Personalized Kiosk Using a ThingMagic USB Plus+

Posted by Shannon Downey on Thu, Feb 26, 2015 @ 12:03 PM

Tags: USB RFID reader, RFID Kiosk

One of our partners, TransTech, is working with customers to help build personalized kiosk solutions with our ThingMagic USB Plus+ readers.

Turns out, we had a customer develop this type of solution in the past and we wrote a case study about it.

Take a minute and read TransTech's blog post for their take on how to build a solution like this.

The ThingMagic USB Plus+ RFID Reader – A New Level of Versatility

Posted by Ken Lynch on Mon, Jul 22, 2013 @ 10:07 AM

Tags: RFID, Embedded RFID, USB RFID reader

USB PlusWe blogged not too long ago about the benefits of desktop USB RFID readers, a main theme being that they’re used in a wide variety of places because of their versatile form factor and a level of simplicity that allows for easy deployment. So in setting out to enhance our already popular offering in this space, we were presented with what seemed to be a unique challenge: What can you add to a simple and versatile product to make it simpler and more versatile?

Introducing the ThingMagic USB Plus+ RFID Reader (download datasheet)

What the USB Plus+ brings to the table is an improved antenna design with a read range 3 times the distance of its predecessor. Because it is now adjustable to a much longer read distance – up to 3 feet instead of 12 inches – it can open doors for new types of deployments; and it does so without sacrificing its unobtrusive nature. Furthermore, because the USB Plus+ offers the same form, fit and function (and price) as our previous USB reader, it can be added to existing systems and immediately improve their performance and add value.

Where this variability of read range becomes a significant differentiator is in deployments that require a certain degree of tag read sensitivity. For manufacturing work-in-process or warehouse inventory and distribution, having an extended read range could lessen the effort and time burden put on employees and operators keeping track of assets moving in and out of facilities. But the ability to adjust the read range of the USB Plus+ supports certain applications where the extended antenna could interfere with other critical operations. In healthcare, for example, deployments may require a shorter and stricter read distance to ensure the safety of patients and security of private information.

Beyond newfound flexibility in read range, the USB Plus+ Reader is able to better support high-memory tags like those used in the aerospace industry. The ability to read and write these tags greatly benefits manufacturers that need to tag and track assets that can be difficult to maneuver and where recording maintenance history is critical to ongoing operation and part servicing. On the opposite end of the spectrum, those who need to be able to read much smaller form factor RFID tags, such as jewelers, are also able to do so more effectively.

Download our Application Note" target="_blank">> Download our Application Note: Transitioning to the ThingMagic USB Plus+ Reader to learn how to make a seamless transition from one model to another.

The value behind desktop USB RFID readers isn’t changing with the introduction of ThingMagic’s USB Plus+ Reader – it’s still the cost-effective and simple option for those who want the efficiency and visibility that RFID can provide, without interrupting operations. Enhanced features, however, allow the USB Plus+ to both open doors for industries that have found barriers to RFID adoption and offer newer capabilities for those already deploying these types of readers.

Desktop USB RFID Readers – Simple yet Versatile

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

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

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.

Raising the Bar for RFID Readers

Posted by Ken Lynch on Mon, Nov 14, 2011 @ 01:30 PM

Tags: Business Intelligence, RFID, Healthcare, IT Asset Tracking, USB RFID reader, Telematics, RFID + GPS

Helping Enterprises Realize the Value of RFID

Economies such as the one we are living and working in now, are forcing enterprises to trim costs while maintaining, and even increasing output. This approach requires skill and creativity to avoid misguided cost-cutting initiatives.  One could argue it also requires making intelligent technology investments that can pay for themselves quickly while establishing a foundation for smart growth.  That’s where RFID comes into the picture. RFID isn’t unattainable.  It isn’t a pie in the sky solution that requires a team of engineers and it isn’t cost-prohibitive.  It’s right here in front of us waiting to help.

Taking Flexibility and Integration to a New Level

Those of you who are familiar with ThingMagic most likely saw the product announcement we made last week. Enhancements to our Mercury6 (M6) UHF RFID Reader raise the bar for flexibility and integration.  For reasons, in part brought about by current market conditions, high-quality reader capabilities are much needed by enterprises today.  The firmware upgrade to our M6 reader includes several enhancements to address these needs, most notably support for Low-Level Reader Protocol (LLRP) and Reader-Hosted Applications.

What is LLRP and Why Now?

Let’s first start with EPCglobal - the organization that supports the adoption and implementation of standards-based Electronic Product Code™/Radio Frequency Identification (EPC/RFID) technology.  EPCGlobal was responsible for standardizing the tag and reader radio frequency interface protocol with the UHF Gen 2 standard.  As a next step in facilitating the adoption of EPC and RFID technology, EPCglobal ratified the LLRP standard, a specification for the network interface between the reader and its controlling software or hardware.  In creating LLRP, EPCglobal included air-protocol configurations and a robust set of vendor extension points that support the flexibility and integration required to innovate. The FAQ can be found here.

We’ve chosen to implement LLRP now for two primary reasons.  First, a growing number of enterprise organizations are deploying RFID technology.  In doing so, they need to integrate data generated from RFID reads with existing standards-based enterprise systems to support critical aspects of their business.  Secondly, as the distribution channels for RFID products continue to evolve, supporting standards is crucial.  Supporting LLRP and other standards makes it easier for our channel partners to sell and support ThingMagic products.  The bottom line is that all of this makes it easier for customers to deploy and manage their RFID systems, allowing them to recognize the business benefits of RFID faster.

Reader-Hosted Applications

Also included in the upgrade is a Linux-based operating system capable of hosting on-reader applications. This feature allows the M6 reader to perform application-specific actions independently, providing solution developers the opportunity to differentiate their offerings to the enterprise market.

An example of this is a solution developed by ThingMagic partner XECAN, a leading provider of RFID patient safety solutions for the healthcare market.  XECAN developed a RFID plug-in application designed to eliminate patient identification and potential treatment errors by interfacing directly with Electronic Medical Record (EMR) software.  This application is hosted directly on the ThingMagic reader (in this case and Astra reader, but could just as easily have been an M6).  According to Bin Yang, Ph.D., CEO of XECAN, “By embedding our agent software directly onto the Astra reader, we’ve made our RFID Oncology Solution truly plug-and-play…This breakthrough advantage sets us apart while enabling us to provide an affordable, yet highly reliable RFID system.”

Multiple Choice

It’s important to note that, with this upgrade, ThingMagic customers now have the option of operating M6 readers with the ThingMagic MercuryAPI or LLRP depending on their project requirements.  Existing M6 customers can take advantage of LLRP by upgrading to the new interface without changing how their current host programs interact with the API – making the transition seamless and transparent.  If desired, customers can continue to use the ThingMagic MercuryAPI - a common application programming interface implemented across all of ThingMagic's readers.

To help you visualize the value of the MercuryAPI and how you can develop an application that takes advantage of the breadth of ThingMagic’s product line, including the USB desktop reader, Astra integrated reader, Vega in-vehicle reader and the Mercury6, watch the following video: ThingMagic Mercury6 (M6) RFID Reader Makes Integration Easy

ThingMagic M6 RFID Reader

As illustrated below, with one application, enterprises can gain access to location, employee identification and time stamp information that allows them to track asset throughout the entire chain of custody, including plotting the location of the assets in-transit using integrated GPS.

RFID Application

RFID Tag Selection & Automated Placement Testing

Another important aspect of creating any successful RFID application is knowing where to place the RFID tag for maximum performance. But don’t worry, it’ll be easy.  We’ve done the work for you in our lab, and it can be seen in the video, “RFID Tag Placement: Where do you stick it?

RFID Tag Placement

It’s Time to Reshape the Way We Think About RFID

There is no doubt that over the next decade, RFID systems will become an integral part of the consumer and business experience. The convergence of wireless technologies will be augmented by RFID systems. The development of passive RFID as part of this platform will be driven by the potential to measure, report and monetize a growing number of transactions in the physical world.

Similar to the mobile phone, the widespread integration of GPS into today’s commercial and consumer positioning solutions, and the adoption of this thing called the Internet, RFID is ready to transform markets.

Only time will tell the scale and impact RFID will have, but I for one, bet it will be a big one.

Race Timing with RFID

Posted by Ken Lynch on Fri, Jul 23, 2010 @ 12:24 PM

Tags: RFID race timing, Embedded RFID, USB RFID reader

How Rosie Ruiz Changed an Industry

On April 18th, 2011 over 25,000 participants are expected to run the 115th Boston Marathon – the oldest annual city marathon in the world.  In addition to its well known course meandering through eight Massachusetts cities and towns, the Boston Marathon is famous for several legendary participants. Recognized as a Boston Marathon icon, Johnny Kelley competed in the Boston Marathon a record 61 times, winning in 1935 and 1945, placing second seven times and finishing in the top five 15 times.  Kelly ran his last full marathon at Boston in 1992 at the age of 84.  Bill "Boston Billy" Rodgers won the Boston Marathon four times between 1975 and 1980, breaking the American record in 1975 and 1979.  Dick and Rick Hoyt are a father and son team who compete in the wheelchair division with Dick pushing Rick in a custom racing chair. Team Hoyt has competed in 27 Boston Marathons and often finish with times faster than 90% of the pack.

While these runners have been an inspiration to many, no one may have changed the sport like Rosie Ruiz.  In the 84th running of the Boston Marathon on April 21st 1980, Ruiz crossed the finish line before all other women runners – clocking the fastest time ever recorded for a woman in the history of the Boston Marathon and the third fastest time ever recorded for a woman in any marathon.  Following her impressive finish, investigations determined that Ruiz had skipped most of the race and rejoined runners about one mile from the finish line.  Ruiz was disqualified and as a result, the Boston Marathon and several other races instituted a number of safeguards against cheating - including RFID race timing systems that monitor when runners arrive at various checkpoints on the course.

Today, both Active and Passive RFID-based solutions are being used to time all kinds of races including marathons, triathlons, and cycling, sailing, skating and motorcycle races.  In each of these and many other races, timing is everythingTo ensure that an accurate time is captured when every biker, runner or swimmer crosses the finish line, events like these require extremely precise timing equipment that is both durable and able to account for each participant, especially in dense, quick-paced situations.  Without RFID, races can be timed by hand with operators using a stop-watch, or by using a combination of electronic timing and video camera systems.  As with many other time-sensitive activities however, RFID has proven to be a more efficient alternative to manual tracking due to a reduction in human error and the technology’s ability to process a greater amount of data in a shorter period of time.

RFID-enabled race timing solutions are offered by companies around the globe, including several ThingMagic partners who have implemented varying combinations of UHF and other RFID technologies to meet the demands of their customers. 

RFID Timing offers timing solutions for timing running, triathlon, cycling, swimming and canoeing. Their Ultra product includes battery assisted tags that last for two and a half years, extremely thin EVA mats, and highly sensitive Gen2 RFID readers.  HDD is a lower cost package for smaller organizations or multi-sport competitions that can be set up in less than a minute, complete with easy rollout mats. RFID Timing is using ThingMagic USB readers for short range applications including encoding and checking UHF tags prior to placement onto race numbers for an event. The ThingMagic USB reader is also used to scan athletes’ tags at race pack pickup (usually the day before a race) to verify the athletes details in the timing system database are correct. 

Zoomius produces TAG Heuer Track Intelligence, a complete online motorsports management system. Hundreds of racing organizations, track days and schools are using TAG Heuer Track Intelligence to simplify their operations and provide more love to their customers.  Zoomius has also created the TITAN RFID system, powered by ThingMagic Mercury 5e readers to provide cost-effective and accurate next-generation timing and scoring systems. Perfect accuracy provided by sophisticated but easy-to-use technology, TITAN RFID, powered by ThingMagic, brings complete timing and scoring to organizations who previously couldn't afford it. 1/1000th of a second. 40 feet. 180mph. With superior ThingMagic technology Zoomius overcome hurdles that no-one else can even come close to solving.

Share your experiences with RFID race timing systems – as a race administrator or participant.

IBM on Building a Smarter Planet

Posted by Yael Maguire on Mon, Feb 02, 2009 @ 04:48 PM

Tags: RFID, Sensors, Supply Chain, Cold Chain, USB RFID reader, IBM

IBM's new Building a Smarter Planet blog has an interesting video describing how interconnected intelligent systems are being used to build a smarter planet.

IBM is defining the smarter planet as "intelligent infrastructure for our energy grids, transportation system, food supply and healthcare networks... It is also about trillions of devices and objects connecting to the Internet and changing the way billions of people live and work.'

The video describes how RFID will be used across the food chain to insure safety and reduce waste and loss.

Today, ThingMagic and several of our business partners are working on making our global food chain more secure, safe and efficient.

One example is the cold chain, where our USB Reader is being used to read temperature sensors made by Infratab Corporation. The combination of Infratab sensors and ThingMagic readers provide producers of perishable foods and products information and insights on the quality of their cold chains.

Infratab is offering a cold chain starter kit – including the ThingMagic USB Reader - now through March.

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