After deciding to implement RFID, many organisations will naturally look around the market and see numerous RFID companies offering countless options for tags, readers, and antennas. The innumerable choices available can be confusing, and there is no other way to know which solutions are the perfect fit for their needs except for testing or having a Proof-Of-Concept (POC) model.
Testing is a low-cost, simple, and highly effective way of determining the best course of implementing a reliable RFID system for a business’s operations. Every successful RFID implementation starts with a comprehensive testing procedure because, despite RFID working well in different environments, testing is the only effective way to select the optimum RFID tags, readers with its placement, and other related technologies for it to work within the actual environment and its application.
The need for testing arises from the factors that can affect consistent RFID tag reads, such as the tag’s placement and orientation on the tracked asset, the environment where the tag is used, reader settings, antenna gain, and more. There is no one reader, tag, or antenna solution that works great for every situation. Most products out there are created for specific needs, as every business situation will be uniquely different from another. For instance, when tagging cardboard boxes, the tag needed for the task will be far different from that used when tagging steel beams and other metallic or liquid assets.
Therefore, starting on a small scale is recommended rather than immediately investing in RFID devices that may or may not work as desired due to environmental or physical attributes. A good start is with customisable RFID tag samples and development kits. Tag samples usually come in packs and can be customised in order to identify which ones perform well for the given application. Meanwhile, development kits are a practical yet low-cost way of testing RFID implementation ideas to ensure an informed purchase decision. Development (dev) kits vary from one another, but all generally include the following:
- An antenna and antenna cable
- RFID reader
- RFID tag samples
- Access to the associated testing software
There are four main categories for RFID dev kits, which are 4-port reader dev kits, USB reader dev kits, integrated reader dev kits, and handheld reader dev kits. Each type has pros and cons and is better suited for specific applications compared to others.
1. 4-port reader
Four port readers are ideal for applications with lots of coverage. By enabling users to connect multiple antennas to a single reader (antennas convert the reader’s signal into RF waves that RFID tags can detect), they can cover more ground and enjoy choosing from various antenna options. Connectivity options generally include Power-over-Ethernet (PoE) and Wi-Fi, depending on the kit.
2. USB reader
USB readers are the least expensive option that works perfectly for close proximity purposes and are recommended for those just starting with RFID. However, their read range is less than others due to its size and power output. In addition, their lack of a serial connection means they need a host computer to function and cannot be connected to a local area network infrastructure.
3. Integrated reader
Integrated readers are another low-cost option with an integrated antenna and additional antenna ports, allowing users to affix more if needed. Integrated readers are ideal for users that only require one or two antennas to conduct their testing. Similar to 4-port readers, they also provide Power-over-Ethernet and Wi-Fi connectivity.
4. Handheld reader
Handheld readers are mobile RFID readers with an integrated antenna. They are the perfect fit for applications where users are constantly on the move and cannot remain in one place to read tags. Besides scanning RFID tags, most handheld readers can also read various barcodes. Handheld readers are the most expensive type of RFID dev kit since most are also full-fledged mobile computers.
Whether you’re using RFID in retail, inventory management or any other industry, testing is an indispensable part of any RFID implementation as it ensures that an organisation’s business idea becomes a cost-effective system that works as intended without spending a tremendous amount of money. Of course, after successfully verifying things, consulting with a reputable RFID provider is still necessary to tailor the right solution based on the conclusions obtained from the test findings.