers are just as often applied in fast-paced, often outdoor environments as part of athletic deployments, and can be used to easily replace the guesswork involved in athletic competition with structure and automation for accuracy.

When you consider the logistics of racing sports, for instance, it’s obviously important to have accurate time recording measures in place for properly determining winners and statistics. What’s often neglected, however, (and which we’ve blogged in the past) is the need to monitor for fair play – a lesson Rosie Ruiz taught us all the hard way in 1980 when she became the “fastest” female runner in the history of the Boston Marathon (until investigators discovered she’d skipped most of the race).

To protect the integrity of racing sports, companies like RFID Timing deploy RFID systems to keep track of athlete information and monitor their progress at different checkpoints throughout a race. In these types of deployments, a USB reader could be used to encode and check UHF tags before they’re placed on a racer’s number prior to an event. The readers are also used to scan athletes’ tags in various locations, for instance at the point where a runner would pick up his or her race pack. Automating a process like this ensures an athlete’s details are correct in a timing system’s database.

RFID-Powered Kiosks

Though you’ll typically see these types of readers on a desk plugged into a PC or laptop, use cases have evolved in parallel with the explosion of social media to popularize RFID-powered social media kiosks at event functions. Showing the more casual and entertaining side of RFID, providers like ODIN (watch video) put together interactive kiosks that allow people to more easily engage with others and share enjoyable moments from the events they attend. Users who touch their conference ID badge to an RFID-powered kiosk and choose to attach it to their social media accounts can then easily share updates, check-ins, and photos from the variety of sessions, booths, or events they visit.

A cool use case we’ve blogged in the past was for the Olympics this past summer when candy company Cadbury partnered with the social media tech company dwinQ to set up a large, purple, inflatable booth – the Cadbury House – that was RFID-enabled. Prior to entering the Cadbury House, visitors could tap their event badges to a ThingMagic USB RFID reader and then choose to link the badge to their Facebook account. From that point on, other readers throughout the attraction would automatically pick up visitors’ badges and give them different options for sharing content, such as a photo opportunity with an added backdrop of participants receiving Olympic medals in front of a large crowd. They reported that an impressive 75% of attendees opted to link their Facebook pages, checking in 5824 times and sharing 8958 photos.  Download ODIN Case Study

The value of this type of reader, regardless of whether it’s found on a racetrack or in a hospital exam room, is that it can be easily deployed to provide immediate results. These types of readers are designed to plug simply into existing infrastructure so as to offer a quick solution that doesn’t disrupt ongoing operations already in place. The variety of applications – creative and entertaining like Cadbury to complex like aerospace parts tracking – shows its versatility. Because there are so few strings attached, virtually any industry could see improvements in performance, efficiency, or accuracy with desktop USB RFID readers.

Tags: RFID, Healthcare, Embedded RFID, Event Management, Airplane Parts Tracking, USB RFID reader, RFID Kiosk

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